People travelling in self-contained camping vehicles spend an average of $100 a day as they thread their way through New Zealand, Whanganui and Partners visitor industries strategic lead Paul Chaplow says.
Whanganui provides free facilities and welcomes increasing numbers of freedom campers, Chaplow said.
Visitors use the CamperMate app to find out where they can park and what's available. In Whanganui there are six places for vehicles with kitchen and bathroom facilities, and three others near toilets for vehicles without them.
There is no limit on how long people can stay.
In February this year 2349 vehicles stayed overnight at these places, Chaplow said, and most had more than one occupant.
Freedom campers generally spend less per day than people who pay for accommodation but they tend to stay twice as long.
"Their overall spend can end up being more than the average visitor."
Providing freedom camping attracts extra visitors, they "get the vibe" of Whanganui and they spread the word, Chaplow said.
"That's a really great thing, for people to be telling our story."
It has cost $292,000 to put a toilet at Jerusalem on the Whanganui River Rd and toilets, a dump site and water fountain near the Whanganui Multisport Club building in Kowhai Park, Whanganui District Council property manager Leighton Toy said.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) contributed $120,000 of that, and the toilets are used by people other than campers.
The owner of the Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park, Jeannie Kay, says district holiday park owners are irate about the council's freedom camping policy because it reduces their business. Her holiday park will be down one staff member as a result.
Chaplow can understand the concerns of the holiday parks, and said it was disturbing to hear a staff member may have been let go.
This summer, through another MBIE subsidy, Whanganui will have a part-time freedom camping ambassador. Their job will be to count how many vehicles stay, teach campers Kiwi camping etiquette and find out how long they are staying and what they want to do.
The ambassador's information will help the council decide whether to make a freedom camping bylaw, Toy said. One possibility is a bylaw limiting the time people can stay.