‘Please visit us’: Australia to lay out $76m welcome mat
Celebrities and reality TV stars will be sent to save Australia's dwindling tourism industry as part of a multimillion-dollar bushfire recovery package for fire-ravaged communities.
Today, the Morrison government will inject $76 million to help Australia recover from its unprecedented tourism slump with new data revealing airline bookings to Australia's holiday hot spots have plummeted due to the bushfire crisis.
The package will include almost $10 million to fly celebrities, TV hosts and online influencers to Australia to spread the word that Australia is open for business.
The money will go to Australia's International Media Hosting Program which recently funded trips for Bollywood star Parineeti Chopra and former Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland.
Australia's famous beaches and high-quality produce may also appear on foreign screens with US talk show Late Night with Seth Meyers and the Chinese reality show "We Are in Love" - which sees Asian celebrities travelling to exotic destinations - both filming in Australia last year as part of the hosting program.
New data, provided exclusively to The Sunday Telegraph, reveals airline bookings from 12 key markets dropped by an average of by over 30 per cent last week alone.
While bookings from tourists in Hong Kong, Germany and the United Kingston were down my more than 50 per cent since December 9.
Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania which have been less affected by fires have also been hurt by the tourist slump with Australia's reputation taking a major hit with viral misinformation and "fake news" scaring tourists away.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, who met with tourism industry members last week, told The Sunday Telegraph it would take time and sustained effort to recover from the international media coverage and mistruths told online.
"My message to anyone thinking about a holiday - from here or overseas - is that Australia's towns and our incredible parks and beaches are open for business," he said.
The Morrison government will try and revive Australia's dwindling tourism industry with a $76 million package to encourage Australians to holiday in fire-affected as well as initiatives to help rebuild Australia's reputation overseas.
The bulk of the money - $25 million - will fund an international campaign to reinforce to global audiences that Australia is safe after US travellers were warned off visiting Australia due to the catastrophic Australian bushfires and air quality.
Tourism Australia also pressed pause on its new $15 million advertising campaign in the UK featuring Kylie Minogue and Ashleigh Barty.
Domestic tourists have also deserted popular holiday spots in regional Victoria and NSW with the Australian Tourism Industry Council revealing cancellation rates are as high as 60 per cent, even in towns unaffected by the bushfires.
The crisis is expected to cost the tourism industry - which employs one in 13 Australians - up to $4.5 billion by the end of the year.
The Council estimates $150 million in tourism dollars was wiped off the NSW Blue Mountains region last month and another $200 million from the NSW south coast since New Year Eve.
In South Australia, tourist spending is down by more than $100 million with bookings for international tourists dropping by over 60 per cent.
The Government will inject $20 million into the domestic market with a campaign to encourage holiday-makers to contribute to the recovery effort by holidaying locally.
A further $10 million will fund up to 10 events, festivals and permanent attractions in the worst affected areas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australian $152 billion tourism industry was "facing its biggest challenge in living memory'.
"This is about getting more visitors to help keep local businesses alive and protect local jobs right across the country and especially in those areas so directly devastated such as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and right along the NSW Coast and East Gippsland in Victoria."