Back our tourism industry and holiday here this year

  • Op ed
23 January 2020

Australians have shown incredible generosity in recent weeks. Helping out strangers, donating what they can, giving of their time. It’s the best of Australian mateship.

Our tourism industry is among the many businesses who have stepped up. In many cases airlines have transported firefighters for free. Accommodation providers have put them up and cafes have offered food and sustenance. But now those same businesses are feeling the pain of the fires.

For some, they have lost property. For others, they were in fire affected regions and suffered as roads were closed and tourists were evacuated. These businesses and their communities were directly affected. They are the focus of rebuilding efforts and the investments being made under the $2 billion federal recovery fund. However, they are not where the impact of the fires ends.

Rights across Australia tourism businesses — big and small — are feeling the pressure as international visitors turn away from Australia. Scared by the images of fire and misled by erroneous maps suggesting that nearly the whole of our nation was ablaze, many millions of dollars in bookings made by overseas tourists have been cancelled. An even greater value of usually expected bookings are now not being made, with flight bookings to Australia down 30 or 40 per cent in some of our traditional tourism markets.

The crisis facing our tourism industry is why, as part of a $76 million recovery package, we are taking the unusual step of encouraging Australians to “Holiday here this year.” Australians know that most of our vast country has not been struck by fire. From tropical North Queensland through central Australia, over to Western Australia’s Margaret River or down to Tasmania’s Wineglass Bay, there remains so much to enjoy.

Even in fire affected communities many businesses and attractions are again open, providing those who visit with an enjoyable and memorable experience. Whether it is in the coastal towns of New South Wales, the high country of Victoria or Kangaroo Island in South Australia, there are tourism operators who will provide wonderful experiences while also being extraordinarily grateful for your booking.

Australians also understand that as the seasons progress the bush will regenerate. When Dorothea Mackellar wrote of her love for our sunburnt country more than a century ago she demonstrated an insight into the cycle of regeneration that indigenous Australians have understood for thousands of years.

In the fifth verse of the famous poem My Country, she reflected on how Australia responds to “flood, fire and famine” by writing:

Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

The messages that we are in fact open for business, still offer exceptional experiences and will recover from fires are ones that we will carefully convey into international markets over coming weeks, months and years. Our international visitors will return, just as they have to other nations who have recovered following high profile natural disasters or terrorist attacks over the years. But it may take some time.

In the interim, we need to pitch in to save the jobs and small businesses who rely on tourism. Think about the towns in the Blue and Snowy Mountains or along the North and South Coast. One in thirteen Australian jobs are related to the tourism and hospitality sector and they need our help, right now, to keep their jobs safe.

If you can, then start thinking about and start booking the next romantic weekend getaway, school holiday break or long dreamt of Australian escape and make the choice to holiday here, this year.

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