Four-wheel escape set to kickstart regional tourism

For many years, Aussie travellers have been spoiled.

Competitive airfares and our proximity to many amazing countries in Asia and the Pacific has meant it’s been quick and easy to venture overseas.

But COVID-19 has brought that to a screeching halt. With international borders closed, Australians are having to look to their own backyard to scratch the travel itch. And with fewer domestic flight options, shifting state border closures and nerves about hygiene and safety on planes, it seems we’re going to see the resurgence of the great Aussie road trip.

The road trip is having a moment. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

Whether it be in a caravan, motor home, or simply a car and tent, people all over the country are mapping out their four-wheel escape.

“Recent weeks have shown a shift in people’s behaviour – having been cooped up for months, Australians are now turning their attention to travelling within their own backyard,” said Stuart Lamont, CEO of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA).

Data from the CIAA shows every state and territory has experienced a boom in caravan sales and inquiries in recent weeks, some by up to 30 per cent. Caravan parks have also reported a surge in visitor numbers.

It’s not surprising. A road trip holiday is the perfect solution for a number of reasons.

Many holiday-makers are gravitating towards travel that still allows social distancing – big cities have lost their sparkle, and instead people are being drawn to “clean” natural locations where they can breath fresh air, have a change of scenery and not come into close contact with too many people.

Big cities have been put on the backburner for the time being, and we’re craving time in the wilderness. Picture: CamplifySource:Supplied

Caravan hire and RV sharing website Camplify has witnessed a 125 per cent increase in bookings since COVID hit.

Justin Hales, Camplify’s CEO and founder, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to offer a solution that enables travellers across the country to enjoy the great outdoors, and even bring their pets along for the ride, all while limiting contact with other guests.

“With self-contained caravans and campervans socially distanced by design, we understand that this style of travel offers holiday-makers an extra feeling of safety and control. A local caravan or campervan break offers a great way for people to safely venture out and reset among nature once again.”

He also pointed out that the dominant demographic in the sector is shifting. Once upon a time grey nomads were considered the main demographic, but the key current user group is aged 35 to 49, particularly families with children. Millennials are also jumping on the bandwagon, with almost one-third of Camplify’s site traffic coming from the 25-34 age category.

It’s no longer grey nomads dominating the sector. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

A big part of the appeal is that there’s something wonderfully flexible and uncomplicated about a road trip. The fluid nature of being able to wander the country at your own pace is the perfect antidote to lockdown. On top of that, hotels and flights don’t have to be booked in advance – something that is hugely unappealing at the moment with travel restrictions constantly changing.

There is also the feel-good factor of putting money back into our own struggling tourism sector. Many regions across the country have been dealt multiple blows from drought, bushfires and coronavirus, and spending our holiday dollar locally will help keep the local industry afloat.

Also on the financial front, in these uncertain economic times people are opting for a cheaper holiday. And nothing gives you bang for you buck like a road trip.

The cheap and cheerful van holiday is endlessly appealing. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

With international borders closed, it’s the perfect time for Australians to explore their own backyard without overseas tourists. It’s so much quieter, and we have first dibs at access to our incredible natural wonders. If you’ve never seen Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef or The 12 Apostles, now’s the time.

You can visit iconic spots like Uluru, without the hordes. Picture: Tourism AustraliaSource:Supplied

“Australia has amazing holiday locations right on our doorstep,” said caravancampingsales RV editor Chris Fincham.

“Road trips are a great way to create memories, share stories, discover ancient history from the mountains to the sea, and take in new horizons.”

In a recent caravancampingsales survey, respondents’ top three dream destinations included the Kimberley, Tasmania and Queensland.

“West Australia’s unspoilt Kimberley Region should be on everyone’s post-lockdown bucket list – from the beautiful beaches of Broome and Cape Leveque, to the stunning waterholes, river crossings and hiking trails along the dusty Gibb River Road … There is plenty to see and do,” he said.

Enjoying the sunset on Cable Beach, Broome. Picture: Tourism Western AustraliaSource:Supplied

“Picture-postcard roads, world-heritage listed wilderness regions such as Cradle Mountain and historic Hobart are just a few of Tassie’s gems.

“And for a family adventure from Gold Coast theme parks and fashionable Noosa, to whale watching in Hervey Bay and crocodile cruises along the Daintree River in FNQ, sunny Queensland is a perfect choice,” Fincham said.

Someone who has been spruiking the merits of the four-wheel adventure for years is photographer Chantel McAlister, who has been living a nomadic lifestyle on the road with her partner Jason, their two-year-old son Travis and a retired farm dog.

Chantel McAlister has been travelling around the country with her husband and son in their caravan. Picture: Chantel McAlister PhotographySource:Supplied

Their 6.5m van cost them $28,000, and it has been their home on the road since before Travis was born.

The young family loves being able to escape the Aussie winter by following the sun up and down the east coast.

Chantel, Jason and Travis in their caravan. Picture: Chantel McAlister PhotographySource:Supplied

McAlister says the time travelling in the van has taught her how to live a more minimal, simple life, and it’s given her a new appreciation for the natural beauty of Australia.

“Every single day there’s a moment out here that hits you in your face and you are like, ‘God, I am so glad I live here,’” she said.

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