What next for Lower Clarence businesses after fires
HISTORY has shown the economic impact of fires can linger long after the event, so Lower Clarence businesses are getting on the front foot.
While the townships of Angourie, Wooloweyah and Yamba emerged from the recent fires with little to no damage to infrastructure, some business are starting to count the economic cost.
"In the last two days we had given back $6500 in refunds and two conferences that cancelled were worth $30,000," Linda Mitchell, owner of Angourie Resort, said.
"People are feeling that Yamba is not out of danger, but it definitely is."
The resort was built 18 years ago by a pregnant Ms Mitchell and her husband and she recalled the moment they had to say goodbye after being ordered to evacuate.
"Everybody was devastated to think we might lose the resort, especially after we had just done all this new work," she said.
"It was such a stressful time and very upsetting but our staff and guests were really supportive.
"This is a family business and my husband and I often joke that we have two babies that have just turned 18."
The Blue Mountains local economy took a dramatic hit after the 2013 bushfires which destroyed 200 homes, an indication there was a tendency for tourists to 'regionalise' disasters.
A year later, the economy was still recovering and at the time Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said they had lost millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs from the mistaken belief the whole region was affected.
The possibility of the Lower Clarence experiencing something similar had been considered by Bowlo Sports and Leisure Yamba marketing manager Blake Wolfe, but he stressed the town was open for business.
The club was in the thick of it during the fires, acting as an evacuation centre providing food and shelter for those escaping the fire front and Mr Wolfe said while business had been affected it was "starting to pick up now".
"I am hoping people aren't deterred. There is a lot of burnt forest but the all the beaches are still looking beautiful," he said.
"I would say there is nothing to worry about, still come and enjoy Yamba."
In an effort to get on the front foot, Ms Mitchell said the resort had been putting out positive messages via social media "letting people know there is no danger and that things weren't damaged", and encouraged others to do the same.
"We are trying our best with every phone call we get and my advice is that people should tell all your friends to come to Yamba for a holiday, that's how people recover in their business," she said.
"After a quiet winter period, I'm sure everyone in business is ready to roll. We have used that time to do some refurbishments like solar heating for the pool and this beautiful 20-person jacuzzi."
Ms Mitchell said they were blessed there was "not one single bit of damage" to the resort and praised the efforts of the Rural Fire Service, but the resort owner highlighted how important tourism businesses in the area were to the local economy.
"There is a really big flow-on effect of income that comes from the tourist dollar, even if you are not fully reliant on tourism you are still affected," she said.