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Heritage Tourism in South Australia

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. Please click the link to Like my articles, and subscribe to see more. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au
Published April 20th 2016
Manufacturing and mining won't last forever
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Cultural Heritage Tourism is a Perfect Match at Adelaide Central Market


The South Australian economy is in a poor state. Not for the first time, the government is desperately searching for new industry after mining and manufacturing fail again. Once one of the leading states in Australia, SA has slipped nearer the bottom of the pile.

The South Australian Heritage Council believes that cultural heritage tourism can contribute significantly to South Australia's economy, and recently convened a Heritage Tourism Forum in Adelaide. Representatives from local and state government, tourism experts, the National Trust of South Australia, museum and heritage tourism business operators all came to share ideas on how we can nurture new ways to benefit from heritage buildings in Adelaide and SA.

Speakers from a variety of organisations shared their experiences (good and bad) of the tourism industry from a heritage perspective. A speaker from the Port Arthur historic site shared some insights, including a startling disclosure of a massive increase in Chinese tourists. Lord Mayor Martin Haese talked of the City of Adelaide's interest in heritage tourism, while Darren Peacock from the National Trust of South Australia shared ideas about how the tourism industry could embrace technology to broaden the appeal of our tourism assets.

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Technology Can Enhance a Static Display at Museums in Adelaide


A huge increase in tourism opportunities offered by cruise ships visiting Adelaide was highlighted, with 87,000 passengers visiting South Australia in the 2015 season. While this is a tremendous opportunity, there are also some restriction - most passengers won't travel far while visiting. It makes you wonder why the government ever considered selling historic Fort Largs, when it can be converted into a vibrant Adelaide attraction like Fort Denison in Sydney.

Some speakers identified that tourism can't solely rely on heritage buildings. Few will come just to see a building, but developing a complete interactive experience which engages the senses will create tourism opportunities. Food experiences and activities for kids will enhance an attraction even further.

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Feasible Heritage Tourism Examples: The Elms at Glenside Hospital


It was disappointing to hear Goyder Council CEO John Brak say that the Burra Heritage Passport model is not proving financially viable. He suggested that there needs to be more business investment in Burra: creative adaptive reuse of heritage buildings can bring in more income. The attractions near Burra are a key gateway to the Flinders Ranges and they need to become outstanding heritage tourism examples

The news was not all bad. An image of the enormous queue of the first Open Day at Z Ward Glenside confirmed it as a significant Adelaide attraction where the National Trust has sought new ways of adaptive reuse. A 1920s inspired speakeasy pop up bar at historic Z Ward was a massive success during the Miss Fisher's costume exhibition at Ayers House.

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Overlooked by the Tourism Industry: 1884 Railway History at Murray Bridge


Similarly an event at Glenside Hospital for South Australia's History Festival attracted interest from over 6,000 people. Sadly the government still plans to sell the building.

A new Living in the Port app from History SA is another creative way to engage tourism opportunities at Port Adelaide for the Maritime Museum. In Adelaide the National Trust has developed a range of themed walking tours for the Heritage Festival, with others available through the Adelaide City Explorer app.

Supporters of development in Adelaide often deride heritage buildings, suggesting that only new development brings jobs and wealth. That is true to a degree. But it ignores the fact that heritage development brings far more jobs. Restoring a heritage building is far more labour intensive than building a new office block using prefabricated concrete sections. More importantly, the heritage building will still be standing in another hundred years, when a cheaply built modern construction will have been replaced long before.

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Clipper Ship City of Adelaide at Port Adelaide


A local government representative highlighted that they would like to achieve more cultural heritage tourism, but council policies and procedures make the process glacially slow. Their suggestion - history groups and museum operators should try to do it themselves, but seek council funding to help. One area which I think is a latent attraction is Murray Bridge's new Transport Heritage Precinct. Even a simple heritage trail could capture visitors in Murray Bridge who are looking for fun things to do.

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Museums in Adelaide Must Adapt to Changes in Taste and Technology


The challenge facing groups such as the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship operators are enormous. Clearly government funding isn't likely, so new ways need to be found to sell these opportunities for heritage tourism in South Australia.

Some solutions include
finding and attracting new markets
seeking business partners and sponsors
better promotion of tourism assets
using Youtube to reach an international audience
networking with like-minded groups to share resources and ideas
engaging better with all age and cultural groups
find ways to bring history alive (eg creative performances)
developing types of tourism that engage all senses, and possibly involve food
replace static museum displays with interactive experiences driven by technology
developing relationships with local businesses and groups for mutual benefit
more financial incentives from state and local government to encourage this nascent tourism industry

With skill and imagination heritage tourism in South Australia could bring significant benefits to our economy. It may not employ as many people as a car manufacturer, but it would be less dependent upon a single corporation. It's cleaner, greener, and more sustainable - all important goals for the future.
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Why? South Australia needs more adaptive reuse of heritage buildings to develop its heritage tourism industry.
Where: Adelaide, SA
Your Comment
Very interesting article. Glad to hear about this Forum and hope that both local and state Government will take on board ways to help promote tourism in this area. We love visiting historical places: went to Cummins House last weekend for the first time and had a tour of the lovely house, followed by delicious Devonshire tea and a wander of the beautiful grounds (worked on by wonderful volunteers). Bought some pot plants there too, which the volunteers propagate, as well as home-made raspberry jam, also made by a volunteer. It was a most enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon and had the right mix of history, beauty (both natural and man-made), food and something to bring away with us too! Keep up the good work, Dave (& other W.N. reporters), in reporting about places and happenings in and near Adelaide. Weekend Notes has lead us to get involved in events and visit places that we would otherwise have not known about. Jan K.
by anyak (score: 0|8) 936 days ago
Too right Dave, get the mix right and people will come. There is a stong interest in heritage and these grand old places still have a role to play.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|6154) 937 days ago
Great article. I am a born and bred South Aussie, but live in the warmer (winter) Queensland these days, and have had experience in historical tourism in the past. The list of solutions is interesting too. One of the issues is lack of funds for quality advertising and marketing. Also signage is a big issue too. Even yesterday I visited a place where the shrubbery had hidden the signage, and I nearly missed the place.
by Di Hill (score: 2|422) 938 days ago
So good.
by tksre (score: 0|7) 938 days ago
I believe a lot of people would love to help on these projects. Pay a fee and get to meet like minded people. You would learn some new skills and perhaps have a little sandwich style lunch/ soft drink or water included in the cost
by Maggie (score: 1|19) 936 days ago
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