Malaysians urged not to cancel trips to Perth

Tourism WA says the region has been largely unaffected by the bushfires that Australia has experienced recently

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic source: Tourism Australia

TOURISM Western Australia (WA) is encouraging international tourists, especially Malaysians, who have made plans to visit the idyllic destination not to cancel their trips, stating that the region has been largely unaffected by the catastrophic bushfires that Australia has experienced recently.

According to a statement released by the agency, the bushfires in the east of Australia garnered international media attention which leads to the inaccurate perception that the whole country was affected.

“In some cases, international media coverage has misrepresented the geographical reach of the fires. This coverage has not reflected that Australia is a very large country, equivalent to the size of North America,” it said.

This was in reference to a widely shared photo of the map of Australia, with flame icons dotted across the country showing “all the fires burning in Australia”.

The Australian government website MyFireWatch said the data includes any heat source and did not necessarily indicate actual fires.

Tourism WA said it is working hard to promote the message that it is still open and ready for business. Its country manager for Singapore and Malaysia Ava Ang said the state has always been a top holiday destination for Malaysian travellers due to its many attractions and proximity in distance.

“WA remains a top holiday destination choice for Malaysian travellers with its world-class food scene, fresh produce and access to beaches and wineries all within an hour of the city centre. An incredible array of attractions and offerings that will excite travellers of all ages from day-tonight are currently available,” Ang said.

The agency’s International Visitation Fast Facts saw a 4.5% growth in international visitation for the year ending September 2019 to 987,700 visitors, while the number of holiday visitors grew 13.2% to 521,800 compared to the year before.

Malaysia ranked third after the UK and Singapore in visitor numbers with 98,800 tourists entering WA, and fourth in terms of visitor spending with RM527.5 million spent overall.

Despite acknowledging the devastation that the bushfires have caused in the nation, leaders have been quick to bite back on viral misinformation that could wreak havoc on its tourism industry.

“Australia is a huge country and it is tragic what is happening in some parts of Australia, but WA is absolutely open for business,” WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said.

This came about after global travel companies reported it saw a drop in inquiries about travelling to Australia, with some believing that the animals they wanted to see have all perished.

However, homemaker Ashley Boyle told The Malaysian Reserve that only some suburbs have been affected and residents were asked to evacuate, but for the rest, it was very safe.

“WA has been the least affected out of all the states, I think. Perth City and its surrounding suburbs have not experienced any haze or ash in the air, and we are very thankful for that,” she said.

Boyle said giant retailers have been providing aid to affected communities and people have all been chipping in to assist emergency services and its volunteers.

Meanwhile, The Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia issued an emergency warning for Perth’s south yesterday, namely in the Beelerup and Balingup areas, which are both more than an hour away from the city centre.

Its Facebook page also notified residents in the northern part of Hopeland and Jarradale that their homes may be threatened.

“The Watch and Act will remain in place due to gusting winds expected in the afternoon for Hopeland. Emergency services were able to control the blaze for most of the afternoon, but changing winds saw firefighters upgrading the alert level.

“If you plan to leave, leave now if the way is clear. If you plan to stay and actively defend, please do not rely on the mains water pressure,” the statement said yesterday.

The department has also been actively updating its social media pages for residents to keep abreast of the goings-on.

For each of these areas, the department said it was amid strengthening containment lines and had the Bush Fire Service, Wildlife Service firefighters, Career Fire and Rescue Service, and State Emergency Services in attendance.

The Department of Communities has also set up temporary evacuation centres for residents to wait out the alerts until it is deemed safe to return home.