The Christmas bushfires that destroyed 116 homes in Victoria and caused enormous anguish to so many are also having a having a secondary economic impact … they are severely damaging the tourism industry along the Great Ocean Road.
According to a report in the Australian Financial Review, the Victorian coast is set to lose $50 million in tourism earnings unless holidaymakers decide to come back for what is the area’s busiest time of the year.
Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism chairman Wayne Kayler-Thomson said the Surf Coast and Colac-Otways shires, from Torquay to past Cape Otway, get 50% of their total visits in the summer period but – instead of a bumper sales – accommodation, food and retail businesses are being hit by a customer shortage.
“All these businesses rely on this time of year to carry them through the rest of the year,” Mr Kayler-Thomson said.
And even towns such as Apollo Bay which have not been directly affected by the bushfires have suffered a dramatic fallout from the Christmas Day blazes.
Secretary of Apollo Bay Chamber of Commerce Jo Birley told the Australian Financial Review that Apollo Bay’s location to the west of the Great Ocean Road closures meant people were not coming through the town.
“Apollo Bay hasn’t been affected,” Ms Birley said. “People just have to take an alternate route through an unaffected part of the Otways to get here, which is quite beautiful.”
It is reported that pubs that usually pre-book up to 200 meals per day from tourists are standing empty, and shops are being forced to lay off casual workers hired specifically for the post-Boxing Day tourist influx.