Tourism vouchers denied

Friday October 15, 2021

Story by Raquel Mustillo.

TREASURER Rob Lucas has shot down calls for a dedicated round of Great State Vouchers for Limestone Coast businesses and tourism providers, saying the State Government's popular scheme had already been expanded this month.

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has called on the State Government to fund the successful tourism scheme to compensate businesses and operators affected by Covid-19 restrictions in the wake of a 40-year-old woman testing positive to the disease.

Last week, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens implemented what he described as "severe restrictions" in the Mount Gambier, Wattle Range and Grant council areas, including density requirements, caps on home gatherings and events, and a ban on private functions.

Mr Bell said he had spoken with multiple operators about the impact on the hospitality, tourism and events sector during the five days of restrictions in the three local government areas.

"Those who had bookings cancelled and lost business deserve compensation and what better way to do this than to offer a round of Great State vouchers targeted specifically to our region," Mr Bell said.

"Unfortunately, the restrictions fell at a time when our town was supposed to be at full capacity, with school holidays, major tourism and sporting events and community shows scheduled.

"I heard many personal stories about bookings and events being cancelled, empty dining rooms and the tremendous financial and emotional impact this has on owners and staff, who are already reeling from 18 months of continued restrictions."

However, the state's Treasurer said a Limestone Coast-specific tourism scheme was unlikely given a further two rounds of vouchers worth up to $200 had been announced by the government.

"We've only just gone out for Great State Vouchers in round five and six and the government calls on as many South Australians as eligible to use their grants to travel to the South East and the Limestone Coast," Mr Lucas said

"The government is happy to encourage businesses in the South East by looking at what they can do down there.

"It's obviously a choice by the individual punter who gets the vouchers, but the tourism commission and the Premier's department has advised me that they are currently out there with tourism grant rounds.

"Tourism may well be involved in that sort of marketing campaign. I know last year there were specific marketing or communication campaigns encouraging people to go to the regions."

Last week, the South Australian Tourism Commission contacted more than 250 tourism operators in the region to offer marketing support through the website.

In a statement, the Premier's office said the government was also working with airline providers and local tourism representatives "to make it crystal clear that the Limestone Coast is open for business".

Mr Bell said a direct funding injection for an event, such as the $700,000 FOMO Friday promotion encouraging people to spend more time and dollars in Adelaide's central business district.

"$700,000 for a month of street parties is a fair chunk of money for just a small part of South Australia," he said.

"I'm sure the Limestone Coast would appreciate a State Government funded street party to revitalise business opportunities too."

The Premier's office said, while regional South Australia had achieved record-high occupancy rates, "city businesses have been disproportionately hit by the downturn in interstate visitors, corporate travel and the increased number of city workers working from home".

The statement said June marked the seventh consecutive month where regional South Australia had a record individual monthly result for room nights occupied and takings.