WYSE Travel Confederation lends its support to Australian tourism industry amid ongoing wildfires
By David Chapman, Director General, WYSE Travel Confederation.
From the relative safety of a cold and wet northern clime, we are watching with shock and horror at the relentless news from Australia about the bushfires and the affects that these are having on the environment, wildlife and people’s lives and livelihoods.
The devastation is beyond what most of us can conceive. Currently 7.3 million hectares of land has been burnt, razing homes and towns and displacing people and millions of animals.
To put this into proportion, approximately 73,000 sq km of land has been affected by the fires, which is about double the area of the entire country of the Netherlands. The fires have affected more land than the entire US state of West Virginia.
What is even more surprising is that Australian police have taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses, 24 of whom have been charged for intentionally starting bushfires. Not to mention the ongoing denial that we are witnessing a very significant change in our weather patterns.
No one needs to be a scientist to see this; living memory is becoming proof enough. We can all remember that our winters were colder than they are now and that our summers had less heat extremes, and that we were pleased when we did have a lovely hot summer. Just last year in the Netherlands we saw summer temperatures reach well over 37C – for the second year in a row.
However, the news is not all bad. Having been in contact with several of our Australian members we are pleased that spirits are high and so far, losses and injuries have been avoided. But the overall message has been “Australia is still open for business and we look forward to welcoming you”.
Speaking to Rob Henke from YHA Australia, he was able to report that despite having to evacuate from four properties they have not suffered any damage or sustained any injuries.
Rob went on to say: “I’m pretty confident we’ll get through this without injuries or loss of YHA property. However, I am very concerned about the consequences of this bushfire crises for the tourism industry in Australia and not just for the short term. The perception that all of Australia is scourged could linger in the minds of potential travellers to Australia. The truth of the matter is that most fires took place in rural areas that enjoy very little international tourism.”
Alice Livingstone from Cape Byron Kayaks added: “Parts of Australia have been truly devastated by the bushfires. However, now is the time when we need our visitors more than ever. Australia is a huge country and most visits here include multiple destinations. There are many parts of Australia that are unaffected by bushfire and open for business. If visitors cancel their trips to Australia altogether then it is not just the bushfire affected destinations that will suffer. The tourism industry in Australia is a tight-knit family and we all support each other. If we get mass cancellations in other destinations it limits our ability to continue to promote Australia and bring in visitors to support our bushfire affected regions once they are safe to travel to. Please come and visit us.”
Kate Fulton of Destination Gold Coast said: “It’s definitely a challenging time for the whole country on many levels, and also from a tourism perspective. We are hoping that travellers will support the country once we are out the other side.”
So, our hearts and minds go out to our colleagues and friends in Australia who are facing major challenges that are not directly bushfire-related, but are a ramification of the fires. My message to industry colleagues all over the world is: please push Australia, please advocate that the fires, whilst serious, are not affecting the majority of tourist attractions and Australia is still the amazing country many of us have visited or want to.
For up-to-date information from Tourism Australia, please click here.
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