River Revival Voucher program generates millions for flood-affected operators

South Australia’s Murray River regions received a substantial economic boost of $12.4 million through the River Revival Voucher program

South Australia’s Murray River regions received an economic boost of $12.4 million through the River Revival Voucher program, supporting businesses and communities in the devastating floods that hit in the summer of 2022-23.

Organised by the State Government, the program’s third and final phase alone contributed $1.7 million to the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong regions, and saw over 1,400 bookings across 120 local businesses offering accommodations, experiences, houseboats, and guided tours.

The travel period from February to June played an important role in increasing visitor numbers and spending beyond the usual summer peak. Analysis revealed that every dollar invested by the State Government returned more than $5 to the regions.

Feedback from participants in the third round highlighted significant additional spending: those using a $750 houseboat or guided tour voucher spent an average of $2,666 beyond the voucher amount, while users of the $200 accommodation voucher spent an average of $750 more. This additional spending not only supported tourism operators, but also extended visitor stays, with all houseboat voucher holders staying at least three nights.

“The third round of vouchers gave us a boost in bookings beyond the traditionally peak summer season, with many guests enjoying Remark Houseboats in the normally quieter months of April, May, and June,” Renmark Houseboats Owner, Leanne Glazbrook, said.

“What the vouchers did was bring different people into the region to discover a houseboat holiday, which is not only a great benefit to us, but also the many little businesses who rely on that visitation.

“After staying a few nights on our houseboats, many voucher guests said they were planning to return with more family and friends because they loved their time with us so much – and we are already seeing return bookings come through because of it.”

The River Revival Voucher program also attracted visitors who hadn’t initially planned to visit the Murray River regions, with over 70% of participants in the final round having no prior plan to travel there. Nearly half of the participants were unaware of their chosen tourism operator before the program.

Recent data from Tourism Research Australia shows that visitor spending in the Riverland and Murray River, Lakes & Coorong regions reached $501 million in the year ending March 2024, up from $441 million in December 2022, before to the flooding.

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