By Michael Phelan
Published: Thursday, November 18, 2021
After what seems like a lifetime, borders are opening and South Australia will soon be welcoming interstate and international tourists once again.
In a further boost to the local travel industry, the recent South Australian Tourism Awards, hosted by the Tourism Industry Council South Australia (TiCSA), showcased the amazing attractions, operators and businesses from across our stunning state.
The South Australian Tourism Awards were an important opportunity to recognise and celebrate the excellence in tourism according to RAA Travel General Manager, Gina Norman.
“It was so wonderful to see so many people from the tourism sector to be able to come together and celebrate especially after a couple of tough years,’’ she said.
“One thing that can’t be doubted is the resilience and positivity of people that make up the tourism sector.’’
The team at samotor spoke to the winners of the three awards presented by Ms Norman, to get their thoughts about the enormous challenges the tourism industry has overcome and what the future has in store.
SeaLink – Winner of the Major Tour & Transport Operators Award
SeaLink carries thousands of tourists, commuters and vehicles from the mainland to idyllic Kangaroo Island each year and also provides a range of brilliant travel experiences.
SeaLink South Australia General Manager Sarah-Jane Tilbury spoke to samotor about why Kangaroo Island should be part of your future travel plans.
After a difficult couple of years for tourism in SA, what does it mean for SeaLink to be recognised as one of the state’s best operators in 2021?
It means the world to us. I’m so proud of the entire South Australian team who, even through the tough times, are committed to delivering brilliant experiences to our customers.
How has SeaLink navigated the pandemic successfully?
I don’t think it’s over just yet but what has stood us in good stead is that we’re agile and resilient and always focused on what is best for our customers and our people.
What long-term impacts do you think you’ll see as travel restrictions begin to ease and we start welcoming more domestic and international tourists?
The impact will be far-reaching, and I’m not sure travel will ever return to how it was pre-COVID-19.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing either as everyone has had to rethink how they create exceptional customer experiences during a changing landscape.
So, I think expectation of excellence will be higher than ever. I am blessed with an exceptional team so we’re up for the challenge.
What positives are you already seeing?
We are seeing a lot more locals [visiting Kangaroo Island], and we love that! Whilst we look forward to welcoming everyone back and showing off our great state, it has been lovely to look after so many South Australians.
As we head into 2022, what’s the outlook for Kangaroo Island tourism?
Kangaroo Island is a dream destination in its own right so I have zero doubt that the outlook for the future is very bright indeed. We very much look forward to being part of such an amazing community as we have done for the past three decades.
What are three things visitors must do while they’re on the island?
Well, I cannot choose just three of our amazing partners to visit so my advice is to make sure you give yourself enough time to see the whole island.
Explore everything from its miraculous and awe-inspiring recovery from the devastating bushfires to the vast array of incredible wildlife and scenery. I don’t think you can ever spend enough time there to see all the wonderful things the island has to offer.
Woodhouse Activity Centre – Winner of the Unique Accommodation Award
Just 10 minutes up the South Eastern Fwy in the Adelaide Hills, you’ll find an amazing outdoor adventure wonderland. Set on a 54-hectare property, the Woodhouse Activity Centre has attractions for the whole family, from disc golf to tube slides and a giant obstacle course.
We caught up with Woodhouse General Manager James Sellers to see how they’ve handled the past 18 months.
What does this award mean for your business?
The reason we have been able to aspire to such great heights is because we have a group of people so invested in our wonderful site, coupled with a team that absolutely live and breathe quality service and visitor experiences.
This award not only rewards and acknowledges all the hard work and dedication, it positions us to attract even more passionate staff as we prepare for our next exciting growth period. Who doesn’t want to be part of an award-winning team?
How has the Woodhouse Activity Centre navigated the pandemic?
Fortunately for us, the sheer size of our property has allowed visitors and guests to adequately social distance since 1957 – and we have plenty of fresh air to spare.
Our intrastate family market exploded with unprecedented take up of our day and overnight stays, putting us in a better financial position than ever before. It’s allowed us to continue to improve the site for future generations, as well as look after those guests who were forced to cancel or postpone their bookings due to restrictions.
What positive signs are you starting to see as we begin to open up again?
We know how important outdoor experiences are to people’s mental and physical health and we remain at the ready to provide an action-packed day, camping, or large and small group accommodation adventures.
This time has really encouraged South Australians to be a tourist in their own city and allowed many of us to discover places, experiences and attractions we’ve never visited before.
Why should people visit Woodhouse Activity Centre?
It’s just 10 minutes up the South Eastern Fwy. It has five unique accommodation options ranging from a stately two-storey mansion for special occasions to small rustic chalets for family escapes.
A combination of adventurous activities completes the unparalleled experience. Each [activity] is a drawcard in its own right with unlimited access included in your day, camping or accommodation adventure.
And lastly, three reasons to visit the Adelaide Hills?
It’s a tiny zip up the freeway, yet you feel as though you’re a million miles away. It’s home to some of the best restaurants and wineries in the country. It’s packed with adventure, native wildlife and picturesque landscapes that the whole family can enjoy.
Mount Lofty House – Winner of 5 Star Luxury Accommodation Award
Mount Lofty House is an opulent manor nestled in the breathtaking Piccadilly Valley, offering luxury escapes, fine dining and an indulgent day spa.
The region’s sumptuous local food and wine, charming historic villages and spectacular scenery only add to the allure.
Mount Lofty House General Manager Jesse Kornoff sat down with samotor to have a chat about winning a TiCSA award.
After a difficult 18 months, what does it mean to receive this award?
The past 18 months certainly has thrown up a few challenges. To be recognised as the best luxury hotel in South Australia in such a difficult time really means a lot to the team.
It was our approach to double down on our service offerings and brand promise to our guests, and make the challenges posed by COVID-19 our problem rather than let them affect our guest experience or be part of what they see during their time with us.
What challenges have you faced throughout this period?
The biggest challenge for all hotels in SA has been the continual border changes, and the uncertain and changing landscape that we’ve found ourselves in. I am looking forward to the end of these [border restrictions] in coming months!
We’re slowly starting to open our borders. What positive signs have you seen so far?
We’re seeing bookings from interstate from December and surprisingly interstate corporate conferences from January. It’s great to see such a risk-adverse market confident to book – a sure sign of a huge rebound in travel next year.
What’s on the horizon for Mount Lofty House in 2022?
A very exciting year for sure. I can share that we’re in the final stages of renovating our event spaces ready for 2022 and will be extending our day spa later in the year.
And lastly, what are three amazing things people can do at Mount Lofty House?
A must do is our house welcome and history tour where guests are connected with the 170-year tradition of celebration, indulgence and the occasional debauchery. It’s lots of fun!
Dinner at our three Chef Hat rated Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant is certainly top of the list, along with a tour of the sandstone cellar. Finally, I would visit our Gatekeeper’s Day Spa for one of our signature spa rituals.