Despite the perception by some that this year’s bushfire season in Australia has affected the entire continent, the vast majority of the country remains open for business from travellers.
In fact, according to Tourism Australia’s Jane Whitehead, “now is a better time to visit than ever.”
A delegation from Tourism Australia and the tourism board’s travel industry partners are currently on the road in North America, stopping in Toronto yesterday (Feb. 10) to spread the word to travel agents that while this year’s bushfire season was exceptionally destructive, the destination is open for business. The campaign also takes aim at the vast amount of misinformation about the crisis, such as maps depicting the majority of Australia on fire which circulated across social media channels in recent weeks; in reality, the fires affected only three per cent of the countries landmass.
In fact, according to Craig Wickham of Exceptional Kangaroo Island & Australian Wildlife Journeys – one of the in-destination partners presenting at the event – eucalyptus trees in the path of the fires have already started to bud just days later.
“This year’s bushfire season was unprecedented,” Whitehead said, “but the majority of our major tourism centres have not been impacted. In fact, many are well on the road to recovery. Since January, the industry has been busy fielding a lot of questions from clients and while recent weeks have been difficult, there haven’t been a lot of cancellations…. The best way to help out is to visit.”
Added Chris Allison, Tourism Australia’s head of commercial partnerships for the Americas:
“If you have clients travelling in seven or eight months, there’s no need to cancel – the land is regrowing.”
Whitehead said that Tourism Australia’s campaign will also include a domestic component to promote staycations to Australians this year, in a bid to help with recovery efforts.
The latest updates are provided to travellers at www.australia.com.
Feedback from tour ops
Shirley Rourke, vice-president – South Pacific, Goway Travel, told PAX that interest in Australia has bounced back in recent weeks, largely in part to the company’s team of Destination Specialists putting the fire situation into perspective.
The tour operator is also providing updates on a blog for agents with clients travelling to Australia and to give back, Goway also donated to Tourism Cares on behalf of all bookings travelling from January to March and all new bookings made until March 31, along with a selection of trips for the organization to auction off.
“Clients that were scheduled to travel in those areas were contacted and itineraries modified with ease with the assistance of our office in Sydney," Rourke said.
“In general, the most important message we had to deliver to the trade and consumers was correct information. We had to remind clients and agents of the vast size of Australia; it’s the same size as the US. The fires were predominantly in the regional areas and 97 per cent of the country was unaffected.”
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