Van $$$ boom
By ED SOUTHORN
CARAVANNING Australians led by "grey nomad" baby boomers are taking to the road in growing numbers and the Tweed is reaping a financial windfall.
The caravan industry is expected to pump more than $5 billion into the national economy next year in the wake of a 15 per cent increase in caravanners over the past six years, according to figures released yesterday by the Caravan, RV and Accommodation Industry of Australia (CRVA).
Domestic tourists already spend more than $175 million annually in the Tweed and about a third of the 437,000 tourists who visit the Tweed each year stay in caravan parks.
Tweed and Coolangatta Tourism general manager Terry Watson said the Tweed was certainly able to cater for a growing caravanning sector, with more than 30 caravan parks in the shire.
"Caravanning is a very, very significant part of our local eco-nomy," Mr Watson said.
He said that although the Tweed had a high number of permanent caravan park residents, there were sufficient parks to cater for increased tourism.
Mr Watson said seven of the Tweed's van parks were Council-owned and two privately-owned parks ? the North Star Holiday Resort at Hastings Point and the Tweed Billabong Holiday Park at Tweed Heads ? were extremely high standard operations.
North Star owner Ian Beadel said there had been steady growth in visitor numbers at his park and the 15 per cent increase nationally might have been exceeded in the Tweed. Mr Beadel said many caravan parks had improved greatly over the past 10 years, providing a wider range of activities and facilities.
Tweed Billabong owner Andrew Tribe said the local caravanning sector had achieved huge growth over the past five years and the local business community as well as park operators had benefited.
Doug Engledow and Stella Gondes from Brisbane, staying at the North Star in a friend's van, said they loved the natural beau