Thursday 20 August 2015
Hansard of the Legislative Council


Grey Nomads – RV’s - Economic Contribution


Mr Finch (Rosevears)- Mr President, it is important for the Tasmanian tourism industry to realise, if they do not already, that grey nomads head south as well as north.  Personally, I headed north during the winter break.  I would have loved to have stayed to share the frost, the snow, the wind and the rain.  I was told about it all the time I was in Queensland.  I crossed a very mild northern Queensland landscape with a group of caravaners, or grey nomads.  Mind you, I looked in the mirror this morning and I think I am getting a little bit more silver and perhaps even at the stage of being a white nomad.  Nomads and the recreational vehicle tourism industry are an important part of the tourism industry.  They spend tourism dollars over a long period, although not necessarily on luxury hotels.  Nevertheless, they stimulate local economies.  They do not just fly in and out; some tour for weeks or even months.

I was in Queensland with nine companions in a number of vehicles and caravans, and we meandered from the north Queensland coast to Mount Isa for the rodeo weekend, and I might say here that the Wolfe Brothers from Neika were the main attraction for entertainment at Mount Isa. 

We were an economic stimulus in a part of Queensland where local people often find it hard to make a decent living.  We were Tasmanians heading north, but nomads also travel south.  As I heard often on the journey, when they arrive in Melbourne and want to continue to Tasmania they hit a brick wall.  It can cost between $1 000 and $1 500 to take a car and a caravan to Tasmania.  Now that is enough to stop any nomad in their tracks. 

One of my companions, David Arter, had a number of insights on the behaviour and spending of nomads.  He explained that retired caravaners travel completely differently to the rest of the population.  They travel slowly for long periods.  They may stay in a place like Tasmania for a month or two, or even three.  They love a bargain.  If you want them to come to Tasmania and stay for a time, offer a trip for $600, for only a limited time.  Perhaps the last week in September, at the beginning of the season, then offer the same deal to return north at the end of the season, say in April.  It seems like something the tourism industry should look at. 

My friend has another suggestion, too.  If you opened the paddock at Launceston Airport between 20 December and 5 January and, for example, charge $200 to store their rigs, many caravaners would fly home for Christmas.  That would open up the caravan parks for Tasmanians over the Christmas break.  I recall we were in Julia Creek.  There the caravan park has joined forces with the local council, and they offered three nights of local free camping in a particular spot and two nights at the local caravan park for $55.  As we saw, this bargain proved very popular.  There were at least a couple of dozen rigs in the free camp zone at that site as we drove past.  The outcome is that many people stay there longer and spend money there.  It is a boon to Julia Creek at this time of the year.

Ms Rattray - You can stay overnight in Scottsdale Caravan Park for free, all year round.

Mr FINCH - Yes, that is another bargain.  It is estimated that a caravaner will spend between $550 and $700 a week while on the road.  Multiply that by three months and we could see a considerable economic stimulus spread around Tasmania.  Another knowledgeable caravaner, Don Mackrill from your electorate, member for Windermere, from George Town, the Tasmanian representative of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, says the mobile tourism industry was the fastest growing sector in Australia, with a value of $5.4 billion in 2014.  They spend about $50 million on caravan parks a year.

Australia's biggest caravan manufacturer, Jayco , is producing a caravan every 10 minutes at its Melbourne factory.  This came as a surprise to the member for Windermere.  It is unbelievable, isn't it?  This equates to about 11 000 caravans a year.  There are 1 200 people employed at the factory at Dandenong.  I want to quote that caravan maker, the owner of Jayco, Gerry Ryan:

Sales are up 10 per cent, a record year for Jayco, as young families join the grey nomads in hitting the road to go camping.  Naturally, the caravanning industry has been reliant on the baby boomers, but for the last couple of years we have seen the family market grow.  Families wanting to spend quality time before they grow up and leave the family nest.  That is certainly where we have been seeing the growth.

It is now the largest market segment.  That is the 35 to 49-year‑olds with children getting on the road.  Don Mackrill says that Tasmania has to lift its game to retain and grow the mobile tourism industry, and reducing fares is one of the keys.  Even if this involved a special subsidy to the TT‑Line, it would pay off with the benefits to the state economy, particularly in regional areas.  I accept the signal, Mr President, I will sit down.