January 13, 2018 08:14:42
Most new motorhomes don’t need caravan parks: they have their own toilets, kitchens and even waste management. (Supplied: Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia)
The Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) says towns that do not offer an alternative to caravan parks for self-contained recreational vehicles will miss out on their business.
Chief executive Richard Barwick said with their own toilets, kitchens, and even waste management, new motor homes did not need caravan parks.
This meant owners were on the lookout for low-cost, or even no-cost, places to park.
According to figures from CMCA, there are around 620,000 registered motorhomes and other recreational vehicles (RVs) in Australia with an estimated 135,000 vehicles on the road at any time.
“Recreational vehicle groups want more towns to offer low-cost camping areas,” Mr Barwick said.
He said that while there were a number of free camping sites around, they were unregulated and with rules varying state by state, it was difficult to police.
“There are 500 dump points around Australia for self-contained camping vehicles [and] that sort of infrastructure can mean more people shopping in your town,” he said.
Attracting lucrative ‘grey nomad’ market
A ‘low-cost area’ strictly for self-contained vehicles has been established by some local councils in western Victoria, including Portland, Ararat, Casterton and Stawell.
CMCA estimates the average RV user on the road spends about $770 per week locally and an estimated 70 per cent of RVs currently being manufactured are self-contained.
Many caravan and campervan users try to be self-contained and leave no trace of their presence. (ABC Great Southern: Karla Arnall )
“What we push as a club, and as responsible users, is that you leave no trace,” Mr Barwick said.
“Consumer demand has seen a large push towards self-containment [which] is an increased cost for the user but better for the environment.”
Meanwhile, non-self-contained vehicles — ranging from older model caravans through to a station wagon or vans kitted out with a mattress — will continue to need and use professionally-operated caravan park-type accommodation with more extensive facilities that come with a cost.
“It’s easy cash for local businesses that local economies are currently missing out on,” Mr Barwick said.
“Baby boomers spend. Our parents were conservative and left their kids their inheritance.”
Not a challenge but an opportunity
CEO of the Victorian Caravan Parks Association, Elizabeth White, said while the growth of self-contained RVs was significant, there was still a large market share for caravan parks.
“We often find they drive in and they’re sick of emptying out the grey and the black water and despite the fact that it may be a washing machine on board, just prefer to use the laundry facilities at the caravan park,” she said.
Commercial caravan parks are not happy about councils offering low-cost sites near their businesses. (720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne)
Ms White said councils offering low or no-cost areas for self-contained RVs “did not concern them in the least” as long as they were located away from existing caravan parks.
“We’ve got parks that offer $5 or $10 a night for people just to come in, for the safety and security of being really in an area that’s patrolled and managed,” she said.
“The main concern for our association would be where a council provides opportunities for free camping right across the road from a commercial caravan park that’s got enormous overheads to meet.
“They’ve got to pay rates, show full compliance with CFA guidelines… There’s a raft of registration, legislation that says you’ve got to have certain number of toilets for your guests.”
Ms White said most of the councils her association had dealt with understood the economic benefit grey nomads and caravan parks brought.
“A level playing field is fair,” she said.
“Free camping… No problem if it’s not right in the heart of the area that’s serviced by commercial caravan parks.”
Contact Dominic Cansdale
stories from Victoria