REGIONAL SA could receive an economic boost of $1 billion and 1000 extra jobs in the next two years if a tourism boom predicted by the state government comes to fruition.
Figures released in the recently published Regional Visitor Strategy show the state’s regions account for 40 per cent of all visitor income, which is valued at about $6.6b, and employ more than 13,000 people.
The strategy outlines potential to expand annual regional visitor expenditures from $2.6b to $3.55b.
Trade, Tourism and Infrastructure Minister David Ridgway says “tourism is a people business” and economic, business and population growth all stem from increased tourism.
To develop the strategy, the RVS Steering Committee and the South Australian Tourism Commission undertook workshops with locals in 11 regions.
“We presented the latest evidence about visitor trends and we workshopped ideas,” committee chair Helen Edwards said.
“They know their strengths, their story, and what they’re already doing well, so how we can meet the visitor trends better, and what we need to focus on.”
The strategy is centered on regional priority action areas: marketing, accommodation, experience development, events, industry capability, collaboration, visitor infrastructure and the cost of business.
“This strategy is not solely about increasing the number visitors, it’s more about the value of visitor spend, which we can achieve through delivering world-class experiences,” Ms Edwards said.
Tumby Bay mayor Sam Telfer agreed, with visitor spending per person in the Eyre Peninsula high.
“Once we capture them, they’re spending and we have a good economy – we just have to maximise the number,” he said.
Tumby Bay has spiked more interest of late with the unveiling of silo art in the town, adding to the “tapestry” of its visitor economy.
“We have silo art and new street art installations which does provide a level of culture for visitors and locals and is attracting a different sort of visitor to our area,” Mr Telfer said.
He said access roads to a lot of attractions needed maintenance, as did main arterial roads to the northern regions.
Port Wakefield road is notorious for traffic jams in peak holiday times and with 87pc of visitors opting to drive through the state, roads are high on the agenda.
Mr Ridgway says improvement of the thoroughfare is “one of our election commitments in the future”, and that generally, improving infrastructure is the best way to encourage further investment.
“When you invest in infrastructure, it gives people the confidence to invest because they know that tourists will come,” he said.
“It will be an ongoing challenge to just improve services across the state.”
Telecommunication and digital connectivity is another area in need of upgrading and Mr Ridgway acknowledged there were black spots.
“We have a $10 million commitment around mobile phone black spots,” he said.
“We are well aware of connectivity and how important that is for the future of tourism.”
Ms Edwards seconded the need for “consistent connectivity”.
“There is nothing like that picture of a visitor who is right in the moment, someone who is in the Eyre Peninsula, on the jetty, having just pulled in a big fish,” she said.
“With 8.3b smartphone devices around the world, that’s where the planning of a holiday begins and people need to be able to access information and online bookings from digital devices.”
Barossa mayor Bob Sloane said the region was looking to upgrade and increase accommodation options to keep visitors in the region for longer.
“We’re keen to do a lot to not only attract people to our area, but to actually keep them here for a few days,” Mr Sloane said.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback from business overseas in recent years, particularly form the Chinese tourists, that we need to have 5 star accommodation into the Valley to attract people to stay here.”
Collaborations between regions to maximise exposure is also highly recommended in the strategy, and Murraylands councils have already embraced the idea.
The region formed its own collaboration, the Murray River Lakes and Coorong Tourism Alliance was formed about two years ago, with the aim of offering a full and unique experience for visitors in the region.
Murray Bridge mayor Brenton Lewis said the Alliance was looking at the big picture, ‘building a destination’.
Opposition tourism spokesperson Zoe Bettison welcomes the strategy, which has been in production for a few years, and applauds the thoroughness of all stakeholders involved to clearly articulate what is needed for success.
“This is a great goal and I share the desire to achieve this but we need to make sure we have have concrete action plans, timelines and budgets and grants available,” she said.
Mr Ridgway will be visiting 19 regional communities in the next few months to talk with regional operators, locate any deficiencies and identify issues to fix.