The technology revolution is transforming the way grey nomads book and pay for their campsites … but not everyone is sure it’s a good thing.
Many national parks and caravan parks have long offered travellers the opportunity to book ahead using the internet, but now mobile phone apps are being introduced as a payment method, as well.
The Isaac Regional Council in central Queensland is one of the trailblazers and is soon to introduce a $10 per vehicle per night charge at its campsites at St Lawrence and Carmila, payable via the Parkmobile Smartphone app.
But some are worried. “I wonder how many grey nomads will be able to figure out how to pay by using an app?” asked grey nomad Bruce H. “If they start charging, they need to enforce it on all who camp there, which means a daily visit from a ranger. For those not app savvy, surely the ranger could collect the fees!”
However, Isaac Regional Council insists that the app will be just one payment option, with travellers also able to pay via a phone call, online, or in person at council offices. “Council understands that some visitors do not have smartphones, the Parkmobile app is designed to be a convenience for those who do,” a council spokesperson said. “Internet access to Parkmobile will also be available at St Lawrence and Carmila libraries.”
The problem many travellers have with advance booking systems is that they can take the spontaneity out of camping decisions, and it is that freedom to stop whenever they like that is the attraction of the Big Lap to many. One Victorian MP says poor internet access is making it difficult for grey nomads to book online at the last minute and he wants camping fees at the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park scrapped because of it.
The Member for Mildura, Peter Crisp, said some people were frightened off by both the payment method and the $35 per night charge itself.
He said some now chose to camp in rest stops on the Calder Highway instead. Similarly, in Tasmania a new $200,000 online booking system aimed at making it easier for visitors to buy park passes was last year attacked for failing the ‘commonsense test’.
Park rangers said the new online system would make enforcement of park passes more difficult because the confirmation sent to the phone or mobile device would not be displayable on a vehicle’s dashboard.
They said the ticketing system would therefore make it difficult to issue infringements to freeloaders and visitors would be frustrated by a lack of mobile reception.