Port Lincoln 'smashing' its 2025 tourism targets

Port Lincoln was "smashing" it's tourism targets for 2025 even with COVID-19 travel disruptions, the South Australian Tourism Commission chief said this week.

Rodney Harrex said that people were again "really loving the opportunity to get out and explore our state".

Port Lincoln benefited from people holidaying locally during COVID lockdowns and since then from a renewed interest from interstate travellers, with accommodation providers and tourism operators reaping the rewards

The announcement came as the South Australian Regional Visitor Centre conference was held in Port Lincoln this week, with collaboration in the tourism industry to make "everybody's life easier" and planning for the future were on the agenda .

Visitor Information Centre managers from across the state met on May 10 to compare tourism experiences in their towns and plan for the future.

"What we have learnt through COVID-19 is we have got to collaborate and share and work together - it makes everybody's life easier," he said.

Mr Harrex said conference discussions looked at challenges and opportunities ahead.

"We will be talking through a number of scenarios, where the visitor economy is heading, what are the key markets that we are seeing, where is the growth going to come from over the next couple of years, what are some of the challenges that we are seeing as a result of COVID-19, how are businesses coping and how can we help them - that is really the key focus," he said.

Mr Harrex said sharing ideas and working with business and discovering ways to help products get on websites such as southaustralia.com and australia.com were important.

"This is a free way for businesses to get listed and feature as part of all of our promotions," he said.

"We have built a tourism plan for a 2025 regional visitor strategy and we did that in collaboration at a local level - we consulted and we built a plan.

"We are literally nearly smashing the 2025 targets already - what COVID-19 has shown us is Australians are really loving the opportunity to get out and explore our state...this is a long tail opportunity and one that we are bullish about."

Mr Harrex said these targets had been surpassed by $91 million, with four other regions also going past their targets.

"Overall we would set a target of four billion dollars being spent regionally - we are now seeing 66 cents in every dollar in the visitor economy being spent regionally," he said.

Mr Harrex said the tourism commission was working to spread the message of what people can discover in state, undertaking research to work to understand who are the best prospects and what will motivate consumers.

"We use that information to really target our messaging - we are also using digital as a key way to interact and motivate consumers - consumers plan and research and they love to do that online and then they talk to the visitor regional centres when they are out and about and how they can spend their money," he said.

Mr Harrex said the tourism commission staff at Port Lincoln would factor in findings from the conference into planning.

"The key aspect that we saw through COVID-19 is we have a really structured plan, a regional visitor strategy and a 2030 strategy - what that has done is provided a frame work for how we operate," he said.

Economic Development and Tourism Growth manager at the City of Port Lincoln Council Naomi Blacker said there were some "brilliant" key note speakers teaching Visitor Information Centres about excellent customer service, and explaining how destination management and marketing has changed and adapting to restrictions created as a result of COVID-19.

"There is one silver lining to COVID-19 and that is the regions really benefit from the fact that people could not travel outside of their state - we have had an awful lot of Adelaide based visitors come to Port Lincoln and to Eyre Peninsula," she said.

Ms Blacker said this had been challenging for Port Lincoln as the city had experienced higher numbers of visitors coming through than expected, mentioning accommodation in Port Lincoln had been outstanding over the past two years with South Australians visiting the region.

"They would have gone interstate or overseas - our Visitor Information Centre has definitely benefitted from that but importantly our operators have - at the end of the day we are here to support our operators."

Ms Blacker emphasised there is always opportunity to develop new product.

"Because of COVID-19, some businesses merge, some businesses change or left the economy so there are some product gaps.

"We would love to see more tour operators develop new product here in the region - there is always room for high end accommodation."