Is cabin fever losing its grip on van parks?

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Cabins taking over at Australia's caravan parks
Cabins are losing out to camping spots in some parks

A New South Wales mayor has weighed into the debate about the changing face of caravan parks … and what he perceives as their growing unaffordability.

Richmond Valley Coun­cil Mayor Ernie Bennett is enraged by a State Govern­ment plan for a $10 million upgrade of a caravan park at Evans Head. The Silver Sands Holiday Park is slated to lose 10-20% of its sites in order to accommodate larger rigs, make room for new cooking and playground facilities, and to create a new community access area.

But Cr Bennett is not im­pressed. He says that since the State Government took control of the park away from council three years ago, the cost to stay there has more than doubled.

“They can put all the fancy cabins in that they like and I’m sure they will fill them,” he told media outlets. “But in a low socio-economic area, the park should be available if the local community wants to use it.”

It’s a complaint echoed by many grey nomads who say the rise of the ‘cabin-filled’ car­avan park with their bouncy castles and water parks is both beyond their budget and surplus to their needs.

Peter Shotten, a former van park operator who now travels Australia in his caravan, says cabins came about because they appealed to a much wider market and could deliver bet­ter returns.

“Now we have an economic downturn in manufacturing and mining, those benefits have dried up,” he said. “There is an oversup­ply of cabins, often with large overdrafts from the purchase, except for the 10 weeks of school holidays each year … and there are less RV sites to pay for it all.”

So, could we see less caravan park cabins in future? The Brisbane Holiday Village is one park that recently decided to take out some cabins in order to make more space for caravans.

However, Kristy Ponting, the Operations Manager of the Caravan Parks Association of Queensland, says this is the exception rather than the rule.

“The trend of removing cabins is not one that I can say is no­table throughout the state,” she said. “Cabins remain incred­ibly popular with the family market and no doubt always will for those travelling with young children.”

Ms Ponting does note that both powered and unpowered camping sites have also seen a revival in demand, and says caravan parks will always structure business and invest­ment based on consumer demand.

Meanwhile, giant digging machinery is back at work at the Brisbane Holiday Village … this time it’s clearing a space for a huge, new bounc­ing pillow!


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