Priced to thrill

I was asked the other day about the pricing in holiday parks following an observation that these prices were increasing to the angst of some patrons and prospective guests. I was asked for the reasoning behind these increases.

In attempting to answer this, I first need to point out that the average holiday park is, operationally and in every other respect, akin to running a small and, in some cases, not so small town. For the parks to maintain their competitiveness and the quality of the holiday experience they provide, the cost of building, maintaining and ongoing development is significant. Each park has to maintain general infrastructure such as buildings, water, power, sewerage, roads, walkways, external lighting, landscaping of lawns and gardens, amenities and facilities for the use of guests and the ongoing upkeep and repairs and maintenance of the cabins and sites which accommodate those guests.

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The Beachfront sites and cabins at Big4 Coral Coast Beachfront
Holiday Park at Bowen in Queensland, has views to die for.

In ensuring that the parks are safe, secure and provide an appropriate level of service to the guests each park has to comply with literally hundreds of local, state and federal requirements and expenses including but not limited to health and safety, fire, water back-flow, swimming pool regulations, food and beverage handling, water wise management, land taxes, rates, 24-hour security, sewerage and water. These are expensive fixed costs that guests may not see but are necessary in order to provide the best, safest and most suitable facilities for the guest.

Then of course there are the items of expense they do see such as the upkeep of swimming pools, games rooms, camp kitchens, BBQ areas, tennis courts etc, in order to add to the experience and holiday atmosphere that guests enjoy. We must not forget to mention the most expensive ongoing cost that is staff, making up anywhere between 15 – 25% of the costs of running any holiday park.

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South West Rocks Tourist Park

South West Rocks Tourist Park is right on the river at SW Rocks, NSW and is another park that caters to the slightly older guest as well as families with big open sites, well maintained, undercover barbeques, camp kitchen and amenities and comfortable, well furnished and well presented cabins to suit all budgets.

One of the criticisms that has been leveled at many of the “family friendly” parks and suggested (mostly by the older caravanning fraternity) as a reason why prices have increased is the outlay by these parks on the latest entertainment installations such as jumping pillows, water parks, exciting playgrounds and resort style swimming pools. Features that the older patrons of the parks do not – or say they do not – use.

The fact is that almost all good quality, successful holiday parks cater to a range of guests across the year – families in the peak holiday periods and couples and travelling holidaymakers in the shoulder periods. Unless the park has specifically positioned itself to a particular market they will tend to require a range of facilities that will accommodate each of these markets across the year.

While not all guests will use all facilities it would be impossible to base a pricing regime on which of the many facilities on offer in the park a guest was to use – who would monitor it? Ironically, the most costly facilities to upkeep in any park are the amenities blocks, barbeques and camp kitchens – all of which are almost exclusively used by the caravanning and camping guests.

Looks like a good place to stay
205-hol hom-Pool Little girl

BIG4 Parkgate Resort at Halls Gap in the Grampians in Victoria caters exceptionally well for the family market with its jumping pillow, tennis courts, swimming pool, large games room and wide, open spaces. Who wouldn’t want to have all this and be right in the Grampians National Park sharing the facilities with kangaroos, deer and emus – who also obviously appreciate a good holiday park holiday?

Today’s holiday park is a far cry from yesteryear’s caravan park that catered to mainly caravans, motorhomes and campers.

So too are the ever-growing demands of today’s holiday park guest. Over 90% of the guests of any holiday park are on holiday for pleasure and looking for an experience, whether that experience be adventurous or relaxation. They are no longer just looking for a bed or a site on which to park their caravan – they do want modern facilities, they want to see that the park is regularly being upgraded and families are looking for those modern, up-to-date playgrounds, heated swimming pools, water-play parks, jumping pillows, pedal carts and kids’ activities.

In addition, with the emergence of the holiday park over recent years as a truly mainstream holiday option, the holiday park sector has become increasingly competitive. Both the family market and baby-boomers have put in their demands and the park operator, like any customer-focused businessperson, has listened and is catering to their requests. In today’s competitive arena the decision to install a jumping pillow or water park could be the difference between securing a booking or not if you are positioning your business to the family market.

Then again if you are positioning your holiday park to the older market who are looking for a quiet, relaxing holiday the jumping pillow might be replaced by a bocce court, larger and more modern amenities – possibly with heated flooring, a larger camp kitchen or café where guests can relax and chat.

The astute holiday park operator is always looking for that “edge” that will add to the appeal of the park and provide another reason for holidaymakers to book. As an example Big4 Ballarat Windmill Holiday Park is undertaking significant capital works to upgrade their guest offering including a brand new spa, toddlers pool, splash pad, heated, indoor pool complex where the roof can be opened during the summer and closed during the cold winter months. Similarly BIG4 Parkgate Resort at Halls Gap is also enclosing and heating their pool for the comfort of guests during the cold winter in the Grampians.

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Probus group at Anglesea

Anglesea Beachfront Family Holiday Park on The Great Ocean Road in Victoria provides an ideal family getaway on the beach. Situated on the inlet at Anglesea, with walkways through to the beach Anglesea Beachfront has large sites for the caravanner and well presented and maintained cabins to suit all budgets for couples and families. Here we see the Strathfieldsaye Probus Club showing that the park’s giant jumping pillow is not just for the young but also for the “young at heart”.

It is this need to be continually upgrading and developing their operations and the increasing competiveness that requires parks to charge accordingly to ensure they are both profitable and sustainable for the future.

The price of running holiday parks continues to increase – as it does with every other business in the hospitality sector. Having said that I would add that a holiday in a good, well run holiday park is still one of the best value-for-money experiences you can have.

Terry Goodall has been involved in tourism hospitality for the past 15 years and is currently the managing director of PathFinder OutDoor Destinations P/L – a marketing and development consultancy for property operators offering an outdoor holiday experience.

Main Image: Terry Goodall

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