Hotel tales from devastated Christchurch

In the aftermath of the tragic February earthquake in New Zealand come two noteworthy hotel stories out of Christchurch.

The New Zealand Herald reported Wednesday that more than 750 pieces of luggage have been retrieved from closed high-rise hotels and returned to guests in 37 countries and 200 addresses in New Zealand – including a US$10,000 Tiffany bracelet wrapped in a sock inside a suitcase, thousands of dollars in banknotes hidden in fake drink cans and a woman’s treasured shoe collection.

A bit more absurdly, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Wednesday that one of the largest hotels in Christchurch, the Grand Chancellor, is in serious image recovery mode having recently sent folios to guests who were in residence at the hotel during the earthquake. Hotel management has quickly responded by saying this was an oversight and that any guests trapped on February 22 would not be expected to pay for their stay.

But back to the more heart-warming report; cranes were used to reach upper floors of the cordoned-off hotels in the effort to recover personal belongings. An executive with Millennium & Copthorne said windows were removed at the end of corridors to gain access and reach rooms to pack up suitcases. Bigger items were sealed in plastic bags, sorted and dispatched to owners.

All returned items included a letter from Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, with a message hoping they will return again.

Heritage Hotel General Manager Gary Jarvis said guests were so delighted to get their luggage back that one couple in Texas sent back a picture of the courier delivering their bags.