Christmas period gives holiday park sector a revenue boost, but not enough to make up for pandemic losses

10 March 2021

After 2020 delivered a devastating blow to Australia’s holiday park sector, new data from business advisory firm BDO, in partnership with the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, shows the Christmas holiday period (1 December 2020 – 31 January 2021) delivered a national revenue increase of $92 million compared to the same period last year.

While the new data reveals a strong Christmas holiday period across the country, unfortunately not all states enjoyed the upturn.

Tasmania, feeling the effects of the extended lockdown in Victoria, saw occupancy down by 15% and revenue down by $3 million compared to the Christmas holiday period between 2019 and 2020.

Victoria’s occupancy was up by 14% with revenue up by $27 million, and the NT saw a 15% occupancy increase and $2 million revenue increase.

Occupancy was up by 8% in both New South Wales and Queensland, with revenue increases of $38 million and $10 million respectively.

The Christmas holiday period delivered a 5% occupancy increase for Western Australia and an upturn of $11 million in revenue, whilst South Australia’s occupancy was up 3% and revenue up $4.2 million.

Angus Strachan, BDO Director of Business Services, said the strong season for a majority of states can be attributed to increased bookings and people spending more money while they are there.

“Increased occupancy levels and higher spending while they’re there is a trend we expect to see throughout 2021 as Australians book trips in their own backyard. Another trend we expect to continue is an increase in last minute bookings, as people avoid planning ahead due to the risk of border closures,” Angus said.

Angus said the Easter long weekend - traditionally the busiest weekend for holiday parks in Australia – was also providing brighter news right across the country with forward bookings up on both Easter 2020 and 2019. Excluding those bookings that had already cancelled by this time last year, the number of non-cancelled bookings currently expected at Easter this year is 332% higher than it was this same time last year and 33% higher than it was this same time in 2019. 

“We expect the Easter long weekend to be a bumper period for our holiday parks this year. People can’t travel overseas at the moment, and they’re hesitate to book interstate trips with pending lockdowns a real possibility. This provides a great opportunity for holiday parks to provide people with a local option to get away for the four day break,” Angus said.

However, despite the strong season and healthy forward bookings for Easter, Angus cautioned that it still didn’t make up for the downfall in revenue experienced across all states in the twelve months ended 31 January 2021. He said the current demand seems to be more prolific around major cities and tourism destinations, with a number of regional and remote centres still suffering.

BDO data shows that compared to the same period in the prior year (the most recent 12 month period pre-pandemic to 31 January), New South Wales finished down by $49 million, Queensland down by $94 million, Victoria down by $72 million, Northern Territory down by $35 million, South Australia down $34 million, Western Australia down by $11 million and Tasmania down by $12 million.

Nationally, Australia’s holiday park sector is still down by $282 million due to the impact of the pandemic.

“While the Christmas holiday period definitely provided brighter news for a majority of states, we must remember that the financial impact felt throughout 2020 has not fully recovered,” he said.

“We also have to remember that 2021 may bring further border closures, some with very little notice periods, which will again impact the sector as people cancel trips at the last minute,” Angus said.

Angus added that forward bookings (excluding those that had already cancelled by this time) for the remainder of the financial year (to 30 June) were looking strong with a 148% increase on 2020, and a 57% increase on 2019.

“We expect these forward bookings to grow as holidays and long weekends approach, due to people wanting to book their trips closer to the time to avoid cancellations due to lockdowns. Last minute bookings is a trend we expect to continue throughout 2021,” Angus said.

Read the story in the AFR: Holiday parks rebound after horror year (afr.com)