Camping holidays are changing – and there’s no greater proof of this than the upcoming sale of the iconic Eurocamp.
The iconic tour company flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, making holidays under tent or caravan a ‘respectable’ choice for the Volvo-driving middle classes, but it has now been put up for sale by its owners, India-based Cox & Kings.
“The sale of Eurocamp is a signal of an end of an era,” admits Noel Josephides, chairman of Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
“There is now an enormous supply of accommodation in hotels across Europe, much very cheap.
“Campsites, like hotels, know they no longer need to work with operators like Eurocamp when they can get so much business direct from websites.”
Mark Hammerton, whose father launched a camping holiday company in the early 1970s, alongside Eurocamp, agrees the company’s business model is outdated.
“When camping holidays in Europe took off from the 1970s, campsites were owned by farmers who couldn’t speak English and holidaymakers wanted holiday reps on hand to sort out problems.
“Now many campsites are much more professional, with websites where visitors make their own bookings.”
While the sale might be sad for Eurocamp – and, indeed, for many people’s nostalgia –it isn’t sad for the camping industry as a whole.
“Things have changed massively in the camping and caravanning world, but this sector is very much alive and kicking,” believes Hammerton.
Russell Wheldon, managing director at Alan Rogers Camping, which arranges bookings or lets customers make their own plans at 170 campsites all across Europe, echoes this view.
“With tents and camping gear available through Argos, Tesco and Amazon, there’s a terrific buzz about the sector.
“Many campsites are becoming more professional, with infinity pools and water slides. Others settle for a lake in the middle of nowhere.”
Wheldon said many people discover camping by going to pop festivals, but sometimes they feel daunted about taking the next step and actually setting off for a full camping holiday with the family.
To ease these nerves, Alan Rogers Travel is launching ‘instruction tours’ for first-time campers in 2014 – they will meet in Portsmouth, with an experienced group leader, and find how to tackle problems which might arise on a French campsite.
Your pocket will certainly thank you for overcoming your jitters, because families of two adults and two children can spend less than a total £1,000 on camping holidays in Europe in 2014, including the cost of ferry crossings.
As well as all these bargain prices and the obvious abundance of fresh air, camping holidays also give you the chance to be nicely on-trend in changing economic times.
“Camping holidays are part of the zeitgeist,” says Wheldon.
“Many families like the idea of children camping and enjoying a simple way of life.”