• A spot of car camping.
    A spot of car camping.

An unprecedented interest in camping has prompted a small business that saw post-lockdown bookings boom to return its JobKeeper payment to the federal government.

James Woodford, the director of Hipcamp Australia, an online booking site for camping, said the company had decided to voluntarily return $51,000 in payments after bookings took off for the organisation’s 2000 listings across Australia after lockdown last year.

And this summer is on track to be even better he says.

“When I realised our advance bookings looked so strong, it seemed unscrupulous to keep that money,” said Woodford.

The decision was made in consultation with the company’s 10 employees in Moruya on the south coast of NSW. “We did so well,” he said.

Mr Woodford said JobKeeper was a “godsend” last year. “The money ran out the door when cancellations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars came in,” he said.

“I think the bigger story for us is that as we look past the lockdown we were concerned that everyone would go to Bali and do anything but camp,” said Woodford. “What surprised us is that people have discovered the joys of camping, domestic tourism, and simpler joys.

“We see very high bookings over Christmas and New Years, unexpectedly high. People want to camp, and they have no confidence that interstate or international travel is possible."

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