Strengthening the experience economy

How agility and resilience has helped Paperbark Camp navigate their way

Paperbark Camp based on the NSW South Coast (Jervis Bay) has been part of the Big Red Group supply community for more than 11 years. Director of the luxury camping business, Camilla Hamilford has seen more than her fair share of challenges over the past 18 months including bushfires, flooding and Covid-19, testing the resilience of her team and business.

As a small family owned operation with loyal and dedicated staff, they have managed each setback in their stride, responding quickly and efficiently to each unique set of circumstances faced. Staff and guest safety has been the priority throughout each ordeal, managing immediate threats and then reconciling the longer terms impacts.

Of all three major events, the bushfire was the most frightening and impactful, destroying their smaller glamping property ‘Flash Camp’ at Coolendel. And although Paperbark Camp was built to contend with floodwaters, there were some major inconveniences to deal with when the floods came.

But it was Covid-19 that sent the business to its lowest point. Shutting down at the beginning of the pandemic and standing down staff without knowing what the future held.

But after hitting the lowest point, then came the highest. With international borders closed and Australians relishing the opportunity to travel domestically once restrictions eased, Paperbark Camp capacity began to soar upon re-opening in June 2020.

Despite it being mid-winter, a traditionally slower season, Paperbark Camp was swamped with booking enquiries. Strong bookings have continued, and being located proximate to a major city has been advantageous says Hamilford, with people feeling secure in taking mini-adventures, with their homes not too far from sight.

Hamilford’s biggest challenge right now, which is an industry wide one, is finding hospitality staff, especially chefs, who are in high demand and short supply. An issue that they will likely be contending with for a while.

While confident that Australia is on the road to recovery, Paperbark Camp is cognisant that many in the tourism industry who are more reliant on the international market continue to suffer.

Hamilford says Covid-19 has reinforced the idea that connection with people and making memories is so important, with Big Red Group providing a channel to people who are looking to do just, through its leading experience brands Adrenaline and RedBalloon.

While the challenging months have tested them all, it has also made Paperbark Camp realise how agile they are, and has equipped the team with the ability and mindset to better prepare for, and embrace change. And after 22 years in operation, it has made the business look at different ways of doing things which has been beneficial.

While Big Red Group brands continue to provide customers looking for unique experiences to businesses such as Paperbark Camp, it is Hamilford and her team who supply the magic that keeps them coming back for more.