27 Feb 2023

South Australians urged to “Rise Up for our River” as new marketing campaign launches

South Australians are being urged to “Rise up for our River” in 2023 – with three rounds of vouchers expected to inject millions into the communities hit hard by the once-in-a-century Murray River flood.

More than 25,000 vouchers will be released over three rounds this year, kicking off with round one launching next month.

With values of $50, $100 and $200, vouchers can be used for experiences and accommodation in the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong regions.

A $750 houseboat voucher will also be introduced in rounds two and three, allowing South Australians to plan an iconic houseboat holiday in the winter and spring periods when most houseboats are expected to be fully operational again.

Tourism operators right along the river have been significantly impacted by the flooding event, with many being closed since late last year.

The South Australian Tourism Commission has today announced details of the $4.6 million river recovery plan, including the “Rise up for our River” marketing campaign and the River Revival Voucher program.

The first round of vouchers is valid for travel during April, May and June – including the Easter break and the April school holidays.

The campaign showcases iconic river locations, highlights tourism operators along the river and calls on South Australians to throw their support – and dollars – to impacted river communities. It is being launched state-wide across TV, print and outdoor, as well as digital and social media, with a teaser of the TVC to run from mid-March released today.

Prior to the flooding event in late December 2022, tourism in the two regions was worth a combined $436 million and directly employing 2,800 people across both the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong.

With the river receding, more tourism operators are now re-opening or in the process of cleaning up and plan to re-open in coming weeks. The vouchers have been timed and staggered based on feedback from the industry, and after consultation with operators including last week in Renmark, Berri and Murray Bridge, and through the SATC’s River Recovery Working Group.

For the first time in the SATC’s voucher program history, caravan park sites have been included, adding several thousand more options across the region as the larger parks re-open, such as Discovery Parks Lake Bonney, Big 4 Renmark Riverfront and Waikerie Holiday Park.

During the flood event, 10 of the 22 SA Parks properties were forced to close, with five remaining closed, while others are either open or in the process of recommissioning. Three were significantly impacted and have not yet set a date to reopen.

By April, almost 8,000 cabin beds and camping sites are expected to be available in parks across both Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong regions. This is in addition to more than 900 rooms across hotels and motels, and around 260 rooms in almost 80 villas, homestays and world-class retreats.

For the experience hunters, hosted winery experiences, river sightseeing tours, Aboriginal cultural tours, guided brewery and gin distillery flights, and canoe adventures are all likely to be up for grabs.

Registrations for the ballot open on 27 March, and close on 29 March. The travel period is from Friday 31 March 2023 to Tuesday 29 June 2023 (inclusive), bookable seven days a week including Saturdays, Easter and the April school holidays.

An additional $500,000 will be provided for a further round targeted towards businesses that are still to reopen, such as affected areas of the Mid-Murray Council region.

Consumers can now register their interest in receiving information about the River Revival Vouchers at southaustralia.com/voucher.

The SATC will invite tourism businesses to participate in round one through an Expressions of Interest, which opens Wednesday 1 March.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said the State Government has committed $190 million to drive the recovery of these regions and "today is a big step in the right direction to get people travelling again, spending up, filling the cafes and pubs, and helping the river economies recover strongly and sustainably".

"For us it was important to get this right, and to make sure the vouchers can make a difference to tourism operators right along the river. We were conscious of the fact that the campaign had to be equitable and timely, and importantly, create a strong call to action," Premier Malinauskas said.

"While we support the tourism industry in the region, we also acknowledge that many operators are still very much in recovery. We stand ready to support them all the way through the clean-up process, and right into rebuilding.

"We look forward to welcoming more accommodation options in the next two rounds, in particular the houseboat sector and any other properties that might not be ready for trading in round one."

Minister for Tourism, Zoe Bettison said today is "an emotional and significant day" for the state and the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong regions and "it is exciting to be announcing the launch of this program".

"Just like the post-bushfire #BookThemOut campaign and the successful Great State Voucher program, we are urging South Australians to go and take a holiday for a good cause – this time, to “Rise up for our River” and help tourism operators impacted by this once-in-a-century flooding event," Minister Bettison said.

"The Murray River is an incredible natural wonder right on our doorstep and a truly iconic Australian holiday experience, so let’s get out there and support our fellow South Australians in our river communities.

"Tourism recovery in the regions has gone from strength-to-strength with eight consecutive months of record-breaking occupancy, but businesses along the Murray haven’t had a chance to enjoy that strong demand.

"I implore South Aussies to make sure they register for a River Revival Voucher when they’re available, book a holiday and enjoy everything that is on offer. From wine and food, nature at its best, accommodation from camping and family-friendly caravan parks to 5-star luxury getaways – our river regions have it all."

South Australian Tourism Commission CEO, Emma Terry thanked operators and industry who have helped make this important milestone possible.

"We have been working closely with Regional Tourism Organisations and industry to design a program that will support the visitor economy over coming months and through these crucial stages of recovery," Ms Terry said.

"As a part of the Murray River Tourism Recovery Working Group, which has been instrumental in getting this campaign right, we can now look forward to charting the recovery of the river regions and getting them back on track with the rest of the state heading toward its once record $8.1 billion high."

Murray River Trails Owner/Director, Tony Sharley said the voucher program is a credit to all involved.

"It’s been built around the feedback from the region, and from the State Government and agencies taking the time to visit during the flood, to listen and understand the flood impact on the tourism industry," Mr Sharley said.

"This will be our most spectacular touring season, so for those who are lucky enough to score a voucher, this is your chance to use it to discover a revitalised river system with flourishing forests and rejuvenated wetlands."

Canoe Adventures Riverland Owners/Operators, Kym and Karen Werner said vouchers were very significant to their business during the COVID pandemic, helping bring so many visitors to discover the delight of drifting through the wonderful Riverland wetlands.

"We’re very thankful that the vouchers this year will enable so many more people to experience our flood-refreshed river environment," Mr and Mrs Werner said.

Juggle House Experiences/River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve Tours Owner, Kelly Kuhn said the past four months of business downturn have been equal parts financial loss and environmental gain.

"We’ve heard the offers of help, and now these vouchers are a rewarding action for the cries of South Aussies who want to rally in supporting us," Ms Kuhn said.

"We know from the COVID lived experience, this voucher system has a win-win outcome for everyone involved and is a saviour for small business.

"The vouchers are a direct and fast cash injection to our river communities providing aid in bouncing back to business, while at the same time, showcasing the gems of the ‘Mighty Murray’ for our customers to become greater ambassadors.

"We look forward to welcoming more people back to South Australia’s natural playground – it’s the very heart and soul of our foundations."

More information for operators, go to tourism.sa.gov.au/support/campaigns/rise-up-for-our-river. 

For consumers interested in the River Revival Voucher program, go to southaustralia.com/voucher.