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Call for 'big' spend on SA arts tourism campaign

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Arts leaders have called on the State Government to launch a major tourism campaign and another round of taxpayer-subsidised vouchers for arts and cultural events, in a bid to lure more interstate tourists to South Australia.

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It comes after a parliamentary committee heard the state’s arts sector was “completely decimated” by COVID-19 restrictions last year, with the Arts Industry Council warning South Australia’s “festival state” identity is at risk of being lost without increased investment.

Arts organisations are now rallying the Government to launch what they say would be a state-first major tourism campaign that focuses on arts and cultural events in South Australia.

They say the campaign could feature a fifth round of government-subsidised vouchers for recipients to spend at arts events and festivals, following past rounds that focussed on the accommodation and experience sectors.

Fringe director Heather Croall told InDaily that Fringe organisations including Gluttony, the Garden of Unearthly Delights and RCC had written to the SA Tourism Commission calling for the campaign to be included in South Australia’s new arts and cultural tourism strategy, which is due to be released in September.

She said she would like the campaign to be of a similar scale to past tourism campaigns that focused on South Australia’s wine and coastal regions.

“They’ve never done a dedicated campaign targeting South Australia’s festivals,” she said.

“There’s still tourists that don’t know about the magic of festivals in Adelaide and we believe that our festivals are a tourism destination experience in themselves and worthy of a big campaign.”

The Fringe generated $100 million in economic activity last year in the weeks before the pandemic forced South Australia into shutdown.

It estimates revenue from this year’s restriction-hampered event will be reduced, despite organisers managing to sell over 630,000 tickets to a predominately domestic audience.

Croall said launching a round of vouchers that provide discounts on shows during next year’s Fringe, or discounts on flights and accommodation during the summer festival season, would “dovetail well” with a broader tourism campaign.

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra managing director Vincent Ciccarello, who also sits on the Arts Industry Council committee, said he would be “very, very supportive” of a round of vouchers focussed on arts and cultural events being launched in conjunction with a “concerted, long-range” tourism strategy.

“In and of itself as a single stimulus measure, we’d really welcome vouchers,” he said.

“As a way of encouraging people and give them confidence to come back to the arts and cultural scene in South Australia and entice them from interstate, there are lots of alternatives.

“The competition now is very, very strong and most states are now presenting arts and culture as an integral part of their tourism offering, so that’s really the essence of the discussion for us.”

Ciccarello said despite the ASO having a “loyal” audience, restrictions on audience numbers had doubled the orchestra’s production and artistic costs.

“We are forecasting a significant deficit this year,” he said.

“Next week we’re about to launch the second half of the season and we’re doing so at 100 per cent capacity, so that will help us chip away at the forecast deficit that was sustained in the first half of the year.”

Arts Industry Council SA deputy chair Jessica Alice told Parliament’s COVID-19 Response Committee last week that the council had recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tourism Industry Council.

“We have worked together on some consultation processes in the development of the new cultural tourism strategy,” she said.

“That’s something that is in progress and hopefully will develop some great tangible results, such as voucher schemes and things like that soon.”

In a statement to InDaily, a spokesperson from the SA Tourism Commission said it was working with Arts South Australia to establish a “jointly owned strategy that reflects the role that arts and culture play in the visitor economy and identify the opportunities to grow this sector”.

“The Draft Plan will be available for feedback in June 2021 for a period of four weeks,” they said.

“It is expected the strategy will be finalised by the end of September 2021.”

The Government will open a ballot for its fourth round of “Great State” vouchers tomorrow.

Entrants will have the opportunity to score a $100 voucher for use on participating hotels in the CBD and North Adelaide, or a $50 voucher to use at selected accommodation providers across suburban and regional SA.

More than 50,000 vouchers will be up for grabs.

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