Australian Bushfire Crisis To Cost Tourism Industry Millions

Pillars of fires and smoke from bushfires are tarnishing Australia’s reputation for pristine vistas abounding in wildlife and wreaking havoc on tourism, as authorities are forced to cancel concerts, close parks and evacuate towns. 

More than 200 fires are burning across Victoria and New South Wales, the country’s most populated areas. The states of Victoria and New South Wales have declared states of emergency that took effect last Friday as conditions worsened, and evacuations became mandatory. With images of fire and smoke making front pages around the world, the Australian Tourism Industry Council said this would risk further damage to the industry scaring away international visitors. 

Almost 4,300 insurance claims totalling USD 297 million has been lodged since the main fires began on 8th November 2019, but the bill is set to climb as the full extent of damage is uncovered and more country burns over what is expected to be a dangerously hot weekend. The bushfires, along with taking 17 lives, an estimated half a billion animals have died from the blazes. Australia’s Federal Environmental Minister estimated that up to 30 per cent of koalas in New South Wales may have been wiped out.  

Yet the bushfire crisis is far from over for many communities and the tourism industry. 

The Bushfires have already devastated some of Australia’s key tourism areas, including East Gippsland in Victoria and the New South Wales south coast. The tourism council executive director, Simon Westaway stated that the first priority of tourism operators was to help their local communities, but there was an unquestionable mounting impact on tourism from these fires. 

“ It is still too early to fully know and assess the commercial impact but it will clearly run into hundreds of millions of dollars over the near term. Our Industry is terribly resilient but the severity and scale of these fires and their literal strong global reporting and physical impact can’t be ignored over the ensuing period”, added Westaway. What comes at a time when the Australian economy is already quite fragile, visitors are seen taking to social media to warn others to steer clear of the country down under, thus affecting everything from restaurants, motels to cafes. 

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres added “ events are still on, motels are still open, restaurants are still serving food and pubs are still pouring beer. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to change their plans to visit regional NSW. Once the immediate threat of fires has passed we will focus on supporting communities while they recover and no doubt tourism will play an important social and economic role in that recovery”. But without swift and effective intervention and the support of tourism, many small regional tourism operators will start going under, expressed Ayres. 

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