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The catastrophic bushfires in Southern Australia have been setting global new headlines alight since September when they started. This past week was declared a state of emergency in the country, and fittingly so, as the flames continue to ravage homes and wildlife alike. If you’ve planned a trip Down Under for the coming weeks, representatives from both Tourism Australia and the Flight Centre Travel Group are urging tourists to not hastily cancel their plans altogether. Both spokespeople have encouraged visitors to rather stay up to date as the situation develops, and remind tourists that only certain areas have been evacuated.
Fires have been ravaging the New South Wales and Victoria states of the country, causing 23 deaths, as well as extensive destruction of over 1500 homes and millions of acres of natural landscape. Records of high temperatures and annual drought concocted a recipe for disaster leading up to the summer months, and the past weekend saw certain areas being entirely evacuated by both residents and tourists, including the popular Kangaroo Island destination.
It’s best to stay as updated as possible as the situation is a tenuous one. Reach out to your travel agent to find out if your trip will be impacted, and also follow Tourism Australia’s social media pages for daily updates and push notifications. It’s also important to bear in mind that Australia is a vast country, and that most states aren’t affected. Most travel companies are offering refunds for cancellations, or waiving change fees should you wish to change flights. It’s also best to contact your accommodation establishment beforehand to find out if the blaze has affected them directly, or may prevent you from reaching them.
It’s always important to read the fine print when purchasing travel insurance and to confirm what is and isn’t covered by your provider before signing off. Not all insurers cover natural disasters, but do contact your insurance agent to find out the exact details of your cancellation policy. If you haven’t yet booked your trip, there are also “cancel for any reason” insurance policies available. Such plans carry an additional cost and must be purchased within 21 days of the first payment towards your trip, but they do allow for cancellations for any reason from natural disaster to simply no longer wanting to go, and should pay out up to 75% of the total trip costs.
Don’t allow the bushfire crisis to stop you from experiencing the many wonders that Australia has to offer, especially if they have already been booked and paid for. Any trip carries uncertainty and the risk of disaster, and with the current Australian landscape, at least one can plan accordingly with regular updates and strong attempts to bring the situation under control. We send plenty of strength and support to Australian emergency workers and officials in their efforts to stop the devastation caused by the inferno.
Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/06/travel/australia-fires-travel-questions.html, https://www.iol.co.za/travel/travel-tips/9-tips-for-south-africans-travelling-to-australia-40560968
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