Australians are being encouraged to leave their passports and home to help the nation’s bushfire-hit tourism industry.
Tourism Australia has launched its “Holiday Here This Year” campaign, suggesting locals to travel in their own backyard by planning, booking and taking a domestic holiday.
The $20 million campaign is part of a nationwide push with the primary message being that Australia is eager to welcome visitors.
Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway says losses are growing and many businesses may be unable to recover from the unprecedented blazes.
“We’re not trying to exaggerate the number, but if you look across regional Victoria and what’s happening in NSW and South Australia, a lot of infrastructure has been decimated,” Mr Westaway told AAP on Thursday.
“Even in some areas unaffected by the bushfires we’ve seen more than a 60 per cent increase in booking cancellations.”
Mr Westaway said the sector was suffering from the “contagion effect” with many domestic travellers deciding to stay home during peak holiday season.
“The level of spending in many holiday destinations has fallen through the floor, which will have a lasting impact on these small-to-medium-sized businesses,” he said.
“Some of these businesses will not recover but the industry as a whole is very resilient.
“This is not a new phenomenon – we’ve dealt with disasters before.”
Tourism industry leaders met with Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham in Sydney on Thursday.
“The two big takeaways were that it was very constructive,” Mr Westaway said.
“The second thing is the wider industry is on the same page of what the issues are. Across the board bookings are through the floor, cash flow in small business operators is in a very delicate situation. It’s a red-alert situation in many cases.
“There is a commitment by industry to get the regions re-booted.”
The Morrison government wants to combat misinformation regarding the bushfires and promote tourism attractions.
“We are acutely aware of the challenges our tourism industry currently faces and that tourism businesses all around Australia are feeling the pressures of cancellations and reduced bookings,” Senator Birmingham said.
“The government stands ready to help our tourism industry to not only rebuild infrastructure where required but to continue to promote the incredible tourism experiences that are still on offer across Australia in unaffected areas but also in fire-affected areas when it is safe to welcome tourists again.”