Local travel agents left out

TOURISM VOUCHERS: South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex is excited the Limestone Coast tourism vouchers will be on sale on Monday.

Charlotte Varcoe

MOUNT Gambier travel agents have been left short following the announcement the Limestone Coast travel vouchers will be booked through metropolitan agencies.

The South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) has stated the allocated agencies taking on booking the vouchers – Phil Hoffman and Holidays of Australia- were chosen due to a significant database within key markets with the vouchers available as of Monday.

In the year leading to June 2021, tourism in the Limestone Coast generated $475m in visitor expenditure with SATC chief officer Rodney Harrex said the state’s key domestic markets included New South Wales and Victoria, labelling it as a huge opportunity for the industry.

“For the Limestone Coast region, with its border on Victoria, it means reopening to their biggest interstate market and reopening to the self-drive market which we’ve seen soar in popularity this year,” Mr Harrex said.

“Pre-Covid over 40 per cent of overnight visitors to the Limestone Coast were from interstate. “While South Australians have done a sensational job of embracing local holidays, interstate visitors spend on average three times more than intrastate, so the reopening will provide a real boost to the region’s economy.”

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell said any financial incentive to visit the region was welcomed by many and that the vouchers would be a great support to accommodation and tourism providers who experienced losses during restrictions.

“Summer is a great time to visit the Limestone Coast and I thank Premier Marshall for listening to my call for tourism incentives and giving our region a much-needed boost,” Mr Bell said.

“However, these incentives are different to the Great State vouchers in that people will have to book through two major travel companies, both based in capital cities, who are probably getting government rebates.

“I’m concerned to see our local travel agents, who have been very badly affected by the pandemic, have been left out of the picture.”

He said nobody knew the Limestone Coast better than those who live and work here and that by cutting out local travel agencies, local knowledge was lost.

“There’s also not a self-booking option, which is the way many people like to travel these days,” Mr Bell said.

“I would hope the full financial benefit flows onto our operators and is not lost through booking agent fees.

“So whilst a great incentive, there are improvements to be made, through adding the option to book direct or through a Limestone Coast travel agent.”

Member for MacKillop Nick McBride said despite the awkward mechanisms he was happy to see the initiative available.

“It may not be accessible in the way that we would have liked it but it is what it is and it is great the rollout is happening for the region,” Mr McBride said.

“It was one of the first things I asked for alongside Troy and it is great to see we are on the government’s radar and that the vouchers have eventuated.”