By Amie Keeley and Juliet Dennis
Tourism Australia says the travel industry will be key to helping the country recover from bushfires, which continued to rage this week.
The tourist board has ‘paused’ TV and digital adverts in its £7.9 million campaign fronted by Kylie Minogue but is reminding the trade that vast regions of Australia are unaffected.
Fires have led to the deaths of 25 people and destruction of nearly 2,000 homes, with blazes predicted to continue for months. New South Wales, home to Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley, is the worst-hit state.
Guests and staff escaped unharmed when the Southern Ocean Lodge on the south-west coast of Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia was destroyed in “ferocious” bushfires on Friday.
Owner Baillie Lodges said it was committed to rebuilding the property while “taking a leading role in whatever ways we can to help rebuild the tourism industry on Kangaroo Island”.
A spokesman for the national tourism organisation said: “Our hearts go out to the families and communities impacted by the bushfires. When these communities are ready, tourism will play a vital role in supporting their recovery and Tourism Australia will provide ongoing support.
“But vast regions of the country are unaffected and continue to offer our guests the incredible tourism experiences that we have to offer.”
Popular tourism spots such as Perth and Margaret River in Western Australia, Uluru in the Northern Territory and Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands and Cairns are all unaffected.
A spokeswoman for Flight Centre said: “As an Australian company, in this time of need, our love and support goes out to the communities impacted by the bushfires.
“As the fires begin to settle, the next step will be for tourist boards to spread the message far and wide that travel to Australia is possible, as many areas are unaffected and businesses remain open.
“Flight Centre will of course be following suit and we will continue to work closely our friends, colleagues and families in Australia to support them during this difficult time.”
A tool to provide rolling updates on the fires on Australia.com and trade portal Aussie Specialist has been created to show which tourist areas have been affected by bushfires.
Tourism Australia is also working on further sales resources to help agents plan itineraries avoiding the fires.
The online initiative is designed to ensure the travel industry and travellers “have the most accurate and up to date information”.
The webpage has been developed in consultations with states and territories in the country and will be updated daily.
It also includes links and general bushfire safety information.
A handful of operators have cancelled or amended itineraries in affected areas.
Intrepid Travel cancelled tours on Kangaroo Island until this Friday, with refunds and date changes offered until January 14.
AAT Kings has altered itineraries in Sydney and Kangaroo Island, while Gold Medal and Travel 2 have contacted all agents with customers in Australia to ensure they are safe.
The Travel Corporation, owner of AAT Kings and Trafalgar, has donated A$100,000 (£52,000) to fire services, while Intrepid has set up an appeal and had raised A$138,582 by Tuesday.
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