News – Caravans overtake Spain as Britons’ most popular caravans

More Britons will take a caravan holiday home this year than will visit Spain – our most popular holiday destination.

While the number of visits abroad is falling sharply, more and more Britons are looking for options to holiday at home this summer, say reports.

And camp and caravan sites are most in demand – while enquiries to hotels and B&Bs are down. One operator, 118 118, says calls for caravan & camping sites rose 40 per cent in December and January, while calls for lodging in Britain fell by 20 per cent.

The trend is confirmed by The Caravan Club, which says advance bookings for 2009 are up 40 per cent on last year.

The increased demand could translate in more than 2m extra caravan holidays being taken in Britain this year, adds the National Caravan Council, with a final tally approaching nearly 13.9m.

And with foreign trips declining by six per cent in the last quarter of 2008, the figure is expected to top the 13.8m figure of British visits to Spain in 2007 – the last year of full travel statistics.

NCC director-general John Lally says: “Bookings in UK holiday and touring parks are up by anything from 8% to 50%, as people choose ‘staycationing’, and opt for self-catering and value over euro Costa-lot holidays.”

The slew of new figures came on the eve of the National Boat Caravan & Outdoor Show, which opens at the NEC in Birmingham tomorrow.

Lally added: “There is widespread evidence that existing caravan owners are using their caravans more,” with caravans appealing to holidaymakers as they allow people to control costs, and are increasingly seen as green options.

“Caravans, motorhomes and caravan holiday homes have changed beyond recognition in the last decade – many parks can compete with the best, boasting extensive leisure facilities, high levels of service and are very family-orientated.”

The Camping and Caravanning Club this week announced that it is to instal wireless broadband (WiFi) at 91 of its sites in the UK by April. Business Systems Director Garry Barr said: “In this day and age, most individuals prefer the option of internet access, even when they are on holiday.”

According to the NCC, an estimated 500,000 caravans are in regular use, out of a total of 1.5m caravanners, motor caravanners and trailer tenters in the UK.

The rising popularity of caravanning could even create more than 1,000 new jobs in UK caravan parks, mainly in coastal areas, as additional staff are taken on to cope with demand.

According to The Caravan Club, its members generated £183million last year into rural tourism economies when shopping, eating out, buying local produce and visiting local attractions.

Nick Lomas, director of marketing for the Caravan Club said: “We confidently predict that 2009 will be the year of the great British, value for money holiday.

“At a time of considerable economic uncertainty, tourism regions across the UK will continue to benefit from stay at home Britons and with thousands of campsites and destinations to choose from, there is no better time to plan and book holiday breaks in the UK.”

Most money (£39m) was spent in the South-West, followed The Midlands (£26m), East Anglia (£22.1m), Wales (£19m), Scotland (£16.6m) and Yorkshire (£15m). Least money was spent in London (£4.5m) and the North-West (£3.6m).