Summer is nearly here and it looks like it’s going to be another record-breaking year in our caravan parks and camping grounds.
The boom in the caravanning lifestyle after the end of Covid lockdowns, and the rise in the work-from-anywhere culture and the Instagram generation means that the ever-burgeoning number of grey nomads will have plenty of company in paradise in the months ahead.
Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA) data for the March quarter showed a strong surge in caravanning and camping numbers, with people embarking on 4.5 million trips (up 24%).
The CIAA’s CEO, Stuart Lamont, was pleased with the numbers.
“We’re continuing to see Australians’ love affair with their country grow, spending more and more time in our beautiful regional and rural towns,” he said. “That makes the growth even more encouraging, knowing that 89% of these trips are being spent in areas needing the support.”
As most nomads know, the money they spend is rural areas is deeply appreciated by locals. However, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, in some more popular destinations, they are less valued.
As campsites in the ‘top’ destinations quickly book out in peak season, site fees have been rising sharply.
And it’s not just accommodation costs that might deter nomads from some spots. For example, from November 15, any adult using Tasmania’s formerly free Cradle Mountain shuttle bus service has had to pay $15 for the privilege.
More than 300,000 people visit the park each year, and Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service says the ‘cost recovery initiative’ will see revenue reinvested directly into maintaining critical infrastructure and protecting Tasmania’s natural and cultural values.
It’s probably fair to say that Cradle Mountain, and many other places around Australia, have become victims of their own success. Fragile environments are being threatened, and infrastructure at risk of being overwhelmed.
‘Overtourism’ is now a thing and, in some instances, travellers are being actively discouraged to prevent places from being ‘loved to death’.
Late last year, the small NSW coastal community of Seal Rocks issued an urgent plea for tourists to stay away after a traveller influx sparked traffic chaos. And a number of other coastal communities have taken a similar ‘enough is enough’ approach to tourism.
It’s the same story overseas. France, which has apparently lost 30% of its biodiversity in 35 years, has introduced tourist taxes and is encouraging people to visit less popular destinations. Elsewhere, Venice charges day-trippers to visit the city, Amsterdam is banning cruise ships, visitor numbers to the Acropolis are capped, and some US national parks have timed entry reservation systems.
So, where is it all going to end?
Experts say tourism numbers have been rising rapidly since the 1950s, have been turbocharged by the pandemic, and aren’t going to stop any time soon.
The takeaway … count your blessings, and enjoy it while you can!
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