The Dutch camping industry looked forward to 2020 with confidence. In January, February and March the sales of camping equipment went well. Everything indicated that it would be a great year for the campingbranche. And then the lockdown came. Springseason was largely a lost season for the industry. Fortunately, the tide turned and 2020 will go down in the books as a year in which camping became even more popular. Time to look back and forward
Words Marije Onderwaater
The Netherlands went into an “intelligent lockdown” in mid-March. People had to work from home, children were no longer allowed to go to school, the restaurants and bars where forced to close their doors and many shops decided not to open temporarily. Camping was still allowed, although not everywhere. The rules about camping were not the same across the country. The Netherlands is divided into 25 Safety Regions, each of which make its own decision. For example, the campsites in one Safety Region remained open while other regions needed to close by regulation. One thing was clear: the communal sanitary facilities had to remain closed at all campsites. This meant that campers could only go to some campsites if they had their own toilet – and shower – or used private sanitary facilities. Many campsite owners were distraught, especially in the Safety Regions where the campsites remained closed. Some of the campsite owners that were open hastily equipped more pitches with private sanitary facilities. A costly investment, but one that was worth it. The demand for such camping spots was enormous. Campers without a caravan or camper – and the ones that had no space for private sanitary facilities – were looking for other solutions, such as a chemical toilet and a shower tent with an outdoor shower. Demand for these products was high, and many companies eagerly took advantage of them. Parties that normally do not enter the camping market suddenly offered the popular shower tents. Mobile sanitary specialist Thetford also made themself heard and pointed out campers without their own sanitary facilities to their famous Porta Potties. And that way many camping enthusiasts could still go out camping. Nevertheless, the first months of the second quarter were difficult for many campsite owners. In April 2020 – normally the start of the (camping) holiday season – the number of domestic holidays decreased by 72 percent compared to 2019 (Source: Statistics Netherlands, Tourism, recreation and leisure trend report 2020 – provisional figures). That decrease already leveled off to 46 percent in May. In June it went a lot better. The number of Dutch people who went on holiday in their own country was then only 19 percent lower than in 2019. The decrease in the number of foreign holidays was greater. In the second quarter of 2020 – in April and May – this was a drop of no less than 98 percent compared to 2019. Hardly any improvement had been seen here in the following months. The Dutch still did not go abroad. This can be explained by the many closed borders. In June 2020, the fall in the number of holidays abroad was 87 percent lower than the same month in the previous year.
Campsites open again
On June 1, all campsites in the Netherlands were allowed to open their doors again. On June 15 – two weeks earlier than the original opening date – the communal sanitary buildings where accessible again. That was not a second too early, because the first school holidays started in the Netherlands on July the third. Meanwhile, there was a huge demand for a place on a Dutch campsite. The corona measures for popular holiday countries were all still quite uncertain. It could also just happen that a revival of the corona virus would ensure that certain countries would lock again. Many Dutch campers therefore decided to be sure and choose to stay in their own country this year. That was not only true for the experienced campers. Also, Dutch people who normally go on holiday by plane, now decided to play it safe and opt for a camping holiday. And people who would rather not be camping discovered that camping is a corona-proof way of holidaying. This meant that the campsites in the Netherlands were almost full. Not only the pitches were almost all occupied; the rental accommodations were also all booked. The above figures show that the decline in the number of camping holidays in the Netherlands had largely recovered in June. The curve raised even more in July and August. In these two months, Dutch overnight accommodations, including campsites, recorded a record number of overnight stays (Statistics Netherlands, Trend report tourism, recreation and leisure 2020 – provisional figures). The number of overnight stays even exceeded that of 2019, which was already seen as a very successful year. This is partly because Dutch guests stayed longer at their destination. The third quarter of last year shows that campsites saw the number of overnight stays increase by 27 percent compared to 2019.
Fewer foreign guests
In the third quarter of 2020, Dutch camping sites received 40.2 percent more Dutch guests than in the previous year. On the other hand, the number of foreign guests fell by 14.5 percent. In total, about 5.9 million Dutch holidaymakers chose to stay in their own country in the third quarter of 2020. This is an increase of 24 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Holidays abroad were less popular with the Dutch. In the same third quarter, 3.5 million Dutch people crossed the border for their holiday. Compared to this period in 2019, this is a decrease of 57 percent. The Netherlands has twelve provinces, of which Groningen – in the north of the country – saw the number of overnight stays increase the most. The province recorded an increase of 33 percent in the third quarter. Gelderland is the most popular with people who go on holiday in their own country. This province in the middle of the Netherlands saw the number of overnight stays increase by 21 percent in the third quarter. The sudden enthusiasm for camping had major consequences for the camping industry. Because people who had no camping gear and still wanted to stay at a campsite had to buy a complete inventory. So, there was a run on new and used camping products. This was good news for that part of the branch. As soon as it was possible, they opened up their showrooms to provide the customer with the best possible service – often by appointment.
The corona crisis has given a boost to camping, especially by the “newbie” campers. But that trend has actually started before. The year namely 2019 broke all records when it came to the sale of caravans, motorhomes, tents, folding trailers and camping accessories. Last year went one step further. In the first three quarters of 2020, sales figures in the Netherlands were even higher than in the whole of 2019. This trend continued in the last quarter. By way of comparison: in September 2020, 19 percent more new caravans were sold than in September 2019. The difference for campers is even greater: there was an increase of 63 percent in that month. The sale of camping equipment is on the rise throughout Europe. In the Netherlands, we have a total of more than 567,000 caravans and motorhomes (Source: Kampeer & Caravan Industrie – KCI). Within Europe, that number is only higher in Germany, France and Great Britain. In 2020, 6,962 new caravans were sold in the Netherlands (Source: European Caravan Federation – ECF). In 2019, this was 7,034 caravans. Sales of new motorhomes took off in 2020. 2,099 motorhomes were sold in 2019; last year that was 2,450 units. That is an increase of 16.7 percent. All together, 9,412 new motorhomes and caravans left the showroom in 2020. In 2019, that number was 9,133. If you look at the sales figures in Europe (Source: Kampeer & Caravan Industrie – KCI), you will see that the Netherlands occupies third place when it comes to the sale of caravans. Germany (24,650 caravans) and Great Britain (an estimated 11,433 caravans) are in first and second place respectively. For a small country like the Netherlands, this third place is quite remarkable. And yet it is also not very striking. Because nowhere in Europe is the caravan and motorhome density per 1000 inhabitants as high as in the Netherlands (Source: Kampeer & Caravan Industrie – KCI).
Folding trailer and roof tent
The caravan is still the most popular camping equipment in the Netherlands. The trailer tent also has a large number of fans. That is special, because in other European countries far fewer people camp with a trailer tent. This camping equipment has undergone quite some development in recent years. The traditional folding trailer still exists but is increasingly making way for its fancy brother: the tent trailer. Several brands now offer tent trailers. These units are distinguished by their sturdy, often robust appearance. They are often also available in an “off-road” version. Tent trailers usually do not have a fixed roadside kitchen, but an optional separate kitchen that you can place wherever you like around the tent. A striking appearance is the typically Dutch TakeOff from Easy Caravanning. This crossover between a trailer tent and a caravan saw the light of day at the end of 2019. The Easy Caravanning company is a solitairy folding trailer brand that uses Dutch Karsten Tenten for their tents. The TakeOff combines the convenience of a folding trailer with the comfort of a touring caravan. This crossover is ready for use within thirty seconds. In addition, the Dutch still like to sleep in a tent. Nowadays they come in all shapes and sizes: from side tents to family tents and from pop-up tents to inflatable tents. For a group of Dutch people, camping is only real when they sleep under a tent cloth. That also explains the success of the trailer tent, comfortable camping but with a tent cloth over your head. And then there is another camping equipment on the rise in the Netherlands: the rooftop tent. For years, only 4×4 vehicles carried a tent on the roof. That has changed. Today, rooftop tents for passenger cars are widely available. The sales of rooftop tents have been increasing for a few years but exploded in the corona year 2020. Dutch suppliers of rooftop tents saw their sales figures double in 2020 compared to 2019 (Source: Kampeer & Caravan Industrie – KCI). Manufacturers are doing everything they can to increase their capacity but are still barely able to keep up with this growth. The fact that a roof tent is equipped with a mattress as standard, makes this camping equipment so attractive for many Dutch people. If you have a roof tent on your car, you are as free as a bird. And that flexible way of travelling is an advantage in these uncertain corona times.
It’s clear: 2020 was an erratic camping year. The industry experienced both high peaks and deep lows. A big downer was the cancellation of many camping fairs. The Dutch camping fair Caravana could take place in January 2020, but it soon ended. As is known, the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf still took place in September, although with a lot less exhibitors and a lot of corona measures. The Camping & Caravan Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, which takes place every year in October, was canceled. Trade association KCI (Camping & Caravan Industry), which organizes the fair, already took the plunge at the end of May. Of course, with a heavy heart. Yet the KCI said it had no other choice. The trade association wants to organize a national event with the Camping & Caravan Jaarbeurs where visitors experience the camping experience. In addition, the fair must provide a good reflection of camping equipment, supplies and accessories. “This guarantee cannot be given with today’s knowledge,” said KCI chairman Leo Diepemaat in May. The decision to end the 56th Camping & Caravan Fair was of course partly prompted by the news that several major brands previously announced that they would skip all European fairs.
October camping month
For the Dutch camping industry, the cancellation of the fair in Utrecht was a new blow. The Camping & Caravan Jaarbeurs is the place in the Netherlands where manufacturers launch their new products. In addition, October is traditionally the camping month. To compensate for the lack of the KCJ, the Dutch dealers and camping companies – together there are more than one hundred and sixty – decided not to lose that tradition. October thus remained the camping month, but instead of the fairground it would be held in the showrooms of the dealers and camping companies. A theme month is of course not complete without giveaways. Various brands, dealers and companies came up with such raffles. For example, the Erwin Hymer Group gave away a caravan and a trip with a motorhome to the North Cape. In this way, the industry tried to revolve around camping in the autumn. The industry generates a large part of the turnover in this period. The camping industry achieves a gross turnover of 2.3 billion euros (Source: Kampeer & Caravan Industrie – KCI) with the sale and maintenance of new and used camping equipment. This amount increases every year. And there was more to do in camping. For example, the KCI expanded its Camp to Go platform – of which an informative website is already part – with a television program. This program is all about camping experience. The participants set out for four days with a camping equipment that they thought was not within their reach, such as a camper, caravan, folding trailer or a rooftop tent. With this they stayed on a campsite in the Netherlands. Presenter Sander Janson visited the various campsites to ask the participants about their experiences. With this television program, the KCI wants to show people how much fun camping is and provide information about the various camping equipment and possibilities.
Camping year 2021
It remains to be seen what camping year 2021 will be. The uninvited guest Covid-19 still doesn’t seem ready to leave and even shows mutations. The Netherlands started the vaccination program in January. It remains to be seen how fast that will go and how Covid will develop further. Only then can it be said whether the Dutch can go camping abroad again. It is expected that a large part of the Dutch campers will choose a holiday in their own country again this year. But one thing is certain: as soon as it is possible the Dutch will again cross borders. With the motorhome, caravan, tent, trailer tent or rooftop tent!