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Unpublished Paper
Supply-side evolution of caravanning in Australia: an historical analysis of caravan manufacturing and caravan parks
  • Rod Caldicott, Southern Cross University

This exploratory study reviewed internal and external supply-side elements of caravanning in Australia, an area largely overlooked to date in the demand-side focused literature. More specifically, it investigated how caravan parks have developed over the passage of time and what role the caravan manufacturing sector (external element) and the park-based site-mix options (internal element) have had in shaping that development.

In 2011, the caravanning industry is only a mere shadow of its former glory days of the mid seventies, as recognised within its own national peak body, the Caravan, Recreational Vehicle and Accommodation Industry of Australia (CRVA), despite the current resurgence in caravanning as a subset of drive tourism.

The study was broken into three parts. Part 1 reports the broad historical account of caravan manufacturing in Australia; Part 2 examines the history of caravan parks in Australia; and Part 3 presents a case study of caravan park evolution at a single destination level.

Underpinned by the theoretical framework of Butler’s (1980) Tourist Area Life Cycle (TALC), the study historically analysed the rise and fall scenarios of the manufacturing and parks’ sectors of the industry. It also innovatively applied the theory to examine longitudinal trends in park-based site-mix options through a case study of caravan parks of the Tweed Shire in northern New South Wales.

A mixed-methods design was used to extract the ‘best of both worlds’ from the two dominant paradigms of interpretivism and positivism thus enriching the overall findings.

Caravanning in Australia was found to be at an interesting crossroad in its development cycle. While the caravan manufacturing side of the sector is currently experiencing a rapid growth phase, the second within the past four decades, the caravan park side sector of the industry is in gradual decline in respect to total site capacity: a trend that has been evident for the past decade and a half. Successful parks are maintaining and growing market share through rejuvenation, while others have reinvented themselves as permanent living precincts. However, many coastal parks have closed due to urban development pressures. Traditional site infrastructure, geared toward mobile forms of caravans and tents, has given way to fixed forms of relocatable homes and ensuite cabins. In an environment of decreasing parks, and thus total capacity, where will the touring caravanner go?

The study concludes that the rise and fall pattern of development within the manufacturing sector and the parks sector of the national caravanning industry was also reflected in the evolutionary cycle of development at the destination level. The six stages of the TALC: Exploration, Involvement, Development, Consolidation, Stagnation and then Decline or Rejuvenation was shown to apply to the destination on broad terms and was also evident within the analysis of site-mix options. A model of caravan park evolutionary development was presented to assist the caravan industry in predicting its future and also to promote discussion and ideas for additional research on the supply-side of caravanning.

In the context of this thesis, the term caravan was used to include caravans, pop-tops, campervans, camper-trailers, tent-trailers, motor-homes, slide-on’s and 5th wheelers and is interchangeable with the term recreational vehicle (RV). Tents and cabins are not vehicles by the ‘caravan’ definition but as integral elements to the caravan park environment and function, they too were considered in the context of the caravan park site-mix. Some discussion unfolded throughout this study about permanent living in caravan parks and subsequently, relocatable homes. This non-mobile form of caravan park accommodation, however, was not included in the general concept of caravanning.

Publication Date
Citation Information
Caldicott, RW 2011, Supply-side evolution of caravanning in Australia: An historical analysis of caravan manufacturing and caravan parks, Thesis (Hons), Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright RW Caldicott 2011

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