SA holiday parks have already been buoyed by a strong summer season with revenue increases of more than $4 million across December and January compared to the previous year.
However, data compiled by BDO and the Caravan Industry Association of Australia show that SA parks lost about $34 million for the 12-month period to the end of January.
Nationally, the holiday park sector lost $307 million for the 12-month period to the end of January compared with the previous year.
Easter holidays are traditionally the second busiest time of year for caravan parks but coronavirus shutdowns in 2020 reduced revenues for the period to almost zero.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s Easter holidays, bookings are 19 per cent ahead nationally of where they were in 2019 when Anzac Day fell in the same week to create a “super holiday”.
SA Parks is the peak body for the caravan park industry in South Australia.
General manager Fiona Williams said the local industry could not have asked for a better rebound from COVID-19 shutdowns and travel restrictions that had many businesses fearing for their futures 12 months ago.
She said while intrastate tourism had been strong since the middle of last year, the number of interstate guests staying in SA caravan parks was now on the rise.
“There were still some areas that rely on people driving through to other states that didn’t pick up as quickly but in the summer period I had a lot of operators saying to me that it was their best summer in memory and a lot of them were booked out for Easter a long way ahead,” Williams said.
“They are never going to get back what they lost but if it’s sustained high figures over a long enough period then eventually they will make that money back.
“Many parks also picked up a lot of business in winter and spring last year that they wouldn’t normally have had because people weren’t going interstate.”
Occupancy at South Australian tourist parks grew from 42 per cent to 45 per cent in December compared to the previous year and hit 61 per cent, up from 57 per cent, in January.
The SA parks generated $46.77 million in revenue across the two months compared with $42.62 million the previous year.
The South Australian boom continued on into February with South Australian bookings up 23 per cent on 2020, 17 per cent up on 2019 to be at the highest level in at least five years.
BDO Business Services Director Angus Strachan said the summer surge was felt nationally.
“South Australia didn’t go quite as well as WA, NSW and Queensland over the summer holidays but the good thing for SA was that bookings were up and revenue was up as well, so people spent more per booking as a rule and they booked an extra half a night on average,” Strachan said.
“In SA it was almost like there were three peak periods in the lead up to Christmas last year – there was the release from lockdown peak around the June long weekend, the September/October school holidays and the pre-Christmas peak in December.”
Forward bookings for the rest of 2021 are shaping up well and are almost 43 per cent in advance of 2019 levels across Australia.
Strachan said the summer and Easter boom was a welcome relief for the industry but probably would not completely erase the losses of 2020, particularly not on a national level.
“I don’t think we can lose perspective of how much actually got lost last year and also bearing in mind what’s happening on the east coast at the moment,” he said.
“In South Australia we’re in a better position than elsewhere but we’re looking at businesses in Queensland and New South Wales that have gone through drought, bushfire, COVID lockdowns and floods all in the space of 18 months and some of those businesses are going to lose two Easters in a row so it’s going to be a pretty dire situation for them.”
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