Published on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Tourism could change forever in Australia's fire ravaged regions

The raging bushfires could significantly change Australia's tourism landscape forever in more ways than one.

The tourism industry has been hit particularly hard but in some areas it may never recover fully.

Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council, reckons tourists may never return to some destinations in sufficient numbers.

"This isn't a simple scenario where the traditional return to normalcy will occur. Now is the summer peak visitor season, the busiest and most profitable period for a lot of Australian tourism businesses," Westaway said.

In many areas, small independent businesses were the heart of the local tourism industry and with charred homes and scorched land, many will find it virtually impossible to recover.

The big attraction was the abundant wildlife in a natural setting.

It is estimated nearly 500 million animals have been killed by fires in New South Wales alone since September.

The Environment Ministry estimates up to 30% of koalas in New South Wales may have already been wiped out.

Fire scientist David Bowman says Australia should seriously consider moving its main holiday period so it doesn't coincide with the wildfire season.

"After this, I think there is going to be a lot of soul searching about where people want to live, how they are going to live," he said.

Felicity Picken, a lecturer at Western Sydney University's School of Social Sciences and Psychology, said Australia needs to rethink when and where tourists should visit.

"Poor air quality tends to undermine positive views about the urban quality of a destination whereas bush or wildfires tend to reflect poorly on the natural attractions," she said.

Jenny Aitchison, NSW Labor's tourism spokeswoman said: "On top of the drought, NSW has communities which have now lost pretty much their entire Christmas and summer holiday trade. Without swift and effective intervention, we will have many small regional tourism operators going under."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week announced a national fire recovery fund worth at least $1.4 billion to support families who have lost homes and businesses.

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