How can tourist park owners embrace innovation?

This article was originally published 26 February 2018 and updated 6 September 2022.

Tourist park owners need to ask themselves what the park of the future may look like if they are to get a handle on what innovation could mean for them.

The desire to be innovative is at the forefront of many business plans across Australia. For tourist parks in particular, there is a need to be aware of what innovation means to their industry.

Innovation is not the same for all businesses in any industry and it's important for owners to understand how they should be framing discussion around this topic. For tourist park owners, the key question should be, "what does the park of the future look like?" It's this line of questioning that can focus future strategies and investments and ensure people have their eye on viable improvements they can actually achieve.

Digitalisation is key as tourist parks become more innovative, but it's important that owners are able to make digital investments that not only support their current capabilities, but also sets them on the path to create the park of the future.

Defining a context for innovation

Asking the question of what the park of the future looks like is the easy part. Answering this question and putting strategy in place to reflect this answer is more difficult, as it contains an element of risk as businesses make leaps into the relative unknown.

The answers will need to consider how tourist parks may or may not evolve. Will future parks be a slight evolution of the current incarnation? Or will they grow far beyond their current scope and demand significant change and investments?

Finding the solution will require owners to look beyond their current customer base for answers and consider how visitor needs may change. Changing modes of transport, such as the current move from petrol to electric vehicles, as well as shifts in tourist trends resulting from natural disasters and public health concerns must be taken into consideration. How many current parks would be able respond to these changes?

Tourist parks also have access to large amounts of land that may offer further opportunities for innovative expansion. For example, spare land could be used as a site for solar panels which could then provide energy for the park. Currently, it's up to individual businesses in the tourist park industry to take the lead and begin answering the question of what the tourist park of the future will look like.

Seeking inspiration from other industries

Tourist parks aren't limited in their sources of inspiration. In many cases, they can find elements of the tourist park of the future already in use in other businesses. One such example is Australia's agriculture industry, where businesses are finding new uses for technology that are drastically changing ingrained work practices.

The functionality of robotics solutions is growing significantly, enabling businesses in the agriculture sector to reduce the number of manual tasks they perform. Some current examples have seen robotics take on weed control tasks, while other experiments indicate they will soon be able to herd cattle as an alternative to sheep dogs and other associated processes.

As satellite chips become smaller and more affordable, farmers may be able to monitor their herd from the comfort of the lounge room, or from the coast 5,000km’s away.

Tourist park owners can look at these developments and start to think about how they can cut down on some of the time-consuming processes that prevent them from working in other parts of their business. These can include areas associated with high overheads or major labour costs, such as regular maintenance, lawn mowing and cabin cleaning. As robotics become more affordable and exhibit greater reliability and flexibility, there are clear opportunities for tourist park owners to investigate how they might fit into their operations.

Will robots be of use in providing an after-hours meal delivery service to cabins? Drones are becoming popular to monitor large parcels of land, so perhaps they will be of use in bushfire planning or the park’s tree maintenance program. With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Will pricing models need to shift as well?

Consumer demands are changing. While this is commonly seen in other industries, it could impact the tourist park industry as well. Currently, there is a shift to models that allow consumers to pay for only what they want or use, rather than locking them into strict packages or structures.

There has been a push recently from certain groups towards lower-cost camping, and while some tourist parks may be averse to the idea of lowering their prices, there are ways to make the practice financially viable. Tourist parks should consider offering the basic site as an entry level package that customers can then add to as they need. For example, people may only want to pay for $10 of electricity per night, or might not need to use the provided amenities. This way, people are only paying for what they use, and tourist parks can provide for a more diverse customer base and create additional revenue streams.