Caravan club members are pouring millions of dollars into small council districts– even if they only travel short distances and set up camp for the weekend.
Club members are a new and distinct group of caravanners identified by The University of Queensland School of Tourism researchers Dr Shane Pegg and Associate Professor Ian Patterson.
Dr Pegg said the caravanning spotlight had shone for many years on grey nomads – caravanners aged over 55 who hit the road for extended periods to travel around Australia.
Now Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson are researching another group – grey caravanners – who specifically belong to a caravan club.
The study evolved from a chance conversation Dr Pegg had with members of the Combined Caravan Clubs of Queensland (CCCQ) at a Brisbane caravan and camping show.
“I began chatting with them and it became apparent that CCCQ members were different from the grey nomads,’’ Dr Pegg says.
Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson began working on ways to identify grey caravanners and determine what set them apart from the higher-profile grey nomads.
Associate Professor Patterson says the grey caravanners were more focused on short-stay trips, were members of a caravan club and were, thus, affiliated with a state-wide caravan club network.
“They generally travel in a group of anywhere between 30 and 50 caravans for a weekend away,’’ he says.
“They don’t go far, usually within 200km of their home town, and they try to go somewhere new or novel.
“Sometimes this might entail attending a festival or an event being staged in a community but not always.
“They have formed very strong social networks, which have been virtually ignored in previous studies, even though this group contributes quite a lot economically and socially to the regional communities they travel to.’’
In 2012 alone, Combined Caravan Clubs of Queensland members contributed nearly $3 million to Queensland rural and remote towns through their attendance at planned rallies.
Dr Pegg says these caravanners also had a positive social impact on the communities they visited.
“They don’t just arrive, spend money and leave – they connect with the communities and, in turn, the communities get an awful lot back,’’ he says.
Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson interviewed dozens of club caravanners during the 2013 national caravan rally held in Rockhampton in September and October, 2013, and are compiling the results for the next stage of the research.
They spoke with those attending the national rally about the impact joining a caravan club had made on their physical and mental well-being.
They also interviewed representatives of some of the community groups and rally sponsors involved in the event to find out what economic and social contributions they perceived grey caravanners made to the Central Queensland area during their stay.
The current research by Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson reflects their ongoing interest in the leisure behaviour of older adults, which has involved, at various times, Professor Norma Stumbo, recently retired from Illinois State University, Ms. Jillian Litser, formerly an academic at CQ University, and UQ economics academic Associate Professor Renuka Mahadevan.