Smile all the while
THE lifestyle helps make the work worthwhile for those involved in the caravan park industry.
The state’s 200 caravan parks employ a range of workers, from managers to grounds staff, caretakers and relieving staff.
Most of the parks are run by owneroperators, who find they have the freedom to carry out a business while meeting new people and living in some of SA’s most popular tourist regions.
CARAVAN park owner George Russell has one important piece of advice for anyone thinking about a foray into the industry: Be prepared to put in the hours.
The retired army operating theatre technician has owned the BIG4 Coober Pedy Oasis Tourist Park for the past seven years.
In that time he has met thousands of interesting people and shared many great experiences.
He loves the variety his work offers but says running a caravan park is anything but easy.
‘‘It was a challenge when we first started and it still is a challenge,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a really good lifestyle but the disadvantage is that it’s very long hours. ‘‘But the rewards are there.’’ There are about 200 caravan parks in South Australia, accord- ing to Caravan Parks Association SA chairman Richard Davis.
Most are owner-operated businesses that employ casual cleaners, maintenance workers, gardeners and office staff.
Mr Davis says people who start out as casuals often work their way up the pecking order.
‘‘You can work in a park and progress your career at the same time,’’ he says. ‘‘There are diploma courses for caravan park operations – the industry is progressing well in that field.’’
Mr Davis says working in caravan parks often ‘‘becomes a lifestyle’’. ‘‘It’s a constant job,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s the variety the park offers that keeps it interesting. ‘‘It does become their life.’’ That certainly rings true for Mr Russell, who took his first casual job in a park after he became ‘‘bored’’ while travelling around Australia.
The recipient of an Order of Australia for Services award for services to the Royal Australian Medical Corp and the Australian Army, Mr Russell found himself working as a maintenance officer at the BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park in Alice Springs for four years.
When he heard the Coober Pedy park was up for sale he jumped at the opportunity and he hasn’t looked back since.
His sons Anthony and Mark now co-own the park and his daughter Kelly is soon to come on board.
‘‘It was a pretty good lifestyle (working in Alice Springs) and my wife enjoyed working in the office so we decided that rather than working for somebody else we’d get our own park,’’ he says.
‘‘I have to say that I miss the camaraderie the force offers you but the friends and family I have here at the park are fantastic.
‘‘You really feel like you are part of a family (and) you’re always meeting new people.’’
Mr Russell employs six people to help with cleaning, maintenance and office work at the park.
BIG4 spokeswoman Kari Hunter says caravan park work is ideal for friendly people who enjoy variety.
‘‘You need to be a very customer service-oriented,’’ Ms Hunter says.
‘‘Generally people who work in parks are very friendly.’’
BIG4 Coober Pedy Oasis Tourist Park owner George Russell.