The knock-on effects of the unprecedented devastation we’ve seen this bushfire season are being felt around the country. Many towns that would usually be buzzing with holiday-goers are instead dealing with lost business, even if they’ve been lucky enough to stay safe from the fires.
Australians are now being encouraged to move holidays from our bucket lists to our to-do lists, swap overseas destinations for local ones, and reschedule abandoned plans in a new campaign to bring tourism – and much-needed revenue – back to communities affected directly and indirectly by bushfires.
Tourism Australia has just launched a $20 million government-funded campaign, Holiday Here This Year, asking Aussies to start planning domestic travel and returning to bushfire-affected towns once it’s safe to do so.
There’s also a new dedicated hub providing an up-to-date, state-by-state overview of the popular areas impacted, and those that are safe to visit. The site also links out to local services that offer on-the-ground advice.
At the time of publishing, for example, East Gippsland in Victoria, the New South Wales South Coast, and Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills in South Australia are listed as “partially impacted” by fire, but many areas within those regions are still open for business, safe to visit and welcoming visitors.
Here’s how to holiday helpfully in the coming months.
Take a raincheck
If you do have to change plans due to bushfires, consider rescheduling instead of cancelling. That way you can take your business back where it’s needed in the not-too-distant future.
Cash in a raincheck
Do some research online, contact the local information centre and check in with your accommodation provider, as you may be able to take those plans off hold sooner than you think – it might just involve some tweaks to your itinerary.
Pay it forward
Pencilled in a holiday for next year, but nothing’s locked down? Think about bringing your plans forward and travelling in the coming months instead, when your tourism dollars will have an immediate impact.
Plan a trip
Many areas unaffected by fires are feeling the loss of international tourists, so if you’ve ever wanted to fly inland to Uluru, drive down the Great Ocean Road, or dive on the Ningaloo Reef, maybe now’s the time. Otherwise, you could plan a trip to a bushfire-affected area in the next 12 months – just check it’s safe before you travel. If you don’t know where to stay, this new Instagram account has some ideas.
Stay up to date
It’s important to be across the latest local information. Each state and territory has its own website with up-to-date bushfire information (find the full list here). Before you leave, it’s worth checking the Bureau of Meteorology website for weather warnings, as well as the air-quality rating. Listen to the local ABC station or visit the state or territory’s emergency services website for news (you can find a list of services here).
Many businesses are still operating despite fires. If you don’t end up holidaying, consider shopping online (Buy From the Bush is a good place to start), or buying produce at city markets that source directly from suppliers in regional areas. Countless venues in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth are also providing donations to bushfire-relief funds, so even your morning coffee, lunchtime sandwich or post-work cocktail could make a difference.
When you do hit the road, empty your esky and fill it up with local food, drinks and souvenirs. You could also schedule a stop at a wildlife sanctuary or conservation-focused zoo that redirects profits to support native animals.
Bring your mates
Got friends and family overseas? Why not invite them to visit. Next time you’re planning a wedding, a cross-country road trip, or an overdue catch-up, do it locally instead. More than 660,000 people in Australia earn a living through tourism; help them out by taking a holiday.