Will we carry on camping? Despite the economic downturn, holidays under canvas are not booming




In these austere days, are cash-conscious Britons saving their money and taking refuge in tents on their holidays? With the advent of the staycation, surely, comes a willingness to embrace the hardy world of camping.

But a new study suggests the reverse. A report into the camping market last year found that the number of camping and caravanning trips made in the UK had fallen by 6.5 per cent, which wiped out all the growth seen during the previous four years. “You might have expected camping to do better than it did, given the economic context,” said John Worthington, a leisure analyst who conducted the research for Mintel. He blamed the wet weather, too: “It’s just so hard to weatherproof a camping holiday.”

Some campsite operators are ripping up their grass and replacing it with hard pitches, but even this can only go so far. He predicted that the market for domestic camping trips, which was worth £15.9m in 2012, will remain at around the same level for the next five years.

And even the upmarket version, “glamping”, which acquired a certain social cachet in the early noughties and might have been thought to be more recession-proof, has seen something of a setback. The “bunting and bedlinen” version, derided by purists for its lack of authenticity, has been enjoyed by just 3 per cent of the population in the past three years, a disappointment to an industry that was hoping to see growth fuelled by a burgeoning middle class.

The news will make glum reading for cash-strapped farmers who have opened “glampsites” in an attempt to make some easy cash. Others to have moved into glamping include attractions such as Leeds Castle and some National Trust properties.

The singer Pixie Lott has become the latest person to snub the trend, turning down an invitation to camp in style at next month’s V Festival in favour of roughing it with her boyfriend. Others have evidently been deterred by the cost of a night in a teepee, which can end up pricier than a B&B with a full English. The trappings of luxury in a field do not come cheap. Although Mick Jagger’s £3,000-a-night yurt at Glastonbury was at the extreme end of the scale, £370 for three nights under canvas at Hampshire’s Birch Place site is no bargain, even if you can squeeze in two children plus their parents.

“It’s just not a good economic climate for glamping,” Mr Worthington said. “People like the idea of it, but you could spend an equivalent amount and rent a cottage.”

Mintel’s report said that it was more likely that consumers would “consider trading down to glamping from, say, a cottage holiday, rather than trading up from a normal tent holiday”. It predicted: “Price is likely to be key to growing this niche segment.”