QUESTION: Great State accommodation vouchers

During Question Time today Mark asked the Treasurer, representing the Premier, about Great State accommodation vouchers.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The government has today announced a new round of Great State accommodation vouchers to provide $100 or $50 discounts to people using commercial accommodation in South Australia to help stimulate the economy. According to the Premier's media statement today, in the first round, which was released on 15 October, more than 50,000 vouchers were released with 'nearly half of these redeemed by South Australians'.

Given that the initial scheme was only available to South Australians and not to interstate visitors, this means that more than half of the vouchers were not redeemed, despite apparently selling out within 90 minutes of their release. In other words, most of the vouchers were not used, but thousands of willing customers missed out.

My question to the Treasurer is: how can the government make sure that in this second allocation all available vouchers are redeemed and that, if vouchers are not used, they are reallocated to other potential customers to ensure a full take-up of the scheme?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am delighted to respond to this particular question. This is a very significant initiative of the minister and the government in relation to an industry sector which has been clearly impacted by COVID-19 to a very significant degree. The experience in the other jurisdictions prior to the government announcing the first round—I think that was the Northern Territory and Tasmania—was very similar. That is, I think Tasmania sold out, if we can use that phrase, within 38 minutes, I think Premier Gutwein advised me, of them opening, but the percentage of those that were redeemed was a low percentage in terms of the total quantum.

Their advice to us and, I assume, the advice of the Northern Territory, although I didn't have any direct contact with anyone from the territory, was that essentially you can give a commitment, which is what we have done, to any unexpended portion of the allocation being reallocated for a further round, which is exactly what the government has done.

There are plausible and understandable reasons why the people who sign up quickly for it find that the particular nights that they were seeking don't suit. That is, they might have been looking to come to Adelaide or go to a region on a Friday night for a 50th wedding anniversary or a 40th birthday celebration, or whatever it is. When they find that that particular Friday night has already been used up in terms of the allocation and they are given the opportunity of a different Friday night, or whatever it is, they say, not unreasonably, 'That just doesn't suit. We are not going to take up that particular offer.' They are, nevertheless, one of the ones who were originally taking up an allocation.

What we did find was that a number of the locations were more popular than others, and therefore the allocated rooms were used up very quickly. Some of the sites were inundated with requests from potential customers to redeem, and they have certainly learned from the experience that they are going to have to be better ready for the initial onslaught of people wanting to redeem their vouchers.

I think the industry sector is much better the second time around in terms of being prepared; that is, hotels are going to need to be better prepared. I think tourism and the government are better understanding of, 'Let's be clearer on the number of rooms and those sorts of things so we can share more information in relation to the flexibility.' I understand that the second time around—and I am not the minister responsible for this—there is a wider group of hotels and accommodation options that might be available. Some new ones came onstream after the first round. If that's not correct, I will correct the record, but that's my understanding, so I think there is certainly more experience in relation to that.

I am also the chair of the government communications committee. One of the issues we raised with them was we really didn't think that you had to do too much in terms of advertising the availability. What we needed to do was to spend more money in direct communications to the people we know have signed up, to maximise those who actually redeem—that is, if their first option is not there, try to encourage them to look at another option in relation to it—and cross-promote various other events that the state seeks to promote, whether it be the Festival, whether it be the Fringe or whether it be the cycling race in January; that is, cross-promote other tourism options that we have, to encourage people to think about maybe not just their 50th wedding anniversary but coming to Adelaide for some other event or circumstance as well.

So there is a lot of work going into trying to increase the percentage of those who sign up to redeem, but the reality is that all of the schemes demonstrate, for some understandable reasons, that people who sign up find in the end that the particular nights that they want are not available or the particular accommodation options are sold out too quickly and they are not interested in the other accommodation options.

In particular, I think of the excitement about the Adelaide Oval Hotel, which I am sure all members are very excited about here in this chamber, but also, I understand, probably new options like the Casino, which is called Eos. I always think about Eros instead of Eos, so that's my first port of call. I am advised that it's Eos—I think I have pronounced that correctly. Have I?

An honourable member: Yes, Eos.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Eos, yes. My tourism and cultural advisers behind me have said that it's Eos, a new option that is being promoted broadly at the moment in terms of options. I think that clearly will be one of the options a lot of the people will be interested in, that is, a new accommodation option, etc. There are other accommodation options that are new in the CBD, which I am sure will attract some interest as well, but once those rooms are allocated people then lose some interest in terms of the other accommodation options.

It's a very important question from the honourable member. If there is any further information the minister can provide I will take it on notice, but I suspect the answer I have given is as much as I can probably give at this particular stage.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Parnell has a supplementary.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I thank the minister for the answer. In relation to those people who do take vouchers and then realise that it's not going to work for them, has any consideration been given to them being able to hand them back, as it were, so the government could reallocate them to people who might have just missed out? In other words, if the government kept a waiting list of people who weren't successful in the first 90 minutes—I think that was the experience last time—could there be a subsequent allocation?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am happy to take that on notice. The commitment I have given as Treasurer is that if there's any unexpended portion from the first round we will do it for the second round. The member is raising the question of can we, within the second round, reallocate? I will take that on notice to see whether there is some mechanism where that's possible, but I am prepared to give the commitment again, as Treasurer, that if there is any unexpended portion from the third round we are not looking to retrieve that back into the budget.

I am quite happy to give an assurance that there will be further funding in relation to whether they want to tweak that round within the round, extend it or indeed spend it in some way in terms of promoting the tourism sector. It will be money that stays within the tourism budget broadly.

On 3 February 2021 the following reply was received: 

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): The Premier has advised:

The voucher system was not designed for a subsequent allocation as this would have caused multiple issues. The primary reason was that the deals submitted by the hotels expired during a set period–at the request of the tourism industry. As soon as the booking period ended, the deals were no longer visible to both the consumer and the South Australian Tourism Commission's (SATC) team and therefore any consumers with subsequent allocations of vouchers would not have had access to the accommodation deals.

In addition, the SATC had set up this system to automatically manage the vouchers when the data is entered by the consumer. To allow for subsequent allocation of vouchers would require significant manual handling and the cost of any change to vouchers would be prohibitive. This would also create data privacy issues.