Bushfire recovery for our High Country

Get the lowdown from Tourism North East's acting chief executive, Sarah Pilgrim.

Sarah PilgrimBetter times are on the horizon following the bushfires in parts of Victoria’s High Country including Mount Buffalo, parts of the Alpine National Park and the Upper Murray.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the flood of support from Victorians; from people purchasing goods from producers online and via the High Country Comeback event in Port Melbourne on the 2nd February,” says Sarah Pilgrim, Tourism North East's acting CEO, who moved to the region in 2006 to run a small business, and since 2013 has been the Industry Development Manager Food & Drinks.

“People have been booking to stay later in the year and we’ve had generous offers of help in terms of marketing. The City of Port Phillip, for instance, has made vacant shops available to help producers retail into Melbourne while the region recovers.”

“The visitor economy accounts for 20 per cent of the High Country and it’s crucial for the health of our small towns,” she emphasises. “Bushfires caused over three quarters of our businesses to lose 75 per cent of their revenue for January and February. The cost to the region for the fires in the first quarter is estimated at between $183 and $206 million. Having said that, our businesses are resilient and very few have closed their doors: we just need to help them trade through this time.”

Centenary Park in BrightThat’s pertinent as right now is traditionally one of the peak periods of the year for tourism in the region. The upshot, however, is that while the fires were, in Sarah’s words, “devastating” (with a number of her team evacuated from their homes), very few tourism assets were damaged and so the visitor experience is now “much as it would have been before”. Notes Sarah: “In the words of Visit Victoria, ‘A short stay will go a long way.’”

To help get that message out, Tourism North East is offering businesses a free Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW) listing to ensure all tourism operators in the region have the opportunity to access the marketing efforts of Tourism Australia, Visit Victoria, Tourism North East and their own local destinations. This listing allows every business to appear on all the websites of these groups to leverage marketing. “The offer has been a great success with 242 businesses taking advantage and 113 digital mentoring sessions delivered or planned in the next few weeks,” Sarah observes. “Our message to Victoria is vote with your feet and book a holiday here.”

How you can support the region

  • Book a holiday, experience or tour. Pay upfront and visit later.
  • Buy an accommodation or experience voucher and give it as a gift.
  • In person or online, buy goods, food, wine, beer and gin from the High Country. Do some research on the High Country website.
  • Encourage your employer to hold any meetings or conferences in the High Country this year. Join the 200+ businesses who have already pledged to do the same on the Business Events Victoria page.