‘The shackles have come off’: Mad March numbers boom

Adelaide visitor numbers and accommodation booking during Mad March has smashed pre-pandemic levels, with tourism and hospitality leaders hailing the positive impact on the economy and confidence.

Jun 09, 2023, updated Jun 09, 2023
The Garden of Unearthly Delights during "Mad March".

The Garden of Unearthly Delights during "Mad March".

The state government released figures today showing visitor expenditure in South Australia in March for events such as the Fringe and Adelaide Festival reached $906 million – up one third on March 2019.

Intrastate overnight spending totalled $303 million – up 52 per cent on March 2019 – while interstate spend rose 32 per cent on pre-pandemic levels to $324 million.

March 2023 also recorded the strongest month ever for Adelaide accommodation occupancy, with an average of 8,376 room nights booked each night.

Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison said the trend had continued beyond March, with major sporting events the AFL’s Gather Round, LIV Golf tournament and rugby State of Origin encouraging more interstate travellers to SA.

“This is an exciting time and it benefits all of the tourism and hospitality industry,” Bettison said.

“I’ve just been interstate recently, and I can tell you what – people have been talking about South Australia more last year than they have in the last decade.

“People are talking about South Australia in a positive way.”

Adelaide developer and landlord Theo Maras said “the shackles have come off” post-pandemic, with city attractions again gaining national and overseas recognition.

“All of a sudden, there’s a great partnership between the Adelaideans, the Australians and the international public who are coming to Adelaide,” he said.

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“They’re coming to Adelaide because there’s something happening in Adelaide every month.”

Acknowledging construction activity at café Exchange in Vardon Avenue while speaking outside East End Cellars, Maras said confidence was up for local business operators.

“There’s a classic example across the road,” he said.

“It started off with one shop, now it’s three shops. A total fit out – why? Half a million dollars spent on a coffee shop – why? Because of the confidence and because the people that visit the East End and the city and the hotels are their customers. That’s why they’re able to do all of these things.”

Bettison said the upcoming Illuminate Festival would continue to attract visitors during winter.

“Illuminate is one of the most exciting new additions to our season,” she said.

“It’s harder in winter, but we’ve always got the much-loved Cabaret Festival – expecting 40,000 interstate guests coming in – but we build that out with Illuminate. People put on their coats, they put on their beanies and they come into town and they look at the creative technology.”

Bettison admitted that cost of living pressures and less disposable income were problems for South Australians, but hoped free events like the City Lights program during Illuminate would encourage curiosity in the city during winter.

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