Where The Bloody Hell Aren't You? Why Bushfire-Ravaged Towns Need You To Holiday There
A small business owner in one of the nation's bushfire-affected areas has issued a rallying cry for Australians to "travel in their own backyard for the sake of the country" as small-town communities work to rebuild.
The sheer scale of destruction that the Australian bushfires have -- so far -- left behind is near impossible to comprehend and small-town business owners are feeling the full brunt of the disaster.
Many businesses have been destroyed and the ones that are still up-and-running are suffering from the ripple effect.
A social media movement, Stay With Them -- similar to Turia Pitt's 'Spend With Them' initiative -- has joined the drive to help these communities.
'Stay With Them' works by showcasing local businesses, including accommodation, in areas that need your help.
So this year, put your passports away because 2020's top holiday destinations are close to home.
Sarah Carlisle runs outdoor adventure company Venture Out, based in the East Gippsland town of Lakes Entrance.
The area is a popular spot for watersport enthusiasts and is often heaving with visitors during the summer months, but at the moment it's considered a ghost town with an ongoing bushfire threat.
Carlisle predicts the tourists will, sadly, stay away.
"We’re expecting (summer) to be really quiet. It has picked up a little bit in the last five days with some people feeling as though the immediate threat is gone," she told 10 daily.
"We usually have a lot of regulars to the region who have holiday houses here and they seem to be the ones coming back."
Carlisle has been running her business for five years.
In response to the fires and ongoing threat, she has had to rework her tours and push people to head out and enjoy the water.
We need to encourage people to be tourists in their own backyard for the sake of the country.
"[Travelling in Australia] is something we don’t prioritise because we live here, but sooner is better than later."
Lakes Entrance and surrounding towns have plenty to offer if you're a water lover, but if that isn't your thing you can make the 45-minute drive and explore the Buchan Caves.
Other areas Aussies should visit -- when they're deemed safe, of course -- include the Snowy River National Park and other parts of East Gippsland including Mallacoota.
"The further you float away from the mainland, the less life’s everyday troubles seem to matter" -- that's how South Australia's tourism website describes Kangaroo Island.
But for honey-farm worker Sharon Simons, that currently couldn't be further from the truth.
Just 13.5 km off-shore, this is a tiny island community that desperately needs your help.
Simons helps her parents Dave and Jenny Clifford run Clifford's Honey Farm.
She's worked on the farm for the better part of two decades and said she's never seen devastation like this before.
"At this point, we're still standing," she told 10 daily.
"We've had great support from past and new customers and our bees are in a safe area but we know a lot of beekeepers who have lost a lot of hives."
Clifford's Honey Farm is located south of Nepean Bay and is one of the few areas currently considered 'safe' on the island. Despite being given the green light to remain open, people aren't visiting, and everyone is just downright "exhausted".
"It's very quiet. Normally we get a couple of hundred people a day from the tourist buses. The cruise ships have been cancelled too," Simons explained.
"But we're while we're seeing fewer customers coming through our business, people are ordering more honey than before online, but it's still not the same as our normal peak season."
There are countless other reasons Kangaroo Island is great; not only is it home to some of the most diverse wildlife in Australia but it is also a hub for creatives -- with many independent art galleries and museums -- and is host to an abundance of world-class produce.
Another area of South Australia that could do with a little tourism boost is the Adelaide Hills, which is home to the famous boutique hotel Mount Lofty House and various other wineries and distilleries.
Here, you can enjoy a view of the Piccadilly Valley while indulging in a feast at Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant.
New South Wales
One of the worst-hit areas is the state's south coast which is home to some of the best stretches of coastline NSW has to offer.
Take Jervis Bay for instance. The coastal town is known for having the whitest sand beach in the world but was recently shrouded in darkness as massive fires burned around it.
Craig McIntosh, managing director and owner of The Holidays Collection -- the parent company for the likes of Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages -- in Jervis Bay, is expecting a 35 to 40 percent drop in bookings for the month compared to January last year.
While the area wasn't directly hit by bushfires, surrounding areas were, meaning roads to the bay were closed.
McIntosh told 10 daily businesses and residents have been living in "a period of uncertainty".
"On January 2 we had to send an alert out to our 160 properties, telling people to evacuate and go somewhere safe," he said.
"That period of certainty occurred for about two weeks and we saw major cancellations," he explained.
"We had to convince people to postpone their trips and come back later in the year."
Hyams Seaside Cottages are always fully booked for January but this year that's certainly not the case. McIntosh doesn't know when he can expect the tourists to return but guesses it might not be until October.
Everyone is suffering a lot of climate anxiety and everyone is hurting, he said.
He said people working in cleaning roles are particularly hard-hit because their jobs are seasonal, while retailers, coffee shops and other tourism companies are also suffering.
McIntosh describes walking down the main strip of Huskisson last week and being greeted by nothing but tumbleweeds.
Other than Jervis Bay and much of the NSW South Coast, there are several other areas anticipated to experience the tourism fallout from the fires.
This state is renowned for its natural beauty and the Fingal Valley plays true to that notion -- despite an 8000-hectare fire having torn through the valley.
Tourists can still explore the town's historic buildings before venturing to Evercreech Forest Reserve -- home to the world’s tallest white gum trees -- or take the 30-minute drive to Mathinna Falls to witness a collection of stunning cascades.
It has been a quiet fire season in Queensland so far but there's been a ripple effect as far as attracting visitors goes.
Businesses in the hinterland town of Springbrook are reportedly struggling to charm tourists scared off by recent bushfires.
The road connecting the town to the coast is now open -- it was closed for 20 months after being crippled by Cyclone Debbie -- and the area is home to an array of rainforests and waterfalls.
So when you're booking your 2020 trip of a lifetime, consider taking it a little closer to home.