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Wednesday, 15 January, 2020, 18 : 10 PM [IST]

We are a massive country & open for business: Australian Travel Trade

Australian tourism operators have one message for visitors — "we are a massive country and we are open for business," reports

Tony Coppins runs a marine tours business on Kangaroo Island — often described as the Galapagos of Australia thanks to its enormous biodiversity. His company is one of TripAdvisor's top-rated tourism businesses on the island, with rave reviews for experiences such as swimming with dolphins.

But business has ground to a halt after the western third of the island was burned in a widely-broadcast bushfire. "We have had hundreds of cancellations. It's been a nightmare. I've got three months of cancellations in front of me," Coppins said.

The whole western section of Kangaroo Island is devastated, but the eastern part remains unaffected. But most of Kangaroo Island hasn't burned. The whole eastern section of the island, with most of the tourism opportunities, remains unaffected. Nonetheless, tourists have been spooked and have canceled en masse.

"This has created an employment crisis on the island," Coppins said. "We can't employ our casual staff — we have more than 30 — unless we have bookings. That's filtering through to the community: People can't make house payments, they can't buy the necessities."

Hotels in New South Wales and Victoria have reported similar problems, with unaffected areas being hit by tourist cancellations.

The Federal tourism agency said it was too early for statistics to quantify the economic damage, but that it was aware of cancellations and possible declines in bookings.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham told DW that international media coverage had exaggerated the geographical reach of the fires. "I urge people with a booking or (who are) considering travel to ensure they have the facts and don't compound the harm to tourism operators by unnecessarily staying away," Birmingham said.

I want to make it clear that Australia is still very much open for business. Most Australian regions remain unaffected and continue to offer tourists the incredible tourism experiences that our country is known for."

This message has been hard to communicate to an international audience, particularly with the UK and the US issuing partial travel warnings for Australia. However, on Tuesday, the US State Department downgraded its travel advisory to normal, at the behest of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

To help tourists find out where is safe, Tourism Australia regularly updates a list of which internationally-popular tourism sites have been affected by the fires.

Western Australian State Tourism Minister Paul Papalia told DW that tourism to the sparsely-populated state has been growing at three times the national average. "The message is that Australia is a huge place and it is tragic what is happening in some parts of Australia, but Western Australia is absolutely open for business and we have some magnificent destinations that have made us the most desired destination for Australian and international visitors."

"Right now, the best way people can help is by visiting areas that haven't been impacted by fires," Brendan McClements, Chief Executive, Visit Victoria, told DW.

"When it is safe to do so, we will do everything we can to encourage people to visit impacted communities, so they can help support local businesses by visiting cafes, booking restaurants and filling regional hotels." (Source:

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