Margaret Shannon reflects on caravancampingcales Future Leader award

When I traded hotels for holiday parks, I never thought that in 2018, a mere four years after entering the industry, I would be receiving the national Future Leader award.  The past 12 months has been a culmination of hard work, passion and perseverance, with a good dose of comradery, innovation and learning curves thrown in along the way.

Over the last four years we have seen the caravan and camping industry go through a huge growth in manufacturing, tectonic shifts in ownership structure and management processes, and the challenges of a changing competitive environment where consumers want experiences and value at the same time.  I believe there has been more change and growth in this industry in the past four years than I saw in the hotel industry over the previous fifteen years; that’s how quickly our landscape is transforming.

This has given me (and many of my colleagues in the industry) the opportunity to stretch our thinking and to challenge some of the existing paradigms.  In the couple of years leading up to the 2018 National Conference, the importance of collaboration really become apparent as I worked with local and regional tourism networks, caravan park marketing franchises and the state associations.  I feel so lucky to have collaborated with some great individuals who really inspired me to come up with innovative solutions to challenges we were facing at the time.  Some of these included the creation of an annual “Silver Schoolies” week, aimed at increasing occupancy over the off-peak winter period with a week-long event aimed at Grey Nomads; the launch of the “Pay What You Want” marketing and pricing campaign in response to a challenging marketing environment, and the development of a “Convoy to Conference” aimed at increasing engagement among our industry future leaders, while also creating content aimed at the emerging millennial market.

I felt incredibly honoured to be awarded the 2018 caravancampingsales Future Leader Award, especially given the high calibre of my fellow finalists.  Brad, Daniel, Jess, Max, Renee, and Stuart are all talented and driven individuals, and one of the major positives from the award was the opportunity to meet and get to know them better.  The actual submission process not only challenged me to identify what my personal and professional contribution to the industry had been, but also what my future role might involve, and it was so valuable to be able to discuss some of those ideas and strategies with the judging panel.

As a ‘Future Leader’ award winner, I believe that it is not just about the submission process, or even the work that you put in leading up to an awards win.  There is a responsibility that comes with being a future leader to continue being innovative, to inspire and drive others in the same way that has been done for me, and to work with others to create a supportive community of like-minded people.  I feel very positive about the future of our industry and hope to continue contributing to the direction and further growth of caravan and camping in Australia by stepping into leadership and governance roles.  The Future Leader Award prize is a chance to further develop these skills, and I am also looking forward to increasing my knowledge in the area of consumer psychology; in particular the application of this to the marketing and promotion of our industry.  We have the potential to be a major player in the greater domestic tourism industry, and there are plenty of opportunities to influence tourism planning and infrastructure on a regional and national level.

Thankyou to my fellow finalists for your support and engaging conversations over the course of the conference, and to the board and panel for your confidence and trust in me to deliver on the award in the future.

Thankyou also to Jan Richter, Shane Ridgewell, Martin Cotterill and Robyn Kingsmill, who along with the CCIA NSW team who have taught me so much and given me the base from which to achieve what I have so far.  There are also many others in BIG4, and Caravan Industry Association of Australia, Destination North Coast and beyond who have supported, and continued to support my endeavours, for which I am grateful.

I now look forward to what the next 12 months and beyond brings, both in my role at Ballina Beach Village and also in the greater caravan and camping industry.

Margaret Shannon