GOLD COAST, Australia – Women in Tourism International Alliance (WITIA), a worldwide network of travel professionals headquartered on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, is calling upon its members around the globe to provide assistance to victims of severe flooding in Australia. Heavy rains for more than two weeks have caused rivers to inundate large areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. Police and rescue workers are in the midst of searching for the missing amid piles of river-borne debris.
Amid this devastation, the tourism industry is highly affected. Reservation offices are forced to close, couriers can’t deliver passports with issued visas, travel to airports and hotels is curtailed, resorts can’t access essential supplies and staff cannot get to work. These conditions affect not only local tourism, but expand like the very floodwaters that caused them to bring disruptions to distant destinations. Despite these conditions, it is
heartening to note that tourism companies are often the first to reach out to help.
“Tourism has a tremendous capacity to step up to the plate in emergency situations,” said WITIA President Mary Mahon Jones. “In this and many other instances, tourism businesses all over the world will offer free accommodations, transportation assistance, food, and supplies in areas hit by disaster. WITIA encourages efforts by its members to offer assistance to victims of the Queensland flooding and will publicize these efforts through its website and ongoing press releases.”
Donations within Australia can be made by credit card at ww.qld.gov.au/floods , a website offering further information. International monetary contributions can be made by direct transfer to the following account name: Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal, BSB 064 013, account number 1000 6800; SWIFT Code: CTBAAU2S.
Mahon Jones has announced that WITIA will be making a substantial donation to this fund on behalf of its members. Furthermore, the Alliance encourages direct assistance. Adelaide WITIA member Gudrun Tamandl of Cruise Connection has kicked off the process by offering free accommodations for a displaced family. Says Tamandl, “Pulling together to help each other in times of need is what Aussies are all about and now is certainly one of those times.”
The scope of the present disaster is virtually unprecedented. On January 10, what has been referred to as “an inland tsunami” inundated the upland city of Toowoomba in southeast Queensland, located 2,000 feet above sea level on the top of the Great Dividing Range – the last place an event of such proportions would have been anticipated. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh reported that numerous towns are facing second and even third rounds of rising flood waters. Tourism destinations including the famous Sunshine Coast have seen considerable flash flooding.
The state capital of Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, experienced dire flood conditions as huge volumes of water overflowed river banks, impacting over 30,000 homes and leaving mud and silt everywhere. Brisbane’s Central Business District has been mostly shut down with limited transportation services. Electrical service, all underground, has being selectively turned off as the system floods, leaving thousands without power. Water contamination, massive destruction, homelessness and a search for
the missing are the terrifying aftermath as the water recedes.
WITIA secretary Anne Isaacson, a Gold Coast resident, reported: “It is hard to fathom the severity of these floods. Houses have been ripped from their foundations and boats that have been pulled from their moorings speed down the river. I have never seen anything like this. No one knows how many people have lost their lives as ferocious waters swept their cars into the rivers. The strange thing is that today is lovely and sunny, both on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane so it seems completely incongruous that Brisbane has experienced the most dramatic event in over 100 years!”
Women in Tourism International Alliance (WITIA) is a global networking association for people in travel, tourism, hospitality and related industries. WITA works to promote and enhance business opportunities and promotes the value of tourism to foster cultural understanding and peace worldwide. It supports charitable causes that offer care and protection to women and children, assists young people in the industry and contributes to the protection of the planet’s natural resources.