River Recovery boost as second voucher round generates $5.6 million in bookings
Tourism businesses across the Murray River regions have received more than $5.6 million worth of bookings in the second round of the State Government’s River Revival Voucher program – almost doubling the broader economic impact of the first round.
The multi-million-dollar boost to flood-affected businesses comes as a third round of River Revival Vouchers is today confirmed to start in early 2024 as part of the $4.6 million river tourism recovery plan announced in February.
After the booking period for round two closed this week, a total of 8,234 vouchers were redeemed on tours, experiences, accommodation and houseboats across the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong regions.
It equates to a redemption rate of almost 70 per cent, a significant increase on the first round of River Revival Vouchers after adjustments were made following industry and consumer consultation, as well as the addition of houseboat holidays.
In an incredibly strong show of support for the houseboat sector, all 39 houseboat companies which registered for the voucher program received at least one booking.
More than half of the $750 houseboat and guided tour vouchers were redeemed, generating more than $2.5 million in booking value alone.
The inclusion of a “second chance” draw, which saw unused vouchers cancelled and reissued part-way through the round two booking period, was a hit with consumers – leading to more than 2300 vouchers being snapped up by those who missed out in the initial draw.
With almost 3000 of the $200 accommodation vouchers redeemed – a redemption rate of 85 per cent – the voucher category which required a minimum two-night stay not only proved the most popular but importantly, brought visitors to the river regions for an extended trip and helped increase spend.
In round one, consumer data showed a $200 voucher generated an additional average spend of $746 on activities while in the river regions including on tours, food and beverage, produce, and entertainment – highlighting the significant impact the extra visitation had on hard-hit river communities.
Flood affected operators will continue to see voucher visitors through the rest of winter and all of spring, with the travel period running until 30 November 2023.
Details of round three of the River Revival Voucher program will be announced later this year.
Minister for Tourism, Zoe Bettison said with redemption rates of up to 85 per cent and the total booking dollar value already well surpassing the broader economic impact of the first round, it is clear round two has been a huge success.
"We have seen an unprecedented and truly impressive and immediate boost to flood-affected tourism businesses, with round two of the River Revival Voucher program injecting more than $5.6 million in bookings alone," Minister Bettison said.
"We’ve listened to the industry from the get-go in developing this tourism recovery package, and I am thrilled with the results.
"Round two vouchers will continue to drive visitation and dollars into the river regions through winter and into spring, and South Australians can get excited about round three to launch early next year."
Boating Industry Association Business Support Manager, George Bolton said houseboat operators have been very enthused as to the volume of enquiries they have received for the River Revival houseboat vouchers, most of which have converted to bookings.
"There was an even spread of enquiries for both the Riverland and Murraylands, that has been fairly evenly shared between all the operators," Mr Bolton said.
"Whilst seeing bookings mainly targeting from the school holidays in October onwards, there were solid bookings made in July, August and September, that is directly attributable to the $750 River Revival Houseboat Vouchers, being a fabulous incentive to encourage people to have a houseboat holiday and experience the magnificent River Murray in winter and spring.
"Operators are ready right now to welcome guests back onto the river, which is a great way of bringing families together for quality time."
Spirit of Australia Cruises Manager, Joel Hirsch said the River Revival Voucher campaign has been a fantastic boost to add more bookings, improve post-flood sentiment around holidaying along the river, and driving consumer spending on River Murray activities.
"Here at Spirit of the Coorong, we are overwhelmed with the results and the onflow (pun intended!) positive impacts to tourism along the River Murray," Mr Hirsch said.
"Through the voucher program, we’ve welcomed more than 750 passengers booked on our tours as each voucher brings an extra guest or two. This has meant tens of thousands of dollars in bookings for our business, helping us get back on our feet after the floods and putting shifts back on for our staff."