‘If borders don’t open soon, van parks will close’

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Alice Springs caravan park empty of grey nomads
Brendan Heenan in his very empty caravan park. PIC: Alice Springs News

A high-profile caravan park boss has warned that many businesses like his may not survive if Australia”s internal borders aren’t open by July.

Brendan Heenan from Alice Springs’ MacDonnell Range Holiday Park says that effectively not having a 2020 tourism season would be a complete disaster. He say the high visitation period in the Top End ends at the beginning of October and, from then on, some businesses will have no significant income until April next year.

The Northern Territory’s  Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, has not said what his conditions would be for re-opening the borders, but has stressed it will be the last Covid-19 measure lifted.

“Why should we be last to open up our borders? We should be one of the first ones,” said Mr Heenan.  “We open up the pubs and everything else. We won’t have a tourism industry here if we are not open by July.”

According to the Alice Springs News, the border closure is keeping out the bulk of the 400,000 visitors who spend money there every year.

Mr Heenan said grey nomads are likely to be ‘at least 50%’ of the potential visitors.

“They are itching to go, to get out of the cold winter weather down south,” he said.

In Mr Heenan’s view, international visitation is not expected to return much before 2022 ‘to get back to where we were’ – depending on the state of the pandemic, and the need for visitors to quarantine.

He believes now is the time for all stops to be be pulled out to encourage Aussies to visit their own country.

“About nine million people go overseas every year from Australia,” he told the Alice Springs News. “And they spend $50 billion dollars.”

With the opportunity to encourage even more domestic tourism, Mr Heenan argues that launching new initiatives, such as potentially opening up the southern flank of the Mount Gillen range, near Alice Springs, would be the way to go.

“I’ve done it, climbing up the eastern side of The Gap and walking along the ridge to Emily Gap. And on the other side I climbed up Mt Gillen and walked along the range to The Gap,” he said. “Or you can walk all the way from Honeymoon Gap. These are opportunities we can offer … it’s beautiful up through there.”

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5 Responses to ‘If borders don’t open soon, van parks will close’

  1. During this pandemic we have all read stories of people that have been caught out and their travels halted for a while, and the response of people who opened up their own properties to help out others that are not even known to themselves, it made my emotions soar.. ( That could have been us if my family had returned from holidays a bit earlier.) States that have recently been through some of the worst that mother nature can dish out , ongoing drought, cyclones, flooding and not forgetting the fires that were going on when the virus came along and yet still found time to assist the stranded traveller..WOW. Now, looking at the Northern Territory i don’t see any notices of assistance offered from anybody anywhere. My plans for the future will be to travel in this big state of W.A. as the boundries expand and when the borders do open, we can extend our options for the other states.. By the time i arrive in the NT, Uluru will be level with the rest of the desert..

  2. In this forum there is always a level of critism about Caravan Parks. Some warranted. I’m not a big fan of Van parks, but have to admit I use them occasionally as a convenience. They are handy for me after bush camping for a fair while to renew provisions and all that’s needed close to town. I mainly use regional Van parks and find them friendly and convenient. They are a business (sometimes family or privately owned) and rely on customers to survive.
    Its nice to have a clean pool to use during the wet season humidity build up temperatures and the prices are reasonably fair.

    • Pat. Like yourself it is good to be able to go to a caravan park after a couple of days in the bush..I only book in for one day.. During this time there are the chores that need to be attended too.. shopping for supplies, fuel, filling the water tanks and empty the cassette. you know the drill.. This is a time for assesment of what else that the town has that may appeal to us.. Places of interest and always a walk through the town.. If the park has appeal well then we can look at staying there for an extended time.. Caravan parks were for the weary traveller who was going somewhere and needed a place to rest over for the night.. If there was something there that enticed you to stay longer, well all good for the park.. Now you go to coastal caravan parks that have become mini villages with park homes and you feel like the odd man out if you pull in there with a caravan..Regional caravan parks have often been the places where we have had the most enjoyable stays and met some wonderful people..Our van has the extras that enable us the freedom of being able to have a look around the country side without having to rush to the next town just so we can shower and have a toilet that night..When in a town towards the end of the day i have no problems booking in for the night.. What happens after that, is up to them.

  3. Caravan parks provide a vital infrastructure for tourism, employment and their local economy. No-one is forced or coerced to use them any more than they are forced to eat atMcDonalds, they are simply an option you can drive past if its not for you. The prices charged reflect the market, thats the same capitalist market that has gifted every grey nomad the ability to travel about. I feel for these businesses, big and small, and although you can choose not to use them its a genuinely evil person that would wish economic destruction upon them just for entertainment … better to just drive past, and wish them well

    • Well said Crusty. Owners of Caravan Parks often work long hours to keep the Park looking good and facilities clean. Most of the Gray Nomads have had to work for a living just as Park Owners/Managers do. I wish them well and thank them for providing a safe& mostly friendly place to spend our holidays. Good luck for the future.

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