How much do freedom campers spend in communities they visit?

Freedom Camping in the Goondiwindi region of QLD at Cunningham Highway (The Pocket) Reserve, QLD site 885 in the new Camps 11 book or find it in the CAMPS AUSTRALIA WIDE App
Freedom Camping in the Goondiwindi region of QLD at Cunningham Highway (The Pocket) Reserve, QLD site 885 in the new Camps 11 book or find it in the CAMPS AUSTRALIA WIDE App

Camps Australia WIde is all about choice. We give travellers choices in where they stay – we have CAMPS 11 for free and budget camping, and Caravan Parks 5 with only caravan parks. 

A recent survey on our Facebook Group, “I Love Camping Australia Wide” showed that the majority of campers (68%) stayed at all types of camping sites and caravan parks, only 5% reported they stay exclusively in caravan parks. This means almost 3/4 of our camping community stay in caravan parks. However, 27% of our community group never stay in caravan parks, they choose to stay in freedom and budget sites only.

Bundaberg, QLD

Bundaberg RV park has brought in over $1 000 000 to the region in the first year of operation. Listen to Mayor Jack Dempsey to find out why it was so successful.

Bunbury, WA before introducing a trial of 3 freedom camping sites:

“Statistics have shown that 16 per cent of RV owners will never stay in commercial overnight accommodation which means we are missing out on this market who will then go elsewhere to spend their money,” Mayor Brennan said.

Twelve Month Review Trial of Overnight Rest Areas Bunbury

$254,198.57 Dollars spent in our community *note some visitors did not specify how much they spent and they have been recorded as $0

This equates to $320.55 per vehicle.

Based on this information, it could be estimated that the spend into the Bunbury economy could potentially be more like $254,198.57. 

At $254,198.57, this equates to a return of $7.77 to the Bunbury community for every dollar the City has invested in the implementation of the trial.

65+ 38.8% of our visitors, the majority, are aged 65yrs or older

66.62% Of visitors travelling from interstate

1,649 Total number of travellers

823 Total number of permits issued

215 Illegal vehicles moved on

131 Hours City staff spent inspecting sites

65.58% were travelling in pairs

Whilst in Bunbury our visitors spent their money predominantly on fuel, groceries and dining out

What did it cost?

$1,064.24 Marketing – All printing including brochures, flyers, welcome packs

$1,378.08 Signage – On site and directional

$2977.98 Staff time & on costs, working group, collation of monthly data

$15,282 Additional ablution cleaning once daily at Wyalup-Rocky Point

$7,683.91 Daily site inspections including vehicle use & all on costs

$2,307.83 10% Contingency on staff time & costs

“Campers also express that since they haven’t had to spend money on paid sites at caravan parks they then have more money to spend at other businesses located around the city including luxuries such as dining, hair and beauty and clothing purchases.”

National Survey – Phil Jones

Half-a-dozen years ago I co-ordinated a national survey into The Economic Contributions that Freedom Travellers made into the Aussie economy
The report of 100+ pages was circulated far and wide – but received very little recognition as it (presumably) was because it was a grass-roots research document rather than funded (and influenced) by big business.

This report indicated a weekly spend of $700 (excluding accommodation). 

Feedback from our Community:

About five years ago we stayed in Ravenshoe Queensland at the  town caravan park.

The local council was looking at shutting it down.

The caretaker asked each camper to get a receipt for any purchases made in town during their stay, and deposit the receipts in a box at the check in point.

They kept track of how much these campers were spending and reported this back to the council.

The park is still open, stayed there again last year.

I think, from memory, they were having about $60,000 per month spent in town, that otherwise would be spent elsewhere.

A simple but effective way to measure the benefits.

Ray Borrett

If people want to enjoy more camping without being locked up in a caravan park penitentiary, then perhaps it’s the narrative that needs to be changed.

“Free Camping” or “Free Campers” implies to many people that those that enjoy this particular style of camping are nothing but freeloaders.  Nothing could be further than the truth in most examples.  I’m from the bush.  If I wanted to spend my days in a caravan park, I would of moved to the suburbs years ago.

I think we need to come up with a new term, “Bush Camping” perhaps, or similar, that doesn’t make us look like people after a freebie.  It is so much more than that.

Ric Raftis

Dear Camps Australia:  absolutely, free camping helps regional and remote communities.  I live in my self-contained motorhome and exist entirely on my fortnightly pension.  If it were not for free camping, I could not survive.  All my pension goes in fuel, food, medication and caring for my two dogs and if I have to have repairs done, then I have to find a way to pay for them, too.  Whenever I have a little cash left over, I will patronise the local hotel for a beer, in addition to the local supermarket or store and service station.

If I have to pay at a camp site or caravan park, then I must forgo something else.

What I would like to see is a reduced rate at caravan parks and other pay-for-use sites to make allowances for self-contained motorhomes and caravans which use no power, water or bathroom facilities.  I was recently at a very rundown recreation centre and was told I should be paying $20/night, even tho’ the only facility I used was the few square metres of land on which I was parked.  Also there should be a single person fee – how often are the stated rates for “two person”:  no account is ever taken of the person who travels alone (and there are very many of us!)

Kay Patton

There are many negative & positive views regarding the benefits we travellers contribute to townships. Regrettably many of the negative ones are motivated through self-interests and archaic ideologies. Also there are a number of attempts by Councils to try & obtain real documentation of expenditure in specific towns. More about that later. We travel for the best part of the year in our custom built 9.3m fifth wheeler & it is our permanent home. Covid-19 has slowed us in 2020 however we still managed around 5 months on the road.

With regard expenditure, with the exception of items such as registrations and insurance we actually spend more on the road than when we are at our permanent address in Julatten North Queensland. We don’t monitor all our expenses but as a weekly expenditure we are in the range of $350 to $500 per week. That money goes to townships wherever we travel, whether we stay in places with low cost camping or free camp, which we prefer for a number of other practical reasons. So for councils and their backers to say that we are no benefit to their populations is ridiculous. Where do they think we get our groceries, fuel, repairs, grog, entertainment Etc. from?

Now to the attempt of Councils and interested parties trying to monitor travellers expenses in specific townships. Some of the systems are boxes with declaration sheets & or copies or original invoices of expenditure. WE, in particular the older ones in general are retired and the last thing we want to do is spend our time collating invoices & filling out forms. Secondly and just as importantly a majority of invoices today are printed  on the ridiculous strips that often are just about unreadable to start with & definitely are in a short space of time. Here is a typical example.

Cooyar 202/2021: We timed our trip to spend the New Year at the swinging bridge at Cooyar Queensland. There is a free camp there. We actually stayed one day more than the 72hour limit in order to attend the festivities. We had meals in the hotel, drinks in the hotel, bought 2 slabs of beer, and then attended a very entertaining New years party with a meals & numerous drinks. None of the expenditure was invoiced (why would it be?) but I can safely say we would have spent in excess of $300.00 as a bottom line. In the park the Regional Toowoomba Council has a box to deposit invoices. In our experience very few actually do contribute information, or even can do. So monitoring township expenditure in this manner is nothing but a waste of time.

Today the majority of us seasoned travellers have self-contained & self-sufficient motor homes and do not want to be pigeon hold into specific areas & places. Sometimes we will go through a town do our shopping & fuel up & move on to another venue. That town has made a sale. So Councils get with it. If you want to get close to real traveller contributions to businesses, the businesses will need to somehow separate sales to travellers and locals & provide that information and I can imagine they would not want to be harnessed with that job either.

We avoid as much as possible in Queensland travelling the Bruce Highway because it is too busy, too expensive, too impersonal and other than getting from A to B is pretty uninteresting. The back roads by contrast are often better, have less traffic, many friendly towns, and many places of interest. & in our experience welcome us. Maybe if some of the Councils & businesses concentrating on the dollar joined the Friendly Towns in the country they would get a lot more visitors from us travellers.

Brian Lambert



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