Eight finalists from Eyre Peninsula and Far West have been announced for the 2021 South Australian Tourism Awards, which includes accommodation, tours and tourism campaigns
The Tourism Industry Council South Australia (TiCSA) awards celebrate some of the state's finest tourism attractions, accommodation, events and more, and acknowledge business excellence, innovation and reward exceptional customer service in the industry.
Blue Seas Motel at Port Lincoln, Fowlers Bay's EP Cruises, Maralinga Tours, Oyster Farm Tours at Coffin Bay, Perlubie Sea, Sage at Streaky Bay, the Port Lincoln 'Summer Indulgence' campaign and Tour South are among the finalists across 28 categories.
The Summer Indulgence campaign was launched in December last year and promoted Port Lincoln and Lower Eyre Peninsula as a summer destination to the Adelaide audience.
The campaign featured local attractions and businesses and included 10 videos and more than 200 photos which featured across social media.
Port Lincoln City Council tourism development officer Naomi Blacker said everyone involved in the campaign were thrilled with the nomination as there was a lot of work and support to make it possible.
"It was very well received and to be nominated for an award is a fantastic vote of confidence from the industry," she said.
Ms Blacker said it was impressive to see so many finalists from across Eyre Peninsula, especially considering the challenging year due to COVID-19 and restrictions.
"For people to find the energy and enthusiasm to put a submission together is significant, it shows the resilience and optimism of the industry," she said.
Another Eyre Peninsula finalist is Sage at Streaky Bay, a family-run business which opened in late 2019, which is up for the hosted accommodation award.
Owner Monique Necic said she and her husband were "ecstatic" to be named finalists after entering the awards for the first time.
"It's a fairly new business, but we have come a long way and feel we have a unique product," she said.
"It is something we are very excited to offer and we wanted to set ourselves apart.
"We do platters for guests on arrival, we offer experiences on the beach - we are meticulous about everything and make sure every guest is treated as if they are our first."
She said being an award finalist provided additional recognition, across South Australia and beyond.
Ms Necic said that regional tourism had "so much to offer" and she said she was passionate about the local area and supporting local businesses.
"Regional tourism is an opportunity to promote the whole area and services here," she said.
"It plants a seed to get people over here, but we also give people ideas of where to stop off along the way and where to eat."
Ms Necic said their "enthusiasm and passion" helped the business to stand out.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19 over the past 18 months they had stuck it out to provide the best experience possible for guests.
"We think we have been going a great job, but us entering and getting the judges' perspective - they were blown away as well and it gives us confidence that we are heading in the right direction," she said.
"When COVID happened before the April school holidays and Easter we had to reimburse everyone and we didn't know what to do, but we stayed at the house as a family to see what it was like and worked to set ourselves apart from everyone else.
"We put time into working up our branding and thought we'd stick it out, and when it was intrastate travel only it was incredible for our business and for Streaky Bay."
Ms Necic said they were proud to have a 100 per cent rating on ReviewPro, which calculates reviews from travel sites.
TiCSA chief executive officer Shaun de Bruyn said South Australia is home to many fantastic tourism experiences. and the gala dinner was a celebration of the outstanding success and resilience that tourism operators across the state have displayed.
"Most especially a celebration of the achievements tourism operators have made during the ongoing struggle and hardship due to COVID-19," he said.
"South Australia has various unique experiences and strong state connections that really sets us apart amongst a highly competitive industry.
"I give congratulations to all finalists, who should be extremely proud of their work and wish them the best moving forward."
South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex commended this year's finalists and acknowledged their efforts during another challenging year.
"As we work together as an industry to recover and rebuild, we've seen it all - in March we had a bumper festival season and total visitor expenditure hit almost the same levels as 2019, and we've seen the highs of seven months of record-breaking regional tourism rates to the lows of extended interstate lockdowns and the impacts of these on businesses," he said.
"It's testament to the strength and calibre of our state's tourism operators, that they've been able to adapt and continue to do great things.
"This year's awards finalists represent a huge cross-section of the industry and they're all contributing to our state, to recover our once record-high $8.1 billion visitor economy."
Want to have the biggest headlines sent your way each week? Sign up today for the weekly Port Lincoln Times newsletter here.