As I traveled throughout Australia November 29-December 10, 2019, as part of Dreamtime, Tourism Australia’s biannual business events incentive familiarization trip, I got glimpses of the Australia fires that have increased in intensity and now plague the country. On my flight from Sydney to Perth, I witnessed tunnels of smoke dotting the landscape. The fires did not impact my trip in any way except the smoky, pungent air that enveloped beautiful Sydney.
The weather has gotten hotter and dryer since I was there, and the Australia fires have gotten much worse. I reached out to Tourism Australia to find out if the raging fires have impacted any meeting and incentive groups.
“At this stage, it is too early to quantify the full impact of the bushfires on the tourism and business events industry, and any knock-on effect in terms of international visitation to Australia,” was the statement I received from a Tourism Australia spokesperson. “We are still gathering feedback from industry and monitoring impacts on future bookings closely as the situation unfolds. We have already begun connecting with industry partners regarding the bushfires and how we can continue to support the sector. And given the widespread international coverage, we will have an important role to play in highlighting that Australia will continue to be a world-leading and safe destination, whether in unaffected regions or those that will recover from these bushfires in the months and years to come.”
A total of 24 people have died, and in the state of New South Wales alone, it is reported that more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. It is also estimated that about half a billion animals have been affected by the New South Wales fires, with millions probably dead.
Southern Ocean Lodge, a popular incentive property on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, has sustained significant damage by bushfire, and the property is now closed. According to Tourism Australia, the owners of this luxury lodge plan to rebuild.
This property is part of the Baillie Lodges portfolio, which includes other luxury lodges located in unaffected areas such as Longitude 131, a luxury desert basecamp, near Uluru.
Selwyn Snow Resort has also been ravaged by a bushfire which tore through the Snowy Mountains. The owners of this property also vow to rebuild.
Where can meeting and incentive planners go for more information?
The Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology provides overall weather updates for all parts of Australia, including the latest fire weather warnings. Click here.
For specific advice, updates are available from the Rural Fire Service, National Parks and relevant State or Territory emergency services. You can find more information here.
Tourism Australia reports there has been a heartwarming outpouring of support internationally, many asking what they can do to help.
“With tourism and business events a significant driver of Australia’s economy, one of the ways you can support our communities is to continue to bring your events to Australia,” reports the Tourism Australia spokesperson. “While bushfires continue to impact parts of the country, many areas are unaffected, and most business events operators are open and ready to welcome visitors. And those affected by bushfires will benefit hugely from visitation when the time is right.”
For those who would like to donate, here are the organizations Tourism Australia mentioned.