A string of wild bushfires in Australia has the continent ablaze. The fires began in June 2019 and have, so far, burned over 21 million acres of land. If you have a trip booked to Australia or are considering a trip, here’s what you need to know:
“The No. 1 priority right now continues to be the emergency response to these devastating bushfires and the safety of communities and tourists in affected areas,” a spokesperson for Tourism Australia tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
Some fires, according to ABC News, are twice as large as the state of Maryland. In New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, 130 fires are still burning, including about 70 that are still not contained. A state of emergency was declared in New South Wales (NSW) last week, marking the third such time in as many months, according to CNN. The NSW Rural Fire Service posted on Twitter a “Tourist Leave Zone” for the south coast on January 4, citing “dangerous conditions for holiday makers on the South Coast of NSW this weekend.” The NSW Rural Fire Service also posted a map showing the “Fire Danger Rating” for specific locations in the region.
Tomorrow will see Very High fire danger in the Central Ranges, North Western & Southern Slopes. From midnight tonight a Total Fire Ban will be in place for Southern Slopes. Take time to prepare your property & talk to family about your bush fire survival plan. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/K0DSMMooiK— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 7, 2020
However, it’s not just NSW that’s suffering from fires. Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania also have fire alerts. The locations with the greatest number of alerts, however, include East Gippsland, Victoria; Bega Valley and Eurobodalla, NSW; Towong, Victoria; and Dundas, Western Australia.
Regarding the Northern Territory (NT), a spokesperson for Tourism Northern Territory tells us, "While it is true that the NT has fire alerts, these typically just mean there is a 'fire ban,' which covers most of the continent in the summer. The NT has fortunately been nearly unaffected by the fires that have devastated much of the country, and all tourism product is up and operational at this time."
The official Tourism Northern Territory reads: "First and foremost our thoughts are with those directly affected by the Australian bushfires crisis. It is an incredibly difficult time and the Northern Territory has been very fortunate to remain largely unaffected by bush fires. We are thankful our tourism products and experiences across the Northern Territory are operating as usual over the summer months, and our thoughts remain with our fellow Australians during these challenging times."
Tourism Australia offers the following tips:
- We would encourage all travelers coming to Australia to seek the most up to date information prior to departure and remain informed about changing conditions whilst on the ground.
- The Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology provides overall weather updates for all parts of Australia, including the latest fire warnings: www.bom.gov.au.
- For specific advice, updates are available from the Rural Fire Service, National Parks and relevant State or Territory emergency services.
- Travellers are also encouraged to speak with local tourism operators and staff at local Visitor Information Centres for advice about local conditions and how best to enjoy their time in Australia.
The good news? “There are many regions within Australia that remain unaffected and will continue to offer tourists the incredible tourism experiences that our country is known for,” Tourism Australia tells us.
“Many of Australia’s best-known tourism regions have previously faced natural disasters, such as bushfires and cyclones, yet bounced back in a strong demonstration of their resilience as world-class tourism destinations,” the spokesperson adds. “The best thing that we can do at a time like this is to back our tourism industry and communities and continue to market all the wonderful things about Australia and our people to the world.”
The U.S. State Department currently lists Australia as Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions.
Please visit www.australia.com/en/travel-alerts for the latest information.