April 30, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

It’s not a line we hear at all these days, but Lyndel Gray, CEO of the Caravan and Camping Industry Association NSW (CCIANSW), says it with great relief and a smile almost as big as a Winnebago.

“We are in an awesome place.”

That comment comes after the peak body delivered its Supershow with 61,000 people passing through the gates at Rosehill Gardens in Western Sydney between April 13 and 18, where the event occupied the entire site.

And not only were the crowds up 16 percent on the last show in 2019, but exhibitors reported that attendees were ready to buy. Motivated buyers, including many first-timers, reflected the great interest in “getting out and exploring”.

Lyndel Gray, CEO of the Caravan and Camping Industry Association NSW

Buy what, you may ask.

For those unfamiliar with this great Australian industry, that means they were out shopping for campervans, caravans, motorhomes and campervan trailers, plus all the accessories and gear that go with the booming sector of this domestic travel market.

And if you think caravan and camping is the preferred holiday only of grey nomads, Gray says it’s time to think again, with some of the biggest growth coming from the family market and young people wanting to get back to nature with friends.

With the resumption of live events in NSW, the CCIANSW was able to run the biggest of its four shows. It had been two years since the Supershow, after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic. The Association was also forced to cancel several of its other regional shows, so there was a lot of excitement about its hallmark event.

Gray says with people unable to travel overseas, the interest in caravans and camping has been boosted. In addition, getting out into wide open spaces and away from built-up areas during COVID has fuelled a greater interest in this type of holiday and touring. Gray expects the trend will continue.

“The show was a great demonstration of the positive outlook for the future – people were actively booking, buying, planning and spending,” she said. “There were no downsides.

“The Supershow is where you go to see all aspects of the industry in one place. The numbers were also boosted by the pent-up demand from regular attendees.”

Like all expos, the Caravan and Camping Supershow is a major economic driver.

“The majority of the recreational vehicles are Australian made and both manufacturers and dealers exhibit at the show.”

In addition to vehicles, the exhibition also includes camping supplies, accessories, holiday parks and destinations from around the state and country.

There were 260 exhibitors at the event – representing only a slight downturn, largely from destination exhibitors concerned about potential border shutdowns. Gray says this was about 10 percent.

Gray is an outstanding leader of the association, perhaps its most strategically and commercially savvy to date.

Her tourism pedigree has been a game-changer as she has transformed the organisation’s approach to marketing and partnerships. As a former senior executive at Tourism Australia and former CEO of Destination NSW, she has been able to do things very differently, inspiring confidence amongst her members and Board. She has also attracted new categories of exhibitors and partners.

Gray credits some of the success to the approach to marketing and the big investment in the advertising budget, especially in the weeks leading up to the show. In addition, as it was one of the first big events to reopen, it attracted more news coverage in primetime including major news coverage of the event.

“We are in an awesome place – this is a positive association and it is built on solid foundations,” said Gray.

That is an enviable position for any peak body. To come through COVID in good shape is something Gray and her Board of directors can be extremely proud of.

She is a fine leader, one of the most impressive in the business, always strong and hard-working. It’s her DNA and may come from her heritage on the South Coast of NSW. There’s something about swimmers – they do the laps over and over for continual improvement and Port Kembla ocean pool was where she spent her youth. Going up and down the pool.

What distinguishes Gray, and always has, is her capacity to deliver. To focus on outcomes and results and build strong teams and partnerships.

Gray has worked hard on the partnership with Rosehill Gardens over many years and she says they are outstanding. She also speaks highly of ticketing partner Oztix who did a great job.

She loves her job. She loves the caravan and camping industry and it’s a great match that has helped the association weather the COVID storm and come through it in good shape.

“We are in an awesome place,” she says.

And that means the impact of the economy will be awesome too.