Change of pitch

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One of the biggest names in camping holidays may be up for sale but the sector is thriving, says Jeremy Gates.

Camping holidays are changing – and there is no bigger proof of this than the upcoming sale of Eurocamp.

The tour company flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, making holidays in a tent or caravan a “respectable” choice for the Volvo-driving middle classes, but it has now been put up for sale by its owners, India-based Cox & Kings.

“The sale of Eurocamp is a signal of an end of an era,” admits Noel Josephides, chairman of Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

“There is now an enormous supply of accommodation in hotels across Europe, much of it is very cheap. And campsites, like hotels, know they no longer need to work with operators like Eurocamp when they can get so much business direct from websites.”

Mark Hammerton, whose father launched a camping holiday company in the early 1970s agrees that the big camping operator business model is outdated. “When camping holidays in Europe took off from the 1970s, campsites were owned by farmers who couldn’t speak English and holidaymakers wanted holiday reps on hand to sort out problems.”

While the sale might be sad for Eurocamp it isn’t sad for the camping industry as a whole.

“Things have changed massively in the camping and caravanning world – but this sector is very much alive and kicking,” believes Hammerton.

Russell Wheldon, managing director at Alan Rogers Camping, which arranges bookings or lets customers make their own plans at 170 campsites across Europe, echoes this view. “With tents and camping gear now available through Argos, Tesco and Amazon, there’s a terrific buzz about the sector. Many campsites are becoming more professional, with infinity pools and water slides. Others settle for a lake in the middle of nowhere.”

Wheldon explains that many people discover camping by going to pop festivals, but sometimes feel daunted about actually setting off for a full camping holiday.

Your pocket will certainly thank you for overcoming your jitters, because families of two adults and two children can spend less than a total £1,000 on a campholidays in Europe including ferry crossings.

Alan Rogers Camping (01580 214000 and www.alanrogers.com); some camping and mobile home firms belong to the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) at 0208 744 9280 and www.aito.com.

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