20 Jul 2022

A message from the outgoing Chief Executive

After nearly 10 years in the chair at the South Australian Tourism Commission – in travel speak, it’s time to change my itinerary.

This week is my last, and it has been terrific to have a chance to reflect over my journey, and all of the things we – as a tourism sector – have achieved.

Continuing with the travel analogies, it’s been a rollicking trip.

I came into the role in 2013, ready to take on the challenge of building the value of tourism to a record high – and we did. In 2019, our state’s visitor economy reached a record high $8.1 billion – some 12 months ahead of target.

We went bold – sometimes we had a win (Great State Vouchers and #BookThemOut) and sometimes we copped a hit (like when I had to advise people not to holiday in SA during Easter in 2020 – the exact opposite of what I should and wanted to be doing!). But at all times, we worked hard to champion our state. We wanted to make sure South Australia was a destination of choice, the place to do business, a world-class event host, and the home of iconic food, wines, and epic landscapes.

I leave incredibly proud of what we have achieved together. Despite the bushfires in the summer of 2019-20, and then the impacts of a global pandemic for the past two and a half years, our tourism sector has been resilient, innovative and brave.

In fact, latest data shows the interstate market has reached a post-pandemic record high. At $1.8 billion in the 12 months to March, it has made serious inroads on its pre-COVID value of $2.7 billion given the state of the borders during much of 2021.

For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, we can also see international tourism notching up on the charts. With Australia’s borders opened in February, we saw the international market in SA nearly tripled by the end of March, reaching $128 million.  

Helping notch this up further, we are seeing more international flights resume – now at 58 per cent of pre COVID capacity, and the important cruise sector set to return – with 106 cruise visits this season, trumping the 82 made in 2019.

While we’ve still got some way to go, this is all helping drive the recovery of South Australia’s visitor economy and exceeded the SATC’s recovery forecasts.

Expenditure has been so strong that monthly data for April 2022 shows the net position of the entire visitor economy was 95 per cent of 2019 levels. Estimations for May and June show it will continue to exceed forecasts, and in May, it’s likely to be even higher than pre pandemic levels.

In fact, May was a particularly strong month. Average occupancy for Adelaide accommodation was so high, it hit a post-pandemic record and topped occupancy levels in the same period in 2019. At 79 per cent average occupancy, Adelaide outperformed the nation – trumping Sydney at seventh and Melbourne at 11th out of 14 major cities throughout Australia and New Zealand.

With people travelling again, I leave the SATC in the knowledge that there is a very capable team with a shared mission to build on this momentum into the future – more tourists, more travel and more jobs means more money invested into our economy.

We are very fortunate to have some truly iconic destinations in South Australia, and many thousands of passionate tourism operators whose offerings are world-class and who are ready to capitalise on the global desire to travel. 

As I sign off, I can reflect that together we have put SA firmly on the “must-do” map – and that we have the goods to stay there.

Rodney Harrex
Outgoing Chief Executive

See the Industry Update – 20 July 2022.