Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Victoria University

ProjectBuilding economic and social resilience to bushfire in nature-based tourism communities in regional Victoria

Amount$29,030

Date2016

ProgramRegional Resilience (past program)

TRUST OBJECTIVES PROJECT OBJECTIVES
This grant was approved under our previous grants policy (Jan 2014 – March 2017)
Rural and regional Victoria Assist small, rural, remote and tourism-reliant communities to improve visitor communications for better bushfire preparedness and emergency response, and enhance their resilience to future bushfire risk
Building organisational capacity Build the capacity of regional tourism communities, tourism operators, and event organisers in visitor communications to improve risk management
Collaboration and partnership Harrietville Community Forum, Alpine Shire Council, North East Tourism, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Emergency Management Victoria, and Country Fire Authority

Developing effective visitor communications about bushfire risk for small, regional, tourism-reliant communities

First-time visitors, international visitors and those who stay in holiday homes without immediate access to information or local knowledge are particularly at risk to bushfire, yet are commonly overlooked in communication planning processes when it comes to fire preparedness and the aftermath.  The aim of this project was to develop a good practice guide for visitor communications before, during and after bushfires, particularly for small, tourism-dependent destinations that are vulnerable to the economic impact of fire.

The project compared the experiences of two communities recently impacted by fire: Harrietville in 2013 and Wye River in 2015.  The resulting guide highlights the important role played by the tourism sector as an interface between emergency services and visitors before, during and after a bushfire, as well identifying what worked, what didn’t and what needs to be developed for the future. It is intended to inform the bushfire-preparedness strategies of similar small destinations according to their specific conditions and circumstances.

Snapshot:

  • Consultation took place with key stakeholders across government, industry, community and other groups to identify gaps in visitor communications as well as successful methods to engage with visitors in a strategy that covered all stages of the ‘disaster lifecycle’ (pre-event, early stage, emergency, intermediate, long-term recovery, and resolution).
  • A good practice guide to “Visitor Communications in Planning, Crises and (Tourism) Recovery Strategy” was developed, based on an evaluation of the experiences of both the Harrietville and Wye River-Jamison Track fires.
  • The project showed the importance of close collaboration between the tourism sector and emergency services, the importance of communications networks between tourism operators and the need for clear, unambiguous and consistent fire safety messaging.
  • The project has contributed to emergency planning efforts in Victoria, providing information and evidence on effective strategies in visitor communications and laid the foundation for future work in the field of tourism risk and recovery.

"Following the bushfires in 2013, Harrietville basically had no income for three months of the year. It is vital that visitors are informed accurately before, during and after bushfire disasters such as affected Harrietville and, more recently, Wye River.” Joanne Pyke, VU Senior Research Fellow