It used to be the great Aussie odyssey each Easter and any other long weekends as highways out of Australia's capital cities were choked with in an endless stream of slow moving family sedans pulling caravans.
The hassle was worth it though, once the family pulled into some picturesque country town that was their second home a few weekends a year and greeted the other regulars and new comers with whom they would form a temporary community.
But the great Australian family caravan holiday is in danger of extinction particularly in Western Australia where driving long distance to expensive parks is losing its appeal. Recent research by the Caravan Industry Association of WA shows occupancy rates have dropped by 10% during long weekends since around 2008.
The lack of long weekend family caravanners was evident in Broome during Easter 2014. “There haven't been the people lining up to get in, like we have known at other times,” park owner Ron Beacham told ABC news.
Mr. Beacham believes some aspects of the declining occupancy rates include the increasing costs of power and water handed on to holiday makers. He also too much regulation and red tape has put pressure on the caravan park owner’s margins and made it difficult for them to provide affordability.
Families in the West head to Asia
When you consider the investment in a caravan, the cost of fuel, your own food and the site hire, caravanning holidays are no longer significantly cheaper than flying to Bali or Thailand. Unless you are passionate about the lifestyle, caravans are a lot more hassle too.
Resorts in Asia and the Pacific offer kids clubs with lots of cultural activities, meaning mum and dad have more time to kick back. They often also include meals.
“People used to take four weeks’ holiday, and go away… with their family for four weeks camping, but now people are taking a week’s leave, they’re going on shorter overseas holidays,” Simon Glossop of the Caravan Industry of WA told the ABC. “You’d have to say it’s the cheaper airfares to South East Asia, and of course Bali.”
Property Developers on the East Coast
Heading to Asia or the Pacific is also tempting families on the East Coast but caravanning over the long weekends and throughout the year remains less dented than in the West with campsites often booked out.
Caravanning still draws a healthy following of weekend warriors from the city, often surfers and fishermen who bring their kids to share their passion. The registration of RVS and caravans is actually up, but the problem is the older camp sites are disappearing.
According to research from Southern Cross University caravan parks are closing at a rapid rate (13 per cent respectively between 2000 and 2009) being bought out by property developers on prime lots near rivers and beaches. This trend means a continuation in the family caravanning holiday may not possible and families may be forced into time-share accommodation or resorts, making cheap Asian and Pacific getaways even more attractive.