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.
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.