Tourism scorched

Tourism scorched

10 January 2008

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Bookings for tours and accommodation on Kangaroo Island are down by an estimated 25 per cent compared to previous years at this time.

In a survey following the December bushfires, the Kangaroo Island Development Board has had responses from 84 businesses.

KIDB chief executive Pierre Gregor told the second Bushfire Recovery Group meeting on Monday that 65 per cent of the businesses indicated they relied heavily on tourism for their income. They averaged a 25 per cent fall in tourism business. One operator was considering closing their business.

“This is the peak time of the year on which many of these businesses rely to get them through the winter,” Mr Gregor said. Only 12 per cent of the businesses that responded to the survey had income protection insurance.

He said that in contrast some Kingscote businesses had actually benefited from the decision by tourists to stay close to town.

Several businesses had reported that the delay in payment of bills by agencies that operated on the island during the fires had caused financial pressure.

Tourism KI marketing manager Tania O’Neil said of the 81 tourism businesses surveyed by TKI, 70 per cent of the accommodation houses had reported cancelled bookings. She knew of several businesses that might be forced to close.

TKI, through the SA Tourism Commission has spent thousands of dollars advertising through the “KI OK” print promotion and the SATC had committed to further advertising campaign support.

“It seems things were okay over the Christmas-New Year period but operators are starting to feel it now,” she said.

TKI is working on strategies to combat “misinformation” about the amount of damage done to the island through the bushfires and was working on a campaign based on 100 things to do on KI.

Exceptional KI tour operator Craig Wickham said he had never seen so many local residents visiting Flinders Chase National Park as over the holiday break.

“It was good to see. It was also great to see how much green there was,” he said. “When you stand at Remarkable Rocks and look back towards Weirs Cove it is all green.”

The Chase Café owner Joe Tippett was closed for 17 days as the fire burnt within metres of the visitor centre but said business was almost back to normal for January.

He re-opened on Christmas Eve. The closure had impacted heavily on the business and his casual staff who were without wages leading up to Christmas.

“I’ve been speaking to visitors since about their experience at Flinders Chase. Many have said it is greener than they thought and they found it interesting to see the fire damage. None said it had reduced the quality of their experience,” Mr Tippett said.

He has proposed interpretive signage at various fire sites from the past decades so that visitors could understand the process of regeneration better.

Ozone Seafront Hotel manager Chris Schumann said while the impact on short-term bookings had been small, there was serious concern about middle and long-term bookings and those who might not consider KI as a destination in 2008.

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