Has caravanning become too costly?
With nightly pitch fees approaching stays in B&Bs, is caravanning becoming too pricey?
The cost of caravanning has come under the spotlight, with experienced caravanners complaining that touring has become too expensive.
An impassioned letter from Caravan reader, Mr D. Cooper, captured the essence of many campsite conversations, when he talked about the 'spiralling' cost of touring, with pitch fees on certain sites going up 'extortionately'.
"Two of our friends, one with a caravan and one with a motorhome, have sold their outfits as they say the cost is close to a B&B," says Mr Cooper.
What's a typical pitch fee?
Establishing a 'typical' pitch fee is virtually impossible given the number of variables involved. Is it high or low season, is there an electric hook-up or even a fully serviced pitch, does the site have luxurious washrooms, swimming pools and a leisure complex, plus evening entertainment, or just a tap and toilet in a grass field?
For the purpose of this analysis, we decided to compare the cost of a night at a coastal location near Land's End in Cornwall for two separate dates, 21st to 22nd July, a Saturday night, a 10th-11th October, a Wednesday night.
At the Caravan & Motorhome Club's Trevedra Farm site, the summer fee for two people would be £25. Close by at the Camping & Caravanning Club's Sennen Cove site, those same caravanners would pay £25.70 for the night. Just down the road at Seaview Holiday Park, complete with outdoor pool, tennis courts, crazy golf, and indoor and outdoor play parks, a couple would pay £35 per night (including an awning).
Within a hop and a jump, the Youth Hostel Association's Land's End hostel charges a surprisingly pricey £85 for a private room with double bed, roughly the same price as a B&B in Penzance, at £87.50, while a room in a Premier Inn at Hayle costs £91.50.
Pushing the date back to October certainly closes the gap between camping and B&Bs. We found a B&B for £50 in St Ives, a private room in the YHA for £45, and a double room in the Premier Inn for £60. But the price of camping is also significantly lower – just £10.25 at the CAMC's Trevedra Farm (thanks to a mid-week 50% discount in off-peak season); £20.55 at the C&CC site (with a 25% discount available for over 60s); and £22 at Seaview Holiday Park.
Is caravanning becoming too costly?
Why is there a burgeoning sense of caravanning becoming a costly pastime? Is it our memories playing tricks on us, falsely remembering a time when a pitch fee cost no more than the loose change in your pocket, a pint of ale set you back 20p, and a gallon of unleaded cost less than a litre today?
Campsites are definitely facing inflationary pressures, with business rates rising by 25% over the past two to three years, and energy prices soaring. Add into the mix much higher customer expectations for modern washrooms, fully-serviced hardstanding pitches and WiFi, to name just a few, and there's a counter argument that site fees might have risen even more sharply.
A spokesman for the CAMC says the Club is investing over £14 million this year upgrading its sites network, and insists it strives to keep prices as low as possible.
This year, for example, 25% of its network, some 39 sites, will have no price increase at all. The Club also offers 50% off midweek pitch fees at 50 sites for those who can get away Monday to Friday; and it charges just £1 per night for children at 17 sites on over half a million pitch nights.
The Camping and Caravanning Club is also investing heavily in its sites, spending £7.5 million this year on upgrades, and says as a not-for-profit membership organisation any surplus from its UK and overseas camping operations is ploughed back into its 106-strong UK sites network for the benefit of its nearly 750,000 members across the UK.
Significant off-peak discounts are available at C&CC sites, and the organisation's Sites Committee, made up of elected and appointed members as well as staff, "oversees pricing policy to ensure fees are set at the right level to both deliver value to members and generate sustainable revenue to reinvest back into the Club, and its Club Site network in particular," said a spokesman. "Pricing matters are regularly reviewed."
What do you think? Does caravanning represent good value, and is there more to touring than simply the price of a pitch? Share your views on our Facebook page here!