Asia Minute: Australia Bush Fires Hit Tourism

Jan 27, 2020

It was another fiery weekend in parts of Australia. Scores of brushfires are still burning — especially in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. While the destruction has been vast in recent weeks, the intensity of the flames has declined a bit in recent days. But there are lingering concerns, and not only about the loss of life and property. 

The destruction of Australia’s wildfires is staggering by any measure. More than 30 people killed, thousands of homes wiped out, estimates of animal deaths top a billion.

Some 27 million acres have burned. That’s an area twice the size of Maryland. More than nine times the land burned in the California wildfires of 2018.

And while it’s not on the same level as loss of life, Australia’s national and state governments are also worried about a loss of tourism.

Last week, the federal government announced an initial grant equivalent to 50 million U.S. dollars to boost the tourism industry — part of a National Bushfire Recovery Fund. That includes a new campaign aimed at a domestic audience — urging Australians to “Holiday HERE this year.”

As for international visitors, Tourism Australia says too many people are under the misimpression that the entire country is in flames.

The agency has put up a note on its website saying, “bushfires are impacting parts of Australia. However, thankfully many parts of Australia remain unaffected and are welcoming visitors.”

There’s a link to an updated map showing parts of the country heavily and partially impacted by the fires.

The government says the message is “reinforcing to global audiences that Australia is safe and open for business.”