Even though the whole of Europe is in a difficult economic situation, travelling with a motorhome or a camper van has become a fashionable trend everywhere, including in Spain.
This way of experiencing holidays and outdoor tourism has grown exponentially in recent years, making Spain the third European country with the largest number of RVs (over 300,000 units), behind only Germany and France. It’s a lifestyle with a great future ahead.
Tourism-on-wheels had always been less developed in Spain than in other major European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or France; however, in recent years Spain has been catching up and has experienced a historic increase in the number of annual vehicle registrations that reached its peak in 2019.
From 2013 to 2019, the sale of motorhomes increased by more than 347 percent – the highest percentage growth in Europe.
In 2020, of course, like the rest of Europe, the market in Spain suffered the consequences of Covid-19: almost three months of plant closures, thousands of rental bookings cancelled during the Easter holidays and the spring months. However, after the uncertainty and fear of the situation, the sector was able to react, reopen its plants with an efficient health protocol in place and save the rest of the year. In the end, new registrations in Spain only turned out to be slightly lower than in 2019.
José Manuel Jurado, president of the Spanish Association of Caravan Industry and Trade (ASEICAR), explains: “In 2019, we reached a record of registrations of new vehicles (9,014), which equates to more than 24 per day, but the pandemic arrived and this progression was momentarily interrupted, but in the end, it did bring thousands of families into the sector who had never thought of spending their holidays in a camper before. We are convinced that these new caravanning consumers are happy with this type of holiday. Traveling tourism has finally arrived in Spain for good and has become a way of life for many people.”
In fact, in 2020, despite Covid, according to ASEICAR data, almost 9,000 campers and caravans were registered in Spain. Furthermore, the pandemic has definitely changed the travel habits of the Spanish. The president of the association says that Spaniards now appreciate tourism in nature and the joy of time outdoors.
However, since mid-2021, the component sector crisis has started to affect the production of campers and caravans, generating a chain effect that makes it impossible to set a precise delivery date for distributors and a subsequent increase in the final price of vehicles.
In other words, at the best moment in history for the sector in Spain, the global industrial crisis has blocked the registrations of new vehicles, while the interest and demand among citizens is still gro-wing.
At the end of last year (2021), Spain had a total of 311,800 recreational vehicles in circulation (231,000 caravans, 67,000 campers and 13,000 vans). This figure makes it the third European country, only behind Germany (530,000) and France (500,000), with a 7.77% share of these vehicles in Europe (a total of 4,015,287).
Analyzing the 2021 data shows there was a slight recovery in the number of registrations (7% more than in 2020), but without reaching the record levels of 2019. If we look at an evolutionary graph of the last nine years, we can clearly see the continuing growth of the sector from 2013 to 2019, then the decrease in 2020 and the slight increase in 2021.
“This data show us that we have overcome the crisis caused by the Covid restrictions, but that we are still immersed in the crisis of components, which could be even more important in 2022, according to data from the automotive sector,” Jurado says.
“There is demand, and this generates confidence in the future, but there is a lack of supply. Caravanning continues to establish itself as a modern and attractive holiday choice in our country, with new buyers of all ages, but the lack of vehicles in stock and long delivery times are driving many of these buyers to opt for the secondhand market. Indeed, after eight consecutive months of declining registrations caused by the lack of vehicles, sales will drop this year to that of almost mid-2021. And what’s worse: the forecasts for 2023 do not indicate they will be better. The lack of stock and delay in deliveries is causing major problems for our companies and inconvenience to customers who are suffer from significant delays in the delivery of their vehicles,” continues the president of ASEICAR.
“We are confident that this situation will be resolved, step by step, so that we can soon return to normal. At the moment, we have a large demand for vehicles from users and this generates confidence in the future,” he added.
The vehicles the Spanish choose
For five years, the financial company Cetelem (BNP Paribas Group), in collaboration with ASEICAR and the Spanish magazine AutoC, has been researching “Caravanning Observatory in Spain” to discover the preferences of Spaniards at the time of purchase and surveying their habits.
The last edition (March 2022) highlighted that the most popular type of vehicle is the low profile motorhome, followed by the integrated motorhome and the van conversions. The purchase of overcabs has decreased. When it comes to buying, the brand is an essential element in the decision of 93% of respondents who, above all, appreciate its functionality, durability and innovative design. As for the internal equipment, particular importance is given to the beds, the toilet and the refrigerator.
During the buying process, when choosing a dealer, the buyer particularly appreciates the provision of a good after-sales service, even more than the price of the vehicle, which is the second reason for choosing a dealer. Importance is also given to the variety of brands offered by the dealer, previous satisfaction with the vehicle (for those who are already owners), the friendliness of the staff, and delivery times.
Is Spain ready for so many campers?
Another symptom of this rapid increase is the areas designated for motorhome parking in Spain. Compared to the 180 areas available in 2010, a decade later there are about 1,100 areas are available – an increase of over 500% in 10 years. This figure is insufficient to serve all Spanish and foreign tourists.
According to ASEICAR estimates, between 2,000 and 2,500 areas would be needed to cover current demand. In Europe, there are currently 2.5 million motorhomes travelling, in many cases to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. This lack of proper parking areas for motorhomes can cause improvised concentrations of vehicles, particularly at night, in places where parking is not regulated. This is especially true in the summer months when an estimated 150,000 vehicles (50,000 Spaniards and 100,000 foreigners) are traveling in Spain.
However, the number of Spanish campsites (around 1,200) is also insufficient to accommodate all these vehicles and many are only open in the summer, yet campers travel all year round. Additionally, some of these campsites have limited spaces suitable for motorhomes, as a significant proportion of their space is set aside for bungalows, mobile homes, and permanent caravans and tents.
According to ASEICAR, these areas attract new tourists, generate economic benefits in nearby businesses and manage to seasonally adjust the holidays, extending them to the whole year and not just the summer.
For example, for all of Spain, if we assume an average journey in a camper of 17 days, spending €150 per day, that totals over €385 million. This is an important amount for the whole country, which is the second most popular tourist destination in the world and where tourism is its main source of income.
The regulation of tourism in Spain is up to each Regions (17 of them). Some are more attentive than others to the development of caravanning: inland or less populated regions, with a lower level of tourism, welcome the arrival of campers, but coastal regions are often more restrictive.