Facing divergent supply and demand in Australian caravanning: learnings from the evolution of caravan park site-mix options in Tweed Shire
Waldicott, RW & Scherrer, P 2013, 'Facing divergent supply and demand in Australian caravanning: learnings from the evolution of caravan park site-mix options in Tweed Shire', Journal of Vacation Marketing, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 117-131.
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The caravan park sector of the Australian leisure accommodation industry currently provides 50% of total domestic bed capacity. Recent decades have seen a gradual decline in caravan park establishments and despite its continuing market dominance in terms of bed capacity, the industry today is only a mere shadow of its former glory days in the mid 1970s. A current resurgence in caravanning, as a subset of drive tourism, has seen an increase in registrations of new campervans and motor homes of over 19% in the last 5 years alone. This inverse relationship between downward-trending park capacity and upward-trending recreational vehicle1 registrations raises significant capacity issues for leisure accommodation. This article examines supply-side elements of caravanning – elements largely overlooked in the demand-side focused literature – through a case study of caravan parks of the Tweed Shire in northern New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It innovatively adapts the theoretical framework of Butler’s (Canadian Geographer 1980; 24: 5–12) tourist area life cycle (TALC) to an industry subsector, caravan parks, to examine time-series trends in park-based site-mix options and capacity. The study found that traditional site infrastructure, geared towards mobile accommodation forms of caravans and tents, is giving way to fixed forms of relocatable homes and ensuite cabins. In an environment of increasing demand for the caravanning experience but decreasing parks, and thus decreasing total site capacity, the contrasting trends are predicted to create a serious accommodation facilities shortage for the caravanning sector of the tourism industry. It concludes that the broad pattern of caravan park development, through site-mix analysis, is in alignment with the six stages of the TALC, as proposed by Butler (Canadian Geographer 1980; 24: 5–12). Market forces have, to date, propelled caravan parks to their current stage of the TALC. However, the path to a sustainable future for Australian caravan parks will now predominately be determined through their own proactive management intervention.