Australia announces US$52 million recovery package for tourism sector after bushfires

MELBOURNE: The Australian government said on Sunday (Jan 19) it will channel AS$76 million (US$52 million) to the tourism industry as recent heavy rains have dampened many of the months-long bushfires, allowing the country to look to recovery.

The number of fires burning across Australia's east and south coast has gone under 100 over the weekend for the first time in weeks, bringing relief from a disaster that has scorched an area roughly a third the size of Germany since September.

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"Our federal response to these devastating bushfires is comprehensive and unprecedented," Prime Minister Scott Morrison was cited in a statement announcing the aid.

READ: Australia to lose billions as bushfires deter tourists

Some 29 people and millions of animals have been killed so far in the burning bush in Australia – a country famous for its pristine beaches, abundant wildlife and open-air sporting events.

Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), told Reuters earlier that damages to the tourism industry have approached A$1 billion.

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The Australian Tourism Export Council, another peak tourism body, told the Australian Financial Review that the losses may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year.

Asked on ABC News television on Sunday whether A$76 million is sufficient, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said it was an initial package.

"There may need to be additional support and funding as we work through this recovery," Birmingham said, according to a transcript of the interview.

READ: Forget a new normal: Experts say Australias worst bushfires still lie ahead

READ: Koalas, native animals rescued from flash floods as rain pours over Australia bushfire

Tourism has been an increasingly vital part of Australia's economy, accounting for more than 3 per cent of annual economic output.

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