Newswise — Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s most iconic tourism destinations, but as fires continue to rage across the once pristine environment, many holidaymakers are questioning whether to keep or cancel their travel plans.
While tourism authorities are calling for people to continue to visit Kangaroo Island, sustainable tourism expert, UniSA’s Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles says the situation is far more complex than boosting tourist numbers.
“The bushfire crisis on Kangaroo Island is heart-breaking,” Professor Higgins-Desbiolles says, “and for a holiday destination that relies on tourism, the summer-holiday fires could not have come at a worse time.
“Kangaroo Island is a tourism dependent economy, and while tourism operators and authorities are calling for people to keep visiting Kangaroo Island, the fires are not yet out, CFS volunteers and defence personal are still being deployed, and infrastructure like the water treatment facilities are damaged.
“Additionally, critical services like the Kangaroo Island ferry are needed to transport emergency service personnel and equipment. I just think it’s too soon at this moment.”
Dr Higgins-Desbiolles says while it’s strategically important to plan the recovery of Kangaroo Island’s tourism businesses and primary producers, immediate tourist visits may not be the answer.
“While it is still be possible to visit Kangaroo Island at this time, it may not be the most viable or ethical decision under the current circumstances,” Dr Higgins-Desbiolles says.
“For those of us who love Kangaroo Island and want to see its economy recover and thrive, the advice for the short term is provide donations if you can, buy Kangaroo Island produce and products, and when the time is right, book your holidays there and plan to consciously direct your spending to support the local economy.
“This is an incredibly emotional and confronting time for the 4500-plus residents of Kangaroo Island who are still reeling from the devastation and loss form the fires. They’re only just beginning a long road to recovery.
“For those with later bookings on KI, please don’t cancel those just yet. If the local authorities give the greenlight, your holiday bookings may be just what helps Islanders get back on their feet.
“The grassroots campaign – #gowithemptyeskies – perhaps says it best: ‘When these fires have stopped, and the towns impacted are safe and trying to regain some sense of ‘normal’….plan a road trip. Go with empty eskies, empty cars and low fuel…(and) buy from their shops…empty eskies make, more of a difference that you could ever imagine.”
“It’s a small step, but one to which we can all safely contribute beyond the devastation of the fires.”
Contact for interview: Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles office (08) 8302 0047 email Freya.HigginsDesbiolles@unisa.edu.au Media contact: Annabel Mansfield office (08) 8302 0351 mobile: 0417 717 504 email: Annabel.Mansfield @unisa.edu.au