Tourism operators in regional Australia are reeling over the potential impacts of the coronavirus.
In the past decade, the number of visitors from China to Australia has increased fourfold from 355,000 in 2009 to 1.43 million in the period between July 2018 and June 2019.
Regional areas which rely heavily on tourism spend are scrambling to find ways to fill the growing number of vacancies they have at motels, bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs and tourism attraction operators are already witnessing a downturn in trade.
In Victoria, a number of towns have experienced growth in recent years as Chinese visitors flock to travel along the Great Ocean Road and take in all the sights.
Port Campbell Shopping owner Peter Field said he was extremely concerned about the impact the virus was having on his business.
He said the outbreak couldn't have come at a worst time for the town, with Chinese visitors usually flocking to the area to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Mr Field estimates trade has reduced by almost half to what it was at the same time last year.
He has reduced his opening hours and fears the town will remain quieter than it has in years for the foreseeable future.
"The town is a lot quieter than usual," Mr Field said.
"I think everyone in the area would be concerned."
In Ballarat, operators of key tourism attractions Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Wildlife Park and Creswick Woollen Mills are fearing the worst.
Sovereign Hill is expecting cancellations of up to 70 per cent of Chinese visitors over the coming months.
In Port Stephens, the absence of a number of Chinese visitors during the lucrative Easter and April school holiday period will likely result in the loss of millions of tourist dollars. Destination Port Stephens chief executive officer Eileen Gilliland said the impacts of the virus were already being felt.
In addition to that, the industry has already seen a downturn in visitor numbers due to the widespread media coverage of Australia's 'summer of bushfires'.
"Along with the spread of the virus is the overseas media coverage of the bushfires ... so people are not travelling as much. It is a time of instability for Port tourism," Ms Gilliland said.
A number of operators in regional areas are waiting on tenterhooks to see if the virus is controlled in the coming weeks.
If not, they fear it will have a huge impact on their winter trade.
Victoria's largest inland salt lake, Lake Tyrrell in Victoria's Mallee district, has become a burgeoning destination for Chinese visitors.
The impact of the virus is yet to be seen, as winter is the key time for international visitors.
On Wednesday Victoria's Tourism Minister Martin Pakula announced a $5 million campaign to promote the state to the world in the wake of the virus outbreak and the recent bushfires.
"The campaign will help to bring new tourists to Victoria in the important months that lie ahead," Mr Pakula said.
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