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Pitchup.com founder slams new rules from the Camping and Caravanning Club

Nov 10 2014 Posted by Samantha Marsh

News has come to light that from March 2015, the Camping and Caravanning Club will be enforcing  new rules whereby its ‘Certificated Sites’* - privately run sites enjoying exemption from planning and licensing regulations - will be banned from advertising on third-party websites**.  Dan Yates, founder of outdoor accommodation specialist Pitchup.com, says the new rules are bamboozling farmers and other small business owners and leaving them with the potential to fail long term.

Yates commented: “Business owners are initially enticed to sign up, drawn in by the Club’s provision of an alternative to planning permission.  For anyone looking to change the use of their land to offer camping or caravanning, the removal of the need to seek council permissions and the costs and paperwork involved make it an attractive proposition.  However, in reality the new rules show that this is a poisoned chalice.”

He continues: “To benefit from this exemption from the rules, landowners need to register with the Club as a Certificated Site.  Once tied in, owners are not allowed to advertise their CS on any third-party website from March 2015.  While initially this may not seem too onerous a restriction, we believe it’s important that landowners new to the industry are armed with the vital facts, which show that this is a dangerous route for their business.  Landowners should be capitalising on buoyant demand for the UK’s most popular type of holiday, yet these new rules have entirely the opposite effect:

  • CSs are not currently available to book on the Club’s website, yet VisitEngland figures show that more than 70% of domestic holiday bookings are now made online. This represents a huge missed opportunity, as many customers forced to use traditional booking methods will simply look elsewhere

  • All CS customers must be members of the Camping and Caravanning Club, yet the Club’s reach is not pervasive. According to its annual report, membership numbers reduced by 2.1% last year to 262,731 households, but VisitEngland reported that some 15.8m camping and caravanning trips were taken in Britain overall. In addition, its network of ‘Club Sites’ - accounting for the bulk of its business - represents only 2% of overall bednights***

  • The new rules restrict the owners’ market to a fraction of the online audience, by excluding not only online travel agents and directories but also e-commerce and discount websites. The Club’s own website represents less than 10% of traffic to the top 10 websites in the camping and caravan sector, according to Alexa****

  • The requirement to join the Club - costing between £37 and £52 per annum - means that owners are potentially losing out due to the difficulty of making a simple holiday reservation, the cost of which may be dwarfed by the membership cost. Savvy travellers shop around to find the best deals and bargains, and it would not take long for them to realise they are better off booking elsewhere. For example, pricing for Pitchup.com campsites without any membership requirements starts at only 60p per person per night*****

  • The process of applying for a licence and/or planning permission for a campsite or caravan park can be straightforward, and often does not require consideration by a council committee. In fact, official consent may not be required at all for certain uses, for example up to 28 days of tent camping. By submitting an application, owners can ‘custom build’ a site to suit their needs rather than being restricted to a certain number of units. More information is available at https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/

In summary Yates concluded: “Overall the only winner from this ban on advertising is the Camping and Caravanning Club.  While their offer may initially seem appealing to landowners, we are urging people to read the finer details before making a decision. All of the above factors will affect bookings, particularly the fact that it is not possible to book CS sites online.  Given that more than 70% of domestic holiday bookings are now made via a computer, tablet or mobile device, this further hinders a new campsite’s ability to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.”

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Notes to editors:

The average farm campsite bookable on Pitchup.com - comparable to a typical CS - received £6,461 in Pitchup.com bookings over the last 12 months.

*A Certificated Site (CS) is a small, privately run site accommodating up to 5 caravans or motorhomes and 10 tents. There were 1,624 registered CSs as at the Club’s February 2014 Annual Report

Certificated Sites enjoy exemption from the the requirement to apply for a licence or planning permission, but customers must be members of the Camping and Caravanning Club before pitching, which costs between £37 and £52 per annum.

Ordinarily, a camping licence would be required from the local authority to run a campsite - for tents only - for more than 42 consecutive days, or more than 60 days in a year. For land to be used as a caravan site - including motorhomes - it must have a caravan licence and planning permission is usually necessary. In addition, the landowner would need planning permission to have tents or caravans on their land for more than 28 consecutive days. (https://www.gov.uk/camping-and-caravanning-site-exemption-certificates-know-the-rules-and-how-to-apply)

**From 1 March 2015, CSs are only permitted to advertise in the Club’s ‘Your Big Sites Book’, on the Club's website, and on any website owned and maintained by the campsite’s owner

***Over 1.3m pitch nights are spent on Club Sites annually (http://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/franchising/camping-franchise/) vs 66.9m bednights spent on domestic camping and caravanning trips in Great Britain in 2013. This figure excludes pitch nights spent on Certificated Sites (http://dservuk.tns-global.com/GBTSenglandlightviewer/ViewTable.aspx)

**** 9% of traffic to the largest 10 websites in the UK camping and caravan sector, ranked by Alexa Global Pageviews

*****https://www.pitchup.com/campsites/England/South_East/Isle_Of_Wight/Bembridge/whitecliff-bay-holiday-park/

For more information visit www.pitchup.com.  All prices correct at time of writing.

For media information:

Cass Helstrip or Samantha Marsh at White Tiger PR

Cass.helstrip@whitetigerpr.com 07968 255464

Samantha.marsh@whitetigerpr.com 07711 265666

About Pitchup.com

Founded in 2009 by former lastminute.com man, Dan Yates, multi-award winning Pitchup.com is a free guide to all types of outdoor accommodation in the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Croatia, Luxembourg, Austria, Poland and Switzerland.  Pitchup.com, which currently lists over 5,800 sites, provides users with a simple platform in which they can search and book an outdoor holiday with total ease: the customer journey from landing on the homepage through to booking a holiday can be completed in as little as four pages.  The site also goes beyond traditional searches by allowing users to search for accommodation based on more than 80 criteria, such as adults only and campfires allowed, and view nearby events, Good Pub Guide pubs and VisitBritain attractions.  It’s also possible to check out water bathing water quality in the surrounding area with data provided by the European Environment Agency.  Users can also search on the offers page to find the best deals available.

In 2013 Pitchup.com became the first business of its type to launch a bookable mobile app and site, making the site easily accessible to users of mobile and tablet devices.  The mobile site, m.pitchup.com, now accounts for 20% of bookings.

Pitchup.com enables users to search for all types of parks and sites from the major brands right through to one-off campsites and unique outdoor accommodation options, which may not have previously had a web presence.

Awards include Best UK Travel Website of the Year at the British Travel Press Awards 2011, and most recently Best Travel / Leisure / Sports / Mobile Strategy / Campaign at the Marketing on Mobile Awards 2014.