Jodie Stephens and Dominica Sanda
(Australian Associated Press)
Communities on the bushfire-ravaged NSW south coast hope a potential royal visit by Prince William and his wife Catherine will shine a spotlight on the region and its reconstruction efforts and boost tourism.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to issue a formal invitation to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge “soon”, once discussions with Kensington Palace about the details of the bushfire tour are concluded.
Cabinet minister Simon Birmingham said previous visits by members of the royal family had lifted tourist numbers to Australia.
“We hope that can all be locked down with an announcement from the royals pretty soon because it is going to be a great opportunity to remind the rest of the world that Australia is still a fantastic place to visit full of rich and amazing experiences,” the senator told Nine Network on Wednesday.
Senator Birmingham pointed to the 2018 visit by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, saying it produced a 120 per cent lift in the numbers of visits to the Tourism Australia website and subsequent 30 per cent boost in bookings.
“There are real economic benefits,” he said.
“Images of them on pristine beaches and bushland, where the green growth is starting to come back through, and cuddling recovering wildlife.’
“These are the key images we need the rest of the world to see because they saw plenty of bad images of Australia over the new year period.”
Bega Valley Shire Council mayor Kristy McBain hoped the visit would spotlight her bushfire devastated community.
“It’s really nice they get how important it is to use their presence and their stature to highlight how important it is to rebuild and assist small Australian communities,” she told AAP.
South Buxton local Jeff Van Der Korput, who used a homemade tanker to defend properties from fires in December, agreed.
“There’s a lot of people, particularly in our Balmoral local area, that feel like they got massively forgotten,” he told AAP.
MidCoast Council Mayor David West, whose region was also devastated by fire, said a royal visit would be “a boost in the arm of the people that have lost everything in this area”.
“It would give them … an indication that they haven’t been forgotten, that their wellbeing is being felt by the leaders of the British Commonwealth of Nations and I can’t think of anything better,” Mr West told AAP.
The trip would be William’s fifth visit to Australia and the couple’s first since 2014.