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Australian tourism industry seeks urgent help as cost of bushfires grows

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Australian tourism industry seeks urgent help as cost of bushfires grows

by Lidia Kelly

 

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FILE PHOTO: A wallaby eats after NSW's National Parks and Wildlife Service staff air-dropped carrots and sweet potatoes in bushfire-stricken areas around Wollemi and Yengo National Parks, New South Wales, Australia January 11, 2020. NSW DPIE Environment, Energy and Science/Handout via REUTERS

 

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s peak tourism body estimated the country’s bushfire crisis has so far cost the industry almost A$1 billion ($690 million) and called for urgent help from the government to lure back visitors.

 

Industry bosses were due to meet with Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham later on Thursday as storms and heavy rain brought some respite from months of fierce bushfires across Australia’s east coast.

 

The fires, which have killed 29 people and razed bushland across an area the size of Bulgaria, have hit several coastal towns at the height of the profitable summer season.

 

“People have basically stopped travel,” Simon Westaway, executive director of Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), told Reuters. “And that’s absolutely understandable: human nature kicks in.”

 

Even though recent cooler conditions have led some tourist destinations to reopen after they were evacuated because of the fires, people remain wary of visiting.

 

Images of burnt-out towns, people huddled on beaches to escape huge flames, dead wildlife and thick smoke hanging over major cities have been beamed around the world.

 

The qualifying rounds of Australian Open in Melbourne this week, the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, have been blighted by complaints from players about the pollution.

 

“The imagery of the fires in the global marketplace is very bad for our country,” Westaway said. “We are worried about the contagion that may have.”

 

Tourism accounts for more than 3% of Australia’s A$1.95 trillion economy, with 9 million foreigners visiting the country annually and domestic tourism growing.

 

Accommodation booking cancellations in non-fire zones have reached upwards of 60%, while in fire-affected areas there were no tourists at all, Westaway said. Many destinations rely heavily on domestic tourism, as well as international visitors.

 

This week’s wet weather brought some temporary respite for fire-hit areas, but also came with the warning of potential flash floods and lightning that could ignite new fires.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this week welcomed a U.S. move to downgrade a travel warning and has stressed that Australia is open for business.

 

Birmingham said he would seek firsthand feedback from tourism bosses at Thursday’s meeting and devise a strategy to reassure visitors that many tourism destinations are untainted by fires.

 

Following are some highlights of what is happening in the bushfire crisis:

 

** The Australian Bureau of Meteorology provided some welcome news on Thursday with a new forecast that there is a 50% chance that the bulk of the country’s east will receive average rainfall from March 1 through May 30. Still, BOM warned that warned that follow-up rains will be needed to end a three-year drought.

 

** There were 85 fires burning across the state of New South Wales on Thursday, with 30 of them yet to be contained, while 19 fires were alight in Victoria, according to fire authorities.

 

** The rain has brought relief for a number of firefighters working across New South Wales state. “Although this rain won’t extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way toward containment,” state fire services said.

 

** Emergency responders in Victoria have dealt with nearly 600 cases of falling trees, flash flooding and other damage in since late Wednesday and warned of more risks from storms starting Monday.

 

** Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne ranked among the top 50 most polluted major cities worldwide on Thursday, according to AirVisual’s pollution ranking for major global cities, with winds set to bring more smoke to Melbourne over the weekend.

 

** The smoke haze that has plagued Australia’s major cities for weeks and has been tracked by NASA circumnavigating the globe.

 

** Australia’s conservative government has softened its rhetoric on climate change amid the crisis, acknowledging this week that changes are real and the country needs a strategy of “adaptation” and “resilience”.

 

** Australia’s Wollemi Pines, giant prehistoric trees that were thought to be extinct until 1994, were specially protected by firefighters as blazes swept through their secret location in a NSW national park.

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-01-16

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If everything is burnt to a crisp its gunna be a really fun holiday for the tourists !!!

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1 minute ago, Mick501 said:

Is that why both sides of politics had previously used his services for cost analysis?  

 

You're just reading your usual left drivel that tries to shoot down anything that doesn't reaffirm their narrative.

Both sides used his services? Really? I haven't been able to find anything he's done for Labour. But lots of stuff for the mineral council and similar interests. 

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1 minute ago, bristolboy said:

Both sides used his services? Really? I haven't been able to find anything he's done for Labour. But lots of stuff for the mineral council and similar interests. 

So if I send you a link confirming he was used for coatings by the Rudd (Labor) government, you'll admit that the sources you use are  anything but impartial?

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11 hours ago, jaiyen said:

Western Australia is not affected by fires. It is a lovely place. I live in Perth. Only a 6 hour flight from Thailand.  

We had some fires in WA but not major ones like in the east.

Edited by White Christmas13
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4 hours ago, Mick501 said:

Is that why both sides of politics had previously used his services for cost analysis?  

 

You're just reading your usual left drivel that tries to shoot down anything that doesn't reaffirm their narrative.

I rather hear the truth on both sides. 

 

The air we breath, the water we drink is not a left or right politics. It's our life. 

 

Actually it's not just our lives, but the lives of who come after us and whose aim is to progress our knowledge and wisdom further. Their aim is to make our little globe habitable for their kids and their grandchildren. That's how life works. 

 

Stop complaining like a little do-nother. Start either creating or promoting solutions, if you wish your kids or your genes to forward. 

 

It's up to you, you know. It's up to all of us now. 



 

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5 hours ago, bristolboy said:

You mean the Rudd government that expired 10 years ago? That's all you've got? Compared to the voluminous work he's done and is doing for the mining industry and the Liberals? The cost of renewables has plunged since 2010. Solar down by 85 percent. But I'd like to see the report and look at his ridiculously pessimist projections.

You and I are in agreeance that emissions need to be reduced.  We just disagree on the timeframe.   Last I checked, probably about a year ago, coal was about $60 kWh and solar at $140.  Electricity prices up 60% over ten years.   The government pays massive subsidies for solar/wind.  If it was competitive, there would be no need.   The market wants to go that way, but it is just not competitive without massive subsidies.  

 

India and China and many other countries want to dig billions out of poverty.  The main driver will be coal.  It is not realistic that they will significantly change their habits, and asking them to do so consigns billions to poverty.  All well and good if you've had the benefit of a western life, but they do not give a rats about emissions (and will not for many years yet).

 

the chief scientist of Aus stated there would be no practical difference even if emissions were reduced to zero.  I'm sure you confirmed this in response to my earlier post.

 

given that it will have no effect, the only sensible policy objectives are the reduction of emissions over time, with minimal impact to the economy.

 

very interesting also that Labor (who were hotter favourites to win than Hilary) did not do their own costing on their emissions target. Even if you disagree with the model, no rational person could think it would not be extremely expensive.  It would not need subsidies otherwise.

 

 

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