As bushfires continue to ravage towns and businesses plea for visitors to return to their scorched regions, fears continue to rise for the future of Australian tourism.
One industry leader says the bushfire crisis could cost the sector $1 billion.
Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway says losses are growing and many businesses may be unable to recover from the unprecedented blazes, with a growing number of holiday-makers cancelling their trips well into the year.
"We're not trying to exaggerate the number, but if you look across regional Victoria and what's happening in NSW and South Australia, a lot of infrastructure has been decimated," Mr Westaway told AAP on Thursday.
"Even in some areas unaffected by the bushfires we've seen more than a 60 per cent increase in booking cancellations."
Mr Westaway said the sector was suffering from the "contagion effect", with many domestic travellers deciding to stay home during peak holiday season.
"The level of spending in many holiday destinations has fallen through the floor, which will have a lasting impact on these small-to-medium-sized businesses," he said.
"Some of these businesses will not recover, but the industry as a whole is very resilient.
"This is not a new phenomenon – we've dealt with disasters before."
The Blue Mountains is now in recovery mode – after the NSW Rural Fire Service reported that the Erskine Creek, Linden Creek, Grose Valley and Ruined Castle fires were contained – and the local tourism board is encouraging holiday-makers to return to the villages and towns within the region.
The recent bushfires have caused tens of thousands of visitors to avoid the Blue Mountains over the Christmas and New Year period. And you only have to look at the below photos of tourists at the famous Three Sisters at Katoomba to see why in what is usually the busiest period for local businesses.
David Crust, Blue Mountains Region branch director of park operations, told the Blue Mountains Gazette that more sections of Blue Mountains National Park would be reopened in the coming days – which means more visitors should make their way back to the region.
"We are pleased to welcome visitors back to many of our popular walking tracks for an opportunity to reconnect with nature in a safe environment," he said.
"We encourage everyone to check the NSW National Parks website when planning their visit as more areas are reopened."
Blue Mountains Tourism president Jason Cronshaw said the region had always been a popular destination over summer, and now that the fires had been contained – and many areas untouched – businesses were "excited" to welcome tourists back to experience the beauty of the Blue Mountains and enjoy a memorable holiday.
"We have incredible experiences on offer to cater for everyone and many local businesses who really need your support right now, so please make a day trip or take a long weekend and head back to the Blue Mountains where you will be welcomed with open arms," he said.
Tourism industry leaders met with federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham in Sydney on Thursday to discuss how to bring back holiday bookings to the regions worst hit by the bushfires.
"The two big takeaways were that it was very constructive," Mr Westaway said.
"The second thing is the wider industry is on the same page of what the issues are. Across the board bookings are through the floor, cash flow in small business operators is in a very delicate situation. It's a red-alert situation in many cases.
"There is a commitment by industry to get the regions rebooted."
The Morrison Government wants to combat misinformation regarding the bushfires and promote tourism attractions.
"We are acutely aware of the challenges our tourism industry currently faces and that tourism businesses all around Australia are feeling the pressures of cancellations and reduced bookings," Senator Birmingham said.
"The Government stands ready to help our tourism industry to not only rebuild infrastructure where required but to continue to promote the incredible tourism experiences that are still on offer across Australia in unaffected areas but also in fire-affected areas when it is safe to welcome tourists again."
Last week, tourism operators at South Australia's Kangaroo Island begged holiday-makers not to abandon the popular tourist spot, with just one third of the island impacted by fires.
While large parts of the island's Flinders Chase National Park were destroyed by bushfires earlier this month, the island – which attracts more than 140,000 visitors each year – still has significant parts that have not been damaged and continue to be open to tourists.
"Kangaroo Island is not completely closed to tourists coming back here, spending money and coming, using the facilities here," Governor-General David Hurley said during a recent visit.
"While the primary industry income will be down, tourism can help resurrect (it).
"Get out here, put money into the tourist industry directly – that would be a good thing to do."
Victoria's Tourism North East has joined in the call, inviting tourists back to the high country now that conditions have improved.
With many towns in the region unaffected by the fires, Tourism North East acting chief executive Sarah Pilgrim said shops and restaurants remained open.
"High country communities are resilient and together we look forward to welcoming guests back to the region," Ms Pilgrim said.
But while the fires and smoke are still impacting the Alpine National Park, Mount Buffalo and the Upper Murray, the alpine regions of Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain and Mt Buller are open to visitors.
However, a survey of 200 businesses in the region in the week to January 9 found more than half had experienced losses of 100 per cent.
A further 25 per cent had experienced losses higher than 75 per cent.
Modelling commissioned by the tourism authority shows high country businesses could experience losses of between AU$183 million and AU$208 million ($189-$215) in the three months to March as a result of the bushfire crisis.
Earlier this week, a University of Queensland economist predicted the total economic losses from the bushfire crisis could top $100 billion dollars.
While some forecasts suggest the fires may result in $5 billion in direct private losses, Professor John Quiggin says that figure may balloon due to impacts on public infrastructure, agriculture, health, ecology, tourism and in establishing a national response.
"We're going to have to develop a national capacity to deal with this kind of disaster and that will be costly," Prof Quiggin told AAP.