Catch up with Maddy Sawyer – Caravan Industry Association of Australia

It was her passion for regional tourism that inspired esteemed academic Maddy Sawyer to seek a career in the caravanning industry. 

Developing her skills in the Industry Research department at the association (and at wineries throughout Australia), she's now the go-to for the Future Leaders committee and the right-hand-woman to Industry association CEO Stuart Lamont. 

Her huge knowledge base, political understanding of the industry, and passion to drive the caravan industry forward make her a really interesting person to pull aside for a chat. 

I was lucky enough to steal Maddy for a few minutes, be introduced to some traditional Melbourne coffee, and pick her brains on everything 'industry association'. 

See the video and full transcript below. 

Hey Maddie!  

Maddie: Hey Kate's! How's it going? 

Good mate, how are you doing? 

Maddie: Good thanks 

Hey, most people in our industry know you as the go-to for our national conference, you also look after the Future Leaders committee of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, what's been your favourite moment working for the national body so far? 

Maddie: Oh, so much! I think able to be a part of every day operations, to be able to learn, and particularly when I was in the research team, about how much of an impact camping has on Australians.  

I did this really cool research project when I was in the research team. We looked at the social benefits of caravan and camping, and it was really cool to be able to see the kinds of experiences I had as a kid being experienced by tonnes of Australians throughout.

Absolutely! Definitely takes the stress off that's for sure, what's been your biggest challenge? 

Maddie: There's so much to learn in this industry, it extends so far beyond anything I could imagine when I first started working here. We talk about a $19 billion industry, and it's just so huge. With manufacturing, tourism, and all the supply and technology as well, there's so much to learn.

A fair few stakeholders eh? 

Maddie: Yes! 

You graduated with a master's of Tourism, you had the entire world of tourism at your finger tips, what made you choose a career in the Caravan Industry? 

Maddie: I think for me, regional tourism was so important. It was something I was really passionate about, having grown up in the country; and being a caravanner and a camper myself when I was growing up, so being able to integrate that back into my career was just really amazing. 

Fantastic, now, you've followed in the footsteps of Michelle Weston who is now General Manager of Caravan Parks Association of QLD & Jessica Adams who's over at Apollo, both are esteemed in this industry, what's your dream goal in this space? 

Maddie: I guess short term it's really cool to be able to learn as much as I possibly can, there's so much to be able to build on. We're going to go on some really exciting times over the next few years I think, with all the growth and change that's happening within the industry. To be able to take the experiences that I can then build on in this area and put that into regional tourism more broadly moving forward, in the long term, would be really cool.  

We saw a snippet into the silly side of your CEO, Stuart Lamont, when he danced up a storm using the Plattor app at the last conference... Be honest, is Stuart always dancing around the office... 

Maddie: I wish! Unfortunately not as much as we'd hoped, there is a lot of footy banter though. 

Yea, you need to get some secret footage or something, lol. Hey look, 

I felt last year's conference had a focus on new technologies, Newbook then held the inaugural tourism innovators conference, I see a bit of a trend forming within the caravan industry really looking to take advantage of these innovations, what are we going to see at this year's conference? 

Maddie: I think that's a really interesting pick up Kate, particularly because, moving forward, we are going to be looking a lot at the disruption that's happening within the industry. The changing business models and how it affects the future, also, the rise in the millennial, and the different key markets that are coming through from an international perspective as well. So, there's going to be a lot of new challenging thought, new ideas to be able to integrate into your business, which will be really awesome. 

What's been your favourite innovation you use in your office? 

Maddie: I think one thing when I was in the research team, we started integrating Power BI. So that's a dashboarding program that you use for business intelligence. You can integrate the data to be able to get really deep insights into really understand the future trends and trajectory of where the industry is going. 

You're based in a beautiful part of the world, down in Victoria... Do you have a secret favourite place you like to go camping? 

Maddie: I really love the Victorian High Country, I just think it's so amazing up there. It's so close to the King valley as well, just a beautiful wine region, to be able to experience all that local produce and what not as well, it's great. 

When you do go camping what's the piece of kit you absolutely can't do without? 

Maddie: You know I really camping with such a basic, basic, going right back to basics. I travel with a swag when I go. As long as I have a camp fire to cook some local produce on, I'm happy! 

You're still in the early stages of your career but are absolutely nailing it. What would you say to a University student about careers in the caravan industry? 

Maddie: I guess this goes back to some of the topics I was touching on earlier. The breadth of this industry is just so... there's just so many opportunities, and it extends in just so many regions, there's just so many opportunities and to be able to build your career, in all different parts of Australia as well. Different regional communities as well, and major cities. 

Wow! Okay, well thanks for your time Maddy, looking forward to seeing you at this year's conference in May, do you have an inside scoop of what to expect? 

Maddie: There's some really cool new streams we're integrating this year, women in business, you've got some really key discussions on the RVSA and non compliant camping. For the future leaders, we've got some really interesting ways to continue the conversation that we are going to try and integrate, so a living conference and also a "face-to-face" with an industry leaders, so make sure you book that one in. 

Fantastic! Can't wait!  

Maddie: See you there! 

Alright, see ya 🙂 

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