The Australian government has pledged £40 million (AS$76 million) to help the country’s tourism sector recover following months of devastating bushfires.
According to Reuters, the cash boost is the government’s first push to help Australia’s £80 billion (AS$152 billion) tourism sector bounce back from the fires.
After months of hot, dry weather, which created conditions that allowed the fires to spread rapidly, rain arrived at the weekend giving firefighters some relief.
However, tourism minister Simon Birmingham said bookings from Australia’s key international markets were down 30%-40% and domestic bookings declined 70%.
Nearly 30 people have been killed in the fires, and there has been widespread damage to Australia’s wildlife and natural habitats.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said the country’s tourism sector was facing “its biggest challenge in living memory”.
According to the Australian Tourism Export Council, cancellations from the US, UK and China could cost Australia £2.4 billion (AS$4.5 billion) by the end of the year.
Australia’s national broadcaster ABC said £10.5 million (AS$20 million) would be used to market Australia to domestic travellers and £13.2 million (AS$25 million) for international visitors.
A further £5.2 million (AS$10 million) will be reserved for creating new attractions in areas of the country heavily affected by the bushfires.
Morrison added the cash would help hotels, restaurants, cafes and tour operators “get back on their feet”. He also stressed the money would help get visitors back to attractions such as Kangaroo Island.
It comes after Tourism Australia launched new online tools to help the travel trade keep abreast of the latest developments on the bushfires, and sell the destination confidently in spite of its troubles.