Leading up to the triple crises of 2019-20 – drought, bushfires and COVID-19 – South Australia’s visitor economy had reached a record high. In December 2019, the industry not only reached – but exceeded – its December 2020 target of $8.0 billion, when it hit $8.1 billion in visitor expenditure.
The regional target of $3.55 billion and the Nature-Based Tourism target of $1.4 billion were also achieved one year early, and the tourism jobs target of 41,000 was nearly met with 40,500 directly employed. On top of that, we were in the throes of a blockbuster cruise season with more ships set to visit South Australian shores than ever before and visiting tourism regions for the first time with the first visits to Wallaroo. It would be fair to say we finished the 2019 calendar year off in a strong position.
Of course, a lot has changed since then. The visitor economy – and indeed the economy generally – is in one of the most severe contractions on record. The tourism sector is facing a significant challenge to rebound, restore our interstate and international markets and return to the position we held pre-COVID-19 as a world-class event and tourism destination.
We are continuing to back our 18,000 operators across the state, with the #BookThemOut and #WelcomeBack campaigns resonating strongly across our intrastate and interstate markets. The response was phenomenal, with operators reporting strong forward bookings – at a time when they needed it most. Importantly, we took a strong leadership role in communicating across the sector, ensuring there was consistent and timely delivery of information to stakeholders across the state.
As the COVID-19 impacts continued towards the middle of 2020, we also activated several smaller campaigns and established partnerships with trade, aimed at encouraging South Australians to holiday at home and assisting industry partners such as RAA Travel, Phil Hoffmann Travel and Tripadvisor to sell South Australian product. Again, local consumers put their hands in their pockets and spent up on local tourism businesses and experiences.
We also saw people support events in the latter part of 2019 and in early 2020, before the mass gathering restrictions were put in place. The Asian Le Mans at The Bend, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and the National Pharmacies Christmas Pageant in 2019 to name a few; and Superloop Adelaide 500, the Adelaide International tennis at Memorial Drive, the Santos Tour Down Under, WOMADelaide, Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe and the Davis Cup tie between Australia and Brazil, held in the first few months of 2020.
The SATC celebrated hosting World Routes 2019, the world’s biggest aviation conference, which was the first time it had been held in Australia. Around 2,000 delegates from airlines, airports, and destinations around the world attended, injecting around $20 million into our state’s economy. The SATC also developed several projects as part of South Australia’s COVID-19 response, which included the Resilience and Rebound program, and the free online SATC COVID-19 Awareness Training program, which helped give confidence to both consumers and those within the tourism and hospitality sector.
An agency-wide effort went into developing our $5.7 million package in support to help local tourism operators get through the COVID-19 crisis. The financial support included funding to help small businesses and to assist organisers of regional events, as well as dedicated training to upskill operators and boost business resilience.
While our South Australian Regional Visitor Strategy 2025 planning was put on hold, due to travel and gathering restrictions, the SATC continued to engage and consult with the regions through webinars and direct outreach. The SATC continued to drive and – based on extensive analysis of past global crises and the project path for recovery – revise our strategic framework, ensuring future plans are ambitious, achievable and dynamic, including the SATC Corporate Plan for 2021-2023.
The South Australian Visitor Economy Sector Plan 2030 remains our goal, with the bold target of growing our visitor economy to $12.8 billion by 2030 and grow tourism jobs to 52,000. Despite the sector being heavily impacted due to the bushfires and COVID-19, this is still our target. The potential is clear given South Australia’s 2020 performance, the opportunity is there and we have the strategy in place for investment, employment and our community.
We are excited to work with industry and government to drive our recovery and
ensure South Australian tourism recovers and comes back stronger than ever.
Chief Executive | South Australian Tourism Commission