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Call to revive Australian tourism



Pathos has descended upon Australia, as heavy as the blanket of smoke that hung around for months as the country beneath it burned. Summer’s joie de vivre has gone, and in its place a sense of doom encircles us. Family and friends are unusually subdued, bereft somehow, of the ebullience that comes with a shiny new year. Even the rain has dampened the mood: spiteful bursts of water ripping into crisped lawns and washing soil away.

Quokka on Basin Beach at Rottnest Island (Getty Images/bennymarty)

But succour for the ecological grief consuming us all might come from the very place that has suffered climate’s wrath: the mother country. And the balm that we offer to those affected by the bushfires — money, compassion, patronage — might be the very balm that heals us, too. For generosity, which Australians excel at, has been shown by various studies to have numerous benefits for the giver: elevation of one’s happiness, better health outcomes, social connection, co-operation and gratitude.

This communal outpouring during the bushfires has an opportunity to perpetuate itself indefinitely, even though the embers have been extinguished and those not directly affected by the fires have gotten on with their workaday lives. For even as the fires burned, Tourism Australia was mounting a campaign to encourage Australians to holiday locally instead of taking their patronage abroad, and to persuade international tourists to visit, too.

In part, this was an effort to stem the spread of misleading information about the precise location of fires: diagrams broadcast on American news shows (and spread on Twitter by people including President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr) indicated that the flames were dancing right across the country rather than in the specific regions to which they were contained.

But the ‘Holiday Here This Year’ campaign was also aimed at harnessing the collective expression of empathy — so robust and heartfelt during the crisis — so that it might be sustained and meaningfully deployed in future.

‘[The] whole area is screaming for people to come back,’ business owner Paul Walker told The Guardian from Jervis Bay, one of the affected areas.


'The country is a world unto itself, so vast that most of its citizens haven’t explored even a fraction of it.'


Tourism Australia, in turn, reiterated the impact of the fires on unaffected parts of the country.

‘[This] package will also highlight that these regions are still offering incredible experiences and want tourists to visit,’ it said in a statement.

Those incredible experiences are so abundant that one couldn’t possibly run out of places to visit. The country is a world unto itself, so vast that most of its citizens haven’t explored even a fraction of it. This capaciousness is a drawback, of course; it makes places difficult to access, adding time and money to such endeavours. But effort is rewarded with wonder and a sense of belonging.

This search for home underpinned the long roads trips my own immigrant family took in the years after we moved to Australia. Icons and unsung crannies and the county’s temperament soon became familiar to us: the nondescript settlements strung out along the Nullarbor Plain; the bright heat of the tropics; the history encoded all along the Gibb River Road; the rock beating like a blood-filled heart in the country’s centre. Places closer to home, too, revealed themselves as friends, national parks and seaside towns and vineyards reachable within just a few hours.

It’s a long time since we did a road trip, but the call to action is compelling. As the first green shoots emerge from the scorched earth, we have more reason than ever to turn our focus inward, to get to know our homeland again. The pathos will surely lift when memories well up from journeys taken in the past, from the smell of the ocean spray or the forest floor; the disillusionment will be replaced with a shared idea of home and gratitude for our compatriots. And for those broken by the hellfire, it will be a gesture that might well keep them going long after the donations have run out.



Catherine MarshallCatherine Marshall is a Sydney-based journalist and travel writer. See more on Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign here.

Main image: Quokka on Basin Beach at Rottnest Island (Getty Images/bennymarty)

Topic tags: Catherine Marshall, bushfires, tourism, Tourism Australia



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Existing comments

What a fine idea. Visiting communities coming to terms with loss will boost morale and show love.

Pam | 20 February 2020  

Here in Canberra, we were blanketed with smoke from the bushfires for weeks on end.Our access to "the coast",the Kings Highway, was closed for weeks beyond Braidwood. It was like Armageddon- very scary for those of us who experienced the horrors of January 18, 2003 . We worried about our friends and contacts down on the coast, who suffered the horrors of mega bushfires so huge that they were beyond the capability of our volunteer fire fighters. We grieved for those who died .Then the rains came-flooding rains, that only added to the destruction, but at last the fires were extinguished. Members of our Parish organised trips to Braidwood, Carbargo and Bateman's Bay so we could visit shop in their shops and in our own little way, console them in their losses. The journeys were heart warming experiences.Of course the recovery will take a long time, months, even years.We must continue to support them by holidaying there and visiting . There are so many places down there, not directly impacted but who are suffering still .

Gavin O'Brien | 21 February 2020  

Small businesses generally charge more for their goods and services because they lack economies of scale or opportunities for cross-subsidisation. Anyway, home coffee tastes as good as, if not better than, pavement coffee. Any shopping can be conceptualised as an act of charity (a pecuniary action that is not, at first sight, economically rational) either by helping the small business owner to keep his own children in food or to keep the faces you relate to in your preferred retail corporation in jobs. Liberal economic theory is, all other things being equal, predicated on the reductionism (couched as an empirically valid hypothesis) that moral good comes out of the lowest cost of purchase. But the economy is a large and complicated machine which, like all such agglomerations of complexity, works well only if constantly fine-tuned. All other things almost never being equal, there is a lot of study yet to be done on what are the signals to heed, especially by that bugbear of liberal economists, the State, when it is not rational to go for the lowest price and perhaps not rational either to allow the consumer to get the lowest possible price.

roy chen yee | 07 March 2020  

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