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Fears grow over impact of fire crisis on international tourism

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
21 January 2020 2 minute readShare

The devastating bushfires that have ravaged large parts of Australia for the good part of the last several months have led near and future overseas visitors to cancel or defer their travels, raising questions around the potential cost for thousands of small tourism businesses and the tourism workforce.

The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) is expecting the bushfire events to have an effect on inbound international tourism to Australia, which had been operating at record levels, with 9.4 million annual short-term arrivals recorded in the year to November 2019.

According to official figures supplied by ATIC, Australia has a $150 billion visitor economy that directly employs one in 13 Australians.

Executive director Simon Westaway told My Business that short-term brand damage and the cancellation or deferral of travel by near or future travellers is unquestionable, and underlined the importance of sustainable growth in overseas arrivals.

“Tourism is Australia’s largest services export and the international component of our $150 billion visitor economy continues to grow quickly. We want and need that growth to be sustainable,” Mr Westaway said.

“Our pristine environment, fauna and accessibility to nature are among our strengths. While the vast part of Australia remains this way, we need to effectively inform the international market that we very much remain open for business and encourage people to consider Australia for a future holiday or business visit.”

Recovery plan

Recognising the potential fallout of the bushfire crisis on tourism, the government announced a $76 million tourism recovery package late last week.

Calling the package unprecedented in “our sector”, Mr Westaway praised the government for recognising the importance of tourism to the social and economic dynamics of Australia.

Mr Westaway said: “The open and constructive dialogue and the preparedness for the Commonwealth, led by the Prime Minister and federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, to hear out industry over the serious existing and future ramifications facing the visitor economy, in particular among thousands of small tourism businesses and our tourism workforce, has delivered initial tangible outcomes.”

As part of its recovery package, the government has allocated $20 million for a nationally coordinated domestic marketing initiative, $25 million for a global marketing campaign to drive international tourism, and a further $10 million for a regional tourism events initiative to aid bushfire-affected areas.

“Australian tourism is facing its biggest challenge in living memory,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while announcing the government’s decision.

Mr Westaway expressed hope that Australia won’t experience a “lull” in overseas visits, but said that the government’s initiative is crucial to effectively tackle the emergent problem and safeguard the country’s “successful long-term national strategy, the high levels of private and public sector investment and the continued attractiveness of Australia”.


Just prior to the bushfire crisis, Tourism Australia launched a tongue-in-cheek ad, which appeared on British televisions immediately before the Queen’s annual Christmas Day message. 

The ad featured a specially composed song performed by Kylie Minogue, showcasing her in various Australian locations including Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, Uluru, Rottnest Island, Byron Bay and Victoria’s Sandringham Beach, as well as pulling beers in a pub.

The so-called “Matesong” tourism campaign was, however, pulled due to the crisis.

Fears grow over impact of fire crisis on international tourism
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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