Hugh Fitzpatrick works with Industry Insights at the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA) and is also the chair for the Young Tourism Network. Hugh is passionate about regional Australia and works hard to provide business owners with actionable insights to help them succeed. I was excited to speak with Hugh about stats and data, and the latest on current trends in the Caravan and Camping Industry. We also discuss what people can do to help Australia rebuild after the devastating fires.
A focus of the Industry Insights team is to work on ways to provide quality information to regional businesses. Information that assists in maintaining an efficient industry, that’s continually improving. The strong connections built with regional tourism operators means together, they can reach a large number of people and encourage them to travel. Through partnerships they can inspire potential visitors to leave the cities and visit regional Australia, to experience what our beautiful country has to offer, beyond the metropolitan city limits.
The Industry Insights team collect data from a whole range of sources. They pick the data apart and then collate it in a format relevant to the operators. They distill key messages and trends so that businesses have actionable insights. This process saves the often-small business owners time and money. During our chat, Hugh shares that if the insights his team provide are not relevant to the industry, then there’s no point in the team existing. Hugh stresses the team’s role is to add value to businesses to help them succeed.
Caravan & Camping Trends
Hugh shares some interesting statistics in this week’s episode. In particular, data that shows a record number of people who have been caravanning and camping over the last 12-18 months. With around 60 million nights spent in Australian caravan parks and National Park camp grounds in the last 12 months alone. The consumer research collected by CIAA shows that this increase is driven by a desire to ‘return to nature’. People want to get away from their busy lifestyles, recognising that caravanning and camping is a great way to reconnect with oneself, as well as with family and friends. More and more people are seeking opportunities to switch off. Based on data like this, CIAA launch marketing campaigns such as a reconnect campaign released in August 2016, which really resonated with Australians.
Rebuilding after Natural Disasters
In light of the recent bushfires, I take the opportunity to ask Hugh if there’s data around recovery after a natural disaster. Data that may provide hope to our listeners while many of them rebuild their lives and businesses. Hugh sheds some light on recovery periods, sharing that it’s generally the first year that businesses bounce back. In the first 12 months there is generally a lot of awareness and support. It’s actually the second and third year following a major disaster that problems start emerging.
First and foremost, there needs to be support for families and business owners directly affected by the fires. Then we, not only as an industry but also at a national level, need to establish long term redevelopment plans. Such plans need to include marketing strategies that showcase what tourism assets each region has, without focusing on what they do not have. Hugh explains that the CIAA has been talking to a consultant from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, who has experience with crisis management in about 100 countries around the world. The consultant has dealt with the aftermath of disasters such as tsunamis, right through to the recovery after terrorist attacks. Hugh shares how the CIAA will continue to work closely with experts and create resources to help businesses.
One aim is to change the consumer perception of the devastated areas. Hugh provides some tips on how businesses themselves can help market their communities by offering the best customer experience possible. Tourism operators should also encourage guests to share their positive experiences through social media and word of mouth. Every piece of positive coverage will help promote affected areas to potential travellers, and assist in rebuilding our regions.
Also discussed during the podcast:
- Gut instinct vs reliance on statistical data
- Young Tourism Network
- Exceeding customer expectations
- Enjoying the journey, not just the destination
- The future of the caravan and camping industry
- Connecting with emerging target markets
- The impact of the share economy
- Being passionate about what you do vs finding your passion
- CIAA conference 30th March – 3rd of April 2020