JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA
As this issue of travelBulletin arrives in your hands I hope that the Australian bushfires are contained and we are well into recovery. Late last year and the early parts of 2020 have certainly been shockers for the country as the bushfires ravage our country with an indiscriminate ferocity.
It is hard to reconcile just how many hectares of our great land has burnt this summer and it is going to take a mammoth effort to get things back on track. For the travel and tourism industry the aftermath and recovery has a combination of issues.
First for our inbound friends and the Australian domestic market there are all the challenges of the global media who have covered the stories so well — perhaps almost too well — that people who may have been thinking about a holiday in Australia may reconsider it.
Our government agencies are doing all they can, along with the foreign service, ministers and Prime Minister to ensure the right message is being heard about the fact that while the fires have been dreadful, the country is very much open for business and the lion’s share of our tourism assets remain unaffected. If the global media get behind this point as well as they got behind the fires, the inbound pipeline will remain intact and thrive.
For the outbound side of the industry the fires present a different challenge. So many Australians feel bad about the fires even if they have not been directly impacted or connected. It is just a patriotic feeling that we get and rightly so. The key for the government from the outbound industry is to ensure that consumer confidence does not take a decline, which is always the first indicator of people not wanting to book overseas travel.
And then there is the issue of unaffected people just not feeling like it is the right thing to take a holiday right now as the country is in recovery mode. Again this is all in the communications and messaging, as their decision to take an overseas holiday in fact has nothing to do with the fire.
For all reports from AFTA members there has been some triage requirements for bookings around these two factors, but not in any way significant from an industry-wide impact point-of-view.
We all want to support and help and whenever there are issues either homegrown or internationally the travel industry always steps up. I remain confident that this will be the case once again as the bushfire situation becomes more controlled and the country starts to move on, respectfully as would be expected.
It is a difficult time for us all, but we must remain positive and confident as we hope the Australian people will — the travel industry depends on confidence and AFTA will be advocating this point with all stakeholders over the coming months.