End of road for peak season van park fee hikes?

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No peak season van park fees
Batavia Coast Caravan Park ... a fee for all seasons

A family-owned West Austral­ian caravan park is standing by its ‘greed is bad’ philosophy and steadfastly refusing to hike its peak-season fees.

Despite burgeoning demand, the Batavia Coast Caravan Park near Geraldton says it would be unfair to charge customers extra for providing the same services on a different date.

Virtually all caravan parks in Australia routinely hike fees at Easter and Christmas, often by 30%-50%. The industry says it is responding to market forces and needs to capitalise on busy periods due to low occupancy rates at other times.

The Batavia park, which charges $29 per night for a powered site, has been at 100% occupancy for most of the last two months.

“It’s slowing down a bit now but we get a lot of grey nomads through and a lot of repeat visitors,” said park manager Danny Boulton. “They often spend a week or two here catching their breath and get­ting ready for the next leg of their adventure.”

So, could this be the start of a wider trend?

Mr Boulton doesn’t think so.

“We are just a small park which doesn’t think it’s fair to charge extra for the same facilities,” he said. “Of course, we aren’t in the business of turning money away … but there is a lot of word of mouth about and that helps us.”

While agreeing that there probably won’t be a stampede of van parks following Bata­via’s example, the president of the Caravan and Camping Industry Association (NSW), Theo Whitmont, applauds its initiative.

“Obviously van parks are here to make a profit and they will all have different business models but, if he can make that work, then good luck to him,” Mr Whitmont said. “He is an unusual case but the cara­van park industry is a broad church with different parks offering different facilities and we welcome unusual cases.”

Mr Whitmont said van parks try to deliver good value and are able to offer reduced off-peak rates to grey nomads who travel out of school holidays.

“It is a balancing act and we don’t always get it right but we continue to promote the grey nomad lifestyle,” he said. “If van parks can’t make a profit, then they won’t be there next year … and that would be bad for everybody.”

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