Matt Doran: Well, the damage being done to Australia’s tourism industry by the bushfire crisis can be revealed this morning and the figures are really worrying. The number of visitors from our key international markets are down by almost 40 per cent. Bookings by domestic travelers in regional Victoria and New South Wales have plunged, would you believe, by more than 60 per cent. It is estimated the tourism industry will take a $4.5 billion – that’s billion dollar – hit by the end of the year. Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham met senior tourism leaders on Thursday for an emergency meeting and this morning he joins Weekend Sunrise with a big announcement.
Simon Birmingham, thank you very much for your time. A big challenge for you in your role as Tourism Minister and for the Government more broadly. What is the Government doing?
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Matt. Well, thanks for the chance to talk. This is incredibly challenging for Australia’s tourism industry and, you know, one in 13 Australian jobs rely on tourism or hospitality. And so the $76 million package we’re announcing today really is a job saving package for Australians that is focused on our tourism industry. What we’re doing is committing some $30 million towards the domestic tourism industry to try to make sure we get more Australians choosing to holiday in Australia, to travel throughout our country, to make bookings with providers as we deal with this international downturn, and some $46 million towards additional marketing initiatives, educational initiatives and marketing events so that we can make sure that we get news out there internationally that Australia is still open for business, that most of our country is untouched by bushfires despite the misleading maps that have been out there, and of course that for the vast majority of instances, tourists can still come and have the same incredible experience in Australia that they have always enjoyed.
Matt Doran: Minister, I think that’s an indication of how serious this problem is. That $76 million matches what the Government is spending on mental health for people affected by these fires. The key question, I think, is how do you spend that money effectively to urgently convince people that we are still open for business? What does the marketing campaign look like?
Simon Birmingham: So it will be series of different measures and, importantly, a lot of it is going to be done in partnership with tourism industry operators – so, airlines, hotels, tour providers – making sure that we support them to be able to promote and advertise their product and drive direct bookings into those businesses. That’s the important thing. This is, yes, about working to rebuild Australia’s brand and reputation. But the thing our tourism providers need right now are bookings into their businesses. And that’s why we’re running a domestic campaign alongside the international campaign, so that we can appeal to Australians and say: if you’re thinking about taking a long weekend break during the year, if you’re thinking about doing something during the next lot of school holidays, well, please think about making a booking for an Australian tourism provider, because right now they really need your help.
Matt Doran: They certainly do. Minister, thank you for the update this morning, that $76 million package. Hopefully that starts to flow through quite quickly. The numbers, really frightening how they’ve fallen off.