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Wednesday, 9 Apr 2014

Family drives caravan and camping key Aust, NZ, European speakers tell CRVA delegates

Fergus Brown International Arrivals.
Fergus Brown International

By Garth Morrison Editor GoSeeAustralia and GoSee New Zealand

Holiday Accommodation Parks Association of New Zealand (HAPNZ) CEO Fergus Brown delivered the mail on a reality which is now valid on both sides of the Tasman.

"The past is not where we left it", he said.

The comment must be seen against the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). In that context Fergus Brown's observation underlines a marketing shift which was recognised by a variety of speakers at the Caravan, RV & Accommodation Industry of Australia Ltd (CRVA) annual national conference at Hobart's excellent Grand Chancellor Hotel.

Fergus Brown and other speakers indentified a completely new game for the caravan and camping industry.

"It is not just a matter of picking things up where we left them".

"The key market segment for industry is not older people anymore", Brown said. "It's families".

Families now set the caravan and camping industry market direction and in New Zealand Holiday Parks are permissive when it comes to Freedom camping, he said.

"Holiday Parks must change their profile", Fergus Brown said.

"They must be seen as a special place a place for social engagement", he said. Right now seasonal productivity is the major challenge for the industry in New Zealand, Fergus Brown said.

RMS Tom Buttigieg (r) on RMS best stand in show
RMS Tom Buttigieg (r) on RMS best stand in show

This challenge is shared in Australia, particularly in Tasmania. GoSee has worked for more than a decade to help industry in the island state extend its tourist season which traditionally tapers off at the end of May.

The trans-Tasman relationship between the Caravan and Recreational Vehicles Association of Australia (CRVA) and Holiday Accommodation Parks Association of New Zealand (HAPNZ) is now much stronger.

The CRVA agrees with Fergus Brown that there is now a much better understanding of each others markets.Once again this must be viewed against the significant differences between the two markets.

The key points of difference are customer demographic, evironmental philosophy, (the driver in the NZ Freedom Camping Act), legislative framework, and market size.

But in many areas trends are shared and family first is a New Zealand tradition in Kiwi holiday style and their use of Holiday Parks. Kiwi's really camp over generations, often at the same park, and in your correspondents experience this reflects most in the world beating camp kitchens to be found in NZ's Holiday Parks.

Bernd Loeher Dometic Head  of Sales RV OE Europe.
Bernd Loeher Dometic Head of Sales RV OE Europe.

Europe has a family direction too. Bernd Loher Dometic Head of Sales RV OE Europe put that message up in lights in his address to a record attendance of delegates to the CRVA conference.

Dometic is a world leader in  supplying the Recreational Vehicle market with about 12,000 market partners across the globe, Bernd Loher said.

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) belted the European Recreational Vehicle (RV) market into the back stalls.

The extent of the European setback is shown by the Australian RV market outperforming much of the world when actual production is compared.

Now the US is in strong recovery, but this is not being replicated in Europe where customers face the GFC hangover finanacial reality with a completely new set of entirely pragmatic budget driven demands for RV builders and industry suppliers like Dometic. Smaller, economic, versatile, eco-driven vehicles which double as family transport are the customers need.

Hire not buy and family togetherness are another demand. The needs range across camping to glamping and up to 75 percent of that demand comes from family in the broadest sense, Bernd Loeher said.

Driving home the GFC impact on camping and the RV market in Europe he said - "In the 18 to 24 year old age group in some countries (Spain) the unemployment rate is 18.5 percent".

A campsite costs about 70 Euro (about $A103) a night. "In the UK 21,000 caravans were built (in the fiscal period) which lines up with Australia's RV production for the same period", Bernd Loher said.

Jonathon Bingham OZShacks at  CRVA Trade Show.
Jonathon Bingham OZShacks at CRVA Trade Show.

But in New Zealand Fergus Brown says aspirational marketing strategies yield results.

With the US back to growth 205,600 Americans enjoyed NZ, up 12 percent. But its the Chinese who are the big news in the Shakey Isles. 237,248 in fact up 14 percent.

Social media like Weibo is used to carry the message from travelling Chinese to friends at home. The result of the aspirational message is particularly positive in the face of the huge Chinese audience.

Editors note: Weibo is the Chinese word for microblog. It refers to mini-blogging services in China, including social chat sites and platform sharing. Weibo uses a format similar to its American counterpart Twitter with key difference being that it is used almost exclusively by Chinese language speakers. In 2012, there were said to be  309 million people microblogging in China

It is indicative of the extent of the impact of the GFC that the Americans no longer hire the biggest and the best RV's.

Smaller RV's are preferred now to stretch the battered US dollar against a stronger NZ currency.

Now that is irony viewed against New Zealand's small manufacturing base!

Australia remains a major source of tourism dollar for NZ with 1.236,576 visitors up 7 percent.

Editors note: In consumer marketing, an aspirational brand (or product) means a large segment of its exposure audience wishes to own it, but for economical reasons cannot. An aspirational product implies certain positive characteristics to the user, but the supply appears limited due to limited production quantities. An important characteristic of an aspirational product is that the part of its exposure audience that is at present economically unable to purchase it, thinks of itself as having a fair probability of at a certain point in the future being able to do so.

Managing Director of Australia's leading RV builder Jayco Caravans, Gerry Ryan, told CRVA delegates that after 39 years in the long march from a Cranbourne shed in 1975 he still takes his own advice.

"Back yourself", he said.

He said four of the Jayco originals who started with him are still with the company.

For those worried about protecting their dollars he said he thought any time in the next three months was a good time to lock in interest rates.

And for the fairly immediate future -"With (international) tourism more expensive and the increased cost of travel more people will stay (and holiday) at home", Gerry Ryan said.

"Board rooms create recessions, women get us out of them", he said

Gerry Ryan MD Jayco
Gerry Ryan MD Jayco

Once again Gerry Ryan backs family. In this case, particularly, Generation Y.

"Growth (in the caravan and camping industry) will be driven by families", he said. Generation Y like the lifestyle and they have the finance to do it, but they want washing machines and wine coolers, their family want comfort", he said.

"Right now 35 percent of product demand is for offroad and our job is to build product to suit", he said. "They want security, service, reliable dealerships, they want a great retail experience with after sales service", he said.

"The customer is more educated and more demanding so parks need to lift their standards and improve services", Gerry Ryan said.

He said issues which need to be taken up by industry include:

The number of touring/camping sites available.

More activity and theme days in caravan parks.

There is a need for manufacturers to support product compliance.

Some camper trailers (of Chinese origin) are not compliant.

Warranties must be supported by manufacturers.

More promotion.

The falling attendances at caravan and camping shows.

Industry bodies need consistent messages.

Industry needs leadership.

Gerry Ryan said success is in trying with cautious risk management linked to a commitment to the long haul.

"We will have a 9000sq m wharehouse completed by February next year. Jayco has new product coming, but I don't want to tell my competitors what that is", he said.

"And I am not about to retire!"

Tom Smith Chairman Aust Caravan Club
Tom Smith Chairman Aust Caravan Club

Tom Smith, Chairman of the Australian Caravan Club presented the consumers view to delegates at one of the concurrent sessions at the CRVA Conference. His theme was 'What we really want in a caravan park - a view from the consumer club'. Tom Smith, is a grazier from Inverell. He has been a caravanner since 1991, and has extensive agricultural representative experience.

His main goals with the ACC include freedom of choice for camping locations and promoting safety through education.

Tom said the ACC has more than 3400 members, many of whom are over 55.

The Australian Caravan Club was launched in September 2006 as a truly representative national organisation.

Unlike other clubs that are State-based incorporated bodies, the ACC is an Australian Registered Company to reflect its national identity. The ACC members says they see themselves, in part, as a lobby group, not as an organisation set up to attack the Recreational Vehicle (RV) industry, but rather to work with existing organisations for the benefit of all caravanners and camper-trailer owners.

ACC members use RV's of every kind including caravans, camper trailers, campervans, motorhomes and fifth-wheelers.

Once again the family theme is a big driver for ACC. Tom said he and his family started in a tent progressed to a caravan, then downsized as the family grew and apparently moved on only to be confronted by the question "where are our beds?" from the kids.

Lachlan Young  talks RMS with Annette Terrill
Lachlan Young talks RMS with Annette Terrill

So extended family groups "with the kids in tow" are common. Tom said members travel on a budget and needs vary, but in terms of caravan parks cleanliness, entertainment for children, safe environment and welcoming professional staff are high values.

ACC demographics show that 50 percent of the clubs members value good clean ammenities. About 46 percent of the ACC members are self-sufficent when it comes to freedom camping", Tom Smith said.

Of the ACC members 7 percent always use caravan parks", he said. " A pet friendly environment is also welcome", he said

The ACC "does not embrace free camping but supports freedom of choice about camping sites", Tom Smith said. ACC numbers on campsite cost show that 52 percent of members will pay $20 to $25 a night for a campsite. Nothing over $25 draws a 26 percent response. $30 to $35 gets a 21 percent vote.

"ACC members spend between $100 and $120 a day across the whole community", Tom Smith said. Of the total spend while travelling accommodation makes up 21 percent, fuel 24.5 percent, provisions 14.7 percent and incidentals 16 percent.

ACC formed a free special interest group Kids in Tow (KIT) in Feb. 2013. KIT looks for low-cost places or locations, spots where children are not restricted too much. As KIT is a family club, it is understood that pets are family too. So, if pets are OK at the places KIT goes to, then it’s OK by ACC.

The ACC also caters for lone trekkers, solo travellers and full time travellers

Green Frog Systems Hobart CRVA Trade Show
Green Frog Systems Hobart CRVA Trade Show

Editors note: A byline on a GoSee Information Article indicates opinion.

About CRVA: Caravan, RV & Accommodation Industry of Australia Ltd (CRVA) is the peak National Body for the Australian caravan and camping industry representing over 4000 industry businesses ranging from caravan parks, manufacturers and retailers of industry products, suppliers of goods and services, and service providers.

The main responsibility the CRVA undertakes, besides engaging in political activity on issues that affect the industry nationally and facilitating a national accreditation program, is to market and promote the industry lifestyle to Australian consumers.

Disclaimer: Jayco was the first sponsor of this free to users website. Jayco has been a valued supporter for 11 years. It is because of sponsors like Jayco that GoSeeAustralia and GoSeeNewZealand remain free to users.

Here are hyperlinks to the free GoSee  library of more than 1000 Information Articles which relate to Chinese tourism opportunities: 

Uni study shows big variations in Chinese - Aussie Nomad touring styles

China big regional travel growth opportunity says CCIANSW

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory
Lunch Hobart CRVA April 2014 099
Lunch Hobart CRVA April 2014 099
ContACT stand Hobart CRVA April 2014 097
ContACT stand Hobart CRVA April 2014 097

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