Declining Caravan Parks under Pressure

Research has shown that the type of caravan has shifted at the same time that caravan park capacity and caravan parks numbers in general are on the decline

Caravan Parks Importance to the Tourism Industry

Travel by caravan is a major part of Australia’s tourism industry. For some interesting statistics, in 2009

  • Caravanning made $6.5 billion in profits.
  • It provided jobs for 10,000 workers.
  • Caravan parks made $1.1 billion in revenue.
  • Caravan parks employed 3,500 workers.
  • There were 1641 caravan parks across Australia

A Major Tourism Sector on the Decline

Unfortunately, despite the importance of caravanning and caravan parks to the economy, Australian caravan parks, and coastal caravan parks especially, are decreasing because of factors such as beachfront land being converted to more economically profitable developments such as high-rise apartments. As well as this, total park capacity is on the decline with both short and long-term site capacity decreased by 8 per cent and 13 per cent respectively between 2000 and 2009. This is in contrast to the increased demand for, and participation in road-trip tourism experiences, particularly by younger thrill-seeking couples and families in camper trailers and grey-nomad caravaners. These two opposing trends is a recipe for disaster for the tourism industry, as it could create a serious accommodation facilities shortage for the caravanning sector.          

Shifting Tourism Trends

Changing population demographics, with an increasing baby-boomer concentration, has had a large effect on recent caravanning developments. The focus has shifted onto the caravan itself and its ability to be used as a long-term, touring residential unit rather than as a temporary, short-term holiday unit simply parked in a caravan park. As such, a growing number of caravaners are becoming ‘mobile residents,’ moving between communities rather than living permanently within a single community. At the same time as this shifting trend, national records on the number of caravan parks indicate a steady and consistent decline over the last decade, back from a peak in 1995 to the number of caravan parks being 10 per cent less in 2009. There is also movement away from commercial caravan parks towards ‘freedom camping’ along roadsides and in public reserves. 

As well as this, the market for caravans shifted around the year 2000, from families to retired couples. As such, manufacturers have responded to this new market in the way caravans are designed, knowing that retired couples will spend longer periods in caravans. Thus, family-friendly caravans and caravan parks have suffered as a result. Families have adapted to the change however, with families now re-entering the market with large numbers of them occupying the new style of luxurious park cabin and also the camper-trailer.

Caravan Parks in the Future

The future of the caravan park sector in the future will likely be determined by its ability to continually reinvent supply with new products targeted at new consumers. Armed with this new information, you as a caravan park owner, manager or potential investor are now better informed to make strategic and sustainable business decisions to take your park and industry forward, adapt to the market changes and thus avoid an accommodation shortage in the Australian caravanning tourism sector.

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