By Molly Taylor
LIMESTONE Coast businesses believe the current summer holiday period has been the busiest ever seen, with a regional tourism leader overwhelmed by positive response to the current surge in visitation.
Eased border and travel restrictions have been taken advantage of by domestic tourists and visitors alike over the Christmas and New Year period with the Blue Lake city inundated by travellers.
Limestone Coast Local Government Association destination development manager Biddie Shearing said she had heard nothing but positive news from the community about visitation numbers and was pleased to see the city streets busy with people.
“I have heard comment from operators that it’s busier than ever and some of those operators have been around for some time,” Ms Shearing said.
“I was even in a retail store just in my holidays and talking to the manager and he couldn’t believe how busy it has been with tourists, and it’s a really non-traditional tourism business too.
“I have heard nothing but positive feedback regarding how busy it has been over recent weeks, everybody is really lapping it up at the moment.”
Ms Shearing said the wave of visitors was due to a number of factors.
“There may be a lot more people that have not wanted to go as far away as they normally would do this time of year…I really believe there is a lot of intrastate visitation occurring,” she said.
“Certainly the Victorian border opening was a great early Christmas present for the region.
“It’s almost like the planets have aligned for the region and it has been a silver lining out of the pandemic.”
Prior to COVID-19, Ms Shearing said the region was hovering around 670,000 visitors a year, generating around $376m for the economy.
“$135m of that is from interstate and we know just over the border is almost a third of what our visitor economy was valued at.
“On a global level, international numbers were under 50,000 a year, but valued at $20m, so you add that on to an interstate block, you are talking about a $150m block of visitor economy.
“So when the Victorian border was closed operators were feeling it very solidly – it has a ripple effect.”
When considering the Limestone Coast region’s attractions, Ms Shearing said there was no doubt the area had a range of experiences and offerings.
“If you’re by the coast at say Robe, Beachport, Kingston or Port MacDonnell, you’re not far and only a stone’s throw away to visit the caves or the city for some retail therapy, I think we do offer a bit of everything,” she said.
“The Limestone Coast is certainty one of those areas, we are not really a day trip out of Adelaide, we are a real two or three night destination.”
Visiting Mount Gambier for the first time since their honeymoon around 20 years ago, Morgan residents Debra and Stephen Kemble-Jones said they were blown away by visiting numbers.
“For this amount of people for Mount Gambier it is really fantastic,” Debra said.
“I can’t get over how many people there are.”
Debra said they planned to visit Broken Hill, but due to COVID-19 they changed plans and decided Mount Gambier was the place to explore.
“Where we are it’s stinking hot and dry and I just wanted to get away to somewhere where it was nice and cool and totally different to what we have at home,” she said.
Melbourne residents Rosa Condello, Judy Iacuone and Beck Davis were originally heading on a 10-day trip to New South Wales, but plans were changed due to COVID-19.
“We though we would visit South Australia instead. It is completely different to what we normally do as well, we usually head for beaches or overseas,” Ms Iacuone said.
“We have spent a week in Adelaide and are now heading home so we thought we would visit a few places along the way and this is one destination which stuck out for us.”
Ms Shearing said numbers were expected to remain solid under the end of Easter.
“The industry has really stepped up, they have networked, connected and are really appreciating the visitation coming through the doors, but they have also provided reasons for them to do that.
“The whole industry has been so resilient the past 12 months, they deserve the congratulations and recognition for creating that vibrancy for tourists to visit the region and stay here for longer as well.”