The tourist board for the Australian state of Victoria has confirmed it is again open for business following the bush fires that devastated the region in February.
Victoria suffered a major decline in visitor numbers in the wake of the fires.
Speaking at last week’s Australia Tourism Exchange in Melbourne, Victoria tourism and major events minister Tim Holding said: “The message is that Victoria is now open for business. We’re encouraging people to return to the rural areas that were affected by the tragic bush fires in February. We will recover from this.”
Popular wine region the Yarra Valley was partly destroyed by the fires, but vegetation has already started to grow back. All wineries and restaurants in the Yarra Valley are now open to visitors as usual.
More than 25,000 hectares of Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory National Park was also burnt by the blaze, which was sparked by a lightning strike, but 50% of the affected area has started to rejuvenate.
Anna Edwards, a spokeswoman for Tourism Victoria, said: “The park is still green and lush, with plenty of re-growth, and it is now open to visitors again.”
Edwards added that most of Victoria’s tourism products were unaffected by the fires.
Also at the conference, Tourism Australia managing director Geoff Buckley responded to recent reports that Melbourne is the swine flu capital of the world, with 874 recorded cases of the illness in Victoria.
He said: “We are doing everything we can to keep people healthy, and the key message is that we are open for business.”
Holding added that tourists should keep the recent media reports in perspective, saying that this was a mild strain of flu.
Latest figures show Victoria’s tourism industry is bucking the trend in the face of the economic downturn, with an increase in international visitors. A total of 1.5 million visitors travelled to Victoria in the year ending 2009, up 0.7% on the previous year.
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