A report by the Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis in Australia found that the so-called Black Summer of bushfires, which started in 2019, wiped US$1.8 billion from tourism supply chains.

One of the authors of the report, Ms Vivienne Reiner, noted that education-related travel combined with personal travel is worth more exports than natural gas in Australia.

“If people start to think it’s dangerous to come to (Australia), that could really impact us,” she added.


Tourism is a major export earner and employer, with one in eight Australian businesses related to the industry.

The country is expected to welcome 9.3 million international visitors this year, reaching 98 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to Tourism Research Australia’s latest forecasts released late last year. 

Australia also expects to surpass pre-pandemic levels next year and set a new record, with about 10.2 million international visitors predicted to travel there.

Ms Phillipa Harrison, managing director of government agency Tourism Australia, said that carbon emissions from travel are increasingly being discussed as the world reels from one natural disaster to another.

“Here, there (were) black summer bush fires, there (were) floods, there were cyclones,” she said during the agency’s annual Destination Australia conference held in March.

“There’s also widespread bleaching on the (Great Barrier) Reef which is again happening right at the moment, and all of those have ensured that carbon and the impact of global warming is really poignant right now.”

Ms Harrison added that the country needs to ensure it is competitive in the right areas for economic growth, while protecting its potential for future generations of residents and visitors.

The fear is that news of fires and floods could have a negative impact on an industry that prides itself on selling its pristine environment to the world.

However, Australia’s Climate Council, which predicts many more intensive weather systems to come, believes it is not too late to counter the threat.

“We are a remarkable continent with amazing things that people experience, but protecting that industry, protecting the people and places we love – that is very much going to depend on the choices we make now and every ton of carbon pollution we leave in the ground,” said the council’s director of research Simon Bradshaw.

“That’s protecting tourism; it’s protecting everything we depend upon,” he added.


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