Diversification, austerity, mental health awareness, and a falling sterling. What do they all have in common? They lead to growth for open-air tourism and the touring sector. But don't take our word for it. There's a report out there brimming with camping trip statistics that shows just how much staycations contribute to the economy, and what campsite visitor spend is likely to be in the years to come.
Fittingly titled Pitching the Value
, the report looks at campsite visitor spend and camping trip statistics for caravanners and campers. It was commissioned by the UK Caravan and Camping Alliance (UKCCA) in November 2017, carried out by Frontline Consultants, and published earlier this year.
In a nutshell, the report estimates campsite visitor spend at £9.3bn per year. Based on this figure, it claims the UK campsite and holiday park sector adds £5.3bn in gross value to the tourism economy, and supports over 170,000 jobs. But the takeaway from these camping trip statistics is this: caravanners and campers spend more time and money on their holidays than the average tourist.
Tourist Vs. Campsite Visitor Spend
Britain aims for its tourism industry to account for nearly a tenth of its GDP by 2025. If this happens, then roughly 11% of all jobs in the UK will be in tourism. Also, it predicts a 3.8% annual growth rate for this sector by 2025. So, tourism should grow faster than the economy as a whole.
The report also claims French, American, and German were the top three foreign nationalities visiting the UK, making up nearly a third of all tourists from abroad. Together, they amass 27% of all overseas visitor spending. What percentage of this is campsite visitor spend has not been made clear.
But the UKCAA are very optimistic. They predict a whopping 6% yearly rise in campsite spending by international visitors until 2025, reaching £57bn per year. That's nearly triple what foreign tourists in the UK spent in 2013. Let's take this with a pinch of salt, though. With visas required after the Brexit transition period in 2021, it would be unrealistic to expect more tourists (campers and caravanners included) to come. That's because EU tourists' budgets and schedules would be affected by travel document requirements. Whether visitors from the far-flung corners of the world can offset this effect remains to be seen.
Campsite Trip Statistics
Of the 7,501 visitor respondents, 80% were English. Only 1% were from outside the UK, because the survey included mostly local club members. Nearly half of them had been to a campsite in the UK at least 5 times over the last 12 months. And most chose their campsite not so much because of ads, word of mouth, local events, or specific local activities, but rather because they wanted to visit or revisit the area.
As the report mentions, repeat visitors are very important to the British economy. Three quarters of visits made in 2015 were repeat. The nationalities most likely to return are Irish, Norwegians, Icelandic, and Belgian. More than 4 in 5 of these visitors come back, staying longer and spending more than other visitors.
Camping trip statistics show most respondents stayed in mobile accommodation (motorhomes, caravans, and tents) in 2018. They spent £480 to £560 per visit, per group, depending on whether they owned or rented accommodation. International visitors stayed longer and spent nearly twice as much as local ones, per trip.
The report shows the average visitor travels in groups of 2-3 adults. One in four groups include children, and one in three bring a pet. Caravanning and touring groups that rent spend just over £100 per day, on average, while those who own accommodation spend just under £90 per day. The average holiday last 4-5 days. Compared to the average daily spend of £63 over a 3-day period for local tourists, it seems caravanners, campers, and tourists spend two to three times more on their holidays.
Regardless of the facilities and activities available on-site, most respondents say they spend most of their time relaxing on camping chairs
, taking walks, and enjoying quality time with the family. Which is surprising, considering the effort some campsite and holiday park owners go through to offer a variety of sporting, health, and wellbeing activities.
Campsite Owner Consultation Result
The report says 6,243 UKCCA member campsites and holiday parks accounted for over 438,000 pitches in the summer of 2018. This includes rented and owned caravan holiday homes, lodges, cottages, and chalets, as well as touring pitches and glamping sites.
Campsite consultation results show some recurrent themes among holiday park owners' testimonials. Of the 790 parks consulted, most have been in business for over a decade. They face a variety of challenges in the sector, including planning issues, accessing finance, reduced towing ability in electric vehicles, strict driver licence restrictions, skills shortage, and growing competitors like Airbnb.
Of course, the rising cost of imports due to Brexit, uncertainty over whether themselves and their EU staff can stay after Brexit, and worries over Business Rates relief are also major issues for campsite owners. That said, they're very grateful for the beauty of their natural surroundings, which provides them with a loyal customer base. Thanks to them, occupancy rates are at their highest in August, reaching 70%. The lowest average occupancy rate according to these camping trip statistics is in January, at 11%.
In terms of facilities, they tend to depend on the size of the campsite or holiday park. Most larger ones offer shower and toilet blocks, WI-FI
, laundry, and outdoor play areas. Smaller ones, however, offer hardstanding, electric hook-ups
, service points for caravans and motorhomes, and dishwashing facilities.
More than a third of campsite and holiday park operators don't provide on-site activities. Those who do mainly offer fishing, swimming pools, tennis courts, cycling, and golf. Some also state they offer horse riding, spa, petting zoo, kayaking, farm tours, and quad biking.
Engagement with the local community consists mainly of promoting and sponsoring local events, fundraising, working with community groups, promoting local producers, suppliers, and shops, as well as advertising on social media. Some offer holiday prizes and free access to facilities for some locals. Many sell local maps and magazines, display menus for local restaurants and pubs, employ local staff, and buy locally.
As for eco-friendliness, many recycle and upcycle, harvest their own water, and have solar panels and compost toilets. Some are engaged in conservation projects, run wildlife identification events, or have a no-car policy.