Chris Allison, Tourism Australia

Update: Australia's Bushfires and Meetings & Events

The Australian bushfires are now largely contained, Chris Allison, head of commercial partnerships, the Americas, at Tourism Australia told media at a briefing at Travel Leaders Group’s New York City headquarters.  

“In the last week or so we’ve experience heavy rain across multiple parts of the country, so it is much more under control,” Allison says. “Many fires are out and those that are remaining have been contained.”

Tourism Australia’s website, Australia.com, has a page gathering the most up-to-date information on the fires, including an interactive map and list of the most popular tourist destinations that have been affected.

As of press time, the Blue Mountains, Capital Country (including the Southern Highlands), the Snowy Mountains, the South Coast (including Kangaroo Valley) in New South Wales were all listed as partially impacted, although the Blue Mountains and South Coast are still welcoming visitors. Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory is partially impacted by smoke haze only, while in Victoria, East Gippsland is partially impacted with some areas welcoming visitors and Upper Murray (east of Wodonga) and the Alpine region are impacted. In South Australia, the Adelaide Hills are partially impacted but still welcoming visitors, and Kangaroo Island is partially impacted, but with some areas still welcoming visitors. 

The Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB), meanwhile, is encouraging conference organizers and event managers to contact the local convention bureau authority. 

"Australia’s convention bureaux are best placed to provide up-to-date business events information given they are on the ground in each state and territory with direct connection to industry operators in their respective regions," said AACB CEO Andrew Hiebl in a written statement. 

Almost all Australian destinations are safe to meet in and visit, the AACB said, and its member convention bureaux will be able to assist. Those convention bureaux with regions directly or indirectly impacted, including smoke haze, will be able to assist conference and incentive organisers to provide relevant communication to their delegates, the AACB said. 

With the severity of the fires waning, Tourism Australia’s focus is now on mitigating the impact of the disaster on the country’s tourism sector and broader economy. 

“In 2019 we had 8.7 million tourist visits to Australia, so tourism is a significant contributor to our economy and a significant contributor to commerce,” Allison says.

Even during the height of the fires, Allison says that the number of people who cancelled their pre-existing trip is relatively small. Most instead rerouted their itineraries away from affected areas. 

“Our biggest challenge is people that haven’t yet booked and are considering whether or not to travel to Australia,” Allison says. 

Now, the Australian government has released a $76 million package aimed at promoting tourism, and Allison says that Tourism Australia will be making announcements in the coming days and weeks for the organization’s specific strategy in the U.S. market. 

“We’re extremely focused on making sure our industry partners from a travel advisor perspective are assured that they can continue to sell Australia with confidence,” Allison says. In January, Tourism Australia will be launching educational materials for travel advisors, as well as holding travel advisor briefings across nine U.S. markets. 

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