Record-breaking heat waves, melting roads, savage fires. Dehydrated koalas desperate for help. The news around Australia is alarming.
However, fires are more nuanced than dozens of flame icons on a map express. Before abandoning plans for the Land Down Under, make an informed decision. Needlessly canceling deprives local communities of key tourism income while costing you fees, hassle and a much-anticipated vacation. Instead, manage expectations, stay flexible, and monitor regional developments.
The overarching message from Tourism Australias Managing Director Phillipa Harrison is one of cautious optimism. Whilst bushfires continue to impact parts of Australia, many areas are unaffected, and most tourism businesses are open. It is more important than ever that we rally around our communities and the tourism sector who may have been impacted she said. She pointed to the Australian Governments Bureau of Meteorology as a source for countrywide weather updates and fire warnings.
Heres what tourists need to know about bush fires throughout Australia.
Destination New South Wales (NSW) acknowledges the persistence of bush fires around the state. Check the Rural Fire Service, National Parks, NSW Police and the Bureau of Meteorology for updates, however, as many popular places are safe. Visitors may encounter travel delays due to damaged or partially closed roads and should check Live Traffic for updates.
Of course, the number one destination in NSW is Sydney. The citys denizens have endured weeks of haze and polluted air, generally dampening the mood and forcing people indoors. A new report by Reuters warns fire threatens the water supply. Check in with area hotels and tour operators before arriving.
Beyond Sydney, the Blue Mountains draw Americans to its rainforests, canyons and rock formations. Huge fires have been reported. However, as Scenic Worlds Chief Experience Officer Amanda Byrne reminds us, the World Heritage region is enormous. It is important for tourists to understand that the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area is vast more than 1 million hectares and there are many popular tourist areas currently unaffected by the bushfires, she said.
Scenic World in Katoomba is Australias most visited privately owned tourist attraction, welcoming around 40,000 American guests annually.
All eyes will be on Melbourne when the Australian Open kicks off in late January. Victorias fire season starts later than neighboring states though for now, its business as usual.
Kyle Ross of Grand Slam Tennis Tours, an American tour operator focused on packaged trips to key tournaments including the Australian Open, said he has fielded concerned calls and one cancellation due to a preexisting respiratory issue. Ross is keeping tabs on air quality:Weve obviously been tracking the firesand communicating with any travel partners with whom weve booked excursions for our tennis guests. While the danger from fires is low in Melbourne, the air quality can be affected from fires elsewhere.
If fires or smoke make travel challenging for guests, he added, conditions will affect players, too. An air quality situation could present a test of the functionality of HVAC systems; however, Tennis Australia runs arguably the best tennis venue in the world, he says.
Wineries in Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, popular day-trips from Melbourne, continue to welcome visitors.
South Australia (SA) has suffered blistering heat waves. According to the South Australia Tourism Commission (SATC), four December days saw temperatures above 104 Fahrenheit. Such conditions led to warnings of catastrophic fires and danger for frail and young travelers.
SATC recommends checking emergency warnings and alerts via Country Fire Service, the State Emergency Service, the Metropolitan Fire Service and the South Australian Government website.
For interested wine travelers, the area of Adelaide Hills suffered an estimated loss of a third of its vines. We do know there have been vineyards, wineries and cellar doors damaged but the extent of what has occurred is not clear. Whats important now is the safety of all involved and we urge everyoneto follow the advice of theSA Country Fire Service, activate your Bushfire Survival Plans and be aware that some roads in the area have been closed, said Kerry Treuel, Executive Officer of Adelaide Hills Wine Region. (Check Adelaide Hills cellar door openings here.)
Nick Knappstein, brand manager of Riposte Wines, confirmed reports of road closures and electrical outages. However, there are plenty of cellar doors openthe smoke has died down considerably, he said. Knappstein reminds tourists that around Adelaide, many other attractions, beaches and the wine regions of McLaren Vale and Barossa have not been impacted.
Only small scrub fires have afflicted remote places. Popular destinations in Northern Territory are unaffected. Darwin and surrounds, Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land, Katherine and surrounds, Alice Springs and surrounds, and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are operating per usual, said a tourism representative.
Tourism in Tasmania remains unaffected. Discover Tasmania has added a page with emergency information including links to the Fire Service and TasAlert should the situation change.
If heading to the heart-shaped island, check out summer programming on Tourism Tasmania.
Tour operators have suffered preemptive cancellations due to media coverage but insist popular tourism sites remain open. Check regional fire coverage before and during travel.
But for a few fires beyond Perth, the state is operating per usual.
If you dont have trip coverage through a credit card, buy a policy. In the event you have to change or cancel flights, hotels or scrap an itinerary altogether, several companies have customizable plans.
Always confirm flights with airlines before departure. Earlier in the year, airlines cancelled several flights in NSW due to low visibility from bush fire smoke.
Campers should check total fire bans around camp sites.
Travel parties inclusive of the asthmatic, frail, and elderly can monitor the air quality index of destinations. Bring a mask, if needed. During Californias wildfires, the Governors Office recommended N95 or P100 respirators. The N95 is small and light compared to the P100.
If visiting high risk areas, consider a fire survival plan. Discuss with travel partners what to do if fire threatens your location; know bush fire alert levels if youre in a vulnerable area; and keep fire information numbers, websites and smartphone apps handy.
As in life, be smart, flexible and have fun.
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