Tasmanian bushfires hit state’s tourism industry

The tourism industry has warned the sector’s Tasmanian operators they will continue to feel the effects of the state’s ravaging bushfires, although one industry leader says the impact won’t be long term.

John Lee, chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, told SmartCompany this morning SMEs in Tasmania will certainly see an effect from the fires – but they won’t be as harsh as those seen in Queensland after the 2011 floods.

“In some ways it’s too early to forecast what the medium-term impacts will be, but our experience with natural disasters and emergencies like these tell us there is a forward impact,” he says.

“For some natural disasters it can be as short as seven days, as long as one to two years.”

However, based on the fires so far, Lee says he believes the effects will be “on the short side”, and the affected areas could be back up and running before Australia Day.

“The floods in Queensland had much more of a knock-on effect, but we hope it will be more short-lived in Tasmania as the main infrastructure hasn’t been affected. Tourism operators can restart much quicker.”

The 2011 Queensland floods had a devastating effect on the region, which had already been affected by the higher Australian dollar. Some tourism businesses in Queensland have collapsed in the wake of the floods and other problems.

Tourism Tasmania and the Tourism Industry Council have released a statement urging all operators to monitor the fires as they continue. Customers affected by the fires have been told to contact their operators directly.

Police are now searching for up to 100 missing people among the fires, which struck the regional towns of Dunalley, Boomer Bay and Marion Bay.

About 2,500 people have been evacuated from the area, while the federal government has announced assistance of up to $1,000 per affected person. Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be touring the affected areas today.

Tasmanian Fire Service chief fire officer Mike Brown told Fairfax yesterday the fire is still being brought under control, and there is no current timeline for when the situation would be resolved.

“That’s really the $6 million question because it’s going to take quite some time,” he said. ”Our predictions over the next week is that temperatures will warm up a bit.”

Lee says the fires come at an extremely busy time for tourism operators, which exacerbates the situation.

“We should be aware this is a very busy period for Tasmanian tourism operators. In a state highly reliant on tourism, we understand their operations will be severely affected.”

But Lee says once the initial emergency period passes, tourism should get up and running again.

“We have strong interest in people making forward bookings into Easter, so we hope the areas won’t be hit too badly.”



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