Van parks are how they roll

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Lisa Allen

CAR­A­VAN king Gerry Ryan says the strength of the na­tion’s camp­ing and car­a­van mar­ket will see him cre­ate an­other 250 jobs at his Jayco man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Vic­to­ria’s Dan­de­nong Ranges, which al­ready di­rectly em­ploys 1200 staff.

The Jayco chair­man, pri­vately worth $380 mil­lion, says he is in­creas­ingly knock­ing back pri­vate eq­uity firms want­ing to buy into the busi­ness, given the in­creas­ing de­mand for his mo­tor homes, car­a­vans and cam­per trail­ers.

Jayco con­trols 51 per cent of the Aus­tralian mar­ket and ex­ports to New Zealand and Asia.

“The mar­ket has been grow­ing since 2009,” says Ryan.

In­deed, new data re­veal Aus­tralians’ love af­fair with camp­ing con­tin­ues, but Chi­nese, Ger­man and Amer­i­can holidaymakers are also tak­ing to our back roads, with gov­ern­ment fig­ures re­veal­ing a 12 per cent hike in do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional hol­i­day stays in camp­ing grounds to 33.3 mil­lion nights in 2016.

John O’Sul­li­van, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Tourism Aus­tralia, said Chi­nese tourists were in­creas­ingly driv­ing them­selves and camp­ing in Tas­ma­nia, which was among their most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions on the back of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s visit.

There’s been a 38 per cent jump in Amer­i­can tourists camp­ing here, a 14 per cent rise in Bri­tish trav­ellers and a 17 per cent in­crease in Ger­mans hit­ting our roads and camp­ing grounds.

Vic­to­ria’s Great Ocean Road and Cairns and Port

Dou­glas are among the most pop­u­lar for in­ter­na­tional campers.

Vic­to­ria recorded 7 per cent growth in camp­ing last year but ev­ery other state showed dou­ble digit growth, says Car­a­van In­dus­try Association chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art Lamont.

Av­er­age stays in car­a­van parks are in­creas­ing to nearly five nights as car­a­van and camp­ing fa­cil­i­ties im­prove and more do­mes­tic trav­ellers choose camp­ing hol­i­days, par­tic­u­larly for fish­ing and walk­ing.

“We have camped all over Bri­tain and Europe, and this is ideal,” says Bri­tish hol­i­day maker Jeremy Clines in Syd­ney. “This is much cheaper than Airbnb,” he adds, say­ing that with their own tent it’s cost­ing the fam­ily of four just $285 a week.

With av­er­age Syd­ney ho­tel room rates cost­ing $200-plus a night, camp sites in in­ner city spots such as Cock­a­too Is­land are rel­a­tively cheap at just $45 through to $175 a night for glamp­ing, which in­cludes water­front camp­ing in a 3m x 3m tent.

Mean­while, Ryan says the only thing ham­per­ing the in­dus­try is property de­vel­op­ers buy­ing up camp­ing grounds.

“De­vel­op­ers have come in and bought car­a­van parks be­cause of the re­turn on in­vest­ments,” he says.

“The in­dus­try will be fac­ing short­ages of land.”

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

The Ja­cob fam­ily from NSW are stay­ing in Port Dou­glas for a week

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