How can holiday park owners embrace innovation?

Holiday park owners need to ask themselves what the park of the future may look like if they are to get a handle on what innovation could mean for them.

The desire to be innovative is at the forefront of many business plans across Australia and New Zealand, and is almost exclusively associated with increased performance and an ability to stay ahead of the competition. However, for holiday parks in particular, there is a need to be aware of what innovation means to their industry.

Innovation is not the same for businesses in any industry, and it's important for owners to understand how they should be framing discussions around this topic. For holiday park owners, the key question should be, "what does the park of the future look like?" It's this line of questioning that can focus future strategies and investments and ensure people have their eye on viable improvements they can actually achieve.

Digitalisation is key as holiday parks become more innovative, but it's important that owners are able to make digital investments that not only support their current capabilities but set them on the path to create the park of the future.

Defining a context for holiday parks innovation

Asking the question of what the park of the future looks like is the easy part. Actually defining it and working towards the answer is more difficult, as it contains an element of risk as businesses make leaps into the relative unknown.

The answers will need to consider how holiday parks may or may not evolve. Will future parks be a slight evolution of the current incarnation or will they grow far beyond their current scope and demand significant change and investments?

Finding the solution will require owners to look beyond their current customer base for answers and consider how visitor needs may change. Take the vehicles visitors arrive in, for example. Currently, the majority will be arriving in cars, vans, utes and SUVs that are powered by petrol or diesel. 

Keeping with the green theme, as New Zealanders do, holiday parks also have access to large amounts of land that may offer further opportunities for innovative expansion. For example, spare land could be used as a site for solar panels which could then provide energy for the park. Currently, it's up to individual businesses in the holiday park industry to take the lead and begin answering the question of what the holiday park of the future will look like.

Holiday park owners seek inspiration from other industries

Holiday parks aren't limited in their sources of inspiration. In many cases, they can find elements of the holiday park of the future already in use in other businesses. The scope is large and varied; businesses are finding new uses for technology that are even drastically changing ingrained work practices.

The functionality of robotics solutions is growing significantly, enabling a large variety of businesses to reduce the number of manual tasks they perform. Some current examples have seen robotics take on data collation and entry (paperless), coordinating staff rosters, and even weed control tasks.

Holiday park owners can look at these developments and start to think about how they can cut down on some of the time-consuming processes that prevent them from working in other parts of their business. These can include areas associated with high overheads or major labour costs, such as regular maintenance, lawn mowing and cabin cleaning. As robotics become more affordable and exhibit greater reliability and flexibility, there are clear opportunities for holiday park owners to investigate how they might fit into their operations.

For example, will robots be of use in providing an after-hours meal delivery service to cabins? Drones are becoming popular to monitor large parcels of land, so perhaps they will be of use in bushfire planning or the park’s tree maintenance program…with a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Will holiday parks pricing models need to shift as well?

Consumer demands are changing. While this is commonly seen in other industries, it could impact the holiday park industry as well. Currently, there is a shift to models that allow consumers to pay for only what they want or use, rather than locking them into strict packages or structures.

There has been a push recently from certain groups towards lower-cost camping, and while some holiday parks may be averse to the idea of lowering their prices, there are ways to make the practice financially viable. Holiday parks should consider offering the basic site as an entry level package that customers can then add to as they need. For example, people may only want to pay for $10 of electricity per night, or might not need to use the provided amenities. This way, people are only paying for what they use, and holiday parks can provide for a more diverse customer base and create additional revenue streams.

Taking the time to think

We know that kiwi holiday park owners are generally time-poor, and all-too-often conversations that need to happen in order to save time in the future are often put on the backburner (to be sorted after unblocking that drain, dealing with the council, sorting funding for the ablution block upgrade, etc. etc. etc.). But the importance of these conversations doesn’t go away, they in fact become more important as the industry reacts to big changes in technology and ways of running a business evolve before you know it.

BDO offers a chance to have a structured conversation around this line of thinking with our Business Review for Holiday Parks. The key with this review is to take stock of where your holiday park business is at across key areas, figure out whether all owners and key staff are in alignment in those areas, and talk with a BDO business adviser together about the possibilities and options for the best way forward in becoming a park of the future.