KAN­GA­ROO Island lead­ers are plead­ing for South Aus­tralians to re­turn to the jewel in the state’s tourism crown as COVID-19 restric­tions lift.

Re­gional travel, camp grounds and car­a­van parks, out­door din­ing at restau­rants and cafes for 10 peo­ple are among ac­tiv­i­ties given the green light to re­sume to­day with so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

KI tourism op­er­a­tors have en­dured a dou­ble blow af­ter dev­as­tat­ing bush­fires and then the COVID-19 lock­downs brought the in­dus­try to a halt.

“I urge peo­ple to travel to KI and I urge them to travel around re­gional South Aus­tralia,” said KI Mayor Michael Pengilly. “Our tourism sec­tor was ab­so­lutely clob­bered by COVID, the farm­ing sec­tor and west­ern tourism sec­tor were clob­bered in the fires.

“Hope­fully, at­trac­tions will be opened, such as Seal Bay, fairly quickly so there is no rea­son why they shouldn’t come.”

Mr Pengilly, pic­tured, said the re­open­ing of cafes and restau­rants for out­door din­ing pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity for vis­i­tors to re­turn to the island, which was green and “look­ing beau­ti­ful”.

KI Tourism Food Wine and Bev­er­age As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Pierre Gre­gor said op­er­a­tors were keen for vis­i­tors.

“We do have a lot to of­fer de­spite the bush­fires and de­spite COVID,” he said.

“We still have na­ture-based ac­tiv­i­ties and then, within the guid­ance pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment, ac­cess to some of our lo­cal prod­ucts is avail­able.”

Mr Gre­gor said a num­ber of ar­eas would pro­gres­sively open up but it was go­ing to be a slow re­cov­ery for the sec­tor.

Pre­mier Steven Mar­shall said eas­ing the restric­tions on re­gional travel would be wel­comed in fire-hit KI and in the Ade­laide Hills.

“This is the year to travel in our own back­yard,” he said.

“There are still plenty of South Aus­tralians who haven’t seen much of re­gional SA.”

A new SA Tourism Com­mis­sion ad fea­tur­ing prom­i­nent South Aus­tralians, in­clud­ing Ade­laide Crows cap­tain Rory Sloane and per­former Hans, count­ing down to “wel­come back” in­trastate ad­ven­tures will launch to­day on so­cial me­dia.

Sealink Travel Group chief ex­ec­u­tive Clint Feuer­herdt said tourism book­ings dropped to zero dur­ing the cri­sis be­cause non-essen­tial travel was dis­cour­aged.Now the ser­vice was hop­ing for a resur­gence.

“We’re ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing put­ting a se­cond ves­sel back on if the de­mand is there to jus­tify that,” Mr Feuer­herdt said.

“We will be launch­ing some pack­ages soon, self-drive ac­com­mo­da­tion pack­ages.” He said bus tours re­mained sus­pended and there was no progress on a ferry sub­sidy.

Eco­nomic re­cov­ery across fire-af­fected ar­eas of KI and the Ade­laide Hills is at the cen­tre of a new $650 mil­lion Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment pack­age.

The re­gions will re­ceive a share of $448.5 mil­lion to plan and fund projects such as work­shops that strengthen well­be­ing, help with stock re­place­ment and boost jobs.

Up to $150 mil­lion will be in­jected into species re­cov­ery, and $50 mil­lion to im­prove telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­crease men­tal health sup­port, and help the forestry in­dus­try.

In SA, com­mu­nity sport and so­cial clubs af­fected by the blazes can now ap­ply for grants of up to $20,000 from the SA Bush­fire Ap­peal fund.

It comes as a new re­port warns the eco­nomic re­cov­ery from the coro­n­avirus shock will be slow, with un­em­ploy­ment set to linger above pre­cri­sis lev­els un­til late 2024.

The pre­dic­tion is out­lined in Deloitte’s lat­est Bud­get Mon­i­tor re­leased to­day, which fore­casts na­tional in­come and gov­ern­ment rev­enues fall­ing off a cliff. The re­port urges lead­ers to ac­cept higher fu­ture bud­get deficits.

Pic­ture: SEAN McGOWAN

HAPPY: Rap­tor Do­main owner Leeza Ir­win. READY TO SERVE: Chef Louis Lark at Cac­tus Cafe, which is open­ing for out­door din­ing in

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