Traveling Public Calls for Royal Commission into Caravan & Tourist Park Industry

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In February 2019, the Royal Commission into the Banking & Finance Industry released its report into the behavior of the industry, a report quite scathing towards the senior management within the industry and the culture of greed that over the years has been allowed & encouraged to pervade that industry.

After its release the Australian public then saw those captains of industry decry that inquiry & its report, with the common response being that 'we were only doing what we told the shareholders would be good for them'” while ignoring the requirements of the actual customers of the business.

Observers and media who have witnessed the above responses have been highly critical of these captains of industry, making some sarcastic and at times, pungent comments regarding the ongoing employment of these CEOs and CFOs.

The Australian caravan and tourist park industry is a smaller version of the financial & banking industry – and certain members of its senior management have over the past decade at least, been taking that industry away from a significant slice of the traveling public – their customers – and into a confrontational and aggressive attitude towards them.

Instead of modifying the business plan to recognize the ever-increasing numbers of self-contained caravans and motor-homes appearing on Australian roads and offering them discount tariffs,  there becomes little or no need to use caravan and  tourist park amenities.  The management attitude has been to attack those travelers and in earlier years to call their camping style “illegal camping”, a descriptive term disputed by many and currently referred to as “non-compliant” camping ~ without specifying what “compliant” camping actually is.

Headed by the Caravan Industries Association of Australia (CIAA), the caravan and  tourist park industry now is engaging in yet another expensive and quite negative campaign, in an attempt to persuade state and local governments to alienate a large proportion of the traveling public, by legislating them away from their preferred accommodation arrangements and into commercial accommodation parks.

Australia has a long and proud tradition of 'swagmen', men & women who traipsed across this wide brown land and camped at night on the roadside, along a riverbank, or on the outskirts of a town. No doubt there were hoteliers of 100 years ago who looked at these travelers and would have preferred them to stay a while at their hostelry, and to encourage people to stay, the proprietor introduced 'blackboard specials' and discounted tariffs.

Today's commercial accommodation park industry now does things differently – it does not appear to communicate with these 'missing' clients … it goes behind the backs of their clients and out to the legislators, to cause local by-laws to be altered in their favour, to introduce 'legal protection' for inefficient business practices, and along the way completely ignores the results of customer needs surveys commissioned by itself!

In 2012, BDO Limited produced the “Economic Benefit Report - Spending Patterns of Commercial Campers & Non-Commercial Campers”, a 24-page document detailing the trends with both 'commercial' and 'non-commercial' travellers and making observations regarding future directions for the commercial accommodation industry.

That report states unequivocally:
For the purposes of this report a non-commercial camper has been defined as a tourist staying in a non-commercial camping area on the day they were interviewed. It does not necessarily follow that they always stay in non-commercial camping areas. However, of the non-commercial campers interviewed on average they indicated that 71% of their nights away would be spent in a non-commercial camping area.

Additionally it was noted that Commercial caravan parks least attractive attribute amongst non-commercial campers is the cost. 30% of non-commercial campers disliked this aspect the most. This is not at all surprising as it is well known amongst non-commercial travelers that as a group, they are tired of being charged for services that are unwanted and UN-needed.

In 2014, and following a 2-year enquiry into the economics the state receives from RV tourism, the Queensland government's “Camping Options Toolkit” shows that while 34% of travelers exclusively use caravan parks, the remaining 66% of travelers combine both commercial and non-commercial camping for their accommodation.

In 2016, the commercially independent group, Freedom Camping Australia produced the “The camping habits & economic value of 'free-camping' travelers” report which reported that 84% of freedom campers use a mixture of traditional caravan parks and community-owned camping facilities of some sort whilst traveling, along with some free-of-cost camping when convenient. The community-owned camping facilities included town camping and recreation reserves, state & national parks.

It is long overdue that the Caravan and Tourist Park Industry stopped trying to use a battering ram on RV travelers via corrosive and underhand methods, and started to listen to those travelers in self-contained RVs as to their requirements and the tariffs they are prepared to accept.

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