Caravanners to drive tourism recovery in regional areas

The Fletcher family is ready to hit the road again and help lead a tourism revival post-COVID-19.
The Fletcher family is ready to hit the road again and help lead a tourism revival post-COVID-19.

Brisbane's Fletcher family is ready to hook up their caravan and hit the road.

After months of staying put, James, Rebecca and their two children - Olivia, 9, and Hamish, 7 - are among those travellers, who, according to Tourism Research Australia, will lead the road to recovery for regional tourism.

More than 500,000 travellers have already indicated they intend to take a camping or caravanning trip within two months, potentially injecting over $292 million dollars directly into the hands of regional tourism operators who have been without income for months.

Prior to COVID-19, the Fletchers would take a few trips per year and are keen to get back out there as soon as possible.

"We really love being close together and living the simple life as a family. We can get back to basics, switch off from technology, and just slow down in general," Rebecca said.

"I love that the kids get to see and learn so much. We are seeing places that we have never seen before and we don't have to go far from home to do it.

"Australia is the most beautiful place in the world with so much diversity in people, landscapes, culture and history. I also love that we are supporting our locals while we travel and spending our money here at home."

AWAY: James and Rebecca Fletcher on a camping trip prior to COVID-19.

AWAY: James and Rebecca Fletcher on a camping trip prior to COVID-19.

The family's next big adventure is a six-month lap of Australia, starting in Brisbane and finishing in the Northern Territory.

"We were planning to leave next month but have delayed our plans until December at this stage. Hopefully, the borders will be open by then and locals will be keen to see tourists supporting the smaller towns."

Rebecca said while they are keen to get back out there, things will be a little different.

"Our priority is to be respectful of the wishes of the local people in each place that we visit, in terms of how comfortable they are to have tourists visiting.

"Many of the smaller towns haven't been touched by COVID and we certainly don't want to be a risk to them or make them feel uncomfortable in any way.

"We feel it is a privilege to be welcomed into these places so if the general feeling is that the locals are not in support of free travel or there is any question around the safety of opening borders then we would rather delay our plans and wait until we are welcome.

"When we do travel, we will make every effort to support small local businesses.

"We have always liked camping away from the crowds and have a self-sufficient set-up so this will work in our favour in terms of being a little more isolated from people if we need to be."

ON TOUR: James, Olivia, Rebecca and Hamish Fletcher on tour.

ON TOUR: James, Olivia, Rebecca and Hamish Fletcher on tour.

Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia's Richard Barwick said his 70,000 members are "busting" to get back on the road.

"They are chomping at the bit, you've got a lot of people, particularly our members, that will tour at different times of the year and probably more so than ever, especially in the southern states, they start to get that itch when the first frost hits," Mr Barwick said.

It has been a tough few months for the caravan industry. In April alone, a period that included Easter and ANZAC Day, COVID-19 response measures have cost the industry over $208 million.

After months of being shut down, Watts Holiday Parks operator Susan Peucker is looking forward to welcoming people back through the gates.

Staff have undertaken the process of opening up again in South Australia and are now busy getting their Victorian parks prepared.

"It's just nice to have some action around the park and people enjoying themselves, we've all been locked away, so just to be able to get out ... it's nice to know we can go somewhere," Susan said.

Guided by Safe Work Australia, state and national industry bodies,Susan said they have implemented the government's directives relevant to the sector.

"Prior to shutting down we started to look at what we needed to do because at that point we were still allowed to take essential travellers, so we've had things in place since the coronavirus came into Australia."

With increased numbers, as the parks start to open up to the general public, they looked at a host of measures including staff training, contact tracing, social distancing and increased hygiene regimes in common areas and amenities and the formation of a COVID-19 response plan.

Without a vaccine COVID-19 is likely to be around for some time, so, the measures are now "the norm" for the industry.

"We are just wanting to reassure guests that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe while they are with us.

"Again, a lot of the onus is on individuals to make sure that they follow the rules, which is everywhere, but for us, we are hoping that within our property it will be a nice little safe haven for them," Susan said.

This story Caravanners to drive regional tourism recovery once boom gates open first appeared on The Canberra Times.