Murray revives as business picks up

May 2011 News Stuart Innes -

A resurgence of business has finally come to River Murray tourism operators.

After "horrendous" years of drought and people being scared off by a perception of floods, the river has stabilised to good, high water allowing navigation by larger tour boats with all locks now operating.

Houseboat hirers report having their best business for six years and expect a surge of interest at their annual open day at Mannum this weekend.

The Murray River Run this week resumed its five-day cruises between Wellington and the Victorian border after a three-year drought layoff due to low water.

And regional tourism officials have declared the corner is turned for businesses.

Riverland Tourism regional manager Paula Bennett said even the "perceived flood" of the Murray earlier this year had deterred visitors.

But the Riverland had enjoyed its best-ever Easter-school holiday period in tourism.

"It's still busy now, even after the school holidays," Ms Bennett said.

Spirit Australian Cruises, which operates the Murray River Run extended cruises, this week resumed its five-day, 550km cruises between Border Cliffs on the Victorian border to Wellington, downstream from Tailem Bend.

For the past three years the boat has had to stay upriver or interstate due to low water downstream.

Towns along the river benefit from its 39 passengers staying overnight and dining at motels.

"With recent strong river flows there has not been a better opportunity in the past 10 years to see the Murray in such a healthy state," Murray River Run captain Jock Veenstra said.

Houseboat Hirers Association chief executive Peter Tucker said all 138 boats of its members had been taken at Easter - "the best Easter we have had for six years" - and forward bookings were fantastic.

"For four years it has been horrendous," he said of business demand. "They have done it tough."

He admitted even the very high water earlier this year had created issues but all was now well.

Houseboat open days will be at Mannum Reserve, 10am-5pm, on Saturday and Sunday.

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