A horror bushfire season across parts of the country and the devastating impact of the coronavirus on foreign travel has left Australia is in the midst of a tourism crisis.
As favourite holiday spots damaged by blazes in NSW, South Australia and Victoria start to rebuild, these communities – and nearby regions that remained untouched by the flames – are facing their biggest battle yet.
Despite being open for business, holiday-makers are yet to return to these regions concerned if now is the right time to visit.
Looking at the map below that was broadcast and widely reposted on social media around the globe during the height of the fires, it’s easy to see why visitors thought the whole country was on fire and took it as a warning.
By mid-January, townships far from the fires – where businesses have remained well and truly open – were reporting international cancellations rates of up to 60 per cent because of the misconception.
In areas directly hit by the fires, the impact has been even worse with tour and accommodation operators reporting a 100 per cent drop in bookings during what is typically their busiest period.
A recent Victorian survey found operators in towns outside fire-affected areas were still reporting cancellation rates of between 10 and 60 per cent.
In the Blue Mountains region of NSW, hotelier Jerry Schwartz of the luxurious Fairmont Resort has had bookings plummet from 95 per cent occupancy to less than 20 per cent over summer.
But it’s not just immediate holiday bookings that have taken a hit.
The executive director of the Australian Tourism Council Mr Simon Westaway said plans well in to 2020 had either been cancelled or postponed because of the bushfire coverage.
“We’ve already suffered millions of dollars in cancellations and our key concern is those forward bookings have really just evaporated,” Tourism Export Council Peter Shelley added.
Sadly, the majority of cancellations are from local travellers who are choosing to stay home.
According to the Australian Tourism Export Council, bushfires have so far cost the country $4.5 billion in lost revenue. A figure that Westpac estimates could cut Australia’s output by up to $10 billion, which will inevitably be blown out even further by the coronavirus sweeping China and the global tourism sector.
COMMUNITIES IN NEED OF URGENT INJECTION
Hundreds of businesses, tour operators, cafes, boutiques and hotel owners from the Blue Mountains, down the south coast of NSW, into East Gippsland and in the Adelaide Hills and on Kangaroo Island have received cancellations months in advance and reduced bookings due to concern about the impact of the fires.
Dubbed “the biggest challenge in living memory” for the industry, the Federal Government announced a $76 million recovery package in response to this summer’s bushfires, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying Australian tourism was an “urgent injection” to businesses continuing to battle for tourist dollars
The ATEC survey says the main reason for people cancelling their travel plans in Australia – even as far away as Easter – is related to air quality, safety, confusion around the recovery timeline and the amount damage in some regions.
But as the rain has extinguished the majority of fires and the bushland starts to grow back, the message from communities is loud and clear. Don’t delay your stay – it’s time to book your next holiday at home.
DON’T DELAY YOUR STAY
The next few months will be critical in rebuilding communities hit hard by the recent bushfires.
News.com.au has launched the Don’t Delay Your Stay campaign to encourage Australians to support the communities who need our help by visiting. Over the coming weeks we provide detailed guides, interactive maps and videos showing you all the great places right at your doorstep.
Over the next few weeks the Don’t Delay Your Stay campaign will provide detailed travel guides to the Blue Mountains, East Gippsland, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Hills and South Coast and will be adding more each week to give you a comprehensive guide on everything to see and do in some of the most beautiful parts of our great country.
By booking a trip to these regions we can all help the local economy and pump much-needed funds back into towns that need tourist dollars to survive.
CLICK ON THE MAPS BELOW TO FIND OUT MORE
While donations have flooded in from around the world, the number of tourists visiting has dropped by 80 per cent in some regions compared to this time last year. It’s time to start turning that around.
As part of our nationwide campaign following the bushfires this campaign aims to encourage Australians to plan, book and take a domestic holiday and share their experiences with friends and online with the hashtag #DontDelayYourStay.
“There is no doubt that Australian tourism has been hit hard by the recent bushfires,” Tourism Australia managing director, Phillipa Harrison said.
“It’s critical that we help the industry get back on its feet as soon as possible.
“The desire from ordinary Australians to assist the communities impacted both directly and indirectly by the bushfires has been overwhelming. This campaign seeks to show them how they can directly support the recovery by simply holidaying here in Australia.
“Whether it’s a drive up the coast, taking a trip interstate, or ticking off a bucket list destination – and to spread the word that Australia is ready to welcome more travellers.”
Check out news.com.au’s Australian Holidays for all your Don’t Delay Your Stay travel inspiration