Published on : Tuesday, January 14, 2020
The destruction of Australian bushfire crisis has contaminated Australia’s tourism reputation as a safe and alluring holiday destination. The images of the unparalleled scale of this summer’s blazes have evoked global shock and an outburst of understanding. There are thousands of tourists have been evacuated from coastal towns, international visitors have cancelled flights, and the U.S. Department of State upgraded its travel security advice for Australia, warning travellers to “exercise increased caution”.
Tourism Australia was forced to suspend an upbeat advertising campaign featuring pop star Kylie Minogue that was launched in the middle of the Australian bushfire crisis after the advertisement was met with incredulity about what many saw as poor timing.
University of Technology Sydney lecturer David Beirman said that they have been selling Australia on clean air, clear skies, bright shiny beaches, hopping animals.
More than nine million overseas tourists visited down under in the 12 months to June 2019, adding almost Australian dollars 45 billion (USD 31 billion) to the economy, while Australians holidaying across the vast continent country spent another Australian dollars 100 billion.
Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said it was too early to quantify the full impact of the bushfires. But Beirman, who specialises in tourism risk and crisis management, estimates the losses have already run into “billions”, with the fires hitting during the peak summer holiday period and emptying whole regions of vacationers.
In tourism-reliant towns such as Mogo in New South Wales — where a bushfire reduced homes and businesses to twisted metal and ash — the impact has been felt immediately. Ten days after the blaze roared through, most remaining shops were shuttered, unable to open until electricity was restored, while the handful that had re-opened were running on generators.
“Usually there’s hundreds and thousands of people coming through each day.” Pawley described herself as “one of the lucky ones” — her shop is still standing — but the future is uncertain. If the people don’t come back, a lot of the businesses will probably fade out,” she said.
Maureen Nathan, a retired pharmacist, spent 20 years building up a tourist attraction dedicated to Mogo’s 1850s gold rush — only for it to go up in flames on New Year’s Eve. That fire was hot enough to melt brass scales,” she said, telling to media a pair of antique scales was found melted down to a small nugget in the rubble.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham emphasised the country was “still very much open for business”.