The Australian bushfires may cost the tourism industry $4.5 billion as Americans, Chinese, Brits and other holidayers stop traveling there.
News of mass evacuations, burnt-out communities, dead wildlife and thick smoke haze beamed around the world have taken their toll says the tourism industry. Both domestic and overseas holidayers, scared off by the fires, are cancelling holiday trips and hotels .
Holiday cancellations from key markets including the U.S., Britain and China have flowed in according to peak industry body, the Australian Tourism Export Council . The entire industry has been hit says its director, Peter Shelley. Poor air quality, safety concerns, and lack of certainty on recovery are the key culprits he tells The Financial Review .
The figure comes from a survey of the ATEC’s members, who say all sectors of the tourism market have been affected: “from high net worth individuals cancelling a trip that was to include multiple luxury lodges in most states, through to ‘mums and dads’ opting out of a local cruise or a nature-based experience,” Shelley says.
ATEC says Australia’s tourism export sector is worth about $40 billion to the economy. So it would seem over a tenth of that has gone down the drain with the bushfires. The losses way outshine the $1 billion losses put by the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC).
Fires Keep Australian & International Holidayers At Home
The fires have killed 29 people and “razed bushland across an area the size of Bulgaria” according to SBS news .
Now largely under control, the infernos that ripped down the southeast coast of Australia over the New Year wiped out high-season tourism in many coastal towns.
ATIC says booking cancellations for hotels and other accommodation even in non-fire zones have reached 60% and over. Make that nil for fire-hit areas.
“People have basically stopped travel… And that’s absolutely understandable: human nature kicks in,” Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council told Reuters.
Boom Or Bust With Bushfire Toll
It’s still too early to know how the fires will impact overseas tourism for Q1-2020. International visitor numbers have been steadily rising over past years, with a 10% jump between 2017 and 2019. That’s up to 9.3 million from 8.1 million according to Tourism Australia statistics.
This owes largely to booming markets such as India, China, the U.S. and New Zealand flagged in a recent government report . Now the “industry hopes the bushfires won’t bust our boom,” reports The Australian .
‘Holiday In Your Own Backyard’
Tourism players country-wide are calling on holidayers to help the recovery, and return to their regions.
“Now’s the time to really kick start the recovery, by holidaying in our own backyard and supporting the many communities and local operators who rely so much upon our patronage and our tourism dollars,” says spokesperson Leo Seaton.
The fires he says have put a huge damper on the New Year for Australia’s travel industry.
“The start of 2020 should have been a milestone for celebration. Sadly, Australia’s tourism industry has ushered in the decade in much more somber fashion, with the devastation caused by the terrible bushfires.”
Viral images, spread on social media , exaggerating the fire situation, have not helped. Pictures showing the entire country ablaze are being blamed for playing a hand in scaring off many tourists.
Meanwhile Tourism Australia was forced to pull its Kylie Minogue-led $15 million advertising campaign in Britain , launched as the bushfires raged late December. The contrast between the images it projected and those of the fires and burnt-out communities was too much for some.