Wednesday,  February 26, 2020  2:50 am

Despite fires, Australia remains a safe place to visit, tour operators say


Despite fires, Australia remains a safe place to visit, tour operators say
Bush fires burn in Australia in this image taken December 2019. Photo: Helitak430, Wikimedia Commons

As Australia faces its worst wildfire season in decades, Tourism Australia is reminding the travel industry that most tourism-related businesses remain open, during a time when the support of visitors is more important than ever before.

“Whilst bushfires continue to impact parts of Australia, many areas are unaffected and most tourism businesses are still open,” said Tourism Australia’s Managing Director Phillipa Harrison, who was appointed to the role in September. “It is more important than ever that we rally around our communities and the tourism sector who may have been impacted.”

With fire conditions constantly changing, Harrison added that travellers can check the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology for fire updates at www.bom.gov.au. Specific advice by region is available from the Rural Fire Service, National Parks and relevant State or Territory emergency services.

Travellers are also encouraged to speak with local tourism operators and staff at local Visitor Information Centres for advice about local conditions and how best to enjoy their time in Australia, Harrison added.

“Like all Australians our sympathies go out to the families and communities who are impacted by the fires, and our gratitude grows stronger by the day for the front line services facing the fires head on,” Harrison said.

Still safe to visit?

Several well-known tour operators who frequent the continent are reminding Canadians that Australia remains an incredible destination to visit, regardless of the bushfires.

The Travel Corporation is supporting Australia by donating $100,000 towards the NSW Rural Fire Service which is the lead combat agency for bush fires in NSW and directly benefits volunteer firefighters.

"On behalf of TTC, our hearts go out to the devastating loss of life, property, wildlife and nature from the bushfire tragedy," said Brett Tollman, CEO, The Travel Corporation. "A huge appreciation goes out to the outstanding efforts of the NSW Rural Fire Service – the danger they put themselves in on a daily basis to protect the community and its surrounding area is heroic. We felt compelled to reach out and help, so it’s an absolute privilege to contribute to their commitment, hence our December donation of $100K to the NSW Rural Fire Service. Funds go towards technology and necessities such as radios, floodlights, GPS for the trucks, maintenance, fuel, food and training.”

Goway Travel, who specialize in tours Down Under, notes that some key regional areas in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, including western Kangaroo Island, have been affected and are currently not recommended for travellers. However, many previously affected regions have since re-opened to tourism. For instance, touring of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales has resumed and Kangaroo Island is also still accepting visitors in the unaffected eastern towns of the island.

The Intrepid Foundation, the not-for-profit arm of Intrepid Travel, launched a new campaign to support the Red Cross Bushfire Emergency Appeal.

The scale of the crisis is unprecedented, and as a result, Intrepid pledged to match all donations up to $100,000 AUD, doubling donors' impact. After massive support from the Intrepid community, the company increased the target to $200,000 AUD since the previous goal was hit in the first few days. To date, Intrepid has raised over $295,601 with 100% of funds going to the Red Cross.

Donations to the Disaster Recovery and Relief Fund will:

  • Provide emergency grants of AU $2,000 to people who have lost homes or whose homes are uninhabitable due to a bushfire since July 2019. This will be open across Australia, with payments starting after 6 January 2020.
  • Plan flexible recovery programs targeting households and communities based on the needs assessments.
  • Facilitate and provide support at community events. Facilitate disaster recovery support groups to help people work through trauma.
  • Coordinate with and provide expert advice to community leaders and local services.
  • Assist more households and communities to prepare for bushfires and other disasters.

Plan ahead

Fires have devastated many areas across the continent since the fire season began in July, with the state of New South Wales the hardest hit, where a state of emergency has been declared.

More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged and at least 24 people have died as a result, while Australia’s unique wildlife has been devastated, with an estimated 500 million animals killed in the fires.

While the country's major airports remain open, many of Australia's national parks have been closed during the fires, with updated provided at the National Parks and Wildlife Service website.

The Canadian government is advising travellers to monitor local media regarding the fires and to be prepared to modify their travel plans as a result.


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