Australia suffers tourism blow from bushfires
MELBOURNE: The United States is warning its citizens to exercise increased caution when travelling to Australia, placing it on the same travel advisory level as Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea.
The US Department of State issued a new travel advisory for people travelling to Australia
It recommends tourists in Australia exercise increased caution, citing the bushfires and the poor air quality. The US provides around 800,000 tourists to Australia each year.
It comes on the same day that Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham pleaded for fire-affected businesses and communities not to be ignored.
The US Department of State upgraded its travel advisory for Australia to “level two” and urged visitors to “exercise increased caution”.
“Tourists should consider postponing their trip to affected areas until the danger of natural disaster has passed,” it declared, noting fires “may continue” until April.
“Even in areas not directly affected by bushfires, smoke is causing poor air quality.”
Last week Australia paused its lavish international advertising campaign featuring Kylie Minogue given the international media coverage received by the bushfires.
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Senator Birmingham said Australian authorities would continue to monitor the travel advisories put out by other countries.
“Our priority in the coming weeks and months will be to convey the message in our key markets, including in the US, that Australia is still open for business and that most destinations around Australia remain safe and are unaffected by bushfires,” he told the ABC.
“Tourism Australia’s representatives and our diplomatic network are also working with travel wholesalers and other partners around the world to address any misunderstandings and help them to continue to sell the many amazing experiences of Australia.
“At every step of the recovery we will work closely with the industry on how to not only rebuild infrastructure where required but also to promote Australia in ways that keep the tourists coming and avoid even greater harm being unnecessarily felt by our tourism businesses.”
Only China and New Zealand provide more tourists to Australia than the US each year, according to ABS figures.
Americans come Down Under around 800,000 times each year.
Other countries with level two advisories from the US include Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, India and China, as well as some European countries including France and Denmark where terrorism is listed as a threat.
Call for support
On Wednesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked Australians to holiday locally — despite his heavily publicised preference for Hawaii.
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“Whether it’s here domestically in Australia, or, indeed, overseas — because I have spoken to many leaders, particularly in the last 24 hours — that Australia is open, Australia is still a wonderful place to come and bring your family and enjoy your holidays,” he said.
Fiona Mutton, from Braidwood near several of the major NSW South Coast fires, said her homewares store had never encountered such as devastating situation before.
“December and January account for about 35 per cent of our annual turnover and we rely heavily on that bumper-to-bumper traffic that we would normally see this time of year, of all the Canberrans coming through to the Coast,” she said.
“And as you can see from the streets outside, it’s a ghost town.”
Senator Birmingham said buying produce was one way to support local businesses.
“Bega Cheese has made an appeal [on Thursday] about their business, their brand, the dairy farmers they support in southern New South Wales,” he said, calling for support for South Australian winemakers and other producers across the country.
As part of the bushfire recovery response, the Government announced that 42 councils would be given $1 million each to spend however they wished.
Mr Morrison rejected concerns that the money might not be spent appropriately.
“We’re getting them the cash in their bank accounts and they need to get on with it — that’s what this disaster requires.”