Tour Talk: Bushfire relief trips return as AAT Kings partner with EmptyEsky

Now that domestic tourism is pumping, operator AAT Kings has once again teamed up with the #EmptyEsky movement and various regional tourism businesses. Why? Well it’s the return of the popular Bushfire Relief Giveback experiences – short and insightful tours aimed at directing support to communities that were directly impacted by 2020’s devastating bushfires (and had the double whammy of COVID-19 to deal with).

You might remember that AAT Kings kickstarted these admirable tours between the bushfires and the pandemic, promoting the idea of giving back while also showcasing some of the best experiences regional areas across Australia had to offer.

The initial return of the AAT Kings Bushfire Relief Giveback program will be focused on Gippsland, running a bunch of trips with #EmptyEsky where experiences have been developed in close collaboration with local communities.

AAT Kings simply bring guests down to these areas, and those guests bring their empty eskies to fill up at local markets, cafes, and stores. Each ‘tour’ has enough time to actually wander around these towns as well, in addition to spending time with locals and gaining valuable insights into how these communities are faring in 2021.

“Having worked with Australian tourism operators for over 100 years, we live and breathe these communities – they have taken a hard hit and need us now more than ever”, said AAT King Group CEO Matt Fuller. “We’ve worked with local businesses to bring much-needed tourism economy directly back to restaurants, cafes, farmers markets, and local stores, to help start providing immediate support to the regions that need it the most”.

Of course, the Bushfire Relief experiences will be extended to include programs in other regions as well, but for now anyone wanting to book the Gippsland experience should head through to AAT Kings’ website.

As for what to expect on that tour. You’ll be picked up in Melbourne on a Friday, and then driven into the regional Victoria with a few stops along the way to support small towns. You’ll start at The Esplanade Resort & Spa in Lakes Entrance for the full 3-day weekend break, connecting you to local towns like Bairnsdale, Paynesville and more. The weekend will also include koala spotting on Raymond Island, a visit to historic Buchan Caves, a trip to David Luck’s Fresh Food Market, a meal at Lindenow’s The Long Paddock, and wine tasting at Lightfoot & Sons.

After the weekend exploring East Gippsland, you’ll then be dropped back to Melbourne.

The experience is $710 twin share and includes accommodation and some meals.

To make a booking click through to

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy-Editor-At-Large of the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.

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