‘It’s been tough, but we’re rising to the challenge’

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Mount Larcom Tourist Park
Kev and Del (inset) bought the scenic Mount Larcom Tourist Park two years ago.

When Kev and Del Smaldon bought a small caravan park at Mount Larcom in Queensland two years ago, it was basically a dream come true.

While admitting it was initially ‘daunting’, the couple and their teenage son, Tom, set about transforming the park into a thriving venture that re-captured the magic of ‘real camping’, confident that it would bring grey nomads and other travellers flocking to their door.

“We are trying to mimic the old-fashioned caravan park stays that we enjoyed as children, and that others too remember; with homely touches, personal service, friendly chitchat, board games, campfires, poetry and just generally a safe place to relax,” said Del. “We sold up and put our whole life savings, and inheritance from our parents’ life savings into this venture and have been pouring our heart and soul into it to make it work.”

Having dodged a bullet when bushfires narrowly missed taking out the park in 2018, the Smaldons thought that the future was bright and their hard work was going to pay off. Then came the coronavirus pandemic which obviously hit their business very, very hard.

The couple though remains philosophical, and are grateful for the support they have had.

“We initially had a lot of anxiety about the closure, the unclear timeframe, and recovery,” said Del. “But we have since been well supported in numerous ways and feel that the whole situation has been managed very well, given that no one has faced a pandemic like this in our lifetime.”

The couple are not dwelling on what has happened. Rather, as travel restrictions slowly ease and borders presumably open in coming months, they are focussed firmly on the future … which they know will look a little different.

“Our tiny town, as many others have been, is greatly impacted by the shutdown, and we are eager to be up and running again,” said Del. “We have enlisted the cafe, shop and pub in a joint ‘Love Larcom’ campaign offering vouchers and discounts to guests over the coming months as lockdown measures lift.”

The Mount Larcom Tourist Park sits just off the Bruce Highway and is a member of the nomad-friendly Kui Parks group.

“We have used the government advice and caravanning organisations to develop our Covid-19 health management Issue 224: May 29, 2020 Rising to the challenge plan,” said Del. “It includes developing plans, procedures and documentation to ensure we meet all the recommended cleaning and safety recommendations, and that we have a plan in place to manage an outbreak should it occur in our park.”

On a practical level that will mean more cleaning and more signage around the park about things like hand-washing, social distancing, and symptom recognition.

“We always had a very clean park and this extra work is time-consuming but, as a former nurse, I totally understand the importance and responsibility in preventing and managing an outbreak, that it entails,” said Del. “As a potential guest I would feel more secure about cleanliness and Covid-19 management in a privately-owned caravan park, meeting all government and accreditation requirements, rather than using shared amenities in a free camp or farmstay … maybe that’s a plus.”

While Del’s nursing background is coming in very useful, so too is Kev’s background as a painter and decorator, not only for doing maintenance around the park but also for sourcing extra outside work to supplement their income during these challenging times.

It’s certainly been a steep learning curve for Kev and Del but – despite everything – they insist they would not have it any other way.

“We have colossal overheads, with insurance, rates and a large mortgage, and that’s besides the costs of linen, laundry, cleaning, stationery, phone and software, and we have a massive responsibility for health and safety in our park,” said Del. “We came in pretty blind from a management point of view, but I think we have risen to the challenge pretty well … and we just love chatting to all guests about their travel plans and experiences.”

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7 Responses to ‘It’s been tough, but we’re rising to the challenge’

  1. It is family’s like you guys , positive hard work and a love for the industry that will come out the other end so much stronger. Good luck. Will definitely come and visit as soon as we can.

  2. The Queensland government is creating the impression that southern tourists are not welcome. Polls show 80% of Queenslanders want the borders to stay closed. I think we should respect their wishes and stay home.

    • Yes, stay home while the State goes bankrupt! Ask 8 out of 10 business people if the borders should stay shut. Open the can of worms, and get the popcorn out!

    • Hi Phil, the government might be implying that, but really I guess we all want everyone to be safe, south of the border or not. All guests are welcome here (except during Origin, then it’s Queenslanders all the way 😉

  3. Kev and Del, best of luck for the future. I have been past your place many times for work ( heavy haulage) and will certainly stop off next time with the caravan on.

  4. Thanks Paul! Would love to see you….we have cabins too if you’re on a long haul trip 😉

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