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

April 09, 2014
Family drives caravan and camping key Aust, NZ, European speakers tell CRVA delegates

By Garth Morrison Editor GoSeeAustralia and GoSee New Zealand

Holiday Accommodation Parks Association of New Zealand (HAPNZ) CEO Fergus Browndelivered 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 FinancialCrisis (GFC). In that context Fergus Brown's observation underlines a marketing shift which wasrecognised by a variety of speakers at the Caravan, RV Accommodation Industry of AustraliaLtd (CRVA) annual national conference at Hobart's excellent Grand Chancellor Hotel.

FergusBrown and other speakers indentified a completely new game for the caravan and campingindustry.

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

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

Familiesnow set the caravan and camping industry market direction and in New Zealand Holiday Parksare permissive when it comes to Freedom camping, he said.

Holiday Parks must change theirprofile, 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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) marketinto the back stalls.

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

Now the US is in strongrecovery, but this is not being replicated in Europe where customers face the GFC hangoverfinanacial reality with a completely new set of entirely pragmatic budget driven demands for RVbuilders and industry suppliers like Dometic. Smaller, economic, versatile, eco-driven vehicleswhich double as family transport are the customers need.

Hire not buy and family togetherness areanother demand. The needs range across camping to glamping and up to 75 percent of thatdemand 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 24year 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, BerndLoher said.

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

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

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

Social media like Weibo is usedto carry the message from travelling Chinese to friends at home. The result of the aspirationalmessage 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 theextent 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 ofits exposure audience wishes to own it, but for economical reasons cannot. An aspirational productimplies certain positive characteristics to the user, but the supply appears limited due to limitedproduction quantities. An important characteristic of an aspirational product is that the part of itsexposure audience that is at present economically unable to purchase it, thinks of itself as having afair 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 CRVAdelegates that after 39 years in the long march from a Cranbourne shed in 1975 he still takeshis own advice.

Back yourself, he said.

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

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

And for the fairly immediatefuture -With (international) tourism more expensive and the increased cost of travel more peoplewill stay (and holiday) at home, Gerry Ryan said.

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

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

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

Growth (in thecaravan and camping industry) will be driven by families, he said. Generation Y like the lifestyleand they have the finance to do it, but they want washing machines and wine coolers, their familywant 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 withafter sales service, he said.

The customer is more educated and more demanding so parks need to lift their standards andimprove 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 thelong haul.

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

And I am not about to retire!

Gerry Ryan MD Jayco
Gerry Ryan MD Jayco

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

His maingoals with the ACC include freedom of choice for camping locations and promoting safety througheducation.

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

The AustralianCaravan 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 RegisteredCompany to reflect its national identity. The ACC members says they see themselves, in part, as alobby group, not as an organisation set up to attack the Recreational Vehicle (RV) industry, butrather to work with existing organisations for the benefit of all caravanners and camper-trailerowners.

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 tentprogressed to a caravan, then downsized as the family grew and apparently moved on only to beconfronted by the question where are our beds? from the kids.

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

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

ACC demographics show that50 percent of the clubs members value good clean ammenities. About 46 percent of the ACCmembers are self-sufficent when it comes to freedom camping, Tom Smith said.

Of the ACCmembers 7 percent always use caravan parks, he said. A pet friendly environment is alsowelcome, 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 $20to $25 a night for a campsite. Nothing over $25 draws a 26 percent response. $30 to $35 gets a21 percent vote.

ACC members spend between $100 and $120 a day across the whole community, Tom Smithsaid. 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 forlow-cost places or locations, spots where children are not restricted too much. As KIT is a familyclub, it is understood that pets are family too. So, if pets are OK at the places KIT goes to, thenits OK by ACC.

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

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

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

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

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

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