Editors Note: Much like here in the U.S., outdoor hospitality in Europe is booming. Many of the same trends are appearing on both sides of the pond. Millennials are getting outdoors in a big way, but questions of sustaining that market segment remain. Parks are seeing record occupancy, not only during peak season, but also throughout the year.
It’s these similarities that Woodall’s Campground Management freelancer Evanne Schmarder discussed with Eicke Schueuermann, executive director of LeadingCampings of Europe. Leadings is at its root a marketing group consisting of 39 parks spanning 12 countries across western Europe. In fact, it is the only Europeanwide camping group, according to Schueuermann. Their commitment to outstanding guest experiences across the network, combined with savvy marketing and promotion, has seen them grow reputation and bottom-line business over the last 24 years, he said.
Below is the edited conversation.
WCM: Are you seeing wide demographic differences in your customer base?
Schueuermann: Yes. The market is still strong with what we refer to as born campers, an older generation that has been camping all their lives. They are still campers. The 40- to 45-year-olds and younger; however, may not have been brought up on camping. Instead, they have experienced many different types of tourism. Wanting to see what camping is all about, they are interested in cabins and rental RVs.
The sharing economy is their preferred method of using an RV, much to the chagrin of the born campers, the ones that own most of the RVs. These owners are not comfortable with letting strangers use their campers. RV rental companies are the beneficiaries of this current situation, though these sharing attitudes are expected to change over the next decade.
WCM: What other differences are you seeing between the generations?
Schueuermann: The silver-agers are a good market, but we urgently need to address the younger people. The older generation knows how to find a campground, they are used to reading maps. They appreciate a digital version of a camping guide, but for them the need for digitalization ends with the basics. As for the younger generation, if it’s not swipeable underneath a piece of glass it does not exist. For them we are adopting new technologies such as three-word addresses. In fact, Leadings (in the company of Mercedes Benz and Land Rover) is the first camping group to take advantage of a new addressing system called what3words.
An exception to that rule is our printed campground guide. We’ve discussed getting rid of it, but the high-quality glossy Annual Holiday Guide is popular, even with the younger crowd. We track it and it continues to pay off for Leadings’ members.
WCM: What are park owners’ biggest concerns?
Schueuermann: The inability to cope with the demands of the camping boom. They recognize that with many new guests coming from cruise ships or hotel holidays it is critical to live up to their service expectations. The fear is that if we disappoint them they will not return, affecting the future of the industry.
To view the entire Q&A on WCM click here.