Kangaroo Island residents who experienced the summer 2019/2020 bushfires may recall tour operator Craig Wickham’s regular social media posts.
Mr Wickham gave full daily updates on the movement of the fire, its impact on infrastructure and businesses on the island.
Immediately after the fires, but before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, he flew to the United States and Canada to spread the message that Kangaroo Island needed international visitors more than ever. .
Next month, he has been selected as a local tourism leader to speak at the hybrid SA Tourism Industry Restart conference.
Mr Wickham is managing director of Exceptional Kangaroo Island and in January he calculates they lost around $420,000 in cancellations due to the largely North American bushfires.
With that in mind, he made an unscheduled trip to the United States and Canada from January 23 to February 26 to spread the message that Kangaroo Island was still open for business.
“I went into the market to really try to address the perception that the whole country was on fire and spent my time doing business and media updates in the United States and Canada,” he said. -he declares.
Cities he visited included LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Dallas, Denver, Boston, Boulder and Washington DC.
From a media perspective, he ended up doing a series of radio, television, and face-to-face interviews, including on KTLA News, NBC San Diego, Fox News Oakland, KGO in San Diego, and WGN in Chicago.
He met with reporters from Forbes, The New York Times, LA Times, AFAR, Travel Age West and a host of other trade publications.
Typical briefings for tours provided to media were of the type: Wildlife expert, Craig Wickham, who can talk about the state of the fires, recovery efforts, and the best ways North American residents can contribute to the recovery of Australia.
Some key points discussed were:
- Impact on wildlife and how tourism can support wildlife recovery efforts
- Wildlife recovery trips – how travelers can contribute while enjoying a trip
- Areas spared and tourism businesses still open
- The best nonprofits and organizations working to rebuild and facilitate recovery – where to donate and where not to
- The importance of the tourism sector in Australia
Over 660,000 people in Australia depend on tourism for their livelihood, representing over 5.2% of the national workforce.
Traveling to Australia after the fires has been one of the most important ways Americans have helped the long-term recovery.
Ways to stay informed of changing conditions in the fire and affected regions and how maintaining your plans to visit unaffected areas are helping Australia to rebuild were also discussed.
So was it effective? Yes, Mr Wickham thinks the trip was worth it to get the message across.
“I finally settled on an analogy that seemed to resonate – The fires were widespread, fierce, fast moving and larger than any other in recorded history.
“However, the scale has to be seen in the context of Australia which is a huge landmass. If you combined the whole burnt area into one area and compared it to a US state, it would be the same size as the Indiana – your 13th smallest state.”
Then came COVID-19, which was even more devastating to international tourism on Kangaroo Island.
“We decided pretty much right away that we weren’t going to be ‘dark’ for the whole COVID shutdown,” he said.
“We have shot and produced a host of videos, 28 and counting, including live crossovers ‘Live from Kangaroo Island’ and a 20 minute virtual tour with Tourism Australia after launching ‘Live from Aus’ on Channel’s The Project 10.”
“We’re launching e-bikes soon and have developed a slew of new tours and bespoke expedition-style trips.”