24 September 2013

Caravan club members are pouring millions of dollars into rural and regional Australia – even if they only travel short distances and set up camp for a weekend.

Club members are a new and distinct group of caravanners identified by The University of Queensland School of Tourism researchers Dr Shane Pegg and Associate Professor Ian Patterson.

Dr Pegg said the caravanning spotlight had shone for many years on grey nomads - caravanners aged over 55 who hit the road for extended periods to travel around Australia.

Now Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson are researching another group – grey caravanners.

The study evolved from a chance conversation Dr Pegg had with members of the Combined Caravan Clubs of Queensland at a Brisbane caravan and camping show.

“I began chatting with them and it became apparent that they were different from the grey nomads,’’ Dr Pegg said.

Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson began working on ways to identify grey caravanners and determine what set them apart from the higher-profile grey nomads.

Associate Professor Patterson said the grey caravanners were more focused on short-stay trips, were members of a caravan club and were part of the Combined Caravan Clubs of Queensland network.

“They generally travel in a group of about 30 caravans for a weekend away,’’ he said.

“They don’t go far, usually within 200km of their home town, and they try to go somewhere new.

“They have formed very strong social networks, which have been virtually ignored in previous studies, even though this group contributes quite a lot economically and socially.’’

In 2012 alone, Combined Caravan Clubs of Queensland members contributed nearly $3 million to Queensland rural and remote towns.

Dr Pegg said these caravanners also had a positive social impact on the communities they visited.

“They don’t just arrive, spend money and leave. They connect with the communities and, in turn, the communities get an awful lot back,’’ he said.

The next phase of the study will take place at this year’s national caravan rally in Rockhampton from 23 September to until 2 October, when the researchers will be on the ground talking with Combined Caravan Clubs of Queensland members about the impact joining a caravan club has made on their physical and mental health.

They will also be interviewing community groups and rally sponsors to find out what economic and social contributions grey caravanners made to the Central Queensland area during their stay.

Dr Pegg and Associate Professor Patterson are working in conjunction with UQ economics academic Associate Professor Renuka Mahadevan.

Media: UQ School of Tourism communications officer Bernadette Condren, 0413 881 597, b.condren@uq.edu.au