Environmental management in holiday parks – everyone has a part to play

Market research tells us that the natural environment is one of the major attractions of caravan holiday parks.

In any customer survey the natural environment rates highly as one of the most important reasons people choose a particular park. Caravan holiday parks are located in Australia’s beauty spots along the coasts, in unique mountain areas, alongside rivers, in the forests and in central Australia.

This enables international tourists visiting Australia to acquaint themselves with Australia’s unique flora and fauna, and wide spaces. City-based tourists spend weekends in parks, which lead on to wide sandy beaches or in cooler areas away from the often humid coastal cities. Tourists from down south spend the long winter months in parks along Queensland’s warm coastal strip.

Many parks maintain their grounds as an extension of the natural environment with shady trees and gardens, careful consideration given to the placement and design of buildings and amenities, and procedures designed to minimise human impact on the environment. Given the widespread public interest in the environment, parks that are seen to have a casual attitude towards environmental issues may suffer loss of reputation and, ultimately, consumer support.

While maintaining a natural environment makes good economic sense, it is not only economic considerations that are important. Most caravan holiday park owners and managers themselves have an understanding of their local environment and with that a desire to maintain it. However, given the difficulties of the Australian climate and geography, maintaining the environment can only happen with careful planning and managing.

Questions to consider when developing your environmental plan

The development and management of an effective environmental plan can help parks secure a competitive advantage. When considering the development of an environmental plan consider the following questions to help achieve a plan that is not only strategically sound but also achievable in a management sense.

Managing the local environment:

• What opportunities/threats does the local environment present to you?
• Given EPA legislation and local government policy what are you required to do?

Waste and pollution management:

• Is there a consultative process with local authorities to determine appropriate waste and pollution levels?
• What strategies do you have in place to demonstrate compliance?
• What are the major areas of waste and pollution generated by your park?
• What is the environmental impact?
• What techniques do you use to assess the environmental impact of these areas of concern?
• What minimisation strategies do you have in place?
• How do you assess if these strategies are effective?

Staff have a big part to play and are essential to your plan operating effectively. By including them in the development of environmental plans and making sure they are appropriately trained and have sound knowledge of the systems in place is not only good management but crucial to success.

Some questions to ponder about staff awareness of environmental issues:

• What processes do you have in place to research and disseminate information about environmental issues to staff?
• How is this training recorded?
• What ongoing monitoring systems do you have in place?
• What systems do you have in place for staff to manage unforeseen events (emergency management to contain environmental damage)?
• What training do you have in place for staff on environmental management?

Other environmental aspects to consider may include:

• Does the park efficiently use natural resources (water, energy)?
• How does the park ensure waste disposal has minimal environmental and aesthetic impact?
• Does the park have a recycling program?
• Has the park membership of any eco-tourist networks/ programs?

So, you have all the systems in place, have included the staff in your development plans and trained them accordingly. Inevitably it will be your guests who will be the ones to reap the rewards of an environment that reflects the natural beauty of the park and its surrounds but also can be the undoing of all your hard work. Educate your guests and save yourself a mountain of heartache!

How do you increase guest awareness of environmental issues?

• Advertising environmental awareness by including information in advertising/marketing materials
• Giving clients appropriate verbal and written education and guidance with respect to the natural and cultural history of the local area, such as; never intentionally disturbing or encouraging the disturbance of wildlife or wildlife habitats
• Keeping vehicles and pedestrians to designated roads and tracks
• Advertising the consequences for not abiding by the rules and regulations of natural areas
• How do you train the customers to avoid damaging the environment within and beyond the park boundary?
• Do you involve, or is there a way you could involve your customers in environmental management e.g. bird counts, dolphin watch, coastal revegetation plans?

With more and more of the public opting to stay in caravan parks (often located in environmentally sensitive areas), there is an increased potential to impact upon local creeks, rivers and wetlands.

All inhabitants of a caravan holiday park must share responsibility for the environment; this includes customers as well as employees.

In the end the buck must stop somewhere and inevitably it is the responsibility of the owner/manager and staff to manage this.

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