SYDNEY, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Although the devastation of Australia's unprecedented bushfire crisis has been widespread, the nation's top tourism boss is adamant that Australia is still open for business and ready to welcome tourists from China and across the world.
With a whole-of-government review currently underway looking at how fire-affected communities in Australia can get back on their feet, Managing Director of Tourism Australia Phillipa Harrison said the country's tourism sector will have a huge role to play.
"Tourism is the lifeblood of many of these communities," she said, noting that the sector employs one in 13 people in Australia and contributes 60 billion Australian dollars (41 billion U.S. dollars) to the GDP.
"When it goes down, not only is the tourism sector impacted but all of the businesses around the tourism industry that rely on visitors to the region are impacted," she said.
While Harrison reiterated that it's important not to minimize the despair caused by this year's bushfire season, she explained there is a false perception that Australia has become a no-go zone for travelers -- mainly due to inaccurate information circulating on social media.
"There have been a lot of well-meaning people who have shared misinformation and maps that are actually just incorrect and while they've done it from a good place, it's actually done more harm than good," she said.
One such map shows almost all of the continent as being on fire. In reality, Harrison pointed out that all of Australia's major cities along with the iconic Great Barrier Reef and more, are very safe to visit and remain unaffected by fire.
"The reason that people love Australia is that they love our lifestyle, they love our flora and fauna, they love our pristine beaches and all of that still exists. So what we are saying to people is check it out and see it for yourself," she said.
"We have already seen green shoots coming back from fire-affected areas. The land is resilient. We are resilient. We will get back on our feet but the quickest way to do that is by getting back to normal, having tourists come and visit us, and enjoying all the things they've always loved about Australia."
Currently on the eve of Sydney's Lunar New Year celebrations -- the largest Spring Festival anywhere outside of Asia -- Harrison said the 16-day period is the peak season for Chinese travelers visiting Australia.
"China is our No. 1 market," she said.
"We are ready and waiting to welcome guests from China and we would say, by any chance, if you haven't booked anything now, please come and visit us because we're ready to accept you and wish you happy new year."
Accurate information regarding Australia's ongoing bushfire situation can be found at australia.com and australia.cn.