Australia — Halls Gap tourism operators are hopeful of making a recovery after tourists deserted the region following a January bushfire in the Grampians National Park.
The bushfire did not reach Halls Gap, but destroyed over 30 homes in the Brimpaen and Wartook communities west of the national park.
People deserted the tourist town as the bushfire burnt, owner and operator of the Lakeside Tourist Park Rowan McDonald told ABC Radio.
‘We had seven days of empty cabins,’ he said.
‘It was pretty spectacular, we were going up to the dam and checking on things…it just got redder, and redder and redder, then the clouds parted, there was blue sky.’
‘It was like an atomic bomb had gone off, it was this massive mushroom that you could see.’
Now that the fire has passed, businesses are focused on drawing tourists back to the area.
‘Once the fire’s gone, the message is that everything’s safe and that’s what we’ve got to get out there,’ Mr McDonald said.
Very poor mobile phone coverage in the Grampians region made bushfires especially dangerous, Halls Gap Zoo owner Greg Cullel said.
‘In an emergency situation, the alarms come through our mobile phones as texts, and if you need to contact somebody that’s going to be the point of first call because most of our landlines now are based on electricity, so the phones won’t work if the power’s gone out.’
‘Why should we not have good coverage when the cities have wonderful coverage…and you’re more likely to need a mobile phone in the bush than you are in the city, and I know that’s parochial and I know that’s my point of view…but I think it’s really important.’
If Halls Gap tourism operators are to recover, they will need more tourists to return to the area soon, Mr Cullel said.
‘Handouts and anything else like that is not going to help us. What we need is just continuing business.’