27 May 2023

Second round of River Revival Vouchers heats up SA’s winter

South Australians will have longer to travel, more options to choose from – including a houseboat holiday – and double the chance of securing a River Revival Voucher when the next round of the program opens next month.

The new $750 category of vouchers – for use on a houseboat holiday or hosted tour experience – provides holidaymakers with an additional incentive to travel and support the state’s river regions.

Tourism operators in the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes and Coorong regions were hit hard by the once-in-a-century floods last summer, with the State Government committing a $4.6 million support package – including the River Revival Voucher program and a dedicated marketing campaign for the Murray River regions.

The first round of the campaign has already resulted into an unprecedented injection of financial stimulus into a specific tourism region.

Round one of the vouchers injected over $1.8 million in voucher bookings alone into the regions, with 4369 bookings at accommodation and experience providers.

Importantly, most redemptions were $200 vouchers, which means the people had a minimum two-night stay, and therefore spent longer in the region, visiting wineries, restaurants, places like the brewery and gin distilleries, going on a river cruise.

The next round of vouchers sees for the first time the entry of houseboat operators – a sector of the market that has only recently returned to full scale operations.

The South Australian Tourism Commission has announced today that the next round of the vouchers will have an extended travel period, be open to South Australians and cross border communities in New South Wales and Victoria, and the $50 experience voucher will be increased to $100.

There will also be a “second chance” draw, meaning those vouchers that are not redeemed within the first booking period will be cancelled and re-issued, giving consumers who registered during the registration period another chance to secure a lucky voucher as well as helping to drive maximum benefit to businesses.

Details for the next round include:

Voucher types:

  • $100 Experience vouchers (up from $50)
  • $100 Accommodation vouchers for a minimum one-night stay
  • $200 Accommodation vouchers for a minimum two-night stay
  • $750 Houseboats / guided tour vouchers (minimum $1500 spend inclusive of the $750 voucher)

Key dates:

  • Operator Expressions of Interest to participate: 1–6 June
  • Ballot registration: 19 to 21 June
  • Ballot draw and successful recipients notified: 22 June
  • Booking dates for first chance draw: 22 June – 25 July
  • Travel Period: 23 June – 30 November
  • Second chance draw: 27 July
  • Booking dates for second chance draw: 27 July – 22 August
  • Travel period: 28 July – 30 November 2023.

The roll-out of the next round – including extending the travel time until later this year – is based on feedback from tourism operators along the river, industry stakeholders, two regional workshops held in May, and from a consumer survey of those people who did not redeem their vouchers in round one.

The survey found that 49 per cent of people with accommodation vouchers did not book because their preferred dates were not available. With extended travel dates, it is hoped that more people will take the chance to holiday on the river this year and experience the magic of one of Australia’s natural icons.

For full Terms and Conditions and to enter the ballot for a River Revival Voucher when it opens on 19 June, visit southaustralia.com/voucher.

Minister for Tourism, Zoe Bettison said so far $1.8 million has already been injected into these regional economies – and that’s just the value of bookings alone.

"We are very pleased to see that thousands of people already made the choice to support the river regions during this difficult time," Minister Bettison said.

"This next stage of the campaign is all about celebrating the river and how magic it is during the winter months.

"We’re incredibly excited to offer a winter houseboat holiday as a fresh option for the next round of our River Revival Vouchers. I know many people have been waiting for the $750 voucher to come online, so now it’s time to make the most of them.

"The river regions have so many amazing offerings, from experiences to accommodation – both on and off the water – and the operators are ready and waiting to show you a good time.

"The Murray River is an incredible natural wonder right on our doorstep and a truly iconic Australian holiday experience, and I’m calling on South Australians to go and enjoy a river break.

"Not only do we all need a holiday, but you can feel good in knowing you’re helping hundreds of small business operators who have had a really tough six months.

"Our government made a commitment to support the region and we will continue to consult with industry to ensure that we achieve what’s needed.

"I am not taking my eyes off the river."

Business Support Boating Industry Association and Houseboat Hirers Association Manager, George Bolton said it is absolutely critical to encourage people back to houseboat holidaying on the river.

"Forward bookings are looking very low, so there is no better time to book ahead and enjoy some down-time in some of the most spectacular parts of the state," Mr Bolton said.

"Winter is an amazing time to be on a houseboat – a glass of wine around the campfire or cruising along in total comfort. We’re lucky to have so many first-class operators in SA, and I’d love to see them all booked out for the next six months."

Spirit Australia Cruises Manager, Joel Hirsch said round one of the experience vouchers saw over 100 vouchers redeemed with his business, representing well over 200 passengers, which was a much-needed boost to the autumn season.

"The new $100 experience vouchers will be a valuable support to our day cruise operations where visitors can see where all the floodwaters ended up, flowing out to sea through the Murray Mouth and through the lower lakes & Coorong National Park," Mr Hirsch said.

"We’re also planning on growing our range for the $750 voucher, adding a Goolwa – Renmark: 4-Day River Journey’ into this second round – it offers customers the rare opportunity to see the Murray along most of its South Australian reaches, staying and dining in riverside towns along the way.

"It will give people a great opportunity to see the boon the floodwaters have provided to the river ecosystem and support the recovering river communities along the journey – staying in local hotels, eating at iconic places and cruising along the mighty Murray."

Unforgettable Houseboats, Charlotte Looyestyn said now is a perfect time to book a houseboat holiday. Winter is a magic time of year to travel on the Murray River, with less on-water traffic you can really enjoy the serenity.

"During winter you can have a campfire on those cooler evenings, sit back and relax while the kids enjoy toasting marshmallows, so we’d say to everyone – take advantage of off-peak rates throughout the winter period, and jump on board," Ms Looyestyn said.

Four Knots Cruises Owner, Chad Blatchford said he had a great response to the first round of River Revival Vouchers with 100 bookings through the door, but the bonus was that most of those voucher holders brought one or two or three extra people with them, so it had a big flow on effect.

"We’re looking forward to the next round as we are going to expand our tour offerings to add in our ‘wood fired pizza Riverbank package’ – a great chance for groups of 20-40 people to meander along the Murray and see some amazing places, enjoy a pizza and a wine or a local gin, and just unwind for a few hours," Mr Blatchford said.