“As many of you are aware from reports in the media, Australia is experiencing catastrophic bushfires in some parts of the country. These bushfires have already ravaged more than 6 million hectares of land, devastating the people and animals who live there,” Mr Merse said in a release.
“We have received, and continue to receive, many messages of concern and support from Skalleagues around the world and this is greatly appreciated.
“As with all natural disasters, lives have been lost, homes, businesses and much property and wildlife has being destroyed. The livelihoods of many have been severely impacted. The widespread publicity both within Australia and globally will no doubt have an impact on our travel and tourism industries and that will directly affect many of our Skal members,” Mr Merse said.
“While it is natural to feel powerless at such times, the most effective way for you to assist is to continue with your plans to visit Australia and experience the magic of our beautiful country… to put things in perspective, 99% of Australia has not been effected by these bushfires and it is ‘business as usual’!” he added.
“Most destinations in Australia remain safe and continue to welcome visitors. All international airports in Australia are operating as normal,” Mr Merse noted.
He urged any person wanting updates on areas affected by the fires to go visit the Australian Government website Australia.com. (Click here.)
“Please circulate this through your networks,” he said.
“It is at times such as these there is some comfort in reflecting that we are part of a global organisation in Skal International that offers not only moral support and well wishes, but also potential financial support through the Florimund Volkaert Fund for members severely impacted by natural disasters.
“We look forward to welcoming you, your family, friends and clients when you next visit Australia!” Mr Merse concluded.
The Australian Government on Sunday announced an initial AUS$76 million tourism recovery package to protect jobs, small businesses and local economies by helping get tourists travelling across Australia again.
Tourism businesses and fire-affected communities around the country will receive much needed support from the National Bushfire Recovery Fund, noted an Australian Government release.
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government was throwing its support behind the country’s $152 billion tourism industry as part of an initial push to help the sector recover after a devastating blow from unprecedented bushfires,” it added.
“Our federal response to these devastating bushfires is comprehensive and unprecedented,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“More than 6,000 defence boots on the ground, more than $50 million in emergency payments already in hand and more to come, $76 million in new mental health support to first responders and local communities, $50 million to support wildlife recovery and habitat restoration, $75,000 grants to our farmers to help them rebuild, and now surging our support for our all-important tourism industry. It’s all part of a clear plan to lead our response to the recovery driven by our National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
“Australian tourism is facing its biggest challenge in living memory… One in thirteen Australian jobs rely on tourism and hospitality so our $76 million investment is an urgent injection to help all those hotels, restaurants and cafes and tour operators get back on their feet.
“This is make or break for many businesses and tourist hot spots and not just in those areas directly hit by the bushfires.
“This is about getting more visitors to help keep local businesses alive and protect local jobs right across the country and especially in those areas so directly devastated such as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and right along the NSW Coast and East Gippsland in Victoria.
“We’ve heard directly from local operators, industry leaders, communities and the states and territories from right across the country. Their message is to act now and that is exactly what we are doing. And we’ll be working closely with them all to deliver on our recovery plan to get these regions back up and running,” he added.
The Government’s initial tourism recovery package responds directly to calls from the tourism sector and includes $20 million for a nationally coordinated domestic marketing initiative and $25 million for a global marketing campaign to drive international visitation.
A further $10 million will be provided for a regional tourism events initiative across bushfire affected areas, $9.5 million for an international media and travel trade hosting initiative, $6.5 million to support tourism business’ attendance at the largest annual tourism trade event, the Australian Tourism Exchange, and $5 million for our diplomatic network to educate that our tourism, international education and export sectors are open for business.
Federal Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham said the funding boost would help get tourists back into areas that need it most but also make it clear that Australia is very much open for business.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of so many communities around Australia and it’s absolutely critical that we help to get people back visiting those communities that rely on tourism,” Mr Birmingham said.
“These bushfires have dealt the biggest reputational blow to our tourism industry that it has ever faced internationally. Losses caused by cancellations and collapsing booking numbers stretch well beyond those communities directly affected by fire into the many Australian towns that rely on international visitors to sustain tourism jobs.
“My message to anyone thinking about a holiday – from here or overseas – is that Australia’s towns and our incredible parks and beaches are open for business and they need your help.
“Just as it will be a long and challenging process for communities as they rebuild from fires, it will also take time and sustained effort to recover from the saturated media coverage and mistruths told online that have scared potential visitors away, including from parts of Australia that remain completely unaffected by fire.
“We will break from the practice of Tourism Australia exclusively focusing on international visitors and urgently kick off a local campaign because Australians are best placed to immediately understand that most of our country remains as safe to visit as ever.”