Road to recovery

The caravan industry is set to play a major role in the Queensland tourism industry's resurgence.

The caravan industry is looking forward to a post-COVID boom following a surge in caravan and recreational vehicle (RV) sales.

Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Queensland CEO Jason Plant said retailers saw a spike in activity as soon as the State Government eased restrictions on intrastate travel in May.

“The caravan trade is absolutely booming at the moment,” Mr Plant said.

“We had a really good start to the year, but it all stopped in April, which was a disaster.

“Then when the Premier (Annastacia Palaszczuk) made the announcement about easing restrictions, we saw an immediate increase in activity at retail dealerships to a point where some caravan dealers were getting low on stock.”

The spike across the state has been attributed to the attraction of travelling and holidaying in a more isolated environment and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding international travel. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, conducted in mid-June, found less than a third of respondents (29 percent) were considering an international holiday while 55 percent were looking at travelling domestically within six months.

Of those considering international travel, 44 percent were looking at doing so in six to 12 months and 31 percent beyond 12 months.

Caravan in outback

“In lieu of overseas travel, people are choosing to holiday at home and making the decision to purchase a recreational vehicle,” Mr Plant said.

He said buyers were not just the stereotypical grey nomads.

“It’s right across the board, it’s all demographics – from families to young professionals and the retiree market, which is still very important,” Mr Plant said.

Brisbane Camperland Executive Director Josh Carnavas said his Tingalpa business had experienced a post-lockdown rush after a couple of months of nearly “zero trade”.

“We have been dealing with a bit of pent-up demand as well as the fact people need to travel locally and they are looking at their options for the next couple of years,” Mr Carnavas said.

“We have been seeing a lot of people who have never owned a caravan and have not considered this option before. 

“They may have had to cancel their cruise or overseas trips and are looking at options for what they can do locally.”

Hutchinson family with their camper trailer

Mr Plant said the industry was responsible for supporting jobs in a range of sectors.

“Australians do love to support our own and help a mate out in times of trouble,” Mr Plant said.

“We have seen that during the drought, bushfires, and with the impact of the coronavirus on the tourism industry, a lot of sectors need a helping hand.

“By buying an RV, particularly one locally made, you’re helping out the economy from manufacturing through to tourism and everything in between.”

A report by the Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) revealed in a normal year, the tourism sector injected $527.4 million into the central western Queensland region.

Many of those dollars come with the caravans, motorhomes and camper trailers which criss-cross the state each winter.

The coronavirus lockdown stopped a large chunk of those dollars flowing this year, but Mr Plant was confident the RV industry would play a big role in the tourism industry’s recovery.

“A lot of these regional towns have been struggling with drought for years now and they rely heavily on the drive tourism market and recreational vehicles,” he said.

“We have seen in the past whenever there has been some sort of incident overseas or some sort of downturn, you will see a slight increase in domestic tourism interest.

“This has the potential to really drive growth, which is great for everyone along the supply chain.”

Packed up and ready to go

The convenience of hitting the road with little preparation convinced the Hodgkinson family to buy their first camper trailer in July.

Martin and Claire Hodgkinson and their children Taya, 7, and Luke, 5, (pictured) had been regular campers but were losing their enthusiasm.

“The last time we went camping was about 12 months ago and we got rained on and the tent leaked so we were completely over the whole thing,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“With the camper trailer, it is more comfortable and you can go for longer periods of time.

“Everything is stored and set up. You don’t have to think about it too much, you just have to get your clothes and food and off you go.”

The family, from Wakerley in Brisbane, were initially planning shorter trips around south-east Queensland with their new camper trailer, although longer journeys to visit family in the north of the state were on the cards.

“There are lot of nice places to explore and you can get accommodation for a fraction of the price you would pay for a hotel with the same views,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“The nice thing is you can go off-road with it too.”