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Pressures build as caravan park industry shifts cut back campsites available in peak periods

September 18, 2012
Pressures  build as caravan park industry shifts cut back campsites available in peak periods

As the number of Australian caravan parks falls, cutting campsites available in peak periods at the remaining caravan parks, frustration will grow across road tourism among campers, caravan, motorhome and campervan owners.

The Victorian Caravan and Camping Industry Blueprint released in June reports that over recent years, the industry has changed in a number of important ways:

In Australia the number of caravan parks (with more than 40 sites) has declined from around 1,858 in 2000 to 1,644 a fall overall of 214, or 11.5 percent, and is forecast to continue to fall over the next five years, although at a slower rate.

The Blueprint funded by Caravan Trade and Industries Association Victoria and the Victorian Government Department of Manufacturing says there is a marked shift in the style of accommodation caravan parks offer, with a reduction in the number of powered and unpowered caravan and camping sites, and an increase in the number of cabins and units on offer,

This is partly yield management the Blueprint reports

The national body Caravan RV Accommodation Industry of Australia Ltd (CRVA) estimates that the average price per night for unpowered sites is $20, as opposed to $85 per night for cabin accommodation, and partly a response to market demand, as the industry competes to attract a greater share of lower budget travellers, such as backpackers, who might otherwise have opted for motel-style accommodation.

CRVA is a membership based organisation with each of the individual State Associations and the Recreational Vehicle Manufacturers Association of Australia (RVMAA) providing representation for the CRVA National Board, and various operational committees.

Of the nations 2,350 caravan and camping parks, over 500 are located in Victoria, 419 of which are members of the relevant industry body, VicParks. Caravan parks are a vitally important component of the industry value chain, since changes to their composition and structure have a real impact on the attractiveness of caravanning and road tourism as a leisure activity.

Editors Note: GoSeeAustralia has 2700 caravan parks and camping sites on its database. The GoSeeAustralia number is 350 higher because some camp sites which may not be registered are listed.

Some of the caravan park rationalisation has come from the closure of caravan parks which catered primarily for long-term residents, but there has also been a decline in the number of short-term parks, mostly in response to rising land values and the need for operators to generate higher yields, the Blueprint says.

Look what I did  Chloe has finished setting up camp
Look what I did Chloe has finished setting up camp

At the same time, caravan and camping parks have been investing in improved facilities, offering travellers cafes, barbeque facilities and shelters, coin operated laundries, play equipment, improved amenity blocks, and entertainment/games rooms.

This is leading to a differentiation between weaker, poor quality operators and more sophisticated, high quality parks, often operating under the banner of caravan park chains.

There has been a marked shift in the style of accommodation offered at parks, with a reduction in the number of powered and unpowered caravan and camping sites, and an increase in the number of cabins and units on offer.

These trends reported in the Blueprint suggest both positive and negative impacts on the industry and road tourism as a whole. Improving standards and facilities will make the whole caravan and camping leisure experience more attractive, but the reduction in the overall number of caravan parks and a reduced number of sites being available at the remaining parks will also cause some frustration among caravan owners.

Retro Tojo and Coromal friends Seymour
Retro Tojo and Coromal friends Seymour

The Blueprint says these changes do need to be kept in perspective, however.

An examination of the data that is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (on parks with more than 40 sites) suggests that, over the period between the March quarter of 2003 and the June quarter of 2010 (the last time that the ABS collected these statistics), the industry appears to have lost a total of 6,994 available sites, which represents just 3.4 percent of the total.

And while nearly 5,800 cabins have been added (at the expense of about 12,000 caravan sites), they still only represent 14.4 percent of the total sites available, up from 11.1 percent in 2003.

Arguably the loss of available sites has been more than offset by the improved quality of other facilities that these higher yielding accommodation types have probably helped to finance.

Finally it should be noted that although the total number of parks has fallen modestly over the years, average occupancy for the industry is 54 percent and the overall revenue growth has been solid, averaging 3.6 percent per annum over the decade from 2001 to 2010, and is expected to continue to grow at a similar rate into the future.

Setting-up for overnight at Junee
Setting-up for overnight at Junee
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