MOAMA’S April Whiston is an Australian leader in her field.
The Merool on the Murray general manager won the 2017 Future Leaders Award for the Australian Caravan Industry on the weekend.
The 32-year-old is the first caravan park operator to win the national award.
‘‘It was a huge shock. I was up against some pretty stiff competition,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s amazing to be recognised because we have had a hard few years and to be acknowledged for our contribution is reassuring as it shows we are heading in the right direction.’’
Mrs Whiston, who has been the general manager at the Moama family owned and operated park for three years, won the award for her contribution to the tourism industry as well as her other achievements.
The mother-of-three founded Cabin Connect two years ago after identifying a gap in the market and her blog — Mrs Caravan Park — has gained an international following.
‘‘Cabin Connect enables owners of annual or onsite cabins/vans to have a suitable marketing platform to promote their asset when they want to sell,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s like realestate.com for the caravan industry.’’
Mrs Whiston said the judges were also impressed with the direction and philosophy of the caravan park which was ranked the fourth best caravan park in NSW in 2015.
‘‘Kids stay for free and we offer cheaper accommodation for grey nomads,’’ she said.
As a youth ambassador for the industry, Mrs Whiston said she would also like to establish a reputable career path for school leavers, promoting this to year 12 students interested in tourism.
‘‘I believe a hands-on training program, accompanied with a structured TAFE course, would provide skills and experience to youth that will enable them to enter a growing industry that can afford to pay satisfying salaries,’’ she said.
‘‘This would enable us to be a ‘skills and experience’ based industry, rather than ‘fund’ based industry.’’
Mrs Whiston plans on using her $15,000 prize for professional development which may include a trip to Germany which hosts the largest caravan expo in the world.
‘‘I also plan to continue growing our park while establishing myself as an owner and moving away from being a general manager,’’ she said.
‘‘I’ll also focus on growing my business, Cabin Connect, and tapping into the manufactured home sector. An avenue I would like to explore with Cabin Connect is the viability of becoming a cabin broker for clients to find the right manufactured home for them.’’