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Sector spotlight: Campsites

Once synonymous with rain and leaky tents, the British campsite is evolving into a weather and recession proof investment

Camping was once synonymous with rain, leaky tents and donning your head torch for the dreaded sprint to the portaloos in the night.

However the sector has evolved, making a surprising comeback in the last few years.

The leisure and tourism sector was one of the worst affected by the economic downturn. But despite this the camping and caravanning industry proved to be more a resilient niche.

According to the National Caravan Council (NCC) the UK camping industry ‘is at the forefront of UK Tourism. The majority of businesses in the industry are SMEs or micro-enterprises, usually independently owned and managed as a family concern’.

The industry now contributes more than £6 billion per year to the UK economy (with revenue from sales of related products and services, holiday bookings etc).

After a sharp decline between 2009 and 2010 the industry saw a period of unrestrained growth fuelled by the rising popularity of the ‘staycation’ in the wake of the recession.

Growth in the sector has also been maintained by the emergence of the ‘glamping' craze, the pop-up phenomenon and the rise of the fashionable festival culture.

According to the Camping and Caravanning Club - over 1.5 million people took to the fields in 2013. Go Outdoors conducted a study of 2831 people in 2014 about their camping hobbies:

• 61% of those surveyed went to get away from the hustle and bustle

• 56% stated that cost was the main factor and 53% to spend quality time with the family

• 46% went to feel a closeness to nature

They also ranked the top ten locations for camping holidays: the Lake District topping the list with Pooley Bridge and Keswick as the favourite destinations, Cornwall in second place and followed by the Scottish Highlands.


According to the Government website, in order to run a campsite planning permission is generally needed and prospective owners will have to apply for a licence from their local council. Once the licence is obtained the council can put conditions on it determining factors such as:

• The layout of the site,

• How many structures are permitted,

• The type of toilet/washing facilities on site.

However, if the government don’t respond within the timeframe of a month they will be allowed to go ahead with the plans. There are also some conditions where planning permission is exempt:

• If builders, travelling showmen or seasonal workers are staying in tents on the site,

• If it is 5 or more acres and has less than 3 tents,

• If the site is being used by an organisation for example Scouts or Brownies (an exemption certificate),

• If it is open for less than 28 days.



A photo posted by Glamping (@glampingdotcom) on


Industry trends

Plenty of Brit's are still choosing the stripped back traditional campsites as an inexpensive alternative getaway but the sector is still branching out.

Living ‘under canvas doesn't have to mean a diet of baked beans and burnt bangers’ and a camp-fire just doesn't cut it any more. Campsites with food trucks, cafes, restaurants are becoming the latest trend according to the Guardian.

The latest wave of the pop-up phenomenon abides by the ‘28 day rule’ creating a new kind of camping entrepreneur. No planning permission is needed for tents in this time frame, so savvy land owners are creating their very own pop-up campsites often catering to local events.

Contemporary camping has moved away from just tents, static caravans and mobile homes and as the economy improves recent years have seen the rise of 'glamping' (shorthand for glamorous camping).

Glamping sites allow people who wouldn't normally go camping to experience alfresco living minus the mud, the temperamental British weather and the camp fire cooking as they often come complete with all mod-cons and home comforts.

It all started back in  2007 when Google trends reported the first web searches for the term and its continued to grow ever since. According to the Go Outdoors survey 36% of the sample study had been glamping in 2014.

Campers now have a wide range of eclectic camping choices as glamping has adopted a variety of different forms; many with a long established culture and history. Glampers can now stay in a:

Yurt / Ger - a beautifully constructed willow structure originating from the nomadic Mongolian tribes,

Shikar - a tent originally made for the Maharajan Jodhpur and filled with lavish Rajastani furnishings,

Tipi - a Native American conical tent originally made from stretched animal skins (canvas is now the preferred material), 

Bell tent - closer to the traditional tent, it originated from the luxury safaris popular in the 1900s,

Pod - modern accommodation that comes in all shapes and sizes, often made from wood, fully insulated and double glazed.


The rising popularity of festivals has also played a big part in the camping revival. With the major festivals like Glastonbury, Bestival and Secret Garden Party now offering glamping options alongside the traditional pitch ups.

Garri Rayner, founder of puts the craze down to these festival goers. He states in the Guardian that the industry has ‘grown up with the popularity of festivals’.

He also believes that: ‘Camping doesn't appeal to most people. Sometimes you will get families really split, with one half liking it and the other not. But now, with so many options popping up all the time, and everyone even more eco-friendly, it's a great alternative.’

The rising interest in outdoor activities and boom in festival going is in turn fuelling the outdoor accessories market.Designers like Cath Kidston are at the forefront; her quintessentially British florals, kitsch bunting, patterned tipis and pretty picnic sets are have made camping cool again.



A photo posted by Glamping (@glampingdotcom) on


Carry on camping

Camping has become an integral part of the British summer alongside Pimms, barbeques and festivals. The camping industry is set for a strong and sustainable future fuelled by the growing number of options available – from the bare bones of a tent in a field to a home from home experience.

A recent article in Wales online states that the 100 plus campsites run by the Camping and Caravanning Club have seen a ‘15% increase in families holidaying in yurts and pods etc.’ in the last year and with the launch of their Ready Camp network in February 2015, it’s set to increase even further.

As with any trend there is a possibility that the market may become oversaturated, but for the time being eclectic camping options remain at the vanguard of the industry with supply outnumbering demand in the summer months.

Interested in owning your own campsite? Take a look at our campsites for sale  and other campsite articles at

Melanie Luff

About the author

Melanie Luff is our in-house editor. She also writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other global industry publications.


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