AustCham Macau Power Hour 29 – COVID and The Global Effects on Tourism and Conservation

Erina Kilmore Australia Zoo
Erina Kilmore, Head of Global Sales of Australia Zoo, at the 29th Power Hour

With travel curbs lifted and tourists able to visit the city again, businesses in Macao are getting back on their feet and rejoining the post-Covid travel market.  

To learn more about how Covid-19 has affected tourism and conservation around the world in the past three years, we were proud to have Erina Kilmore, Head of Global Sales of Australia Zoo, as our speaker at the 29th edition of our Power Hour series.

Erina gave her presentation, “COVID and the Global Effects on Tourism and Conservation” via video to AustCham members at the Astor Ballroom of The St. Regis Macao on 24 May, with a dozen guests in attendance.

She began by talking a little about the history of the 700-acre Australia Zoo in the Queensland town of Beerwah. The zoo was opened in 1970 as the Beerwah Reptile Park by conservationist Bob Irwin, whose famous late son Steve was  co-host of the wildlife documentary TV series The Crocodile Hunter alongside his wife Terri, now the zoo’s sole owner. 

Steve’s tragic death from a stingray injury in 2006 was a blow for the zoo, but the family pulled together, and under Terri, together with the Irwin children Bindi and Robert, the Australia Zoo is today fulfilling its vision of being a global zoological destination and conservation leader.

Covid-19 saw the suspension of the zoo’s operation for over two months in 2020, and the pandemic also impacted the work of its charity arm, Wildlife Warriors. In Africa, for example, poaching rose during Covid.

“Unfortunately, during Covid, less people travelled to these African countries, which means there was no tourism, which means there was no money. It meant that people had to go back to hunting and poaching to provide for the black-market trade,” Erina told the AustCham audience.

She also highlighted the need to support these conservation projects and how visitors can contribute as global tourism re-emerges. No individual effort is too small. “Our motto is if we could just save one animal, we’ll save the entire species,” she stressed.

At the end of the presentation, AustCham board member Stephen Berry asked how difficult it was for Australia Zoo to survive and continue its conservation work during Covid.

“Financially it’s been really hard,” Erina replied, explaining that during its 76-day closure the facility still had to feed 1,200 animals, costing about A$80,000 (over 400,000 patacas) per week, on top of maintaining over 100 different employees to look after those animals every day.

AustCham Macau’s newly elected chair, Billy Chan, asked what the future looked like for Australia Zoo, to which she replied, “The next five to 10 years are looking good for us.”

Erina said that the interest from international tourists in visiting Australia Zoo is still very high. And with many international travellers nowadays wanting to have life changing  experiences that are going to have a positive impact on the world too, Australia Zoo will surely maintain its place on the world map.

“We’ve always done that. We’re really showcasing that to people and letting them understand that by giving their money to organisations such as ours, they are contributing to something greater,” she said, wrapping up the evening on a hopeful note.

We would like to thank Erina for sharing her knowledge on this very timely topic, and offer a very special thank you to our venue sponsor, The St. Regis Macao, for providing the amazing space, food and drinks. We look forward to seeing you at our next Power Hour.