Vicki and David Weston, owners of Tarra Valley Caravan Park, standing at their reception
Vicki and David Weston, owners of Tarra Valley Caravan Park, standing at their reception with a customer

Tarra Valley Caravan Park

Vicki Weston • David Weston • Tarra Valley • Gippsland

Safe from flames, harmed by misunderstanding

Tarra Valley Caravan Park, “Fernholme”, is located in beautiful Gippsland. Vicki and David Weston were longtime campers at the park, first discovering it when they arrived to tour Tarra Bulga National Park. It was love at first campsite — for the next 14 years, Vicki and David camped at Tarra Valley every summer. 

In 2011, an opportunity arose. Tarra Valley Caravan Park was up for sale, and Vicki and David jumped at the chance to live and work in the beautiful Tarra Valley. While things initially ran smoothly, 2019 brought unprecedented challenges.  

Bushfires reach Tarra Valley 

As 2019 and early 2020 brought extreme bushfires ravaging Gippsland, Tarra Valley Caravan Park faced a unique challenge. Whilst other areas of Gippsland were tragically burning, Tarra Valley remained safe, secure, and untouched by the flames. The campsite was located far enough from the fires that it remained entirely unaffected. 

However, the effects of the bushfires reached Tarra Valley in a different way. When those across Victoria, and all of Australia, heard about the tragic fires in Gippsland, panic ensued. Led by a misunderstanding of how large the Gippsland area was, and incorrectly believing that the Tarra Valley area was also unsafe and engulfed in flames, tourism at the park came to a halt. 

Vicki and David Weston, owners of Tarra Valley Caravan Park, standing outside their reception, a green wooden structure with a blue sign saying
Tarra Valley Caravan Park's river frontage
Business owners Vicki and David Weston sitting on a log at Tarra Valley Caravan Park

“We had people ringing to cancel their bookings. Even though we explained that the fires were nowhere near us, they didn’t fully understand how big Gippsland is,” recalled Vicki. “We also had people packing up and leaving early. The phone stopped ringing for future bookings.” 

Implementing new methods of communication 

Vicki and David hopped straight into action with a plan to get the word out. The more people who understood that the Tarra Valley area was unaffected by bushfires, the better. 

First, Vicki and David rang local radio stations in both Melbourne and regional Victoria, explaining their message that Tarra Valley was safe to visit. This produced positive results. The park received a few bookings from this initiative, but it was not yet enough to make up for the unexpected loss. Vicki and David required a better, more effective method to spread the word… and fast. 

Help came in the form of the Business Recovery Advisory Program. Paired with mentor Tom Ponting, Vicki and David came up with a new plan of attack.   

Tom provided guidance in the form of a renewed sense of motivation, paired with a plan for the park’s communications. Tom mentored Vicki and David about the use of Tarra Valley Caravan Park’s social media channels to spread the word effectively. 

Tourism at the caravan park resumed, and afterwards, Tarra Valley had implemented a new way to reach customers when it was most important. 

Renewed motivation after tough months 

After 18 months of challenges brought on by the bushfires and COVID-19, Tom assisted David and Vicki with creating a renewed sense of business motivation going forward.   

A collection of Tarra Valley Caravan Park's flyers, brochures and post cards
Tarra Valley Caravan Park's resident cockatoo
Tarra Valley Caravan Park's river frontage

Today, Tarra Valley Caravan Park continues to make use of Facebook and Instagram channels to reach customers with information and promotions — alongside a new way of accounting that helps with forecasting. Tom has assisted in the implementation of spreadsheets to allow projection of turnover, plus a better way of doing Business Activity Statements (BAS), while gaining a greater understanding of the costs of running their business. 

As a result, last year, Tarra Valley Caravan Park increased its turnover and profitability. 

Looking back, Vicki is thankful for the direction that Tom provided. “I would 100% recommend the Business Recovery Advisory Services. Our mentor, Tom Ponting, has been invaluable to us and our business,” she said. 

The Business Recovery Advisory Service is no longer taking on new clients.

Additional support can be accessed via Business Victoria which includes free 45-minute sessions with an experienced expert for help with setting business goals, resolving financial issues and more.