South Australia is known both domestically and internationally for wine. The state is responsible for over more than 50% of all domestic wine production, producing everything from acclaimed heritage drops like Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace to the nastiest Fruity Lexia goonsacks filling the shelves of your local off-license.
No trip to SA is complete without a winery tour (or three). Hell, one of its nicknames is ‘The Wine State’.
But the other is ‘The Festival State’, and a recent study suggests the state should lean in more on that second sobriquet to revive its ailing tourism industry post-pandemic.
Professor Ruth Rentschler OAM and Dr Boram Lee from the University of South Australia relate that South Australia should invest more energy in attracting ‘cultural tourists’ if the South Australian tourism industry is to bounce back after COVID-19.
“Across Australia, cultural tourists travel further, stay longer and spend more than other tourists, with more cultural tourists attending the arts than wineries and sport, so this is a strong market to capitalise on for South Australia,” Rentschler explains.
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“In the past, as a State, we haven’t done as much as we could to promote cultural tourism, so there is a real opportunity to grow that area, especially given domestic tourism is likely to see a major upswing while… international tourism remains restricted.”
This defies conventional wisdom somewhat. You’d think that Shiraz-swilling toffs on winery tours would be more likely to spend big bucks than face-painted bush doofers, but the stats tell a different story.
Of course, not all arts tourists are Uni students playing at being ‘cosmic gypsies’. South Australia is home to all sorts of cultural festivals, from the Adelaide Guitar Festival to OzAsia to Feast Festival. The key will be giving support to all different types of cultural festivals, to attract as many cultural tourists as possible.
Rentschler and Lee relate how Adelaide’s tourism strategy’s been stuck in a rut for many years. Sports events and wineries get plenty of promotion, whereas important cultural events like the Adelaide Fringe Festival don’t receive the same level of attention.
Things were already tough pre-pandemic for South Australia, with famous music festivals like Stereosonic, Fuse Festival and local editions of national festivals like Big Day Out having going bust in recent years. COVID-19 has exacerbated the financial woes of festivals, with FOMO Festival the latest high-profile casualty.
The report notes that considering “both tourism and the arts being among the sectors worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, there is now heavy incentive for the industries to work together.”
Time will tell if South Australia readjusts its tourism strategy. For now, we’re just hoping for live gigs to start back up again.