Audience shot #20: Move over Spain, we’re going camping…
Pandemic or not, Brits have refused to give up the great summer holiday
The bank holiday’s gone, summer’s unofficially over and when schools finally open again this month a whole lot of kids are going to be answering the question ‘what did you do on your holidays?’ not with reports of budget airline luggage disasters but with tales of the great outdoors.
Yes, the must-visit holiday destination for Brits this summer is … a camping site, a trend that has grown as would-be travellers, desperate for a change of scenery after spending most of 2020 cooped up, navigate the nightmare of ever-changing quarantine rules mixed with economic uncertainty.
Many holiday hungry Brits saw the writing on the wall early in lockdown, leading to a boom in people wanting to buy tents (or, more anecdotally, dragging old ones out of attics and garages years after their sole, pre-parenthood trip to a soggy festival).
According to Google Trends, as far back as April, interest began to grow, hitting a spike in mid-July, when we got wind of that rarest piece of good news: no, not a vaccine, but a spell of good weather during the British summer.
Consumers, possibly in the wake of Storms Ellen and Francis, were also on the hunt for campervans with interest continuing to spike into late summer.
It’s a stark contrast to the very flat graph of people looking up, for example, flights to Spain.
Of course, once you’ve got your tent or campervan, you need some gear to put in it — so along with tents, retailers are shifting loads more airbeds and stoves.
A keen Keb, patiently waiting to try out our new Alpkit Viso 3. Funny thing was, it wasn't even his…
John Lewis saw a 243% rise in sales of camping equipment during the first half of 2020, there was a 25% leap at Asda, while Halfords, benefiting from twin booms in camping and cycling, has seen investors flocking back — its shares hit a 52-week high in June.
Camping was the trend that launched a thousand listicles, all telling us about the essentials, the best buys and the cool gadgets, including a folding pizza oven. Just don’t get your hopes up about getting hold of a camping loo — apparently they are to late summer what toilet roll was to March 2020, a trend spurred by Covid-based restrictions on the use of campsite bathroom facilities.
Holidaymakers might’ve turned up equipped with all the right purchases, but the etiquette sometimes lacked according to reports. In Scotland, campers were accused of ‘acting like they’re in Magaluf’ and there was disappointment at the failure of some campers to obey the golden rule: leave the site cleaner than you found it. Surprisingly, though, with all the newbies out there, and the gale force storms of late August, disaster stories seemed few and far between.
Will camping, along with the wider staycation trend, convert a nation where the overseas holiday is a way of life? Research by The Cumberland Building Society has found that, at the time of writing, 71% of British holidaymakers are planning a UK holiday in 2021 — although hotel and holiday cottage stays are the preferred options. Let’s see how that bears out after what could be quite a tough winter — after all, the prospect of a week in the sun will never lose its powerful hold on the inhabitants of these drizzly isles.