10 Jul 2020

Tourism slowly edging back on road

10 JUL 2020
10 JUL 2020

OPINION


Rodney Harrex, South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive: 

It’s a school holiday season like no other. Instead of seeing families take off to the theme parks on the Gold Coast or for a footy weekend in Melbourne, South Australians are holidaying at home. And that’s making a huge difference to our tourism operators.

Having the borders effectively closed for outbound for the time being means a lot of us – myself included – are staying and spending our money with local businesses. I’m off to the Murray River next week with my family, and there are plenty of other people doing the same thing right across the state. Investing in small to medium businesses – hotels, cabins, caravan parks, pubs, cafes, restaurants, wineries and other amazing experiences that our great state provides.

There is no doubt our tourism operators are hurting, and they want to welcome visitors from interstate as soon as possible, so that we can get our economy up and running and capitalise on that domestic opportunity. We know people are itching to travel, interest in South Australia has surged from both intra and inter state, but we must continue to follow the health advice on how quickly we can open up.

Last year, interstate visitors spent $2.7 Billion in South Australia and while our country’s borders are closed, there is a huge opportunity to grow that figure and capture the strong interest being shown in SA by Australians as they look for overseas holiday alternatives.

Travellers from NSW spent around $779 million in South Australia last year – the second biggest market behind Victoria, so our operators are looking forward to that market returning from July 20, as well as from July 10 when we can see two-way traffic from Queensland, which is our third biggest market.

Interstate visitors spend around three times as much per trip as intrastate visitors, are more likely to pay for accommodation and are more likely to engage in paid tour experiences – so we need them back as soon as it is safe to do so. And that is an important point – we’ve seen this week how rapidly things escalated in Melbourne. We do not want to undo the good work we have done to protect South Australians and our economy.

I’ve been out in the regions talking to operators over the past month. They are excited to see people return. It started with the long weekend, and now school holidays. The energy is coming back, phones are ringing again and forward bookings are really strong.

We’ve had reports from Flinders Ranges, the Outback, Yorke Peninsula, Fleurieu Peninsula, the Riverland, the Barossa and the Adelaide Hills that accommodation is booked out. I heard just yesterday that bookings are being made as far out as next March. South Australians are rediscovering – or in some cases discovering for the first time – their own state. For the first time in history, the visitor economy is being driven by the regions. Locals want to chip in and help fellow South Aussies bounce back, rebuild their businesses and help our state recover. 

What is clear is the message that international travel as we once knew it is a fair way off and people across the country are reconsidering their holiday options. 

Before the bushfires and COVID-19, tourism was worth a record $8.1 billion to the state’s economy, employing more than 40,000 people in about 18,000 businesses. Now more than ever, we need South Australians to get out and about, and help get our tourism sector up and running again.

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