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'The devastation we have seen is heartbreaking'

Help a mate: caravan industry acts as killer fires leave trail of destruction

Stuart Lamont Have your say

AUSTRALIA'S peak body for the caravanning industry has waded in to help businesses recover from the nation's worst bushfires in living memory.

"The devastation that we have seen across media in the past weeks due to bushfires is heartbreaking," Caravan Industry Association of Australia chief executive Stuart Lamont (pictured) said.

"Our sincerest appreciation goes out to all industry personnel and those volunteers on the ground who are battling these conditions to save lives and property in the most trying of circumstances."

Bushfires in NSW, Victoria and SA have left more than 23 people dead, destroyed thousands of homes and devastated caravan parks. An estimated one billion animals have perished.

Mr Lamont said many affected areas should be brimming with tourists but whole regions remained closed.

Some caravan parks have suggest it could be over a month before they reopen.

"To put this in context, we may see up to 3.8 million nights at risk due to evacuations, lost bookings and forward cancellations in the coming months," he said.

"The refunding of deposits alone in some cases will cripple businesses.

"The financial and emotional toll is significant and will take many months or years to recover from."

The return of tourist would be vital in helping parks begin the long process of getting back on their feet.

'This goes not only for areas under threat'

"This goes not only for those areas currently under threat but those for whom have already been affected this bushfire season dating back to September last year," Mr Lamont said.

As the industry's national association it had been liaising with Federal Government ministers and agencies as well as other industry associations to make sure the issues impacting the industry's businesses were highlighted in any recovery discussions.

"We are also working closely with caravan state associations and park chains in affected regions who have already provided incredibly useful practical information for their member businesses throughout the crisis," he said.

"The one thing I love about our industry is the willingness to 'help a mate' in time of crisis, and over the past week I have been receiving calls from concerned industry businesses including our colleagues overseas wanting to know how they can help.

"To this end we have decided to put a call out to industry wishing to assist through a quarantined industry marketing fund which will be used to directly encourage future visitation to affected areas once it is safe for tourists to return.

"A dedicated working group of skilled personnel will be formed to make sure that any funds received are put to best use where they are most needed.

"Any 'help a mate' bushfire activity will be in addition to our ongoing and existing commitment to broader industry stimulus marketing which continues through this period showcasing the benefits of a caravanning and camping holiday."

Mr Lamont said the fund had already been kicked off with generous donations from Dometic ($10,000) and Vic Parks ($10,000).

"Caravan Industry Victoria has also pledged money and people, and individual businesses have already got in on the act with Mandurah Caravan & Tourist Park pledging the proceeds of their Australia Day activities towards the fund," he said.

People wanting to support their "mates" and contribute something to help drive visitation back to crippled regions are urged to email in the first instance.

"In the meantime, we continue to hope for our industry businesses safety and that of our industry employees and their families, as well as the volunteer services in the regions assisting in getting through what are unprecedented times," Mr Lamont added.



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the prior written permission of Dennis Amor.

Copyright 2005 Dennis Amor
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