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A decade of transformation in the caravan park sector

"And we are not finished yet!" says Stuart Lamont CEO, Caravan Industry Association of Australia in his column for AccomNews

The caravan park and holiday park industry in Australia has undergone a significant transformation over the last decade, culminating in a period of strong and solid growth following the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the CEO of Caravan Industry Association of Australia, I am excited to witness the evolution of the sector, stimulated by the increase in capital investment and look forward to a continued positive outlook for 2024 for the industry.

Stuart Lamont at the Caravan Industry Conference 2023

Over the past ten years, the caravan and camping industry has seen substantial changes. From technological advancements in manufacturing to the diversification of park facilities the industry has adapted to meet the evolving needs and preferences of travellers. In 2022, the industry reached a pinnacle, breaking free from the constraints of the pandemic and achieving unprecedented levels of visitor trips, nights spent, travelling expenditure, and local vehicle production.

Read Stuart’s column and more in the new summer print edition of AccomNews HERE

Like most industries, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought significant challenges to the industry, including travel restrictions and significant supply chain disruptions, which threatened to derail an industry already on the charge.

However, this soon changed with the sector demonstrating remarkable resilience and standing up to be the backbone of domestic tourism, with annual visitor expenditure now sitting at over $11.3 billion. The pandemic meant many Australians fell in love with their own back yard again, whether evident through a surge in demand for caravan and camping experiences or drive holiday experiences in roofed accommodation across the country.

Caravan Industry Conference 2023

One of the most notable trends in the last decade has been the confidence to invest heavily in capital investment within the sector, from both corporate institutions and private money. This has fundamentally changed and matured the industry with more diverse accommodation options while still being true to our long-standing roots of an authentic experience for all budgets promoting a connection to the land and a sense of community.

Further, and as witnessed through the recent Caravan Park Infrastructure Grant Program by the Albanese Federal Government, and long advocated for by Caravan Industry Association of Australia, a real focus on accessible infrastructure with many recipients expanding their accessible offerings and we will expect further investment into 2024 to cater for these important members of the travelling community.

Tourism Research Australia, in conjunction with our own reservation data, demonstrates the industry’s recovery post-COVID-19 was marked by a significant increase in the number of caravan and camping trips, smashing pre-pandemic levels. In the year ending June 2023, there were 15.6 million trips taken and 62.8 million visitor nights recorded, both equating to over 20 percent increase from 2022.

Importantly many of these trips and nights occurred in regional areas providing an economic stimulus for these local communities. Looking ahead to 2024, the caravan and holiday park sector is poised for continued growth.

The industry is expected to build on the momentum gained in the post-pandemic period, with an emphasis on enhancing customer experience through diversified offerings. The ongoing capital investment is likely to spur further innovation, making caravan and holiday parks even more attractive to a broad spectrum of holidaymakers.

We are expecting to see a further expansion of product offerings, designed to meet every price point and value proposition. Whether we look at luxury offerings or unpowered tent sites, there is value and an accommodation option for everyone. The investment into parks has also seen infrastructure and facilities rival that of fun parks.

Image courtesy of Uniplan Group – Riverside Caravan Park

The emphasis on the customer experience has meant a holiday one stop shop. With this evolution, the growth of multi-generational holidaying has an industry strongly focussed on connectedness. Our research shows a significant number of annual domestic trips include three generations of family members or more.

Onsite clustering of self-contained cabins alongside powered caravan sites and campsites allows families to vacation together. Shared amenities like camp kitchens, games rooms, and resort-style pools offer designated spaces for meaningful interaction between age groups. The variety of accommodation also suits families of all sizes and budgets.

The last decade has been a period of remarkable transformation for the Australian caravan and holiday park industry. The sector has not only navigated the challenges of the last few years but has emerged stronger, more diverse, and even more vibrant. With continued capital investment and an ever-evolving range of offerings, the future of the caravan and camping industry looks bright, promising a diverse and value-rich experience for travellers in 2024 and beyond.

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