Caravan parks look for Easter to extend holiday boom

South Australia’s caravan park boom looks set to continue following a “cultural shift” that has some holiday parks expecting an even busier Easter than last year’s record April.

Apr 04, 2022, updated Apr 04, 2022
Discovery Parks Barossa Valley. Picture: Supplied

Discovery Parks Barossa Valley. Picture: Supplied

The promising forward bookings follow a strong summer for SA parks, generating $48.8 million in December and January, up from $48.6 million the previous year despite a number of last-minute cancellations as the Omicron wave of COVID-19 moved across the state.

The industry, which includes about 130 parks in SA, generated $200 million in revenue in 2021, according to CaravanStats data prepared by accounting firm BDO in collaboration with the Caravan Industry Association of Australia.

This was a huge turnaround from the $115 million in revenue generated in 2020 when many of the state’s parks were all but locked down for several months between March and September.

In 2021, SA parks generated a record $23.5 million in April, up from $18.8 million in 2019 and just $2.8 million in lockdown hit 2020.

The month included Easter and school holidays in all three years.

Discovery Parks operates 85 holiday parks across Australia, including 12 in SA.

Chief operating officer Matt Lang said Easter and April bookings across Australia were looking positive despite some early booking hesitancy at the height of the first Omicron wave.

“Early on our bookings were slightly down but what’s really nice to see is that we are a couple of per cent up at the moment for the coming Easter and school holidays and particularly in South Australia it’s very strong – we’re pretty much booked out over Easter,” he said.

“About six weeks ago there was a bit of hesitancy about people making plans – and there’s still some of that in the market – but that’s starting to wane now.

“Generally in the industry there’s quite a bit of optimism and now that there are high vaccination rates and the borders are open we are also starting to see people book from interstate.”

Those concerns about Omicron led to a slight fall in overall occupancy rates in December and January to 54 per cent, down from 55 per cent the previous summer.

However, a 10 per cent increase in the average daily rate resulted in the slight revenue boost.

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The $48.6 million generated this summer was up 17 per cent on the 2018-19 figure, the last full summer before the coronavirus pandemic.

Parallel to the sustained caravan park boom has been a boom in the sales of caravans, four-wheel-drive vehicles and camping equipment.

This has also led to an increase in occupancy rates for powered and un-powered sites at holiday parks, which have traditionally been less popular than cabins.

“There’s still quite a bit of pent-up demand from being basically locked down for two years and people are looking to travel,” Lang said.

“People are still waiting for caravans to be delivered to them so I think there has been a cultural shift and people have connected again and are doing things that they might have done when they were younger.”

Lang acknowledged that the holiday park industry had benefitted from the caravan sales boom and said the industry was in a stronger position than it was before the pandemic.

He said there was confidence that the outlook would remain positive for at least the rest of the year.

“When we look at our forward outlook – not just Easter and the school holidays but for four or five months – we are looking quite strong compared to the prior year,” Lang said.

“A lot of people have invested in four-wheel-drives and caravans and they are looking to be on the road.

“People want to be COVID safe and holiday parks provide a really good way to do that with the fresh air and the ability to stay in your own cabin or caravan as opposed to going to a hotel.”

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