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Pastoral Tourism - Cashing in on Natural Assets

Posted by Bestprac on Jan 23 2012

by Liz Guerin


The Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia, are renowned for being one of the most beautiful destinations in the state. With spectacular geological formations, such as Wilpena Pound, the area is a sanctuary for wildlife and a significant destination for campers, 4WDers and travellers.

It is hardly surprising then that many pastoralists in the area have diversified into tourism taking advantage of their location and providing another income stream.

With most members of the Blinman/Hawker Bestprac group having been involved in tourism for greater than 10 years, Bestprac co-ordinator, John Squires, says it is not surprising that when they get together, group members talk, not only about their pastoral businesses but also their tourism ventures.

“It is one of those things that always becomes a part of our meetings because it is an integral part of all businesses” John said.

Group members have largely utilised, or converted, existing buildings to enable visitors to stay and enjoy the natural features of the region which, to locals, are second nature.

Brendan and Carmel Reynolds run Willow Springs, a pastoral lease of 28300 hectares. The Reynolds’ commenced their tourism operation in 1985, after becoming partners with Brendan’s parents and needing additional cash flow. It is typical of many pastoral properties, at the moment, and with current stock numbers low, due to the drought, tourism is their main source of income.


Blinman/Hawker Bestprac group members with new Willow Springs sign

“Twenty six years ago, my ambition was to produce a bale of wool for every day of the year. No-one told me that the reserve price scheme would collapse, interest rates would peak at 20% and that we would go through an 8 or 9 year drought” Brendan said.

Brendan says that whilst they may never produce that 365 bales of wool, he believes that the net return in equivalence is achievable, through the aid of pastoral tourism.

Since the early days of entering the tourism ‘game’, Brendan and Carmel have created a 70 kilometre 4WD track, Skytrek, to one of the highest accessible points in the Flinders Ranges by vehicle. This attraction has made Willow Springs a destination for more adventurous 4WDers and campers. In addition, they have expanded to offer 10 private, secluded campsites all within a 2km radius of the homestead. Each site has a toilet, fire ring, BBQ plate, and tables and chairs.

The Reynolds’ use the services of ‘grey nomads’ to assist with tourism workload and demand and say that it is amazing how someone spending 2 or 3 hours a day doing smaller odd jobs can free up your time for ‘station work’.

“We find that ‘grey nomads’ want to work, and are willing and able to adapt”, said Brendan. “In addition, most of them have a trade or skill, which is handy. We learn a lot from these people as they pass on information and suggestions to us.”

Brendan and Carmel’s top tip for anyone contemplating a venture in tourism is not to expect things to happen overnight.

“Just because you spend a lot of money renovating shearers quarters etc, it doesn’t mean that the people are going to come”, Brendan said. “You can have all the facilities in the world but it takes around three years for you to start getting on your feet. At the end of the day it is bums in beds and word of mouth that really matters.”

The Reynolds’ added that just as they need a stock agent to sell their wool or livestock, they need an agent to handle accommodation and bookings and it is money well spent.

“Our agent has a shopfront, 24hour booking service, and the phone and the computer are very time consuming, so this frees up a lot of time for us. And joining with other properties to form clusters, “Station Stays of SA”, is of great benefit for our business, just as Bestprac is for our livestock enterprise”, said Brendan.

Brendan says that despite being involved in tourism for the past 25 years, they are picking up new ideas all the time.

The Blinman/Hawker Bestprac group chooses to circulate meeting venues around different locations so that members don’t have to travel so far. With most members having tourism ventures, in various forms, part of the meeting usually involves a tour through each property’s facilities.

“We are always learning and don’t see neighbouring businesses as competition, rather the more facilities around this area there are (Station Stays etc), it makes our product easier to sell – it helps the industry along”, Brendan said.

Last changed: Jan 23 2012



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