Speaking at the Australian Consulate in New York, Tourism Australia officials sought to alleviate consumers’ concerns about traveling to Australia, explain the wildfires’ impact and outline steps the country is taking to re-start travel.
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Australia’s southeast region, including South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, have been impacted the most by the wildfires, said Jane Whitehead, vice president and regional general manager for Tourism Australia. However, those areas account for less than 15 percent of the country.
“Bushfires are an annual natural occurrence in the area,” Whitehead said. “It was just the scale of the bushfires this most recent season that was unprecedented. We’ve had heavy rainfall over recent days so most, if not all, of the fires have been extinguished.”
According to Whitehead, tourism in Australia from the U.S. and Canada increased last year and Tourism Australia wants to continue that trend: “We have a five percent growth from 2018 with more than 819,000 visitors from the U.S. and a seven percent growth from Canada with more than 191,000 visitors.”
With the fires no longer posing a threat, the bushfire recovery effort is already moving forward with new initiatives to let those interested know Australia is ready for travelers and tourists. The first program is an effort to get Australian citizens to travel the country with a new “Holiday Here This Year” campaign.
“We launched a domestic campaign to immediately encourage Australians to holiday here,” Whitehead said. “This solution provides quick support to an industry that has been impacted by declining inquiries. We’re also very focused from an international perspective on getting back into the market within the next couple of weeks, reassuring travelers that Australia is open for business.”
In fact, traveling to Australia is one of the best ways to help bushfire recovery, and it’s been inspiring to see the support from people in Australia and around the world extending a hand to those affected.
“Obviously there was a lot of news coverage on the bushfires and there were maps and images circulating on social media that were very inaccurate and gave a false impression of the fires and the scale of the fires,” Whitehead said. “So we wanted to show the country and tourism is safe.”