Murray River, Lakes and Coorong tourism operators make the most of border closures

Losing traffic from Victoria has hurt, Rod Harrex says, but there has been a silver lining.

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COVID-19 border closures have been a blessing and a curse to tourism operators in the Murraylands, industry heavyweights say.

Travellers from Victoria would normally make up 40 per cent of the region's tourist traffic, South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive Rod Harrex says, a much more significant chunk than the few percent who came from overseas.

But, on the flip side, more and more South Australians are choosing to holiday within the state – and that is a big deal for local businesses such as the Cube, a floating B&B at White Sands.

Caretakers Emily and Julie Brown said their occupancy rate had been around 90 per cent, and that they didn't have a weekend booking available until next April.

They and many other local operators continued to make the Murraylands an attractive place for a holiday, Mr Harrex said.

Access was easy for day trippers, places like The Bend Motorsport Park and Monarto Safari Park were drawcards, and many of the people who visited “became strong ambassadors”, encouraging others to come.

SATC chairman Andrew Bullock said the current state of play in SA – with borders closed but no community transmission of COVID-19 – represented a huge opportunity for the industry.

“South Australians spend $3.3 billion annually overseas, and Australians in total spend $65 billion,” he said.

“I think we are poised for an enormous renaissance for domestic tourism, and South Australia is well poised to capitalise on domestic travel.”

The situation would improve further if travellers from New Zealand were allowed in, he said.

“The region does well from NZ so, if (borders are) opened up, the Murray will be huge drawcard,” he said.

About 384,000 people visited the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong in the 12 months to March of this year, up from an average of 290,000 per year during the past decade.

The region also attracted more than a million day trippers.

Tourism brought an estimated $205 million into the region over the past year.

Photo: Kurt Miegel.

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