Kandanga Country Club RV park

Clubs are always being encouraged to invest in new business operations to diversify their incomes. Plenty of clubs across the country at the moment are expanding into the hotel and motel sector. Taking this approach, however, requires significant investment. 

But then there are others – mostly based in regional towns – that have taken a more low-key and cost-effective approach by setting up caravan parks onsite. 

It’s particularly timely given that people are increasingly choosing to explore Australia in a caravan. According to the Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s 2023 Caravanning and Camping State of the Industry report, the caravan and camping sector earned a whopping $10.45 billion in 2022. This was a 42 per cent uplift compared to 2021. 

It was this opportunity that motivated Tasmania’s Devonport Country Club to open an onsite RV park in November.  

“It brings people in and it’s additional revenue for us,” said Brett Kerr, Devonport Country Club Manager. 

Credit: Devonport Country Club

The club transformed an unused part of its grounds that can accommodate up to 20 caravaners at one time. While it’s nothing extensive, the club charges caravaners an affordable $10 a night to park onsite, while offering access to a game or two of bowls or croquet and bathrooms. Shower facilities at the club can be used for a $2 fee. There’s also an 18-hole golf course, indoor golf simulator, restaurant, and bar onsite. 

“It’s a relatively small site and we’re actually overflowing,” said Kerr, pointing out how the RV site has been a drawcard for travellers arriving via the Spirt of Tasmania ferry terminal, which is only a 10-minute drive from the club.

“People get straight off the boat and can come here,” he said. 

Drawing in the crowds

The decision to introduce an RV site to its grounds was an easy decision for Kandanga Country Club too. It came soon after the club grounds were damaged by floods and noticed from time-to-time bowlers would park up their caravans at the club.

“After that [in 2017] we realised we could do something about it. Eventually, we put in some power outside, and then we added more to the site,” Kandanga Country Club manager and treasurer Julie Worth said. There are now 18 powered and five unpowered sites at Kandanga Country Club. 

Flooding at Kandanga Country Club.

According to Worth, the club has shifted its strategy to focus on “finding 363 reasons for people to come to our club”, including staying open six nights a week and regularly hosting events, whether it’s a bowls competition or a seafood extravaganza.  

“The beauty with the RV site is that when people know there are events on in advance, they come and book for the weekend. They’ll come to have a couple of drinks and then we’ll gently nudge them out the door and they’re safe,” said Worth. 

She pointed out how in September there’ll be a four-day weekend event for the club’s 75th anniversary and spaces at the RV site are already booked out. The club also regularly sees large groups come through including Campervan and Motorhome Club Australia, car clubs and motorbike clubs. 

“They’ll come in with 25 vans, utilise the building through the day so they can have their meetings, and then they’ll have food and music at night,” Worth said.

Worth added the compliments the club has received about its RV site have been extremely positive. 

“People feel safe in our environment. They just feel welcome, and they do make it feel like home,” she said.

“At night, we close at about 9pm but we’ve got outside sitting and they’ll just sit outside and play cards.”

Revenue raiser

It’s a similar story at Kerang Golf and Bowls Club in northern Victoria with the club’s president Peter Jones saying that having the RV site has been a great means of revenue raising for the club.

“We collect around $6,000 to $7,000 a year,” he said. 

“People quite often come into the club rooms in the evenings. We’re not a full-time club so we open the bar between 5pm to 7pm, and quite often we get people come in here and have a few a drinks so that helps our finances because every drink we sell the club makes a bit out of it.”

Caravaners are also encouraged to have a game of golf or bowls, too.

“It’s been a big help. It helps to fill in the gaps with our revenue,” he said.

He said how diversification is increasingly becoming important for clubs like Kerang.

“It is important because the cost is always increasing, and we’ve got to pay a greens keeper so that cost is always there. Cost is always increasing for chemicals, spray, and machinery. It helps fund those types of things to keep the club going.”

This article first appeared in Club Management Autumn 2024. Read the magazine in full here.

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