The Rivershore Resort, developed by the McGovern family, is the first greenfields caravan park developed in about the last 30 years.
Located on the Sunshine Coast, and the talk of the industry since opening it's doors 18 months, the resort has toured more than 100 inspired 'parkies' around it's facilties.
I got to catch up with Will McGovern, who toured me through the resort and talked me through the ins and outs of developing a park from scratch, and leading the way in innovative operational strategies.
See the full transcript below:
Will: Hey Kate, you ready to go?
Hey Will, holy cow what a perfect set up! Straight from chilling in your luxury safari tent, barefoot with your paddleboard and straight across to the Maroochy River! how long did it take you to find the perfect piece of land?
Will: Ah, we grew up the coast, but we've been looking to get into Caravan parks. We looked all down the coast and just happened to find one just down the road from where we lived. And found a nice spot, an old cane land, that we converted into a caravan park.
Speaking of which, noone else, in 30 years, has had the balls to actually find the perfect piece of land, opting to refurbish established caravan parks instead. It's a pretty big deal. How long did it take you to get approval?
Will: Oh, it took years!! It probably took over 3 years to get approved.
What was the biggest challenge in the approval process?
Will: All the different regulations, council and state government. There's about 30 different bodies you encounter trying to build a caravan park on a river.
Oh wow, should we take a ride in the buggy?
What was the biggest challenge in creating your greenfield project?
Will: After getting it off the ground, the biggest challenge is letting people know about it, getting it out there. We've joined Big 4 which have helped a lot, initially, but now it's just mainly word of mouth.
You've got about 16 thousand Facebook fans so you're not doing too bad at getting the word out.
Will: I think there was a bit of hype around when we were first building which helped get the Facebook followers up pretty quickly.
What do you feel has been the biggest advantage in developing a Greenfield?
Will: Obviously we had a clean canvas to work on, we could lay out the park exactly how we wish, we were able to big huge sites, 10 x 12m, which is appreciated by a lot of the caravanners.
Absolutely, yeah I see you've got a few Big Rigs here!
Will: Yeah! "No Rig is too Big" is what we say here!
Your resort is only 18 months old yet is the talk of the industry, how many other "parkies" do you think you've taken for a tour?
Will: Near a hundred now, we'll show anyone who's interested, show them what we've done here, give them any tips if they're looking to renovate or do anything like that, we're happy to share our knowledge and what we've learned, and all the mistakes we've made when we were building.
Yeah awesome, that's what I like about the caravan industry, 'parkies' are pretty good to each other.
I get the feeling you and your brother are happy to test the waters on a few fronts... You've got metered powered sites, a licenced restaurant open to the public, table service to powered sites? Will: yeah we deliver, we do it all, you allow day visitors to use your facilities and allow pets in powered sites... all strategies I often hear 'parkies' umming and arrrring about but not actually making any move on it. What would you say gives you the confidence to jump in and get it done?
Will: I think it's just backing yourself, customers a lot more flexible, caravanners are a lot more flexible than you think, and they're willing to compromise with certain things. Not everyone likes dogs on sites, but once you explain your position, most caravanners understand, and we really haven't had a problem with either power charging, pet friendly, there's been no backlash what so ever.
So you'd say your strategies paid off?
Will: Yeah, especially the day guests you mentioned as well. They're absolutely huge for us now, especially supporting the restaurant aspect as well. Obviously there's a lot of caravan parks trying to justify a restaurant, but with the local trade, it's becoming a big part of the resort.
What's you Favourite adventure spot in Australia?
Will: Fraser Island
Ooh yeah that's beautiful, it's not pet friendly though lol, what's the best rig you've seen pull in here?
Will: We had this huge double decker gold bus that was also towing a massive trailer that had a couple of cars in it. He knew how to operate it though, so it was pretty impressive!
Dream set up for your own camping adventure?
Will: Going down to Fraser, we go down there at least twice a year at least, but I think it's just getting around and seeing the rest of Australia, it's a great way to see it.
What's next for Rivershore?
Will: We're looking at getting into a few corporate retreats, we've got a lovely conference room and the safari tents will suit that market well, school camps – trying to get that Monday-Thursday as everyone wants, and the Chinese, get the international travellers through, we've got a unique offering here.
It's been great chatting to you Will, you're leading the way in innovation in parks no one is questioning that, will we be seeing you at the Industry conference in May?
Will: Absolutely! Are you going to come join me at happy hour?