Booming Campsites

“Hibernators” fuel camp boom

Modern conveniences can be found swapping tents for cabins A crisis may be casting a long dark shadow over the world economic horizon, but camping grounds are booming. The reasoning is simple. In a campsite you can pitch your tent, shop in the supermarket and have all the essential utilities and services you need, for a fraction of the cost of living in a hotel. And sites along the Mediterranean coast of Spain are enjoying a very “sweet summer,” in the words of the president of the Valencian Camp ground Federation, Fernando Bonet, who calculates that the occupancy rate in Valencian camp grounds has been just as high as in previous years, and in many places higher.

This contrasts with the region’s hotels and holiday apartments, which have seen occupancy fall. In the case of Benidorm, occupancy is down by seven points compared with last year’s rate for this time of year. But while hotels seem to be going out of fashion, so are traditional tents.

Instead, families are renting out bungalows and cabins in camp grounds, which while not as cheap as tent living, are still more economical than a hotel. And reflecting the boom in the sector, the largest camp ground in Spain, and one of the largest in Europe, will be opening its gates in early 2010 at Crevillent, near Alicante. On some 350,000 square meters of land, it will have 1,720 trailer lots, and around 40 bungalows with two rooms, bathroom and air conditioning. There will also be a complete range of services: a huge swimming pool, a supermarket, two restaurants, a hairdresser’s salon, car rental, bars and a spa.

The aim is to project a new image of camping. For about €60 per lot per day and €150 in bungalow, you can live as if you were in a five-star tourist complex with all the conveniences, but at much lower prices. Recent years have seen a real “revolution” in Spain’s camping industry, says Francisco Delgado of the Benidorm Camp grounds Association, owing to the phenomenon of “hibernation.” “People from the north of Europe used to come here for two months. Now they stay from October to April. Many of them leave the trailer here and rent the lot all year round,” he explains. Almost all are middle-income retired people from northern Europe. “Why do we come here? For the sun, the climate. We come here to hibernate and enjoy the time we have left,” says Thomas Howe, 78, from Britain. “We like to walk, go to the beach, talk to the neighbours in other lots,” says Hazle. And then when summer approaches, the Howes, like thousands of British, Dutch, German, Belgian and Scandinavian retired people, turn their backs on the sun for a while and return to the cooler climate of their northern homes.

El Pais, International New York Herald Edition . August 23rd 2008

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