July 14, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

The South Australian Government will conduct a global search to find the next leader of its state tourism agency, with the current CEO of the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC), Rodney Harrex, set to wrap up with the organisation this month.

“I want to thank everyone who has travelled this journey with me, particularly through the more recent unchartered challenges of a global pandemic,” said Harrex of his departure after nine years with the agency.

“I was fortunate to have a great team behind me, and I’ll now take some time to refresh – and take a holiday in SA – before moving on to the next opportunity.

“I have been privileged to work with some outstanding tourism operators and industry leaders during my time at the SATC, and together we helped our state reach a record high $8.1 billion visitor economy, which created jobs and opportunities for thousands of people across the state,” he said.

South Australia’s Tourism and Multicultural Affairs Minister Zoe Bettison thanked Harrex for his service to the state’s tourism industry.

“Rodney led the SATC through extremely challenging times, as the state’s tourism industry was devastated by the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

“By initiating the Great State Voucher program and leading a series of initiatives to promote development in the tourism industry, Rodney worked with the sector to recover visitor expenditure ahead of forecasts and at record levels. His work has ensured that the state’s tourism industry is poised to bounce back strongly.

“With more than $45 million committed to tourism marketing and $40 million towards major events, our state is well positioned to recover strongly from the pandemic with a tourism industry that provides thousands of jobs to South Australians.”

One such major event is the Santos Tour Down Under, owned by the state government and managed by SATC’s events arm Events SA, which has recently been added back into the state’s major events calendar next January after the pandemic forced the event into a two-year hiatus.

The event, which generated $66.4 million in positive economic impact for South Australia the last time it was held in 2020, is part of the UCI WorldTour – as is the Tour de France – and has been confirm to remain as part of the tour until at least 2025. UCI is the global governing body for elite cycling.

“We know how important the Santos Tour Down Under is to South Australia’s tourism sector and its power to capture international attention,” said Bettison.

“Just over six months from now – both the men’s and women’s races will be held at the highest level of competition, and we are absolutely ready to share South Australia with a global audience once again.”

In 2023, the Santos Tour Down Under will incorporate an elite cycling race for female cyclists as part of the UCI WorldTour.

South Australia’s visitor economy has experienced a healthy bounceback, with National Visitor Survey statistics released this month for April 2022 showing visitor spending in the state is at 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. In April this year, interstate overnight spending was up 10 per cent on 2019, while intrastrate overnight visitor spending was up 18 per cent on the same timeframe in 2019.

“To have visitor expenditure hit 95 per cent of pre-COVID levels is remarkable and points to the strength of our offerings here in South Australia,” said Bettison.

“We’re seeing strong interstate visitation and continued interest from locals, and this is on top of the recent boost in aviation, the record accommodation occupancy rates, and the fantastic events being held right now across our city and regional SA.

“There’s no doubt we’ve still got some way to go but the data consistently shows that tourism in South Australia is on the right track, it’s recovering strongly, and it is leading the nation in many ways.”