Tuesday 5 January 2016

Surge in Showground and Sports Ground Camping in Regional Towns

Available campsites are growing as showgrounds and sports grounds in regional towns get in on the surge of baby boomers retiring and hitting the Australian highways.  This reasonably new camping option ranges in cost from $15 p/night - $25 p/night for 2 person with some offering power and water.  They are a great option if you are travelling from A-B and need a spot to stop.  Either overnight or short respite of a few days.  Allowing you to recharge yours and the van’s batteries, dump grey and black water, restock water tanks and continue on your journey.  Much better option than having grey nomads setting up camp in our truck stops.  Perfect option for a short visit with family as camping on their front lawn is rarely acceptable to local council. And sleeping in your van on the street is a definite no no.

There are already 170,000 powered and unpowered sites available nightly in Australia. Average occupancy rate is 54% thus, 86,000 sites go unused nightly around the country.  Do we need anymore?

Many would say yes, especially for small towns which don’t already have caravan parks or bush campgrounds.  Research says that for every $100 spent in a caravan park, another $138 flows into the township in other expenditures like groceries, fuel, alcohol, vehicle maintenance and entertainment.   Most small town showgrounds and sports club committees struggle to maintain facilities, so extra revenue is definitely a godsend for these guys.  Generally speaking this writer thinks it is a fabulous option and would like to see more of this in small regional towns so that all travellers can take the opportunity to see our great country.

However, allowing more low cost camping where existing business is already catering to the market truly makes it hard for some to compete.  I most definitely would not be mortgaging my house to buy a caravan park lease if I thought council may allow the showground across the road to start competing with me.  Most local council are very aware of the dangers to existing business and are opting to only allow showgrounds and sports grounds in these situations to be used as overflows.  Thus, only used when existing campgrounds are full or there are large events in the region.  This seems to me to be a fair and responsible approach for those specific locations.

I know many would not agree with me as they would like to see more low cost camping available but it is also good to see a range of options prevail.  If the local caravan park goes out of business, those that would prefer to camp with a playground, convenience store, swimming pool, camp kitchen, slab sites and laundries will be forced to camp in showgrounds with very basic amenities.  In times gone by, caravan parks were the domain of the young family.  It was the only holiday option many could afford. It would be great to see that option be there for them in the future.

There needs to be some compromise so everyone wins and we continue to see a mix of low cost, bush, showground, national park, and caravan park camping.  All need to prosper and continue to be there for all of us to enjoy at different times. Depending on the type of travel we are undertaking, our budget and our personal needs on the day.  I would think a wise council would be taking all of these matters very seriously into consideration before deciding what is best for their location.

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