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Monday, 24 August 2020
Page: 5364


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (17:12): It's been a few months since I visited a domestic airport—I drove to Canberra last time, and it was a very long drive. But on Sunday I was really quite surprised when I saw that our Adelaide Airport was bereft of crowds and car traffic. Such sights are a visual reminder of how COVID-19 has changed our visitor economy.

A Tourism Research Australia report released earlier this month provided some sobering statistics. Some 666,000 people worked directly in tourism in Australia in 2018-19 and another 370,000 people were employed indirectly. According to the ABS, the economy lost 21,000 tourism jobs between December last year and March this year largely due to the impact of the Black Summer bushfires, which also occurred in my electorate. Restrictions to contain the spread of COVID were introduced in March. Between mid-March and mid-May, the number of jobs in accommodation and hospitality fell by 27 per cent, and the number of jobs in the arts and recreation sector fell by 19 per cent. In Mayo, more than 5,000 people are directly employed in tourism and many more are indirectly employed. Job losses of this magnitude affect hundreds of small businesses and families.

With international and interstate borders closed, Tourism Research Australia says interstate travel will lead to a slow recovery, and regional centres within driving distance of cities are expected to recover first. Australia has a $151 billion a year visitor economy, in which $107 billion is spent by Australians in Australia on overnight travel and day trips. Mayo, which stretches from the hills around Adelaide, down the Fleurieu and over to Kangaroo Island is well located to lead the recovery in South Australia. The Hills and Fleurieu are on the doorstep of Adelaide, and more than 70 per cent of our visitors are day-trippers and those looking for a short stay.

My electorate is home to six of South Australia's 18 wine regions, and we have a growing craft-brewing and distillery industry. We also grow some of the best produce of the nation, and many savvy growers are offering boutique experiences connecting visitors with food and wine in beautiful locations. Throughout September the Hahndorf Handmade, Handcrafted, Handpicked festival is being held in and around the main street of Hahndorf, to celebrate the artisan culture of the region. This will boost the tourism economy in our hills, which was significantly impacted by the Cudlee Creek bushfire. Even though it was 20 kilometres from Hahndorf, Hahndorf also endured the fallout of the bushfire and the COVID restrictions.

Kangaroo Island is facing an even greater challenge. Tourism Australia figures show that international visitor numbers in Kangaroo Island dropped by 55 per cent in the March quarter as a direct result of the bushfires. This is significant because nearly 30 per cent of KI tourists come from overseas, and 40 per cent are from interstate. Visitor numbers lifted after the state government #BookThemOut campaign to support bushfire ravaged regions, but then came COVID-19. I would like to commend the government for its JobKeeper program, which has assisted not only the tourism operators on Kangaroo Island but businesses right across my electorate and the region. During our winter break I made two trips to the island, where I caught up with several business owners who have encouraging news to share. Jeff and Val Howard from Dudley Wines told me last week they'd enjoyed one of their most profitable Julys in many years. July is still a very quiet time on Kangaroo Island, but it was a good July for them. It's been a bit of a roller-coaster for the winery businesses with the bushfires, then the #BookThemOut campaign and then the COVID restrictions. But business is picking up again.

I also dropped in to see Big Red and the team from KI Oysters. This business is optimistic about the future, and they are actually going to have oyster tasting in the water at American River—you can sit in the river and eat an oyster. In the heart of fireground I spent time with Fiona from the Western KI Caravan Park talking about the recovery of her fire ravaged business. I would urge any South Australian to go and book a holiday on the western part of Kangaroo Island. The regrowth is stunning to see and you will be warmly welcomed by Fiona. She has a can-do attitude, she really does. She is also looking at putting in accommodation for recovery workers who are going to come to the island.

Mayo has taken a significant hit because of the bushfires and COVID, and we can add drought to that mix. But our businesses in Mayo are open, our tourism businesses are open and despite the challenges of 2020 we're looking forward to welcoming South Australians to holiday across our region.

Debate adjourned.