Latest News

Back to Latest News back

 

Bushfires have massive impact on Australian tourism industry

Bushfires have massive impact on Australian tourism industry
January 9, 2020

The impact of the devastating bushfires on Australia’s tourism industry is expected to cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars while the images of smoke and fire carried worldwide are expected to be a deterrent to international visitors.

Apocalyptic footage of monstrous fires, heroic firefighters, injured animals and tourists in smoke masks have filled news channels, front pages and social media around the world.

The smoke has shrouded entire cities and driven air quality to unhealthy levels, with at least 20 people dying in the fires, while colonies of animals such as koalas and flying foxes have been destroyed.

Commenting on the impact, Shane Oliver, Chief Economist at AMP Capital, advised “seeing all the images of fires on television and social media is not going to help, it puts a dent in Australia’s reputation as a safe tourist destination.”

Ranking tourism as Australia’s fourth biggest export, Oliver added “it’s come at a time when the economy was already fragile.”

Bushfires burning for weeks near the world heritage site of the Blue Mountains in NSW have driven away tourists.

As visitors take to social media to warn others to steer clear, the number of busloads of tourists each day has fallen to about four from 15 or 20, according to Stacey Reynolds, a receptionist at the Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel in Katoomba.

Reynolds told the ABC “they told people not to come in and it’s affected everything, from restaurants to motels to backpackers to cafes … the streets are empty.”

Although there is no published nationwide data on tourism since the fires took hold in late spring, Australia attracted 2.71 million holidaymakers last summer, up 3.2% from the previous year, as many fled the northern hemisphere winter.

Advising that hotels in Sydney saw a fall of 10% in guest numbers in December, Accommodation Association of Australia Chief Executive, Dean Long stated “the fires and the smoke have had a real brand and reputational damage in Sydney.”

Similarly, BridgeClimb Sydney Chief Executive Chris Zumwalt told ABC News there had been a 15-20% decline in guests wanting to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Blue Mountains attraction Scenic World in the Blue Mountains had 50,000 fewer visitors in December, down 50% from last year, according to Chief Experience Officer Amanda Byrne.

Byrne noted “the tracks are open, but we are having more cancellations than bookings.”

Noting that many visitors had shied away from the area because of “heavy media coverage”, Byrne added “in December we’ve had bookings cancelled out of general fear for the bushfire situation from both tour operators and independent travellers.

“We have also heard from our inbound tour operators that they are receiving cancellations for as far out as April - well after the bushfire season.”

Feeling that reporting of conditions in the Blue Mountains during the bushfire crisis had been misleading and sensationalist, Byrne commented “it’s important for international tourists in particular to understand that the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage-listed area is vast - more than 1 million hectares - and there are many popular tourist areas that are unaffected by the bushfires.”

She also fears that the impact of the bushfires may be felt long after they are doused, stating “after the devastating 2013 bushfire in Winmalee, which went for two days, it took three months to see a return to normal visitation in the Blue Mountains region with an estimated loss of $47 million to the local tourism economy.”

Having launched its Matesong television commercial in the United Kingdom before Christmas, Tourism Australia this week suspended the campaign.

Widely criticised for its fanciful depiction of modern Australia, the timing of the campaign amid the bushfire crisis, David Beirman, Senior Lecturer in Tourism at the University of Technology Sydney, said the campaign looked “pretty stupid” in promoting a “happy-go-lucky Australia when the news headlines show firefighters grimly defending properties.

"It positions Australia as the antidote to the uptight, stressed out and overworked, which is a hard argument to put when the images you’re seeing are of kids hiding in the ocean under wet towels as fire fronts rip through their towns."

Commenting on the overall impact of the crisis, Federal Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the safety of residents and visitors in fire-ravaged areas was the Government’s priority, but it was “acutely aware” of the impacts on tourism.

Senator Birmingham advised “many of Australia’s best known tourism regions have previously faced natural disasters such as bushfires and cyclones yet bounced back in a strong demonstration of their resilience as world-class tourism destinations.”

Senator Birmingham said there was “always a risk” that widespread media coverage of the bushfires would also impact other regions of Australia, adding “we are monitoring the global media coverage and its impact on future bookings closely and assessing how to address the impact of this as the situation unfolds.”

Felicity Picken, a Lecturer at Western Sydney University's School of Social Sciences and Psychology, said the apocalyptic images of bushfires were likely to undermine Australia’s efforts to brand itself as a desirable destination.

Stating that the rising risk of bushfires in summer might require a rethink of when and where tourists should visit Australia, Dr Picken advised “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.”

But Dr Picken said the images with the greatest impact were those that “joined the dots” between the fires and tourists such as holidaymakers sheltering on a beach as flames razed homes.

Editor’s note: Australasian Leisure Management will be looking to report on fundraising and recovery initiatives within the industry in the wake of the bushfire crisis.

Related Articles

8th January 2020 - Motorsport fans and Perth Motorplex generously contribute to bushfire appeal

8th January 2020 - Sydney Festival show cancelled due to bushfires and poor air quality

7th January 2020 - Bushfires destroy Selwyn Snow Resort

6th January 2020 - TEG to stage benefit concert for bushfire relief at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium

6th January 2020 - Victorian Government announces new dedicated agency to guide bushfire recovery

5th January 2020 - Bushfires push numerous Australian animal species towards extinction

4th January 2020 - Bushfire crisis sees Victorian alpine resorts among areas declared state of disaster

4th January 2020 - Surf Life Saving NSW responds to bushfire crisis

4th January 2020 - VTIC provides advice for businesses impacted by the bushfires

3rd January 2020 - Catastrophic bushfires impact industry identities

3rd January 2020 - Bushfires predicted to have massive financial impact on Australian tourism industry

3rd January 2020 - Bushfires prevent Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars from competing at Perth Motorplex

31st December 2019 - Heroic effort by zookeepers saves Mogo Wildlife Park from devastating bushfires

28th December 2019 - Tourists told to reconsider travel plans to bushfire affected NSW South Coast

21st December 2019 - $6 million funding for Queensland tourist destinations impacted by bushfires

20th December 2019 - Bushfires see luxury NSW Blue Mountains resort suspends arrivals

19th December 2019 - Sapphire Coast tourism operators urge holidaymakers not to be deterred by bushfires

16th December 2019 - Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens threatened by bushfire

12th December 2019 - Bushfire fears leads to cancellation of NSW Central Coast festival

18th November 2019 - Aussie Ark calls for wildlife support during bushfires

12th November 2019 - Bushfires cause cancellation of Rally Australia World Championship event


Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.

 

supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

SENtag

Developed in Europe, this innovative system offers a safety management solution for swimming pools that checks individual swimmers via their wristband - monitoring their depth and time. Sensors…

read more

Aquatics / Hospitality / Safety / Technology / Waterparks

 
 

Aussie Strength

We are Aussie Strength. The ultimate supplier for Commercial Gym Equipment that's built to deliver in the toughest environments. From USA-Built hardcore weight training equipment from Arsenal…

read more

Fitness / Technology / Wellness

 
 

MYRTHA POOLS

Founded in 1961, Myrtha Pools® quickly became Italy’s première swimming pool company, and has since grown into one of the world's leading swimming pool construction…

read more

Aquatics / Design / Play / Waterparks / Wellness

 
 

Perfect Gym

Perfect Gym Solutions is a software as a service (SaaS) solution purpose-built to service the fitness industry, with over 1000 clients servicing over 2 million gym members across 40 countries making…

read more

Access / Fitness / Marketing / Recreation / Technology

 
 

Altitude Training Systems

ATS are global leaders in altitude training and research. From mask systems and inflatable tents to simulated altitude facilities, we help all athletes gain the competitive edge. Our…

read more

Fitness / Sport / Technology

 
 

IEDM

iEDM integrate Design, Engineering and Delivery Management services to convert existing spaces into exciting new entertainment venues. Our team consists of highly qualified professionals with diverse…

read more

Consultants / Design

 
 

LIFE FLOOR (Aus & NZ)

Our team believes floors should be beautiful, comfortable, and engineered for safety, even when wet. Life Floor tiles meet six unique performance based standards: slip-resistance, impact absorption,…

read more

Aquatics / Play / Recreation / Safety / Surfaces

 
 

HIDROPLAY

Hidroplay welcomes you to the exciting world of children's Playscapes, waterslide's and Water Attractions. Appealing to families, Hidroplay increases patronage in your facility during those…

read more

Aquatics / Play / Recreation

 
 
 
 

get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business