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'An extraordinary legacy': Tributes for SA tourism giant Bill Spurr

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Tributes are flowing in for South Australian tourism pioneer Bill Spurr AO, who has passed away aged 75.

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Spurr was CEO of the South Australian Tourism Commission from 1998 to 2007 and more recently chair of the Adelaide Venue Management Cooperation where he served for more than 20 years.

His long career in Adelaide’s tourism and hospitality sector included senior roles as executive director of the Australian Hotels Association (SA), head of the Tourism and Hospitality School at TAFE’s Adelaide College, and executive director of the Adelaide Convention Bureau.

His litany of board roles included long-term directorships with the Adelaide Fringe, the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Adelaide Entertainment Centre and Sealink Travel Group (now Kelsian).

He was also chair of the state government’s international student marketing body Education Adelaide.

Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison told parliament that Spurr’s service to the state’s tourism industry is “without equal”.

“He was a pioneer that put South Australia on the map for interstate and international travellers,” she said.

“He was a generous, warm and caring man, and a mentor to many young professionals and leaders within our community. He leaves an extraordinary legacy.”

Spurr’s passing prompted tributes from both sides of politics.

South Australian senator Simon Birmingham said Spurr “gave his professional life to our hospitality, events & tourism industry … with enormous passion”.

“Events like the Tour Down Under and many strategies to lure visitors and students to South Australia owe their success to Bill’s collaborative style of leadership and his absolute diligence to any task at hand,” Birmingham wrote on Twitter.

“As a leader Bill always took the time to listen to those around him.

“As a former graduate employed by the SATC said to me of Bill in recent days, ‘he made it his business to know everyone’s name, he asked peoples (sic) views, thoughts and advice and actually cared about their answers.”

Premier Peter Malinauskas said he “made an enormous contribution to our State, especially the tourism sector”.

South Australian Tourism Commission Chair Andrew Bullock said Spurr was both passionate and innovative during his nine-year stint as CEO.

“It would be a challenge to find anyone who knew as much about tourism, hospitality and the events sector as Bill Spurr,” he said.

“He had a very long list of successes – from his progressive work with the SATC and more recently, as chair for the Adelaide Venue Management Corporation, and for his commitment to the community – he was a remarkable South Australian.”

Spurr leaves behind his wife Helen and two children Debbie and Craig.

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