Magazine article Marketing

The Perfect Pitch

Magazine article Marketing

The Perfect Pitch

Article excerpt

Outdoor holidays are rising in popularity as consumers seek more budget-friendly alternatives to pricey minibreaks, writes Jane Bainbridge.

Camping has become cool. Tents are state-of-the-art, designer equipment is de rigueur and campsite facilities have been upgraded. Even caravanning is trying to shake off its middle-aged image. Airstream, the sleek, silver US classic, is bringing out European versions, and Pods offer designer chic on a smaller scale.

Camping is the perfect credit-crunch holiday, as it is a break on a budget. It provides children with the opportunity and space to roam, often lacking in their day-to-day lives. As domestic holidays surge, it makes for a perfect mini-break and fits with the 'back to basics' consumer mentality.

Music and camping also go hand in hand, as proved by the nation's youth taking to the festival circuit to indulge in outdoor living to a musical soundtrack. Consequently, camping has benefited from the boom in music festivals sweeping the country.

The sector's positioning shift from the hippie to the mainstream can be seen everywhere, from 'smart' campervans to sites offering permanent teepees and yurts kitted out with duvets and full kitchen equipment.

This year looks likely to be a strong one for the sector, with advanced bookings up on 2008 by about 30%-40%, according to Mintel. The overall camping and caravanning holiday market increased by 6% between 2004 and 2008 according to Mintel, a rise due entirely to domestic holidays. In 2009, the total number of camping and caravanning holidays is set to reach 11.2m.

The Camping and Caravanning Club reported a good season to November 2008, up 10% on the previous year. Bookings at the end of January 2009, meanwhile, were up 26% year on year. The body has added more than 52,000 members in the past year, with increases particularly high among 30- to 49-year-olds. The percentage of those renewing their membership also reached a five-year high.

Tent and touring caravans have performed better than fixed holiday-home caravans, despite the latter making up the majority of the market.

Yet while domestic holidays of this type are booming, camping and caravanning abroad has declined on 2004 levels. Eurocamp has even introduced sites around Britain, called UK Escapes, for the first time in many years.

France is the primary foreign destination for UK campers, due to the ease of travel. However, last year's poor weather combined with the strength of the euro may put travellers off this year.

Compared with other types of holidays, camping trips are usually booked at the last minute. This is probably because it is a highly weather-dependent activity, although the bigger holiday parks recommend advance booking, and often offer incentives to encourage it.

The market is dominated by a handful of players. The Caravan Club offers more than 200 sites, while the Camping and Caravan Club has 109. Other commercial operators include Parks Resorts, Haven, Park Holidays and Parkdean. However, there are also thousands of independent campsites in the UK and overseas.

The bigger parks offer a wider variety of facilities, such as play areas, restaurants and swimming pools, while small, independent sites make a point of offering 'back to nature' experiences.

Despite the sector's recent surge in popularity, camping and caravanning is not without its challenges. The British weather is the most obvious one: the past two summers have been very wet, testing even the most dedicated of campers. …

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