Melbourne Show Shows Off

Sam Richards — 21 March 2019
In its 65th year, the Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow draws just shy of 50,000 keen campers.

Running over the course of six days from February 20 to 25, the Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow attracted a giant base of outdoor enthusiasts – 49,447 to be precise. This sizeable crowd, who had plenty of room in the spacious Melbourne Showgrounds, came to see more than 250 exhibitors showcasing the best and most recent of their product. 

Exhibitions varied from accessories, 4x4s, air conditioning, awnings, boating, fishing, campervans, caravans, cooking gear, communications equipment, finance, fridges, health and well-being products, holiday parks, motorhomes, generators, insurance, repair services, safety and security products, storage options, tents, tourism regions, braking and suspension, and – of course – camper trailers. 

Precise definition of what makes a camper trailer is a hot topic; of the exhibitors, about 25 were exhibiting goods categorised as camper trailers. Specifically, the following camper brands were present: Air OPUS, Austrack, Blue Tongue, Bluewater, Cameron, Conqueror, Eagle, Eco-Tourer Folding Caravans, Ezytrail, Goldstream, Jayco, Lumberjack, MDC, Mars, Mountain Trail, Outback, Patriot, Pod Trailers Australia, Stoney Creek, Track Trailer, Pioneer, Ultimate, Vista RV Crossover and Willow. 


Add to this a couple classified as pop tops, such as Lifestyle, North Coast and Rhinomax. Also add slide-on campers such as Active, Jacksons Carry Me Campers, Outback, Tommy, Trailblazers RV, Trayon and Wedgetail. Finally, add on the tent trailers from Complete Campsite, Cub, Goldfields and Trackabout Off Road. If you consider all of the above as camper trailers, that comes out as just shy of 40 individual manufacturers on show – a hefty number, in terms of how much of the market was represented; and an even heftier one when you narrow down on the Victorian market.


TRENDS AND NEW APPEARANCES

Looking at the stock exhibited by these camper trailer manufacturers, a trend towards hybrids becomes immediately obvious. Talking to various of the manufacturers, the reason behind this, rather predictably, is market demand. More and more of the consumer base are wanting the additional comforts that a hybrid offers in comparison to traditional campers, though such consumers are kept in the camper trailer sphere – rather than drifting off into caravans – because they still want low Tare weights and the ability to get offroad. Of these hybrids, Lumberjack (with their Sheoak Pod Style Hybrid) and Track Trailer (with their T4 range) stood out with their crisp new paint jobs. 

Some of the more hardened veterans in the camper trailer game, fond of roughing it and with a proud history of doing so around the country, may frown upon this trend, but it is, ultimately, what the market is asking for and, given the promise of the product we’re seeing, it’s more exciting than anything. But ultimately, there will always be a market for our more traditional campers – with their lightness, offroad prowess, and greater sense of escape from the day to day life – so for those of us who prefer a less caravanny experience, there is no need to fret. The number of forward folds on show was great reassurance to this end, with brands such as Goldfields, Mars, Cub, Stoney Creek and Bluewater still sticking true to the FF design in some of their models. Another heartening thing we noticed was how well Ultimate campers are doing on the back of their voluntary administration scare last year, that could have spelled their end; the brand, now in the hands of Eagle Outdoors Group, have kept strong and continued to innovate and develop in new directions.

There’s also been a noticeable increase of momentum for slide-on campers, from the likes of Wedgetail, Jacksons Carry Me Campers and Trayon. Part of this is probably demand-based, the other half having to do with technological developments. A niche share of the market, perhaps with families or just tired of towing, are seeking alternatives to towables. At the same time, the lightweight materials required for slide-on campers are becoming an increasingly viable proposition for manufacturers.

On top of all these overarching trends, plenty of classics established throughout the last few years were on show, and excitingly we got to see a few innovative or unexpected new products. 

For example, we saw the CrossTrak from Jayco, the RV giant’s first, but incredibly well researched and considered foray into the offroad hybrid market. On the higher end of the market, we continue to see an exceptional level of quality, that justifies the price for those who have the spare capital – nothing short of what you’d expect from top draw, big dollar campers.


50,000 CAN’T BE WRONG

The atmosphere at the show was one of excitement. As with any such show, and particularly one as sizeable as the Victorian Caravan Camping & Touring Supershow, that buzz comes naturally to anyone with a camping bone in their body. Seeing all of the practical product – a sturdy ladder up to a rooftop tent, a slide-out kitchen loaded with conveniences, a mesh window for breeze and landscape admiration – you can’t help but imagine yourself inhabiting that camper, only not at a showground, but in the bush somewhere. Even the smells of the show – cooking smoke, new canvas, freshly cut grass – send the keenest amongst us into a sort of nostalgic and anticipatory bliss. 

All of this excitement is, of course, warranted, and it reflects in the consumer purchase of RVs from manufacturers across the board. With a show such as this one – conveniently located for a large chunk of Victoria’s population, set over a weekend (with extended hours), in the height of camping season – there seems to be near no question in most manufacturer’s minds about the worth of attending, respective to the costs involved. Brand exposure, dollars made and the opportunity to interact with customers and hear their feedback all justify a strong presence for manufacturers. On top of this manufacturers get to see who they are up against, more intimately than usual, both in a competition and camaraderie way – after all, these are folks in the same field, with the same passions, with the same goal in mind: enabling awesome camping experiences around Australia (and perhaps abroad). 

In terms of the customers, most would agree attending was also worth it, particularly given the lack of cost involved. It cost adults $20 for one day and $30 for two, but the Monday, the quietest day, had a 50 per cent discount applied (making it $10). Rates for concession and pensioners were at $16 for one day and $24 for two. Whereas children 15 and under got to enter for free. In exchange for the fee, attendees got the unique opportunity to see all products side by side. 

Usually there’s a requirement to scrape together spare time, dash from A to B, and rely on longterm memory to make the best decision about which RV to purchase. The closest thing Victorians have to shows when shows aren’t on is the camper business precinct of Campbellfield, but that’s slightly different given that customers can’t, quite literally, look from one camper to another, or walk five metres and stand under a completely different awning. Ultimately the fee at the gate pays for buying confidence, whether that buying is at the show itself or somewhere down the line, perhaps in a few years time. 

The Caravan Industry Victoria Chief Executive, Rob Lucas, also agreed that the event had been a success, and that it even managed to improve upon previous events due to various modifications.

“With the introduction of named thoroughfares based on Australian roads, new precincts, more directional signage and other new initiatives the event was easier for patrons to navigate, more engaging and provided a more memorable experience for those who attended,” he said.

“This year’s Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow showcased more new products than ever before and this was demonstrated best with the introduction of the AL-KO Innovation Hub where visitors witness a self-drive hybrid van complete a 360 degree turn all by the control of an iPad along with other technological firsts.”


BEYOND CAMPERS

This year, the show featured three new precincts. These were: the AL-KO Innovation Hub which showcased the latest, cutting-edge RV technology (OzXcorp Smart Caravan plus the OzXcorp Gasless Recreation Platform and Centralised Energy Management System); the Paw Patch, a section dedicated to people’s doggos and attended by wisdom-sharing pet experts; and The Camp Ground, a section to rest or meet up, with interactive demonstrations, industry experts, food and activities.

To spice things up a little, and to give people a break from browsing, the show was sprinkled with its fair share of entertainment. There was a caricature artist, performance by local musos, a BMPRO Kids Zone, a reptile display hosted by an expert, and competitions for camping gear. 

One competition that was running put those who purchased RVs at the show in the draw to win a trip to the Big Red Bash in Birdsville this July (worth over $5,500). 

Also, as we’ve become accustomed to as such offerings by Caravan Industry Victoria, there was ample help in the form of guides and ‘courtesy carts’ helping folks to get from A to B. 

If you missed out, or are simply enthused for more of the same, fear not. The show run is by no means over for Victoria, with many more experiences to look out for throughout the remainder of the year – for example, from the Caravan Industry Victoria alone, we have the Border Caravan & Camping Expo from August 23 to 25, the Melbourne Leisurefest from October 3 to 6, and the Bendigo Caravan & Camping Leisurefest from November 22 to 24.