Are cabins really changing the ‘feel’ of caravan parks?

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Cabins and caravan parks
Are cabins slowly squeezing caravans and motorhomes out? PIC: Booking.com

The seemingly relentless march of cabins into caravan parks has sparked a suspicion in some quarters that the unique atmosphere of traditional camping areas is under threat … but is it?

In the last week alone, the Jenolan Caravan Park in Oberon, New South Wales, announced it was to install eight new cabins, and the Adelaide Shores Resort in South Australia said it was to add 23 high-end cabins. In unveiling the plans, Adelaide Shores chief executive, Kate Williams, made it clear how she saw things moving.

“There’s a movement from caravanning to cabin accommodation,” she said. “We are trying to develop additional cabins to meet that demand.”

With a number of accommodation providers already referring to themselves as ‘cabin parks’, and growing concern among some caravan parks that the self-contained traveller is slowly squeezing their business, is there a seismic shift taking place?

Well, it depends on who you are talking to.

Garry Rochow from the Tasmania Cabins organisation says the popularity of cabins has boomed in recent years.

“In the early days caravan parks only really had a few cabins in each park but, over the years, many caravan parks have added newer and more attractive cabins,” he said. “This has resulted in fewer caravan sites … this seems to be the trend.”

He said that some new developments were now solely for cabin accommodation and offered no caravan sites at all, while other caravan parks were split between the two. Of course, in Tasmania the high cost of bringing caravans across the Bass Strait has meant some nomads choose to leave them on the mainland and travel staying in cabins instead. It’s a factor which has helped business in places like Bicheno Cabin Park, a venue exclusively for cabins.

“I believe caravans will always have their place but families seem to want better accommodation than staying in caravans,” said the park’s Mark Shearing. “From a business perspective, we have owned another caravan park which had both cabins and campsites … but cabins are on the rise!”

However, the Caravan Industry Association of Australia is keen to hose down any suggestion that a major change is taking place in the industry.

“With over 615,000 recreational vehicles on the road it would be folly to suggest that powered sites will disappear,” said the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Lamont. “Caravan, motorhome and camping sites are not only important to the business models of caravan parks … they also provide the atmosphere and sense of community which caravanning and camping is based around.”

Mr Lamont said caravan parks had to be responsive to the needs of the travelling public and to seek to achieve the best return on the land they had available.

“Cabins form an important part of a commercial park’s product mix as, in many cases, they allow operators to offset the negative impacts of seasonality and offer accommodation during the colder/wet months where the use of caravans and tents are at their lowest,” he said. “As such, cabin capacity supports economic sustainability for operators and communities over the course of the year.”

According to the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, average national caravan park occupancy levels are approximately 51% for cabins, 44% for powered sites, and 17% for unpowered sites.

“There is no doubt that in some cases product mix is being modified within caravan parks, although a lot of cabin development is to replace existing on-site vans or to relocate product mix within the park,” said Mr Lamont. “Are there more cabins going into caravan parks? Sure. But there are also many examples of increased powered sites being introduced as well.”

• Do you think cabins are changing the atmosphere at caravan parks? Comment below

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3 Responses to Are cabins really changing the ‘feel’ of caravan parks?

  1. We are caravan owners who always stay in caravan parks, I understand why people free camp and also recognise that this trend is growing. The more that the free camp side of travel grows the more that caravans will be pushed out of parks, sadly losing a vital and important accommodation sector to travellers..

  2. Cabins do have a place for those people that don’t want the expensive four wheel drive or caravan
    They can still see this great country cabin hopping. For me I can’t wait to retire & get my caravan & head off on the wallaby to take advantage off all the free camping & meet lots of new People

  3. When we owned a motel we weren’t allowed to park any caravans on the property even though we could have accommodated about 5.
    I always thought caravan Parks were for caravans but sadly 2 lots of rules.
    and yes we were zoned tourism.

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