Tourist parks in some states surge past pre-pandemic levels of revenue and occupancy, and forward bo

Tourist parks in some states surge past pre-pandemic levels of revenue and occupancy, and forward bo

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 an upturn in 2021 with revenue sitting at an estimated $1,646.5 million to the end of July compared to $914.7 million this time last year. 

However, while some states are excelling in 2021 so far - mainly due to an increase in Australians holidaying in their own backyard - other states are still being impacted by lockdowns.

The average national occupancy is sitting above 50% for the first 7 months of the year, which is up from 24% in 2020 and 35% in 2019. However, as the Delta outbreak causes lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, state averages have recently taken a tumble. Since May 2021, Victoria and NSW have not achieved occupancy of greater than 30%, with NSW plummeting to just 16.7% occupancy throughout July. 

BDO Director of Business Services, Angus Strachan, said while occupancy in NSW and Victoria drops, other states have benefited from the reduced restrictions on intra-state travel. The Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia have experienced record monthly occupancy through the same period, peaking at 70%, 57%, and 55% respectively. 

“Despite avoiding large scale outbreaks and having a strong start to the calendar year, the cooler states of Tasmania and South Australia have experienced low occupancy since May, which suggests the demand is being affected by a lack of inter-state travel as well as typical seasonal factors,” Angus said.

Angus said that when you look at revenue on a state by state basis, you can see some states and territories have excelled post pandemic. Comparing 2021 calendar year revenue with that of 2019 (pre-pandemic) shows: 

  • South Australia up $63.7m (80% increase) 
  • Western Australia up $96.2m (61% increase)
  • Tasmania up $10.9m (42% increase)
  • Victoria up $67m (31% increase)
  • Queensland up $85.5m (31% increase)
  • New South Wales up $86.8m (21% increase)
  • Northern Territory up $9.2m (21% increase) 

“The good news is that forward bookings right across the country for the September school holidays and Christmas period are up, providing hope for the sector,” he said.

“However, these bookings could still be impacted by lockdowns in the months to come. So while the current data provides a brighter outlook for the rest of 2021, there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead for the sector, particularly around the upcoming September school holidays.”

“A new trend in travel that we’re continuing to see is a surge post-lockdown, which may give rise to an unexpected peak between the traditional holiday periods.” 

Other positive trends for the sector include people booking longer stays and spending more money at the park while they’re there. 

“We’re expecting long weekends to be busy for Australia’s tourist parks as people make up for lost holidays in the first half of the year due to lockdowns - and we’re also expecting many of the bookings to be made last minute as people try to avoid their trip being cancelled,” Angus said. 

“Last minute bookings is a trend we expect to see throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022. With high RV sales in the past year, we anticipate increased demand for powered sites and travel in general. We’re also expecting more predictability in booking patterns as vaccination rates increase and snap lockdowns become less prevalent,” he said.

“While the sector is yet to make up for the huge losses experienced in 2020, it is positive to see this upturn in Australians booking trips to their local tourist parks. With overseas travel off the cards for a while, this provides a great opportunity for our tourist parks to win back the affections of local travellers.”

Read more in The AFR: Holiday park operators pray for December reopening (