The outdoor accommodation market remains one of the most popular holiday options for French people, while southern France also attracts many tourists from northern Europe (the sector representing close to half of the available tourist beds).
France is the largest and most active market in Europe and second only to the US globally, with well over 8,000 campsites (representing around 30% of European campsites) and almost a million pitches.
Like elsewhere across Europe, accommodation is being extensively upgraded as part of ambitious investment programmes by major players, thereby improving the image of camping and caravanning. Such investment in a wide range of facilities and services also attracts wealthier customers who are increasingly entering the market, and top end campsites are the fastest growing segment within the sector.
In recent years, the number of campsites has actually slightly fallen due to the increasing ‘professionalisation’ of the market and the elimination of weaker performing sites. However, demand for outdoor holidays has been increasing (+5.5% CAGR between 2005 and 2013 for the number of overnight stays), reinforcing the positive tension between supply and demand.
The rise in the premium segment also means the value of the market has continued to grow, and latest estimates suggest the market will be worth €2.6bn1 in 2017.
France is also home to a number of the major European consolidators in the outdoor accommodation arena, such as Homair Vacances, Vacalians and Siblu.
Underpinned by a strong culture to buy second homes, improved access to credit, and continued consumer confidence, the UK outdoor accommodation market has performed particularly well over recent years. On top of this, the ‘staycation’ trend has been a particularly influential factor in driving the market’s growth.
For instance, the number of trips taken domestically by UK residents soared from 50.4 million in 2008 to 57 million in 20132. This was initially in response to the economic downturn, but has since been driven by trends such as the desire to take more frequent and shorter breaks, and heightened security concerns over taking holidays abroad. Wealthier families are also increasingly attracted to the camping market with luxury yurts and safari tents becoming popular options.
Total consumer spending on outdoor accommodation holidays is estimated at £2.2bn3 and grew 4% in 2015. In total, UK residents took 102.7 million overnight trips in England in 2015, totalling 300 million nights away from home, with an expenditure of £19.6bn3. The number of domestic trips was 11% higher in 2015 than in 2014.
Last year’s Brexit vote could further consolidate these trends, particularly if sterling remains weak thereby making foreign holidays more expensive. A survey4 of over 500 UK tourism businesses found that 21% of domestic tourism businesses have experienced an increase in forward bookings since Brexit.
Rest of Europe
In Germany the market has been growing steadily over the past decade with annual growth rates5 of around 6% since 2013.
The country has nearly 2,900 campsites and the most popular camping destination is Bavaria which recorded more than 5 million overnight stays in 2015, followed by Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (4.6 million) and Lower Saxony (4 million).
The home market is particularly strong with German citizens accounting for 85% of total overnight campsite stays in Germany in 2015.
The market remains very fragmented with only a small number of players operating multiple campsites. As such, most of the campsites are still family-owned, and despite the very attractive industry trends not many consolidators have entered the market yet.
In Spain, there are distinct site categories ranging from ‘Grand luxe’, which have a full range of modern facilities, through to a decreasing – yet still significant – number of ‘third’ category sites which offer more basic accommodation and facilities.
Approximately 44% of overnight stays are made by non-Spaniards, with French visitors particularly prominent. Estimates suggest the industry had its strongest summer for a decade in 2016 with an average occupancy of 85% and nearly 18 million overnight stays6.
1 Roland Berger
2 Visit Britain
3 Tourism Alliance
4 Great Britain Tourism Survey
5 German Federal Statistical Office
6 Insituto Nacional de Estadística