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Australia invests in tourism amid fire devastation

January 19, 2020

Photographs of charred koalas, apocalyptic red skies and poor air quality have haunted Australia since the bushfire crisis. The government is now investing millions in its tourism industry to turn around its image.

Australia's opera house covered in smoke from nearby bushfires
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AAP/S. Saphore

Australia's government hopes to boost its tourism industry with tens of millions of dollars in a bid to combat the damage to infrastructure and the country's image caused by devastating bushfires.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faced criticism for taking a holiday to Hawaii as the wildfire crisis unfolded, announced the stimulus package of AU$76 million ($52.3 million, €47.1 million) in a statement on Sunday.

The initial injection of tourism aid will be taken from an AU$2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund, said the prime minister, adding that "this is make-or-break for many businesses and tourist hot spots."

It is estimated that the impact of the Australian bushfires on the nation's tourism sector will be at least AU$4.5 billion by the end of the year, Sydney-based Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), the main body representing Australia's tourism sector, said on Friday. 

Tourism is a major part of Australia's economy accounting for 3% of annual economic output.

Where will the money go?

Morrison said the fund "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."

However, Morrison also stressed that the funds are not just for areas directly affected by the bushfires.

The stimulus package includes money for both domestic and global marketing campaigns, as well as the promotion of regional tourism events across bushfire-affected areas. 

Is it enough of an investment?

Tourism is an important part of the Australian economy — one in 13 jobs rely on the tourism or hospitality industries.

There are likely to be further stimulus packages in the future. Asked on Australia's ABC News television on Sunday whether AU$76 million is sufficient, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said it was an initial package.

"There may need to be additional support and funding as we work through this recovery," Birmingham said, according to a transcript of the interview.

kmm/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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