Tourism business walks forward after funding

Natasha Dawson at a cave along the Stoney Point hike. Picture: SUPPLIED/KATE HILL.

Melanie Riley

WALK the Limestone Coast has been a recent recipient in the second round of the South Australian Tourism Commission’s Experience Nature Tourism Fund grants.

More than $460,000 was invested into 15 products and experiences across South Australia through this round of the grants.

Projects include accommodation upgrades, purchases of new vehicles and advertising for small businesses.

The aim of the fund is to showcase the state’s natural landscapes and help attract domestic and international visitors.

Natasha Dawson at Walk the Limestone Coast was the successful recipient of a ENTF grant.

Ms Dawson has lived in the region for 20 years working most of those years as an environmental educator working with schools across the region.

She now wants to share her knowledge with adults through walking tours.

“I’m at the stage where I have got such a great understanding of our landscape and I think it’s amazing and I want to really immerse adults in it now,” she said.

Walk the Limestone Coast is heading into its third year and Ms Dawson is looking forward to expanding and growing her business.

“As a new tourism business in the region, I’m always looking for grants to help support the development of the business, to bring tourists into our region,” she said.

Ms Dawson’s walking tours include walks through the Naracoorte Caves, Glen Roy Conservation Park, Mount Schank and Piccaninnie Ponds.

“The Limestone Coast is not seen as a bushwalking destination, so it’s slow going getting the word out there,” she said.

“We’ve got some really great short walks, but I want to encourage people to come with me on four day walks through the region to really explore the landscape.”

During her walking tours, Ms Dawson said she aims to collaborate with various operators to work together and support other local businesses.

With the Aussie Camino and Caves, Cabernet and Coast tours, the group will stay in a different accommodation each night as they move through the region.

“I think that’s great because then people can experience the essence of the town they’re in, because each town is unique and different,” Ms Dawson.

“And meet the locals too, that’s a big part of it, connection with people and place as well as our local landscape.”

Working with the SA Tourism Commission, she found out about the grant opportunity and was quick to apply.

“It is quite an in depth complex application, which is great because it’s great for you to review your business and make sure your business is on the right track,” she said.

“There’s a bit of work involved but when it pays off, it’s exciting.”

The aim of Ms Dawson’s walking tours through Walk the Limestone Coast are to connect people with local conservation and national parks, and she said receiving the grant will help this happen.

“The whole aim of the grant program and what I aim to do with my tourism business is to highlight our amazing natural assets,” she said.

Ms Dawson plans to use the grant funds to purchase a new people-mover vehicle to transport walkers and luggage for longer tours.

“At the moment, it’s been quite tricky because I’ve had to utilise different options like taxis, private transport companies and I’ve also used my old Nissan at times,” she said.

“The grant for a vehicle is so beneficial in helping me to move people to different walking destinations, and also to have the branding on the side, which is a fantastic marketing opportunity to really get it out there.

“It’s going to be nice to have something newer and fresher and way more comfortable for passengers to transport around.”

Ms Dawson was thrilled to receive the news she was successful in grant, and couldn’t wait to utilise the funds.

“It feels amazing,” she said.

“It’s so rewarding to put in the hard work, and then receive a grant like this.”

Minister for tourism Zoe Bettison said the Experience Nature Tourism Fund helps to attract more interstate and international visitors to South Australia.

“These grants are encouraging operators to innovate and look at ways they can educate visitors to learn more about our state’s important natural assets,” Bettison said.

“Whether it’s a walking tour, Aboriginal cultural experience or new accommodation, the State Government’s $2 million Experience Nature Tourism Fund, is doing exactly what we intended, giving visitors more reasons to see South Australia in a sustainable way.”

The funding program runs over four financial years, with up to $500,000 available in each year and applications for round three funding will open early in the new financial year.