Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway said “people just stopped travelling” during the bushfire crises in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, with cancellation rates running at more than 60 per cent even in areas not affected by bushfires.
“Human nature kicked in. Obviously people were concerned about getting around the country, a lot of events and activities were pre-cancelled and that’s had a dramatic effect,” said Mr Westaway, who estimated the cost to the industry was approaching $2 billion.
Tourism contributed $61 billion to the Australian economy in 2019, representing 3.1 per cent of GDP, and the industry directly employs 5 per cent of the workforce, according to government body Tourism Research Australia.
Mr Westaway welcomed Tourism Australia taking a bigger role in promoting domestic tourism, which accounts for 75 per cent of the industry.
Forward bookings from American, British and European tourists are down 40 per cent, according to the Australian Tourism Export Council, which expects the fires will costs the industry at least $4.5 billion by the end of the year.
The new campaign is part of a $76 million tourism recovery package announced by the Morrison government on Sunday.
Federal Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham said industry operators and tourist towns “desperately” needed help to protect jobs.
“We want Australians to pitch in to save the towns, jobs and small businesses around our country who rely on tourism,” he said.
On top of the $20 million domestic ad campaign, $25 million will be spent on international advertising, $9.5 million on hosting foreign media and $10 million will go to a regional tourism events initiative.
A $15 million campaign promoting Australia as a holiday destination in the UK − starring Kylie Minogue and launched on Boxing Day − was pulled as the full extent of the bushfire emergency became apparent.
Fires this summer have devastated tourism operators in areas including the Blue Mountains and the South Coast region in New South Wales, Victoria’s Gippsland, Lower Alpine and Murray regions and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
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