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Reasons for off-peak holiday park sector growth

The holiday park sector has enjoyed a great year in 2017 with 7,884,626 guest nights in the year ended November – up 4.3 percent over the previous year.

We had guest night growth throughout the year and we were particularly pleased with the increase over the non-peak months. We can put this off-peak growth down to a number of factors…

International arrivals continue to make up an increasing proportion of our guests outside of the December-January peak. Tourism New Zealand’s work in marketing to the shoulder and off-peak is certainly paying off for our sector. The international visitors who stay in holiday parks tend to travel widely throughout provincial New Zealand.

We have also seen considerable investment in our sector with many holiday park operators developing additional built accommodation, which better meets customer demands over autumn, winter and spring. Accommodation development has been complimented by investment in visitor facilities, such as heated pools and conference facilities. All of these investments help to make holiday parks a year-round accommodation option.

The strong domestic economy has also played its part, with many Kiwi families choosing traditional camping holidays over summer and the holiday weekends.

Freedom camping has again been in the news over the summer months with headlines like ‘Queenstown to crack down on freedom camping’ and ‘Akaroa locals demand poo patrol to battle waste left by freedom campers’. We are pro freedom camping as long as it occurs in appropriate locations.

We have a clear and simple position on freedom camping:

  1. Freedom camping is prohibited in urban areas.
  2. Outside of urban areas, freedom camping is restricted to self-contained vehicles that meet NZS5465.

There is no such thing as free camping – there is a cost, whether it is to local ratepayers, DOC or tax payers. We fully support the concept that the user should pay.

I think that there is a misunderstanding around freedom camping and freedom campers. Freedom camping is a type of accommodation. We know that many people who free camp will also stay in our holiday parks, DOC campsites, backpackers, motels and a range of other accommodation. If a free camping location is not available, visitors will stay in other styles of accommodation. By providing additional free camping options, it is human nature that these will be sought out by a range of visitors.

Councils throughout New Zealand have a difficult job in managing freedom camping in their areas – it is not a simple issue. Bylaws are developed with best intentions and when the summer seasons hits we have seen areas overrun as visitors choose to free camp. In many cases, the people who get most upset are the locals who have lost their reserve or parking areas.

As part of continuing to develop tourism in New Zealand as a sustainable industry, we must guard against losing the support of our local communities. Although busy holiday parks are by no means full. Nationally, we operate at just under 20 percent occupancy on an annual basis. We have the capacity to host many more visitors and we provide the facilities, at our cost, to ensure that guests have a visitor experience that meets or exceeds their expectations.


Fergus Brown

Fergus is chief executive at Holiday Parks Association of NZ. Find more of his columns in Accom Management Guide.

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