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Caravan sales boom as jet-setters hit the road

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A surge in caravan and camper trailer sales is leading to wait times of up to a year as South Australians continue to trade overseas travel plans for self-contained road trips.

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Caravan and Camping Association Industry of South Australia CEO Stuart Livingstone said while the international border closure had led to a “boom” in sales for new caravans, it also came with a six to 12-month wait for new holiday vehicles.

“You’ve got thousands of people around Australia still waiting for their caravans and when they get them they’re going to go away,” Livingstone said.

“What we have at the moment is a very early growth period but there is more to come.

“There are going to be so many more campers and trailers travelling to regional areas over the next two to three years – it’s going to be huge in the regions.”

He said sales were not limited to new caravans, with registrations for recreational vehicles – including second-hand caravans and campers – also up by between 40-50 per cent over January and February compared with the previous 12 months.

Livingstone said this reflected a surge in investment in road holidaying that began when restrictions first eased across Australia.

He said young families and singles were behind the uptake in sales, increasingly choosing to invest in road holidays as the federal government flagged quarantine-free overseas travel would remain off the cards until more Australians were vaccinated.

“A lot of the growth now is coming from young families,” Livingstone said.

“Since COVID there has been a lot of little niche areas growing as well: The Instagramer who wants to take away a little van and build a bed in there and take photos.

“There is the tradie who has a four-wheel drive for work and he’s buying the tent or camper trailer and going away too now.

“There are a lot more new people coming in and buying because they’d normally go on an overseas trip but they’re using that money to buy a new RV.”

The state’s peak caravan and camping body said uptake in new caravan sales had jumped between five and six per cent over the past 18 months.

Michael Steindorf, owner of Adelaide City Caravans, said dealers were struggling to keep up with the surge in demand.

“We have waitlists and are selling for February next year at the moment. A lot of the other dealerships are similar,” he said.

“With all of the great sales that we’re getting it comes with a lot of issues … to do with supply of parts for caravans.

“We’re having trouble getting awnings, fridges, windows, all of the parts to build a caravan. It slows the process down.”

Steindorf said the dealership – which sells a range of new, used and custom-made caravans – had been hampered by delays from international manufacturers.

“Our fridges come from America and … their factory shut down and we weren’t able to get a supply,” he said.

“So we had to source them from Europe.

“It’s a global problem and not just in the caravan industry. Builders are struggling to get wood for houses and caravan manufacturers are struggling to get certain parts at times.

“Everything is overcome but it’s just taking a bit longer than it would normally take.”

Even local camper trailer manufacturer Cameron Campers and Canvas has found sourcing materials difficult, creating delays.

“We source a massive amount of bits and pieces because we do the trailer as well as the tent top,” managing director Bronte Sholz said.

“And there is a shortage of different materials at different times because there is demand all across Australia.”

The demand for new caravans has also fuelled a shortage of reliable second-hand RVs, according to Cameron Caravans managing director Stuart Scholz.

He said the most popular vehicle – a 19-20 foot caravan for families – had been particularly hard to come by over the past 12 months and had driven up prices.

Meanwhile, the body overseeing caravan and cabin parks said holiday park capacity had steadily increased over the past 18 months.

A spokesperson for the organisation said not only had there had been an influx in visitation over the school holidays but South Australia’s cabins, powered and unpowered sites were all experiencing a year-on-year increase in occupancy rates.

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