News ID: 264528
Published: 0707 GMT January 19, 2020

Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

The Australian government said on Sunday it will financially aid the country's tourism sector that's been badly hit by long-lasting bushfires, as Melbourne braced for downpours at the start of one of its greatest allures, the Australian Open.

Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia's east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany, Reuters reported.

The Australian government said on Sunday it will channel $76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry.

Twenty nine people have been killed in the fires while thousands of animals have also perished.

Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open receded in Melbourne where the year's first Grand Slam starts on Monday, but the city and parts of the bushfire-ravaged Victoria were bracing for heavy rains.

"Victoria is about to see its wettest two-day period in many, many months," Dean Narramore from the state's Bureau of Meteorology said.

More than 780,000 fans attended the two-week Australian Open last year, according to figures from the office of the state's premier, providing a major influx of cash for Victoria's economy.

Damages to the tourism industry from the bushfire disaster have approached A$1 billion so far and may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to estimates from Australian tourism bodies.

The government said the aid announced on Sunday was "an initial push" to help the country's A$152 billion tourism industry, an increasingly vital part of Australia's economy, that accounts for more than three percent of annual economic output.

In a joint statement released with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the bushfires have dealt the biggest reputational blow to the Australian tourism industry that it has ever faced internationally.

"Tourism is the lifeblood of so many communities around Australia and it's absolutely critical that we help to get people back visiting those communities," Birmingham said.


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