After one of the worst bushfire seasons in its history and the arrival of the coronavirus, Australian tourism is shaken. The government has even launched a campaign urging Australians to “stay home for the holidays”.
The images shocked the whole world. Those of the fires that have spread since September on the east coast of Australia and have burned 10 million hectares, killed 33 people and killed more than a billion animals. Kangaroo Island, the seaside town of Mallacoota or the national park classified as a Unesco heritage, Blue Mountains, have thus seen part of the land destroyed by the flames. The tragedy, which consumed an area larger than South Korea, could cost the tourism industry AU $ 4.5 billion, according to the Australian Tourism Export Council.
The government has released A $ 76 million to turn around the sector, which employs 1 in 13 people, and has launched a massive social media campaign, “Holidays Here This Year,” urging Australians to spend holidays at home. The aim is to support the affected regions, but also the rest of the territory, which indirectly suffers from a lack of tourists because of the disaster.
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Most tourist attractions remain intact
Simon Birmingham, Minister of Tourism
The Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania or the central desert … “Most tourist attractions remain intact and people can still come and have the same incredible experience when they visit Australia”, assured the Minister. of Tourism Simon Birmingham on ABC. As for the affected localities, the last fires were classified under control on February 13. “Municipalities are recovering and are already welcoming visitors,” says the government agency Tourism Australia.
This is the case of Kangaroo Island, in the south of the state of South Australia, which has seen its territory burn to 45%. Recognized for its unique biodiversity, including its zoo of koalas, the island now has only 15,000 specimens, compared to 46,000 last year. She had to adapt by adjusting her tour itineraries because some iconic places always remain closed on time, such as Flinders Chase National Park, and prefers to take visitors to the eastern part of the island. “More than 2,000 square kilometers are still intact, our coasts and our eucalyptus oil distilleries too,” says Pierre Gregor, president of the island’s tourism association. The negative image that the media conveyed has impacted businesses, but the reality is quite different. Visiting Kangaroo Island means indirectly supporting the entire population and witnessing the rebirth of our lands. ”
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The coronavirus weakens tourism a little more
Elsewhere, tourism professionals remain cautious. Melinda Fredericks, manager of the Lonsdale Scenic-Eco Cruises boat tour company in the East Gippsland area of eastern Victoria, has lost 60% of her income. “Many Australian retirees have chosen to help us by staying in our town this month,” she says. However, she fears seeing strangers take a long time to come back.
A fear shared by Helene Edwards, president of the association for tourism in the wine region of Adelaide Hills. “The fires have had a catastrophic impact on our vineyards and our economy, and the coronavirus crisis is yet another blow,” she admits. The country, in fact, on February 1 banned entry into its territory to all non-residents arriving from China. They were 1.4 million visitors in 2018. For lack of customers, restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne had to go out of business.