Forget the hype about luxury tourism, designer tents and ‘glamping’. The Sydney Herald reported that new statistics from Tourism Australia show that Australians are, quite literally, a nation of happy campers spending $5.4 billion a year on back-to-basics holidays in caravan parks and camping grounds.
And no, it’s not grey nomads driving this trend. More than half of the campers are young families, like Chris and Angela Jordan, who relish the freedom a caravan offers when planning a holiday.
The Jordans, both primary school teachers from South Australia, are staying at the Queanbeyan Riverside Tourist Park with daughters Erin and Elise. They drove from Mount Gambier, towing their much-loved 1980s Jayco caravan, so Chris Jordan could do a glassblowing course at the Canberra Glassworks.
He jokes that, as teachers, holidays tend to coincide with peak season rates for motels. ”A caravan is a cheaper option, and more fun for the kids. Most caravan parks have playgrounds and plenty of space for kids to ride bikes,” he says.
His wife says the caravan also helps the family avoid the inevitable – and expensive – junk food traps of road travel.
When one of her daughters developed a food allergy, it was easy to prepare meals in the caravan. ”You can pull over in a picnic area and make something healthy [to eat]. You have more control over how much you spend on food,” she says.
Queanbeyan Riverside Tourist Park owner Kevin Pritzler recently commissioned a report on the park’s contribution to the NSW regional town’s economy. The estimate is upwards of $4 million a year, possibly as high as $8 million.
”We’re seeing a new generation of family campers, and also a younger grey nomad – a lot of these are public servants who can work anywhere around Australia on their laptops. There’s no need for them to be tied to an office.”
According to the Tourism Australia snapshot report, Australia has more than 1,600 caravan parks, employing 10,600 people and injecting $50 million into the economy.
Last year, domestic campers spent slightly more overall per trip ($667) than other domestic visitors ($656), but this was ”not surprising given that their average length of stay was two nights longer than for other visitors,” the report said.
Overseas campers – chiefly the British, Germans and Kiwis – spent significantly more ($7,507 each) than other international visitors ($4,776).
Caravan Industry Australia estimates there are over 100 local caravan manufacturers, 160 pop-up camper manufacturers and 15 motorhome manufacturers, rolling out 18,000 camper vehicles a year.