Thousands of New Zealanders taking to campervan road trips during COVID-19 pandemic

There's been a spike in both campervan sales and rentals.
There's been a spike in both campervan sales and rentals. Photo credit: Newshub (File)

New Zealanders are often spontaneous and with COVID-19 alert level changes a part of our current way of life, it helps to be open to trying something new at short notice.

When it comes to domestic travel, there's really nothing more spontaneous and iconic as a road trip, and that's reflected by the number of people renting campervans according to THL, the owner of Britz and Maui campervans.

"Campervan travel has always appealed to the spontaneous traveller - they enjoy the flexibility of the open road and being able to make plans on the fly. But living in a world of alert level changes means we are all now having to be a little looser with plans - bringing out the spontaneity in all of us by default," Ollie Farnsworth, Chief Commercial and Customer Officer for THL says.

"This is demonstrated in the booking spikes we're experiencing as soon as lockdown lifts - and the shorter booking periods with a lot of our bookings coming within three weeks of travel."

Fifty percent of Maui and Britz customers are booking within three weeks of departure.

Farnsworth says the company has seen a change in booking patterns over the past year, moving from a customer base skewed largely towards international travellers who book weeks on the road to Kiwis taking much shorter trips at short notice.

He says the industry is adapting too, and THL has increased booking flexibility to allow for refunds and rescheduling.

"Kiwis are very conscientious of the changing COVID-19 alert levels; in response we have increased booking flexibility to allow for rescheduling or refunds if COVID-19 gets in the way of holiday plans," he says. 

"If COVID-19 restrictions hit we are waiving cancellation fees and refunding for days unused - so our customers can still plan ahead. I think Kiwis in general are getting used to planning with something of an agile mindset as a result of lockdown change."

Farnsworth says New Zealand has a global reputation amongst some RV enthusiasts as the ultimate road trip destination and Kiwis are taking the border closure opportunity to get out and see it for themselves. 

Thousands of New Zealanders have experienced campervans for the first time, with 65 percent of the 20,000 bookings made during a recent THL campaign being first time campervanners.

Of those, 85 percent said they were keen to repeat the experience and 40 percent even went as far saying they would now consider purchasing a campervan. 

Campervan sales increased by 100 percent in the second half of 2020.

Cost wise, the campervan experience is economical in comparison to the cost of booking flights and accommodation.

During the April school holidays, there are rates available from as little as $91 per day for a four berth camper through to $171 per day for the extra roomy six berth vehicles.