WIMMERA Mallee Tourism believes changing trends in camping could be detrimental to the region’s caravan parks.
Chairman Richard Wait said more tourists now had self-contained caravans, complete with bathroom and kitchen equipment, meaning they could set up anywhere and no longer needed to rely on caravan parks for services.
He said this changing nature of caravanning was something Wimmera councils would have to grapple with in the future.
‘‘Many people have self-contained vans now and their reasoning is, if they are going to spend $100,000 on a van, they want to stay somewhere where they don’t have to pay,’’ he said.
‘‘We want people to come and stay in the region, but some people say they won’t go anywhere without free camping.
‘‘But we also don’t want to encroach on our caravan parks and cut their lunch – so where is the trade-off?
‘‘It is an issue we are going to have in the future.’’
Mr Wait said caravan parks in the region were good business drivers and often employed lots of people.
‘‘We don’t want to take business away from them, but we still want people to come here,’’ he said.
‘‘Smaller towns would still benefit from offering free camping, because hopefully people will use the spot as a base, and still go to the supermarket and buy fuel.
‘‘But we wouldn’t want to offer free camping in major towns because it will take away from the caravan parks.’’
Mr Wait said other Victorian councils had also struggled with the issue.
‘‘A Gippsland council has stopped free camping near Lakes Entrance – but it’s like if you stopped free camping at Robe, people are still going to go there,’’ he said.
Mr Wait said banning free camping in the Wimmera would not work because it would deter visitors.
He said it would be interesting to see what the future of camping would be like.
‘‘I just certainly hope it’s not to the detriment of our caravan parks,’’ he said.
Wimmera Mallee Tourism promoted the region at the Melbourne Caravan and Camping Show earlier this month. Mr Wait said it had an overwhelming response from people interested in the Wimmera.
‘‘Wimmera Mallee Tourism has a stand at the show every year, both the Melbourne and Adelaide shows, to try to highlight the region,’’ he said.
‘‘We make up 250 packs for each show, which has a visitors guide for the four shires we represent – Buloke, Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera.
‘‘We went through 200 packs in the first three days and we had to ration them after that.’’
Mr Wait said the response was better than other years.