Australia’s largest tourism market is turning away as the smoke shrouding Sydney and Melbourne and images of fire-ravaged beach resorts deter Chinese New Year tourists, in a further blow to the economy.
Visitors from mainland China spend an estimated $8.3 billion annually Down Under, with trips in January and February accounting for almost a quarter of annual arrivals. Tourism operators say images of the fires broadcast worldwide could have a lasting impact on international arrivals, the nation’s third-largest export earner.
“The media coverage made Australia look like a Third World country with thousands of refugees fleeing and village after village burnt to the ground,” said Cheryl Zhong of Equity Travel in Sydney, having experienced a wave of cancellations over the past 10 days.
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