Cities far from fires fighting while tourists stay away

He estimates that sales are approximately one third of what they should be at this time of year. The situation is similar for other companies in Mansfield, which suffers a great recession even though it has been spared directly from the wrath of the flames.

Wallis, which supplies meat to other companies and sells directly to the public, said a busy January was crucial in the city, since its economy depends heavily on visitors.

“You try to make money to spend next month.”

Alpine butcher owner Chris Wallis. Credit:Jason South

The signs were promising when the summer holidays began and at Christmas “there were people everywhere.”

But as the catastrophic fire scale became apparent and the Victorian government declared a state of disaster on January 3, business stopped abruptly.

“I was completely calm.”

The model commissioned by Tourism North East has found that the region as a whole could lose up to $ 200 million in the first quarter of this year in the worst case.

The owner of the Delatite hotel, Dean Belle, in the outdoor tavern.

The owner of the Delatite hotel, Dean Belle, in the outdoor tavern. Credit:Jason South

The regional tourism board also conducted a survey of 200 tourism-dependent companies in the Northeast, which found that half of them experienced 100 percent losses between January 2 and 9. Another quarter of the operators reported losses of more than 75 percent.

Tourism North East said Thursday that forest fires and smoke were still affecting the areas of the Alpine National Park, Mount Buffalo and the upper part of Murray, but maintained that many cities and towns had not been directly affected.

The tourism agency issued a “qualified invitation to visitors to return to High Country.”

Delatite hotel owner Dean Belle estimated that the demand for accommodation in his Mansfield business had dropped 80 percent recently due to fires.

Belle, who also owns the nearby products store, said her business fell by up to 45 percent this month.

He insisted that Mansfield was safe and urged people to come. Belle said additional activities were being programmed to attract visitors, including live music and treasure searches, “so when people come there is a real sense of positive energy.”

The quiet street in downtown Mansfield, which is usually bustling at this time of year.

The quiet street in downtown Mansfield, which is usually bustling at this time of year. Credit:Jason South

Although Mansfield Township has not been directly threatened by the fires, the wider area of ​​the local council was included in the state of disaster, which arose days ago.

On Thursday, the mayor of Mansfield Shire, Marg Attley, said the municipality was safe, but stressed that anyone who intends to visit must verify safety warnings and fire bans.

“It’s safe right now, but people should be alert to the warnings,” he said. “We encourage people to return and take their reservations. It is important to keep this community vibrant as it always is.”

At Mansfield Travelers Lodge and Backpackers, the business has declined by up to 80 percent due to fires.

The business owner, Kerry Simpson, said Mansfield was extremely quiet compared to this time last year. “And everyone says the same,” he said.

“Hopefully the image starts to light up again.”

Co-owner Ken Everett said international guests had also canceled reservations, including a group of 16 from New Zealand.

He said there were visitors who had scrapped their vacations because the activities they had planned in the region could no longer go on, such as hiking on trails.

“We have lost a good deal of business and have returned the refunds to people. It is not their fault that they cannot come,” he said.

Mansfield struggling business owners are asking tourists and hikers to return to the city.

Mansfield struggling business owners are asking tourists and hikers to return to the city.Credit:Jason South

Everett said the city would need government support to bring visitors back later in the year. “I think it will take a lot of publicity,” he said. “People begin to say that we need tourists to return.”

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has asked Victorians to defer or postpone traveling to areas affected by forest fires instead of canceling their trips altogether. He said his government was working on a support package for companies affected by the fires.

A spokesman for the state government said that people who wanted to help their fellow Victorians should go to areas where they could travel safely.

“We will launch advertising that supports that message,” he said. “The campaign will be updated as the conditions of forest fires change and the places that are currently closed can put the welcome mat back on.”

Benjamin is a state political reporter

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