Last year, during its series of NAJ’s RTO Summit series, Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group, which publishes the INBOUND report discussed a new trend that receptive tour operators in the U.S. had picked up regarding Chinese visitors to the USA: “More and more Chinese travelers are exhibiting a preference for self-driving tours—sometimes these tours involve extended families with friends who use vans and/or travel in small ‘caravans.’”
Just recently, there has been a confirmation of the trend, one that is likely a global trend—not all destinations have the capacity to accommodate it—in Australia. As described in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Intrepid Chinese tourists are eschewing the traditional package tour and hitting the bitumen, according to figures showing a sharp rise in those opting for a caravan or camping trip around Australia.”
Cited as evidence were data from Tourism Research Australia showing a 112 per cent growth in Chinese caravan or camping visitor nights in the year-to-date (through September 2017),” as more opt to organize their own travel.”
While the total number of Chinese “caravanners” and campers remains small compared to traditional European markets, the article said, “more Chinese are seeking cheaper self-drive holidays as the Chinese economy slows and people feel less wealthy.”
Stuart Lamont, chief executive of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, said Chinese tourists, especially its youth, were becoming more confident to travel independently and aware of the sights Australia had to offer.
“They are looking for some quintessential Australian experiences, ones that are genuine and authentic,” he said, adding, “Caravanning and camping offers that. As they become more confident and look to travel outside the gateway ports [of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane] that they traditionally visit.”
The growth in Chinese caravanners and campers represents a total 103,000 visitor nights, and almost 11,500 visitors—a 45 per cent increase over the previous year.
Lamont said research showed that for every 91 international caravanning and camping visitors an additional $1 million worth of economic value is generated—much of it in regional Australia.
He said official data to be released later this month would also show continued growth in the campervan market, which last year reported the largest growth rate in registrations of any vehicle type in Australia, at 4.5 per cent.
The International Visitors in Australia report showed the nation’s broader international caravan and camping visitor economy was continuing to grow. Some 373,000 international visitors took a caravan and camping holiday in the year to September, a 7.5 per cent increase.
Luke Trouchet, chief executive of Apollo Tourism, which is Australia’s largest renter of motorhomes and campervans, said that just three years ago Asian customers were “very rare.” Now, however, Chinese tourists were “our fastest growing inbound market. It’s from a very small base but it keeps growing,” he said.
In response to the growth of the market, Trouchet said that Apollo had translated its website, brochures and road safety guidelines into Mandarin, and has employed a dedicated Chinese sales manager.