16 September 2010

Australian tourists to be warned of surf dangers

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Overseas tourists entering Australia are to be given surf safety information after a sharp rise in the number of drownings involving foreigners on the country's famed beaches, Australia surf life saving officials said.

ETA Visa

Tourists to Australia will be given surf safety instructions in a bid to curb drownings.

Eighty-two people drowned on Australia's beaches last year, and more than a quarter of these, 26, were foreigners unfamiliar with the strong currents and Australian surf. In 2006 only nine foreign visitors drowned.

While many Australians find surf rules second nature, many overseas visitors do not and in an effort to  stop the rise in drownings six international airlines - Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Air New Zealand, China Airlines and South African Airlines - have agreed to screen a coastal safety video on inbound flights.

"This high risk group has limited English skills, a lack of knowledge about the beach, over-estimate their swimming ability, inadequate swimming skills and a general lack of surf safety awareness," said Brett Williamson, Chief Executive of Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA).

The video will warn tourists to always swim between red and yellow safety flags on popular beaches, read safety signs and swim with a friend. They will also be told to stay calm and attract attention from lifeguards if they run into trouble.

All tourists to Australia, unless they have an Australian or New Zealand passport, must have an Australian Tourist Visa. The most popular of these visas is the ETA Visa or Electronic Travel Authority as it can be quickly applied for online and is approved almost instantly.

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