More than 200 volunteer firefighters are set to be thanked as part of a not-for-profit initiative created by Jeep in gratitude of their services during last summer’s catastrophic bushfires.
The Empty Esky will make its way through fire-affected towns along the east coast of Australia in appreciation of the heroism and bravery shown by first responders in 2019 and 2020.
A seven day journey beginning in Melbourne will see the esky filled with produce purchased from local communities and gifted to volunteer fire services on the way to Canungra in Queensland.
Empty Esky, founded after the 2019 bushfires by Eleanor Baillieu and Erin Boutros, is a national tourism movement encouraging Australians to get behind fire-affected communities by ‘filling an empty esky’ with local produce and goods from small businesses.
Life under the tough and longstanding COVID-19 restrictions has seen tourism in regional towns grind to a halt over the last year.
in 2020 the Australian tourism industry is estimated to have incurred a loss of $4.5 billion.
“With the COVID-19 environment finally stabilising, we’re thrilled that borders are open and tourism is back up and running, and Australian’s can head on and Empty Esky adventure” said Eleanor Baillieu, Empty Esky Co-Founder.
Empty Esky, together with Jeep, is hoping the big esky tour will shine a spotlight on communities impacted by the bushfires, encouraging Australians to travel with purpose this Easter break and boost tourism in struggling regional towns.
Local Swan Reach business owner, Andrew Collier of Seasalt Sourdough bakery, said the Gippsland region is ready to welcome visitor’s back to town.
“Last year was incredibly tough and it has taken a toll on every small business. Regional Victoria has missed Melburnians just as much as they have missed us, and the sight of new faces and a small purchase or two would help our futures immensely,” said Collier.
“Empty Esky helped us survive the summer with their far reaching social media following and we are excited to welcome the big esky into town!” he continued.
Jeep Australia Managing Director, Kevin Flynn, hopes that the big esky tour will inspire adventurers to get back out on the road and explore again, while supporting local businesses.
“We’re excited to visit the east coast communities and load up on some of their amazing produce to give back to those who helped out during such trying times,” he said.
“We’re proud to team up with Empty Esky to create one of the biggest travelling eskys Australia has ever seen, and help encourage those home-grown adventures out to regional communities to help those bushfire-affected business in need.”
The big esky will stop at Lakes Entrance, Mallacoota, Tathra, Lake Conjola, Shoalhaven Heads, Port Macquarie, Port Stephens, Ballina, arriving at the final destination of Canungra on Sunday, 21 March.