By Garth Morrison
The2006 Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia11th annual conference at the Marriott in Surfers Paradise closedon Feb. 10 with a generally clear recognition among about 400 delegates that they must plan more for the future through the rapidly evolving family market.
It is the family users of caravan parks and related services that lead the way. Their children are the future of the caravan, camper, motor home, cabin, campervan, camping and Recreational Vehicle industry in Australia.
There are niche opportunities which include motorhomes but while the, wash your mouth out, Grey Nomads will pot boil the industry billy over the campfire, it is an old song and a done deal in marketing terms.
Editor's note: Place your cursor on thepictures to read the captions.
It is the third time, with variations, since 1957 that in your correspondent's experience Australian families are statistically major driver in the caravan and camping industry.
Ken Illich told the conference that there is a chronic shortfall in useful, accurate statistics from industry and wondered why. Ben Binns shared the view. But, while this point holds true with industry there are at least enough positive, probably right ABS and Morgan numbers on family use of caravan parks to set a clear industry marketing direction.
There are marked variations in the preferred direction for the industry over the next five to seven years, but when a panel of caravan park and industry younger achievers faced their mostly senior colleagues in open discussion a great deal of good was done.
The issues include user pays and Ken Illich of Brisbane Holiday Village, summed that up with the honest observation that generation X and Y pay $700 a week and demand service while the Grey Nomads, (who hate being called that), pay $100 and whinge!
Two storey cabins could take on the challenge of accommodation wars with Gold Coast high-rise options and site night yields would rise, he said.
That would help address the chronic shortage of quality, long-term trained staff who could not be expected to raise families on low wage packets.
The Illich family have changed the face of caravan parks and reinvented the experience. They are among leading Australian Holiday Parks with their innovative Brisbane Holiday Village. The top Tourist Parks chain member Holiday Villagewas the Best Tourist and Holiday Park in the nation in 2004. Brisbane Holiday Village has been owned and operated since 1987 by the Illich family. Geoff Illich and his mother Maria accepted the accolade at the Australian Tourism Awards in Alice Springs on Friday, February 11, last year. They made it a double when their Ashmore PalmsHoliday Villagetook the Award for the Best Standard Accommodation. Theyfollowed that up in theAustralian Tourism Awards in Surfers on Friday, Feb 24 this year when they won Best Standard Accommodationfor the third time running and Ashmore Palmsentered the National Hall of Fame.Geoff and his brother Ken are open about the reasons for their success. We listen to our guests, ask questions and give them what they want, Ken Illich told GoSeeAustralia.
The results are from business plan commitment. In 2000 Brisbane Holiday Village become one of the first caravan parks in the country to achieve Caravan Industry Accreditation.
As is the nature of the industry the accommodation mix in Australia throughout it's states and territories is a matter of the horse for the local course. So when Annette Terrill of Ballarat Goldfields said families are their bread and butter and while they did not aim to be the biggest they certainly aim to be the best at service, there was general agreement. Annette and her family of Victorian caravan park operators have scored a 5 Star rating treble. A Welcome Stranger Holiday Park, Ballarat, is now the third park operated by the Watts family to achieve AAA Tourism 5 Star rating status. The other 5 Star family operations are, Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park and Melbourne BIG4 Holiday Park at Coburg.
They were contenders in the Tourism Australia Awards this year.
All three parks are members of the BIG4 Holiday Park Chain. Des and Margaret Watts, who head the Watts family, are BIG4 'originals'. Their first park was Welcome Stranger which they bought in 1974. Des and Margaret got into caravan parks because 'It was always something we wanted to do', Des Watts told GoSeeAustralia.
The panel at CRVA presented the up-and-coming mover and shaker views of names which helped make the industry over hard working generations.
Mark Glencross, Ben Binns, Ken Illich, Josh Carnavas, Annette Terrill, David De Heus represent coal face experience in industry, manufacturing, sales and caravan park management which goes back to the first pick strokes in Australian caravan parks and industry services.
Happily they are also the independent results of their parents' experience and
Service, the word that has been too often lost from the business world of major companies, kept coming up.
They were some clear unique selling points
Josh Carnavas (Brisbane Camperland) Treat people the way you would like to be treated yourself.
Annette Terrill (Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park) Be the best you can.
Ben Binns (Winnebago Industries) Service.
Ken Illich (Brisbane Holiday Village) Exceed expectations.
Mark Glencross (City RV Centre) Build trust and be up to date with the information you give on your product.
David De Heus (Thetford Australia) Give service, that way your client will come back and work to promote our industry through the eyes of children.
David De Heus also noted the opportunity to cater more for the needs of Asian and Middle Eastern people in much the way that the AFL moved on its Grassroots program and Annette Terrill raised the magic word sexy in the need for a different perspective when marketing to the X and Y generation.
While they (X and Y) were certainly interested in doing what their parents had done in caravan parks the industry approach needs to be from a different perspective and sexy, she said.
Roadstar passion honored twice
As the good words flowed at the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference passion was honored twice. In both cases Tony Bellamy of Roadstar Industries was involved once representing Roadstar and its commitment to training in Trainer of the Year and again in his own right through the Eric Hayman Award for Excellence.
With the death of Jean Hayman, Jim Hayman endorsed the presentation of the Eric Hayman Award for Excellence to Tony, continuing the Hayman family presence at the conference which he shared with his mother Jean last year. Jeans late husband, Hayman Towbars founder, Eric, was the first recipient of the industries peak award. His vision, now caravanning accessories manufacturer, Hayman Reese, holds a 90 per cent share of its area of the Australian market.
Tony Bellamy was honored for his passionate contribution to training young people to the highest industry standards. Queensland CTIA doyen, Ron Chapman, told GoSeeAustralia the awards key criteria demands that the recipient makes a contribution which is a national service to the Australian caravan, camping and tourism industry. Chapman was the second recipient of the award. Eric Hayman was President of the CTIA (Victoria) for 17 years and also president of the Caravan and Recreational Vehicle Council of Australia. When Eric was standing down, the Association decided to initiate the award, Ron Chapman said.
Unity puts the Go in US RVing
From keynote speaker Tom Stinnett, Co Chairman, USA RVing Campaign came the takeaway word unity for delegates at the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference. Tom is President of the Tom Stinnett RV Freedom Centre in Clarksville, Indiana, one of the biggest retail outlets in the US Midwest.
It is a big deal with sales of more than $35m through more than 1200 Recreational Vehicles (new and used) sold each year. He is Co Chairman of the US Go RVing coalition. They are united in a major campaign to capture the hearts and minds of America. Their target is US families.
Their message is clever and tinged with humor. The style of words, pictures and situations is reassuring through a pitch which comes direct from the reliable, solid, time of National Geographic magazine. Even the type fonts used are direct from that era of safe America. The coalition crash through racial boundaries and the unified American RV group builds for the future through the eyes and imagination of a child.
Fair Go call makes sharp points
Jenny Tonkin fromAustralia's current Best CaravanPark,Cairns Coconut Caravan Resort, delivered the next magic words for the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference Fair Go!
In a workshop presentation she truncated a telling argument to balance current moves by some councils to turn Showgrounds and similar areas into low cost camping grounds. This trend also now includes some schools she said.
Jenny and Geoff Olholmaccepted the National awardfor theirBIG4 chain member parkat the Australian Tourism Awardsin Surfers on Friday Feb. 24.
The sharp end of the points she made at the CRVA Conferencecame down to liability a sobering word which caravan park and industry people are all too familiar with. It is a particularly costly area and councilors and government took the point and many are reviewing the value of creating cheap caravan and RV parking against the probability of the negative results of legal actions.
Her extended Fair Go! argument is the moral commercial position and obligations which go with fair competition in Australia. The caravan parks put in the hard yards pay the full bill, rates, liabilities, and the whole catastrophe. They do not get public money to help them do that. Nor do they enjoy adjusted balance sheets which could include subsidy of their rates through rate payers or government sources.
Jenny is qualified to read the reality which is not always obvious in some balance sheets. Her advice from recent experience to caravan park owners faced with asking for fair competition is - become a financial member of your Showgrounds committee. This gives full access to the balance sheets. Park owners may find that Showground rates reach a zero balance through offsets, she said.
She began her remarks with the comment that caravan park owners have absolutely no problem with Australians exercising their right to enjoy the outdoors and the designated camping options which go with that Australian pleasure.
Park crime at low level
Crime - in caravan parks was another evocative word for the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference.
GoSeeAustralia is waiting on independent analysis numbers from an interesting workshop which showed a generally low rate of crime, by definition, throughout Australia caravan parks. We will post them when they arrive.
From the floor came some coal face comment on dealing with situations. Clive Pilley of One Mile Beach Holiday Park, Anna Bay, NSW, said persistence can bring results. He said problems which revolved around people other than park patrons using the One Mile Beach pool had been solved by constant checks. Over time this cleared the water by making the park experience too hard for unwanted visitors.
Unstructured security checks and a good guard dog were also suggested as valuable deterrents. The dog was rated as one of the most cost effective solutions.
Patriotic, too right mate
Patriotic the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference certainly was.
John Williamson got a standing ovation after a performance which ranged through great chunks of Australia and obviously hit the right cord with many of the delegates who had been there.
The humor included kissing on the tip, an authentic clutch of bird calls and the strange language normally fairly sane adults adopt when talking to babies. But it was song books at the high port when he got to the CRVAs industry anthem We Love this Country which the balladeer wrote in 2005 for the CRVA National Marketing restructure.
Williamson is a direct kind of bloke and his comment that any suggestion that Waltzing Matilda was not important to Australians was a clear case of Pigs bum! put the jingo into ism.
Visiting Yank, Tom Stinnett, of the US Go RVing Campaign, was diplomatic when asked, when he said whatever it all meant it was all good. This is of course a favorite comment of BIG4 Marketing Manager, Alison McDowell, when facing any situation, good or bad, so maybe its an Oz thing too.
Safari Trails mount up
Safari - was a buzz word at the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference.
Chair of the Safari Project Management Committee, Barrie Baillie, said the $250,000 grant from Tourism Australia will get on the road for about a month in three pilots heading east, west and south on themed caravan safari trails. The pilots will establish the business plan but each needs to be self-funding.
Benefits are touring in rural and Outback Australia, for caravans, motorhomes or mobile camping vehicles with group security, guidance and camaraderie. Between 30 and 50 vehicles will take part in each safari.
Satellite goes broadband
Satellite was the word from Wally Shand CEO of Campersat when he called at the GoSeeAustralia stand at the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference.
GSAs experience with setting up and using satellite TV is fairly extensive through developing our Information features so GSA is happy to report that Wally has two way satellite broadband internet. Press a button and the compact dish goes into auto signal search. The unit has a low profile when folded and will sit well on top of a motorhome. The LNB arm has been reshaped to achieve this result.
Business as it applies to parks
Business came up at the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of Australia National Conference in many ways but from Alison Huth comes a new book The Business of Caravan Parks.
Alison, who owns and operates Lilyponds Holiday Park, Mapleton, Qld, says caravan parks add to the essential style of Australian life. So to support that view she wrote a 419 page book which deals with parks, their customers, getting in and out of the industry, HR, management issues, marketing, advertising, Environmental matters, OHS, insurance and legal issues. It is real life from the day-today business of caravan parks. The title supports the delivery of qualifications under the Caravan Industry Training Package. It has been released through Pearson Education Australia.