Who’s go­ing to serve our in­ter­ests?

The South African camp­ing in­dus­try is in deep trou­ble and we need to work to­gether to save it, says Neels van Heer­den.

Go! Camp & Drive - - NEELS’ RALLY TENT -

The camp­ing in­dus­try in Aus­tralia is worth an es­ti­mated AUS$19 (ap­prox­i­mately R190 bil­lion), with Chi­nese tourists con­tribut­ing about 10% to this amount. It comes as no sur­prise that vis­i­tors from this coun­try are re­garded by the Aussies as one of the mar­ket seg­ments with the best growth po­ten­tial.

Re­cent re­search shows that al­most 3 500 com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia of­fer camp­ing-re­lated prod­ucts di­rectly to con­sumers. That in­cludes man­u­fac­tur­ers, im­porters, re­tail­ers, work­shops and camp­sites.

An es­ti­mated 53 000 peo­ple earn their bread and but­ter in the Aus­tralian camp­ing in­dus­try. About 23 000 car­a­vans and mo­torhomes were man­u­fac­tured in 2015 alone. Com­pared to South Africa’s ap­prox­i­mate 110 000 car­a­vans and 2 000 reg­is­tered mo­torhomes, there’s a frac­tion less than 590 000 in Aus­tralia.

The Car­a­van In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia (CIAA) is a non-profit trade as­so­ci­a­tion whose vi­sion it is to en­sure a sus­tain­able camp­ing in­dus­try. The pil­lars of this vi­sion sup­ports, amongst other things, mar­ket­ing, re­search and lob­by­ing aimed at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

The CIAA also con­cen­trates on the ac­cred­i­ta­tion of man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers to en­sure qual­ity man­u­fac­tur­ing, prod­ucts and ser­vices. The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mem­ber­ship fees fund its bud­get, and all ac­tiv­i­ties are aimed at pro­mot­ing its mem­bers in­ter­ests. IT’S PRAISE­WOR­THY that the CIAA plays an ac­tive role in pro­mot­ing camp­ing tourism, and it has the sup­port of car­a­van clubs in all seven Aus­tralian states.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion en­cour­ages re­search, and ve­hi­cles’ sales pat­terns as well as in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tor pat­terns and be­hav­iour are an­a­lysed in­ten­sively. Mem­bers of the CIAA are sup­plied with com­pre­hen­sive re­search re­ports to help them with fu­ture plan­ning. In fact, there’s a plan in place that ex­tends to 2030.

The CIAA ac­cred­its car­a­van parks and of­fers mar­ket­ing as­sis­tance to mem­bers. A wide range of train­ing pro­grammes, rang­ing from cus­tomer ser­vice to fi­nan­cial man­age­ment to main­te­nance of camp­sites is of­fered.

Campers don’t pay, but they ben­e­fit from the CIAA’s ac­tiv­i­ties. Any com­pany that dis­plays the CIAA logo de­clares its com­mit­ment to top-qual­ity man­age­ment and ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice.

WHAT CAN WE IN South Africa learn from the Aus­tralians? We don’t have the same kind of fi­nan­cial re­sources to es­tab­lish a sim­i­lar en­tity, but we have to start some­where as soon as pos­si­ble.

The is­sues at the Jur­gens fac­tory can crip­ple our en­tire in­dus­try, and it’s ev­i­dent that the South African camp­ing in­dus­try could ben­e­fit from a rep­re­sen­ta­tive body.

One could get ini­tial fund­ing from an agree­ment where man­u­fac­tur­ers of tow­ing ve­hi­cles con­trib­ute small amounts to a de­vel­op­ment fund. It might even be pos­si­ble to ne­go­ti­ate some kind of tax ben­e­fit.

There are cur­rently too few car­a­vans and mo­torhomes be­ing man­u­fac­tured and camp­sites are strug­gling to show profit. That’s why they can’t be ap­proached right now to be donors or spon­sors.

A board of in­ter­ested par­ties in the camp­ing in­dus­try can be ap­pointed to man­age the funds, and in­ter­ested re­searchers can serve on a re­search com­mit­tee.

This body must cre­ate a di­rect chan­nel to dis­cuss ur­gent mat­ters like star rat­ings and EB driv­ers’ li­cences with the na­tional de­part­ments of tourism and trans­port.

Train­ing pro­grammes should be es­tab­lished within the na­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions frame­work so that cour­ses in car­a­van and camper van de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing as well as qual­ity con­trol can be of­fered.

Cour­ses in fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, stock con­trol, car­a­van park man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing can also be de­vel­oped. These kinds of pro­grammes must have of­fi­cial ac­cred­i­ta­tion and the costs can be cov­ered by mak­ing use of the skills de­vel­op­ment levies charged by gov­ern­ment.

A team of con­sul­tants can of­fer ad­vice to any camp­ing-re­lated com­pany that strug­gles to keep head above wa­ter. We must sim­ply put our shoul­der to the wheel to help get the South African camp­ing in­dus­try out of the deep hole it’s in.

The is­sues at the Jur­gens fac­tory can crip­ple our in­dus­try, and it’s ev­i­dence that the South African camp­ing in­dus­try could ben­e­fit from a rep­re­sen­ta­tive body.

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