Will you consider bushfire threats when planning your summer holiday in 2021, perhaps for that first time avoiding holiday hotspots that have a higher risk of natural disaster?
That’s an awkward question. Maintaining tourism income is a low priority compared to saving and supporting bushfire-affected communities now and in coming years. Or recognising the incredible contribution of volunteers and others who have given time and/or money.
Let’s hope holidaymakers return to bushfire-affected areas this time next year, conditions permitting, to support those communities and their hospitality businesses.
That said, plans to rebuild affected communities, particularly those that rely on summer holidaymakers, must factor in the longer-term impact of bushfires on tourism.
Media reports suggest the bushfires will cost tourism operators hundreds of millions of dollars in lost income this year. This unexpected revenue drop could wipe out small hospitality businesses that live or die on the strength of the summer tourism season.
On the cost side, tourist enterprises in affected areas could be hit by higher insurance premiums and other expenses related to workplace disruption caused by the disaster.
My fear is the impactof bushfires on parts of Australia’s tourism sector will last several years and be larger than expected. I hope I’m wrong, but the magnitude of this disaster could influence summer travel patterns for many domestic and international tourists.
The magnitude of this disaster could influence summer travel patterns for many domestic and international tourists.
There is talk that growth in international tourists, already slowing, will be affected by international reports about the bushfires. Would you think twice about holidaying in a country that had massive bushfires a year earlier?
Moreover, pictures of Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and other areas chocked by smoke could deter international tourists from visiting our capital cities.
Locally, the bushfires will surely have people thinking about climate change when choosing holiday destinations. Australians love a summer holiday, but not if it’s 45 degrees on too many days, everywhere is bone dry and fire risks linger in the background.
It is obvious that more people expect the frequency and severity of natural disasters to increase in coming years. Regardless of one’s view on climate change, expectations matter. If people expect more fires, they will adjust their behaviour when planning holidays.
In The Conversation this week, Professor David Bowman of the University of Tasmania, a fire expert, said it might be time to say goodbye to the typical summer holiday in Australia. Bowman suggests rearranging the calendar so the main holiday period is in March and April rather than over December and January.
He wrote: “One of the great exacerbating factors of this crisis is the fact that it is occurring in a holiday period. It makes things incredibly difficult for emergency management. It would be a lot easier for firefighters to focus on stemming fires if they didn’t also have to manage mass evacuations and deal with populations that are dispersed and far from home.”
Bowman’s suggestion has merit. I never understand why millions of people take a holiday in the same two weeks, exacerbating congestion and overpricing in tourist towns.
Maybe it is because more organisations shut down for longer over Christmas these days, forcing staff to take a bigger chunk of their annual holiday to reduce the company’s leave liability. The result: everybody holidaying during peak bushfire season.
I don’t know how small businesses that rely on summer holidaymakers would cope with greater holiday staggering. People holidaying in the cooler months of March and April will not help a coastal tourism business and might encourage some Australians to go overseas.
I doubt Bowman’s suggestion, worthy as it is, will take hold. A likelier outcome is people shortening their summer leave and having a longer mid-year break.
Either way, that will hurt hospitality businesses that depend on summer trade. People might also take a few shorter holidays each year rather than a longer summer holiday due to concerns about bushfire risks.
Of course, it’s dangerous to generalise about a single natural disaster and apply it to the entire tourism sector across several years. Hopefully the tourism industry – and the communities affected by natural disaster– bounce back quickly.
But there is no doubt the bushfires will get more people thinking about whether a long summer holiday in a potentially hotter and drier climate still makes sense.
Source: Thanks smh.com