South Coast businesses are alarmed at emergency services warning tourists to stay away during the current bushfire threat, predicting that decision will have economic knock-on effects for the local community all the way through next year.
As the Currowan and Comberton fires continue to threaten popular holiday spots across the South Coast region, the local emergency operations controller Ray Stynes and incident controller Superintendent Mark Williams have told visitors "if you don't need to be here, then we are encouraging you to reconsider your travel plans".
"While we understand why that message has gone out, but it's not something we, as local businesses, can support," the president of the Batemans Bay and Tourism Chamber, Alison Miers said.
"Our opinion is different because that sort of messaging has a direct effect on business.
"As a small business owner at Batemans Bay, I've had bookings cancelled just today because people have seen that in the media and changed their holiday plans.
"And it's not just a bitter pill to swallow now, but it will be even tougher in the future because many small businesses here, and the employment of local people, depends on the good revenue generated during the peak summer months to keep them going through the quieter winter period."
On Sunday she said that weather conditions at Batemans Bay were "quite lovely".
"There's a very light smoke haze about but it's beautiful weather and for people coming down here, the trip down Brown Mountain is quite pleasant and just takes a little longer."
In a media release the Shoalhaven City Council said the significantly increased population due to visitors was already "adding to the burden on emergency services and responders".
Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Liz Innes said that people's safety was the "number one priority for the council and emergency services".
She urged everyone "from Batemans Bay to Moruya" to have their fire plans ready, regardless of whether they were locals, or visiting.
"As soon as we can possibly give the green light and say to our visitors, welcome and come on down again, we will absolutely launch a campaign to do that," Ms Innes said.
The business chamber confirmed that the council will convene a forum in Batemans Bay next week in which the forthcoming publicity and advertising campaign will be discussed, together with economic impact of the bushfires.
"One of the most significant effects felt here by local businesses is the loss of the day trippers from the ACT and the surrounding region," Ms Miers said.
NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed on the weekend that the Kings Highway between Braidwood and Nelligen would be closed for at least one month and possibly longer.
The highway surface and infrastructure was damaged, there were many dangerous and fire-affected trees on the Clyde Mountain and the council said not it was not prepared to send its crews in to make a proper assessment until the fires were out.
Over the weekend, there were still active fires burning on the Clyde Mountain.
The bushfires have also affected a number of other South Coast holiday areas south of Ulladulla, and restricted road access.
Mr Stynes noted the Princes Highway had already been closed a number of times, which had led to long queues of traffic and delays.
"It has also resulted in people being displaced for periods of time," he said.
"Despite the warnings, many are trying their luck to get here, this has resulted in many stories of people having to head back home after being turned around at road blocks.
"The Kings Highway is closed and Main Rd 92 is also closed. Once the Princes Highway closes there is no way around. Emergency services are then faced with long queues of traffic in a fire impacted area."
Superintendent Williams said large crowds in isolated areas only added to the difficulty of managing emergency situations.
"We have held a number of community meetings to inform residents of the deteriorating weather that is expected," he said.
"At these meetings we have explained that the next few days will be difficult, with predictions that the fire will continue to head north and may jump the Shoalhaven River.
"We understand the impacts on local businesses and that this is a hard message to convey.
"With the conditions we are expecting over the next few days, the size of the fire, and the numbers of people we are managing, we need to ensure that the safety of the community is paramount."
Mr Stynes and Superintendent Williams praised local tourist operators for encouraging people to reconsider their travel plans, acknowledging the "sacrifices that are being made for community safety".
"We are suggesting all tourist destinations provide some flexibility for bookings and allow visitors to reconsider their travel plans to the area," they said.
"We love people visiting our special area, but for now safety needs to come first."