This article originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review by Mark Ludlow, Queensland Bureau Chief.
The Morrison government is urging businesses and organisations to move their annual conferences or trade shows to regional areas affected by the summer's catastrophic bushfires to help rejuvenate the ailing tourism sector.
The call is an extension of Tourism Australia's $20 million"Holiday Here This Year" campaign, which is attempting to kick-start an industry that has been hit hard by cancellations and slow forward bookings.
The new campaign targets the normally lucrative events business, which is also feeling the pain.
"This [Event Here This Year] campaign is a call to all of those Australian businesses and organisations out there who are yet to book in meetings, their annual conferences or exhibitions, to rally behind our tourism industry and choose Australia for their event this year," Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said.
"The fact is many fire-affected regions still have the facilities to host both small and large-scale events, and this campaign encourages organisations to do their research and look at what options might be available for their event right here in Australia."
The Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Press Club have backed the new initiative, with ACCI committing to host its March and July general council meetings in bushfire-affected regions.
"This action is one we hope many organisations will follow in the months ahead," ACCI chief executive James Pearson said.
"Businesses can make a huge difference by visiting the regions with their next event, conference or meeting."
The business events sector in Australia accounts for about $30 billion in expenditure each year.
Whitney To my, at her kiosk at Sydney's Mrs Macquarie's Chair,said 90 per cent of her customers are tour groups from China.
BCA president Tim Reed said he was encouraging members to hold events such as sales meetings or management off-sites in the regions.
"It means getting in there and actually making sure that the cash registers in these local businesses are turning over as quickly as possible," Mr Reed said.
The National Press Club of Australia in Canberra is also planning on moving one of its weekly nationally televised addresses to a region impacted by bushfires, most likely the NSW South Coast.
The Morrison government has allocated a $76 million assistance package for the tourism sector, which includes $20 million to convince Australians to holiday locally and $25 million for a global marketing campaign to convince international visitors not to cancel their trips to Australia.
There is also $9.5 million to fund trips for international media, to show them that not all of the country was destroyed by the bushfires.
Tourism Australia has launched an advertising campaign to encourage people to holiday locally.
Tourism operators have called on the Morrison government to do more to combat climate change, saying the current approach – which has received international attention following the summer of bushfires – was damaging"Brand Australia".
Senator Birmingham said Australia's approach to climate change should not impact on the $152 billion sector's recovery plans following deadly fires in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
He said Australia should focus on the positive moves to reduce carbon emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and the burgeoning renewable energy sector.