'Thoughts with Australia'

'Thoughts with Australia'

Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) president Brent Thomas says the thoughts of the New Zealand travel industry go out to all those who have been impacted by the destructive fires in Australia. 'The bush fires are of a magnitude that we have not seen before and it is hard to comprehend just how ferocious the fire, smoke and heat have been.'

Thomas says to date there has been minimal impact on the bookings and travel plans of most New Zealand travellers. 'The key message is that people travelling to Australia should be aware of the dangers, stay tuned to what the authorities are advising and follow their instructions. 'It is too early to tell what impact the wide spread destruction will have on future travel plans, however we do know Australia is and will remain the number one destination for New Zealanders. The tourism industry is a major part of the Australian economy and the best thing we can do is to continue our long term support of their tourism industry.'

John Willson, of First Travel Group says FTG is not experiencing any abnormal cancellations across the Tasman and puts this down to excellent communication of the many fires' progression coming out from Australia. He says this has allowed clients to be advised by their consultants of any alternative options that should be considered before travelling. 'This has ensured that clients' holiday plans can go ahead as planned with minimal disruption. We are sympathetic towards the fire situation that Australia is currently battling and we hope the worst is over and that Australia can get back to normality as quickly as possible.'

Meantime Destination New South Wales (DNSW) has sent out a statement advising visitors to seek the most up to date information prior to departure and remain vigilant about changing conditions. Travellers should follow instructions from the Rural Fire Service (rfs.nsw.gov.au) and other agencies including National Parks (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au), NSW Police (facebook.com/nswpoliceforce) and the Bureau of Meteorology (bom.gov.au/nsw/forecasts/) and adjust travel plans accordingly.

Visitors may encounter delays travelling in some areas of the State due to damaged or partially closed roads. The latest information about road closures is available at livetraffic.com. Travellers should also speak with local tourism operators and the local Visitor Information Centre for advice about local conditions.

Once the immediate threat of fires has passed, Destination NSW and the NSW Government will focus on supporting communities while they recover. Tourism will play an important social and economic role in that recovery.

People wanting to contribute to bushfire recovery can donate via the following channels:
• Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief – supporting people at evacuation centres and providing emergency assistance ie. cash grants to bushfire victims
• NSW Rural Fire Service – donate straight to the NSW RFS or to a local Rural Fire Brigade to support volunteer firefighters
• NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) – rescues and cares for animals and is seeking donations for volunteer carers and rescuers
• Port Macquarie Koala Hospital – providing care to koalas affected by the bushfires

Additional fundraisers:
• Support the families of NSW firefighters Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer who were killed in the Green Wattle Creek fire, and Samual McPaul who was killed at the Green Valley fireground. Donate here.
• Comedian Celeste Barber has opened a Facebook fundraiser – money raised will be distributed to various charities and firefighting brigades.
• Givit specialises in goods collection, listing items that the bushfire victims require.

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