Updated: Feb 2, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on Australia’s economy that could take years for the country to recover. But with border closures restricting movement even when lockdown measures aren’t in place, no one has been harder hit than the tourism industry. Given that tourism is a labour-intensive industry responsible for thousands of jobs across the country and a much higher share of jobs in regional areas, its decline is a major economic problem across Australia.
But while the pandemic has near crippled the aviation, cruise and hotel industries, it has not been all bad news for everyone in the tourism industry.
Australians taking a record-breaking 14 million caravan trips and more than 33,707 new caravan registrations in 2019, the motorhome and caravan industry is seeing an unprecedented boom.
Caravans and motorhomes are the safer travel option during COVID
While local travel restrictions have eased significantly, many countries still have strict international travel restrictions in place, so this growth in the popularity of caravanning and camping is expected to continue. This is especially true considering that caravanning is regarded as one of the most insulated and, therefore, safest ways to travel while the coronavirus remains a threat to everyone's health.
While there aren’t currently year-on-year sales figures available, there are other real-world indicators that prove the caravan and camper trailer industry is experiencing an increase in sales. These include dealer comments, dwindling stock and increased search volume for everything from local caravan parks to luxury motorhomes.
One service contributing to making these searches just a little easier for Australians everywhere is ROAVER. A cutting-edge travel technology tool that can be integrated right into a travel agency or other travel aggregate search website, it offers real-time search results, tools to compare available options and a built-in booking engine.
This allows travel agencies to embrace the back to nature trend that is driving a large majority of travel choices. It can also let them take advantage of the fact that caravanning and camping have become the most popular vacation choice for many Australians.
A $23.1 billion industry
Caravanning, camping and long-distance road trips have long been a top choice for Australians wanting to explore everything that the country has to offer. Well-known brands like New Age Caravans, Gerry Ryan’s Jayco, Apollo Motorhomes and more manufacture around 25,000 caravans and towable vehicles each year, with roughly 6,000 businesses employing around 60,000 people.
The industry also services over 740,000 vehicles on the road and creates 60 million visitor nights through an estimated 12 million trips every year. In the week leading up to 28 September 2020, caravan sites were able to achieve average occupancy rates of 64 per cent for powered sites and as much as 72 per cent in cabins.
When the average anticipated trip spend is expected to be as much as $1,000 per adult, this can represent a huge economic boost that can help the regions around these caravan parks and camping destinations. When all these individual factors are combined — namely manufacturing, broader employment opportunities related to caravanning in general and tourism expenditure — the market contributes more than $23.1 billion to Australia’s economy every year.
Younger Aussies joining grey nomads on the road
Long the domain of so-called ‘grey nomads’, the Australian campervan and caravan industry has seen an influx of interest from younger Australians. So much interest, in fact, that the local manufacturing industry has been struggling to keep up with demand in certain cases. This is due to lockdown restrictions in both Melbourne and China causing delays, which have led to supply chain issues, especially with custom options such as fridges and fans.
It’s not just new vehicles that are in high demand. While some have the cash to fork out anything from $200,000 for a brand-new luxury caravan that sleeps up to six people to $750,000 for a state-of-the-art motorhome with all the bells and whistles — there are second-hand caravans for just $2,500 available as well. However, it may take some searching to track one down at this stage.
With more than half of Australian travellers planning to go on road trips in the coming months, you can only expect the demand to get higher and the supply to get scarcer. This will lead to many Australians exploring rental options while they wait for delivery on their caravan or camper van of choice. This is a simple service that ROAVER is making it easy for travel websites to offer, thereby helping with the growth of this perfect post-pandemic recovery solution for the tourism industry.
Caravanning, the key to recovering regional economies
There are continued international border closures and the risk that state borders will keep closing as further outbreaks close down major cities. This means that caravanning and camping will continue to be the number-one way to fast-track the recovery of regional tourism and employment within the industry. And with government support, the industry could also play a large part in the long-term sustainable growth of Australian tourism.
When you look at the revenue being generated within the holiday park sector on a state-by-state basis, it is clear just how popular these camping and caravanning trips have become for Australians who don’t want to risk international travel just yet.
Comparing 2019 (pre-pandemic) calendar year revenue with that of 2021 shows:
New South Wales and Northern Territory show a 21% increase, up by $86.8 million and $9.2 million, respectively.
Victoria and Queensland show a 31% increase, up by $67 million and $85.5 million, respectively.
Tasmania shows a 42% increase, up by $10.9 million.
Western Australia shows a 61% increase, up by $96.2 million.
Southern Australia shows the most improvement with an 80% increase, up by $63.7 million.
With many Australians wanting to avoid their trips being cancelled due to snap lockdowns, the trend of people making last-minute bookings is likely to continue. And because it allows for real-time searching and comparing of caravan and motorhome options available in and around different travel destinations, this makes tools like ROAVER an essential part of the continued growth of this sector.