Interview with Narelle Graham on regional ABC 639 North West (South Australia)
Narelle Graham: We're not getting enough international visitors here in South Australia and the ones that we are getting, aren't spending enough. We've just seen new figures, new numbers have just come out and South Australia's down 4 percent in the past 12 months. So, 457,000 visitors less than what we had a year ago. Nationally, the figures are up 3 percent, so that means while everybody else is getting more visitors, we're getting less. And so, the Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham was in Adelaide earlier today and he addressed a wine conference that's on in Adelaide to say we need to get you guys on board and we need to be focusing on wine tourism. Senator Simon Birmingham welcome.
Simon Birmingham: Great to be with you.
Narelle Graham: We've just seen these new visitor numbers and South Australia is down 4 per cent in the past 12 months, are you worried about the latest figures?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I think there are some areas of concern, certainly we are determined to do everything at a national level to keep growing Australian tourism and we saw continued growth across Australia in the last statistics. Some flat lining in some markets, some very strong growth in other markets around India and parts of South-East Asia, and what we have to do is make sure that South Australia is doing well in those growth markets too. Whilst I'm the national Tourism Minister, I'm also a South Australian Senator, and so I'm pretty keen to make sure that our home state does well.
Narelle Graham: Is that a bad look for you that South Australia is performing the worst of all of the states and territory in tourism, and you're from here?
Simon Birmingham: So there's always a certain lag effect to these things, and it's less than a year that I've been in the job, so I'm not taking it as a bad look, but it's certainly a cause for some concern and we really want to focus attention on how we disperse record volumes of tourists right across Australia. You know we had more than 8.5 million international travellers coming to Australia over the last 12 months and we want to see them get out to the lesser-known states, to the regions. There are a number of things that can drive tourism visitation; we've seen a boom period over the last few years come out of Tasmania. The Mona Gallery there played a role in an increased range of experiences in regional Tasmanian, nature-based experiences have played a role, the visit of Chinese President Xi probably played a role as well in terms of Tasmania's booming numbers. And you have to look at what's going to achieve similar results in South Australia, such as the focus on new products coming to market here, that's why investment in things like the new Indigenous Cultures Gallery that is part of Lot 14 in the city is important, the new Monato safari experiences that we're supporting, the potential for new investment on KI and of course the conference that we're having in Adelaide at present, focusing on wine tourism. All of those things are ways to try to get more people to come to SA in particular.
Narelle Graham: What do people come here for at the moment, our biggest drawcards?
Simon Birmingham: Certainly the wine industry stands as one of our biggest drawcards. Kangaroo Island is identified as one of, and if not sort of the significant icon location for South Australia particularly because as a nation we are a long haul travel destination for people to come to, we're an expensive destination. And so what we do in our tourism sector is we really do try to target high value customers, people who will be willing to spend a bit more, hopefully stay a bit longer as well, but certainly have the ability to visit destinations that might be off the beaten track, harder to get to, but they've got the resources and the funds to do so. And on KI particularly of course the exquisite lodge over there has been a big part of SA's marketing push in the past, but I think there is a lot more we can do with experiences around Port Lincoln, with the Outback, and really trying to generate more interest in some of those regional locations of South Australia and the unique attributes that they all have too.
Narelle Graham: Do we need something new? New attractions, or do we need better marketing?
Simon Birmingham: I think it's always a little bit of both, new attractions are incredibly important as the competition for international tourists has never been fiercer. So right around the world you've got people chasing after the tourism dollar nowadays and that means that people can be more discerning and you've got to keep the experiences, whether that's the quality of the accommodation or the uniqueness of what people can do. You've got to keep that right at the cutting edge to keep people engaged and hearing about your product and motivated to not just have a desire but to actually convert that desire into the action of making a booking. Nationally, we've been investing in new campaigns such as the 'Undiscover' campaign that we've been running across parts of South and Southeast Asia, but it is really about getting people to look beyond the initial icons such as the Reef, the Rock, the Bridge and actually think about some of the lesser-known attractions around Australia too.
Narelle Graham: Do we need to nick some of the tourists that are visiting other states or do we need to be the drawcard, the reason here in South Australia for people coming to Australia at all?
Simon Birmingham: South Australia has increased its number of international flights coming in and out of the country over recent years but we're still going to have to make sure we get people to come from other states because the entry points into Australia are predominantly in those bigger capital cities in the country. So essentially we get people to come to SA from other states but we do want them to have South Australia at the forefront of their mind and their experience, and wine and food tourism is a big motivator for many people and it's a big opportunity for South Australia. One in five bottles of wine for example sold in the UK is an Australian bottle of wine, a huge volume of that is South Australian and every time somebody picks up a branded labelled product there, that should be a motivator to help try to get somebody to think about a trip not only to Australia but to SA in particular.
Narelle Graham: That is the voice of our Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham also a proud South Australian. It's something you spoke about today at the conference that you attended was to focus on wine tourism, so to go beyond the cellar door. Do you anticipate there being some assistance? Some wineries are quite small for them to be able to offer something that is beyond the cellar door and therefore we're not looking at just one attraction, we're looking at promoting an entire region based on wine with some assistance from the government?
Simon Birmingham: Yes and we've stepped forward in that space. We did a bit of a restructuring around the wine equalisation rebate or tax, which allowed us to put some $50 million of targeted support into Wine Australia, the national wine marketing body, and they've put some of that into continuing to grow wine exports around Australia and overseas and that's critical. But they've also allocated some of that funding to support particularly marketing of wine tourism. That's why they've brought together wine industry and tourism industry leaders for the 'Beyond the Barrel' conference that's been happening in Adelaide over the last few days, and which I spoke at this morning, and part of what they've done there is fund some grants programs and some initiatives to get right down to the regional level, to help regions better plan how they can market themselves and the region and the unique experiences of food, wine, culture, and outdoors that come together in those regions.
Narelle Graham: Have you had a look at the state budget for South Australia that was put out this week? I think is about $33 million in there for tourism and I thought that that might be of great interest to you, what has been promised in the state budget?
Simon Birmingham: I think it's a small rise this year in relation to the state tourism budget. State budgets predominantly support some of their international activities but of course also market domestically. So, there is an element of crossover, at national level our focus is on growing international tourists coming into Australia as a whole. At the state level of course there's a competition to get the holidaying Australians that are domestic travellers, to come and spend more time in SA but also some areas where we do cooperate globally, making sure that SA which has seen some flat numbers out of markets like the US, a bit of a decline out of the UK, rebuilds that and wine tourism and outdoor nature-based experiences, have got to be a key part of that.
Narelle Graham: Senator thank you.
Simon Birmingham: My pleasure.
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