Minister Ridgway’s tourism tour reaches Naracoorte

The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, David Ridgway MLC, visited Naracoorte last week for a workshop with local business owners, local government stakeholders, and tourism bodies.

He was joined by the CEO of the South Australian Tourism Industry Council, Shaun de Bruyn, and the CEO of the South Australian Tourism Commission, Rodney Harrex.

Speaking with Mr de Bruyn, the regional visits by the Minister had been going for 10 weeks, with Naracoorte being the 19th (and last) destination.

But being last doesn’t necessarily mean least, as Mr de Bruyn was full of praise for this part of the state.

“The Naracoorte Caves, this part of the world, it's the only site in South Australia that's World Heritage listed. It's a fantastic place.

"And the Coonawarra is just phenomenal isn't it? There's some great visitor experiences and brands.”

As of 2018 the tourism economy in South Australia generates a record-breaking $6.7 billion for the economy as a whole.

The purpose of Minister Ridgway’s workshop was two-fold. Firstly, it was an opportunity for the minister (as well as peak state tourism bodies) to hear directly from the state government about their priorities.

But secondly, it was an opportunity for the representatives to hear from local business people, local government stakeholders, and regional tourism bodies, what their concerns were, and where they wanted investment for more jobs.

"The Marshall Government will have a strong emphasis on growing South Australia's tourism sector to bring more dollars into our economy and create more jobs," said Minister Ridgway.

"I firmly believe the best way to grow the tourism sector is to work collaboratively with local tourism businesses, operators and other stakeholders who have skin in the game and are at the coal face.

"That's why I'm getting out into the regions, to get a better understanding of how the state government can help address some of the challenges that the tourism sector is facing as well as how we can maximise the enormous opportunities that exist.”

In South Australia, the minister explained, tourism was one of the last labor-intensive industries. From guides to baristas, the tourism industry relied on creating jobs so that communities can prosper.

Mr Ridgway estimated that he had spoken with 800-100 local tourism operators and business owners across the state, his tour taking him to places as varied as Ceduna, Renmark, Whyalla and Coober Pedy.

As for the Limestone Coast, it wasn’t “a foreign part of the world – the lady in the front row went to school with my sister.”

For Mr Harrex, it was an opportunity to see the specific geographic advantages that Naracoorte and other towns in the Limestone Coast have.

“We (the South Australian Tourism Commission) spend a lot of money in Western Victoria. Why? Because we want to get them across the border.

“For us that’s really crucial, because of the significant opportunity to get money into the economy.”

Naracoorte and the Limestone Coast was also becoming a premium destination for Chinese tourists.

“We've seen a real growth coming out of our core international market, China,” Mr Harrex said. 

“We've seen the operators down here, they've seen opportunities from China. People flying in to Melbourne and Adelaide and travelling in between.”

Other trends that Mr Harrex had observed were consumers becoming more selective due to digital technology, and higher investment costs.

“This is the new market, this is the change we’ve seen. Travellers are becoming more independent,” Mr Harrex said of tourists researching businesses in South Australia online.

The expectations of tourists were also becoming “higher and higher”, but the private sector and public sector were working in tandem to grow SA’s tourism economy.

Mr Ridgway confirmed that Premier Steven Marshall had plans to grow the South Australian economy by a billion each year, and for the tourism economy to reach $8 billion by 2020.

The workshop was held at the Avenue Inn from 4pm to 7pm.