I must confess that I have never been camping in my life. The thought of bedding down underneath the stars fills me with a sense of dread. Give me a nice comfy bed, an en suite bedroom and, if pushed, a nice little mini bar and the idea of roughing it seems a long way off.
However, there are many people who enjoy camping, and that does not mean watching John Inman in “Are You Being Served” of an evening. The holiday market has been hard hit over the past couple of years following on from 11 September and the subsequent Middle East ramifications. But one company that appears to be succeeding in luring Brits abroad is Eurocamp.
The company, for the uninitiated, offers holidaymakers a choice of either tenting or caravanning in a variety of top holiday spots in Europe. Eurocamp aims to provide the most luxurious caravans and tents available, with the old image of Barbara Windsor in the Carry On films becoming a thing of the past, says sales and marketing director Morwenna Angov. “A lot of people paint the picture of the stereotypical camping idea of Barbara Windsor and Ruth Maddoc in Hi-De-Hi. And that is not what Eurocamp is about. Instead we try to show our customers the sheer choice that can be offered to them by coming on the holiday.”
Eurocamp was established 30 years ago, and in that time has expanded from having camp grounds in France to other areas of Europe, including Spain, Italy and Croatia. For Angov this has meant that the company can offer more to those who want something more than simply sun, sea and sand. “I suppose we can offer a different service. People might want to be going abroad for sun and sea, but they also go abroad for culture as well. The fact that low cost airlines such as Ryanair are now flying into Sardinia has helped us too. It means that we can offer a getaway that doesn’t involve a great deal of travel. We don’t put our brochure into travel agents; instead we have a huge database of clients and we’re also using our marketing campaigns as a way of attracting new customers.
“Around 50 per cent of our £4 million marketing budget is spent on returning customers, the other half is spent on acquiring new customers. We know which market we are aiming for, and the work that we have done has specified that entirely.”
From the moment the clock struck twelve on January 31 and 2004 appeared on the horizon, advertising for this year’s ideal holiday destinations has been in full throttle. For Eurocamp, its latest work with Manchester-based advertising agency BJL is taking the theme of holiday to a new level. “We normally like to talk to our clients when they get back up from their holidays, and we hold focus groups to try to find out what they want from us as a holiday provider. I remember that one woman once commented ‘If you could bottle up what makes a good holiday you would be a millionaire’. I think that kind of sums up what we want to achieve with our customers in this advertising campaign.
“What people experience when they are away on holiday is a heightening of senses and that, in turn, came up with the new campaign ‘Set your senses free’. We wanted to capture how people felt when they went on holiday and I feel that we have achieved that feeling with this campaign. It has also meant that we have moved on with the campaign that we have had over the past three years, which in turn tried to get away from the traditional camping imagery.”
Angov admits that in a vastly overcrowded market – there are 4.5 million Brits a year who go on holiday each year, with Eurocamp nabbing 35,000 of those holidaymakers – the company is targeting select and specific groups. “Our main customers are normally ABC1 families who have slightly older children – the child’s average age is normally about 10. A lot of our customers are also in the grey market; we find that many of them have been coming back to Eurocamp for years as they perhaps had been on a Eurocamp holiday with their kids some years ago but still keep on coming back because they know that we can guarantee them a great holiday.”
While the travel industry has suffered in the past two years since September 11, Angov is keen to stress that Eurocamp has not been badly affected. “I think the fact that our holiday destinations can either be reached by car or take around a couple of hours to get there on a plane definitely has held an advantage for us,” she explains. “The funny thing is if someone has a car and it takes them 12 hours to reach a destination, they still prefer that than, say, a 12-hour long haul flight. I think that there is that old World War 2 attitude of a fighting spirit.”
The travel industry as a whole is, however, suffering, with bookings down year on year. “People are looking for a better deal,” admits Angove. “Our really busy period is January, but we have noticed that in the past few years people are now leaving it as late as possible to book. June and January are now our busiest of months. But, while we might sell the low season summer a bit cheaper, we do not compromise on the cost of our high season summer holidays. And people who do book late might not get the best bookings compared to those who came earlier.”
For Angove, her holiday destinations are both Eurocamp destinations and further afield. “In the summer I go to France, normally with Eurocamp. But I also go on long haul trips to India. Unfortunately, Eurocamp hasn’t yet managed to get that far abroad.” Perhaps in time the company will. Then the image of the Hi De Hi campers will surely become a very distant memory.