By Garth Morrison Editor GoSeeAustralia.com.au and GoSeeNewZealand.co.nz
For GoSee the rating of the Best Caravan, Holiday and Tourist Parks in Australia and New Zealand is as discussed in the first article in this series entirely practical. Our second test is value for money.
In the second feature in this series GoSee looks at value in cabin, chalet, motel unit, villa, condo, ensuite, non-ensuite mix in Australia and New Zealand. Value is many things to many people in this area.
This can range from $A200 or more a double a night in peak periods at leading parks which are usually part of caravan and holiday park chains to about $A60 at budget parks which are usually not mainstream.
This kind of caravan park accommodation choice is a challenge for users on both sides of the Tasman as the product has a variety of marketing brands in Australia and New Zealand.
GoSee has run practical costing evaluations on a comparison between travelling in Recreational Vehicles and using the fixed accommodation options which the parks offer.
In both New Zealand and Australian touring GoSee finds the cost difference is not great. In two extended evaluations over weeks on both sides of the Tasman the average difference was about $A75.
In this case user needs drive the perception of value for money. In extreme weather (hot, cold, wet, windy, insect ridden and dusty) park fixed accommodation in product like cabin, chalet, motel unit, villa etc. etc. options are generally more comfortable.
Extreme weather is perhaps more of a factor in this accommodation choice in Australia as Australian RV options generally lag behind New Zealand. New Zealand weather means Kiwi RV insulation, heating and cooling is designed to provide comfort anywhere in any season.
There is a strong contrast in the way Kiwis and Aussies use caravan and Holiday Parks. New Zealand has a clear camping heritage which goes back generations. There is also a preference for motorhomes in New Zealand.
Sun Lagoon condo Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort Queensland
Australia is more caravan and park cabin orientated. As a top of the range example of a holiday park which markets as a resort GoSee looked at Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort.
Geoff Olholm of Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort told delegates at the 2010 VicParks Conference in surfside Torquay last month that the leading Australian caravan park/resort built its success on providing value for money.
To this end Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort offers seven styles of accommodation.
We give the customer what they want, the pragmatic Olholm said. The Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort value for money attitude works on simple truths.
If the kids are happy, mum is happy and dad is happy, Olham said. Value for money is as the customer sees it. Sure a two bathroom condo with poolside views is one view of value, but equally Olholm recognises the diverse nature of individual expectations on value for money.
So in the extensive accommodation range accommodation with bed linen optional is also available.
Some people want to use their own linen, he said. So this is part of the Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort yield management strategy too. You have to put in facilities to keep people coming back.
There must be a point of difference. Facilities help create a reason why people want to come.
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort is unique in its multi-million dollar approach to doing just that.
We put in the first Jumping Pillow in Australia, Geoff Olholm said. Then we put sand around it to prevent injuries. We sell things to do, that takes extra staff in the office but it works out well, he said.
There is a bike track around the adventure playground and the giant chess set goes out every day. This is part of the value for money for some park regulars.
Water features at Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort Queensland
But what the customers says really carries weight at Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort even when Olholm and crew have other ideas. The infrastructure is in place for a swim-up bar but that is on hold now Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort regulars say they do not think that washes in a family caravan park.
The 28 acre caravan park/resort has 42 staff. Another truism points out the value for money cost benefit of that commitment to level of service.
People remember quality long after the price has been forgotten, Geoff Olhom said.
About 30,000 guests who just come to Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort each year find value for money in its high yield diverse approach to park accommodation and services.
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort has won 12 Tourism Awards. On the southern entrance to Cairns, it is about seven minutes drive from the city centre. Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort caters to travellers and holiday makers who appreciate quality, cleanliness and value for money from their point of view.
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort has a full range of accommodation and sites to suit couples, families, groups or independent travellers looking for a friendly home away from home.
There are free activities for all the family include two large resort pools with waterslides, warm spa, cold spa and children's wading pool, aqua aerobics, tennis courts, 18 hole mini golf, volleyball, badminton, basketball, huge adventure playground and enormous jumping pillows for children of all ages, giant chess, bocce, hookey and outdoor movies.The recreational room has a TV room, video room (videos four times a day), pool table and table tennis.
Accommodation includes condos, villas, holiday units, tropical ensuite cabins, ensuite cabins, standard cabins. A standard cabin ranges from $A49 to $A69 a double while a top of the range condo has a price range of $A185 to $A225 a double across seasonal demand peaks. Tariffs at Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort are for two or more nights in accommodation.
In peak periods a four night minimum applies to all accommodation at Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort. But this version of value for money does not meet the basic needs of the no frill traveller.
Basic Cabin Goulburn River Caravan Park Seymour Victoria
The usual demand from budget travellers in New Zealand and Australia calls for nothing more than a bed for the night when cabin accommodation is chosen.
GoSee regards $A60 a double a night as good value in this area. Linen is almost always an extra cost of about $A10 to $A12 in what is best generally termed as standard accommodation without an ensuite. GoSee like many budget travellers prefers to use our own bedding so the lack of linen is not an inconvenience.
Many parks, at all levels, recognise this preference and provide the option. Sure in the high seasonal periods park charges climb to $A200 plus levels, but off peak every dollar counts and all travellers are essential to keep the park pot bubbling along.
But while standard accommodation usually means that the park amenities block is both shower and toilet a standard cabin is good value.
Heating and cooling are included as are all kitchen needs and cooking facilities. There is no set-up or pull down time involved and unlimited power runs anything attached to it from about 2pm on the day of arrival until 10am on the day of departure.
While budget travellers say they want no frills GoSee notes that they often make full use of the extra free features which are part of the park experience in New Zealand and Australia. Camp Community facilities with TV, barbecues, pools, spas and camp kitchen facitilies are all typical benefits which are free value for money.
Talking of add-ons Miranda Holiday Park in New Zealand's North Island is typical of value for money with extras in both New Zealand and Australian parks. Miranda Holiday Park is on the scenic Auckland-Coromandel Pacific Coast Highway.
Hot time spa Miranda Holiday Park New Zealand
There is a beautiful hot mineral pool in which GoSee spent as much time as possible, children's playground, Sky TV, tennis court and petanque.
The high standard communal facilities, kitchen, laundry, lounge, TV room, barbecues and recreational facilities add value to its location about and hour south east of Auckland, 50 minutes from Auckland Airport, 20 minutes to Thames and the Coromandel coast. Miranda Holiday Park offers a range of quality self-catering accommodation.
Once again the accommodation product branding is testing - the choices are motel apartments, studio apartments, two bedroom and one bedroom chalets and tourist lodge. The price range is from $NZ135 to $NZ185 a double a night.
Camping is $NZ20 per person a night with full use of the park facilities plus a access to an excellent camp kitchen. The free benefits also obviously include access to the hot mineral pool.
Australia's current best caravan park is BIG4 Beacon Resort, winner of the 2009 Qantas Australian Tourism Award for Tourist and Caravan Parks.
BIG4 Beacon Resorts commitment to an ongoing program of facility upgrades and improvements to business practice and customer service has repeatedly set industry standards during its 40 years of operation.
It is the the first caravan park in Australia to build architecturally designed luxury cabins.
BIG4 Beacon Resort positioning in Queenscliff on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula at the gateway to the Surf Coast and the world class touring attractions of the Great Ocean Road is strategic placement of a quality product. Beacon Resort's modern cabins suit a couple right through to the extended family.
Groups have several options including camping, caravan sites, motel rooms and self-contained units.
Lonsdale cabin barbecue deck Beacon Resort Queenscliff
Once again as is so often the case in Australia and New Zealand the accommodation branding runs across a variety of nine cabin and room options.
Top of the range is a Port Phillip Cabin from $A170 to $A350 a double per night depending on seasonal influences. All cabin accommodation is $A25 per extra person. A Standard Cabin ranges from $A95 to $A150 a double per night depending on seasonal influences.
Prices may change please check before booking.
Minimum booking periods and seasonal tariff variations should always be checked with parks.
As part of the research for this feature GoSee stayed at Beacon Resort in a Lonsdale Cabin. This is the second option in Beacon's cabin structure.
We paid the $A160 a double a night off-peak rate for an accommodation experience which holds its own with a typical capital city apartment where the rate runs around $A254 for two bedrooms.
That figure is broad brush. As regular travellers know deals and lower prices for longer stays make an exact price comparison difficult.
This is compounded by short-sells on distressed inventory on websites which provide last minute shopping for accommodation bargains.
For example GoSee stayed recently in a Studio Apartment close to Canberra CBD. The rack rate was $A300. GoSee paid $A175 for double bed, ensuite and limited self-catering.
In value for money terms the top range caravan park cabins GoSee uses in Australia and New Zealand are superior with more spacious accommodation.
Capital Executive Apartments Canberra $175 a double per night
If inclusive facilities are factored in too top range parks on both sides of the Tasman are clear winners on value for money.
The Beacon Resort Lonsdale Cabin option at its $A160 off-peak rate is a modern interesting, well designed, open-plan approach to comfortable, self-catered living with its own outdoor barbecue and deck.
A big enclosed heated swimming pool is metres away. In the context of a home-away-from-home in accommodation with an edge GoSee regards the Lonsdale experience as off-peak value for money at the upper end of the caravan park accommodation market.
In New Zealand GoSee has seen only one apartment style unit which holds its own with this level of Australian caravan park accommodation and that was in a resort-style complex in North Island Taupo.
At the other end of the value for money in cabins scale GoSee pays about $A60 a double per night.
The value in that is GoSee only wants a bed for the night when we are not towing.
This is usually in extremes of weather and is also influenced by the convenience of not having to fully unpack and repack the truck.
Business demands and time constraints also drive a cabin stay decision. We also like to see friends who run caravan parks. At Yass Caravan Park, New South Wales this budget accommodation close to Canberra comes fully self-contained.
Everything needed to cook, sleep, keep warm or cool (except bed linen) is included. As we said earlier as GoSee travels with everything on board bedding is not an issue for us.
In the same price range is Goulburn River Tourist Park at Seymour Victoria.
The park is a member of the Top Tourist Parks of Australia chain.
The Seymour park says its cabins cater to from one to eight guests.
The cabin GoSee used had no ensuite and it was close to the amenities block for that reason. In a comment on the diverse nature of some caravan park owners and managers the Seymour cabin's comfortable double bed came with linen included.
All main beds are made up at Seymour. Unfortunately this is not common policy and value for money is ellusive when linen comes as an extra at up to $A12 per bed for traveller who require it in some caravan, tourist and Holiday Parks.
In the next (3rd) Information Article in this Best Parks in Australasia series GoSee looks at camping, camp kitchens in New Zealand and Australia, and the free facilities which add value for money on both sides of the Tasman.
Editor's Note: A byline with a GoSee story indicates opinion.
Prices quoted are from GoSee experiences over the past seven years in both New Zealand and Australia. They are average for low and shoulder seasonal travel and correct at the time of writing. All GoSee features carry a publication date. Please take this into consideration when making bookings.
Despite there being some truth in the general publicly held belief that journos never pay for anything GoSee makes a point of paying full fare. Unless, and it happens, it becomes rude to refuse the generousity of industry friends.
But we make a point of finding a way to make it up when that comes up. Mostly it is the GoSee budget being hit and that focuses our initial search for a good deal.
To give balance to that attitude good deal does not translate into cheapest with us. There are many elements of a good deal which have nothing to do with money. Cabin quality is No 1.
There are also practical benefits for GoSee site visitors in this approach. Within the limits of good taste, fair play and the law GoSee reports what we find. Another is GoSee sees the real accommodation as travellers find it.
Editor's Note: Also See -
Lounging Taupo Motel Unit New Zealand
Beds for five chalet 2nd bedroom typical New Zealand chalet accommodation
Motel Units near Auckland. Top10 Holiday Park New Zealand
GoSee enjoys Beauty Pt Tasmania cabins million dollar water view
Budget price but bed with sheets Goulburn River Caravan Park Victoria
Comfortable GoSee cabin Albury Motor Village NSW
Everything a cook needs Lake Hume Holiday Park
Family size cabin and GoSee Magna Ocean Grove Holiday Park
Good, clean basic accommodation. Jayco cabin at Lake Hume Holiday Park NSW
Quality kitchen area Lonsdale cabin Beacon Resort Queenscliff
Sunny second bedroom Motel Unit Taupo North Island New Zealand
Sunny smile starts the day. Pleasurelea Tourist Resort ensuite cabin Batemans Bay NSW