Across England, in numbers that travel businesses say they had rarely seen before, lockdown-freed Britons are not only staying close to home this vacation season but spending it in motor homes, campers, campsites and glampsites. Vacationers are turning to camping as the holiday of choice for some social distancing in the great outdoors.
“For the first time in the U.K., owning a caravan is kind of cool,” said Gareth Mills, a 38-year-old father who lives on the English seaside, referring to big, boxy campers or motor homes. “Some of my parents’ friends who are caravan club enthusiasts, they are very smug at the moment.”
Hotels have largely reopened in England, but many of them are at 30 to 40 percent occupancy, with popular areas such as Cornwall and elsewhere in the southwest faring better, said Patricia Yates, a director at the tourism organization VisitBritain.
Finding a spot for a caravan or tent may be more competitive, as demand has surged. During a recent weekend, Pitchup.com, a booking site for camping spots, recorded 6,100 bookings, almost double the amount from the same weekend in 2019.
Camping has deep roots in Britain. The man considered the father of modern camping, Thomas Hiram Holding, was a traveling London tailor whose 1908 how-to, “The Camper’s Handbook,” documents the joys of self-reliance and getting away from it all, inspiring generations. About the same time, the Boy Scouts were started in Britain, followed by the Girl Guides a couple of years later.
Caravan parks across Britain have been flooded with bookings for the traditional summer period and into the fall, according to the National Caravan Council, an industry group. Parkdean Resorts, which operates 67 parks across the country, reported a 140 percent rise from last year at its parks in Devon.
Huw Pendleton, the managing director of Celtic Holiday Parks in Wales, said he hadn’t seen anything like it in his two decades in the industry.
“We’re sold out pretty much through to September, with little or no availability now this season for the top-end lodges and glamping with hot tubs,” he said.