It may be a great Australian tradition, but it appears the beachside caravan holiday is in decline. Research commissioned by the Caravan Industry Association of WA shows occupancy rates have dropped significantly in recent years.
Peak-season bookings are down 10 per cent since 2008, while off-peak bookings are down 7 per cent. The association chief executive, Simon Glossop, said the findings did not come as a surprise.
"We've heard for a while, those in the industry saying there's less people travelling, and they're travelling for less weeks than they used to," he said. He said the downturn was linked to increasingly affordable Asian getaways. "You'd have to say it's the cheaper airfares to South East Asia, and of course Bali," Mr Glossop said.
"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."
Shrinking profit margins for operators
The decline is evident in Broome, where the Easter weekend marks the start of the northern tourist season.
The roads gradually fill with enormous, glossy caravans and campervans, steered by southerners chasing the sunshine.
But they are not arriving in the numbers they once did, according to local caravan park operators.
"There haven't been the people lining up to get in, like we have known at other times," Cable Beach Caravan Park owner Ron Beacham said.
"In the past it's been unbelievable, the number of people competing for a campsite. They're just not here in quite the same numbers now."
Mr Beacham has owned and operated the vast, shady park for 17 years, so is accustomed to the inevitable ups and downs of the tourism industry.
But he said he feels for newcomers to the industry, who are trying to open new caravan parks in what he describes as a tough environment.
"The costs have just gone through the roof in terms of things like power and water and rent," he said.
"And there are many more regulations to be complied with, rules and paperwork to run a park."
Action plan and funding to address the decline
The Caravan Industry Benchmark Report showed compliance was one of several factors contributing to shrinking profit margins for park owners.
"Peak season shrinkage, combined with rising costs, have put downwards pressure on margins," the report said.
"In addition to cost pressures, growing overheads attached to compliance activities, effort and expense are acting as a disincentive to growth."
But at the end of the day, there'll always be people who want to come to a place where it's 30 degrees and sunny all year around.
That is a trend the State Government is spending almost $35 million to address.
The Caravan and Camping Action Plan was released last year, and will see a range of changes implemented through to 2018.
The stated aim is to "increase opportunities for West Australians and visitors to experience affordable and safe caravan and camping holidays within WA".
The money will be used to expand camping areas in national parks, streamline the approvals process for new parks to be established, and upskill caravan park managers and staff.
There will also be a renewed focus on marketing WA as a caravan and camping destination to both locals and interstate visitors.
Meanwhile Mr Beacham is busy checking in new guests and chatting with regulars at his Cable Beach campsite.
"These things do go up and down," he reflected.
"But at the end of the day, there'll always be people who want to come to a place where it's 30 degrees [Celsius] and sunny all year around."