Camping and Caravanning

Past, Present and Future of the Camping

Lars Dahlberg
President of the F.I.C.C

Background and history of the camping

Travelling for pleasure was already fashionable as early as in 16th century and had become quite a significant hobby in the 17th century. At that time the means of travelling were only the horse and the carriage or the boat and the sail. Later, in the 19th century, the steam train offered new possibilities for travelling further and faster, but when the real camping tourism started at the end of the 19th century, people still travelled by horse and carriage. In fact, the idea of a horse-drawn land version of a modern cruising yacht was developed in the United Kingdom by a merchant navy doctor, who described himself as a gentleman gypsy. During the last third of the 19th century, the idea of travelling with one's private "home carriage" drawn with the horses became increasingly popular - the only private "home carriage" from those days which is still left is in the Bristol Museum, United Kingdom. It was called "Wanderer" and was built in 1884 for Dr R. W. Gordon-Stables, an English doctor and adventure-author. The cost of "Wanderer" was 300 pounds.

As a rule, camping in the 19th century meant travelling to have a picnic or to go hunting but when horses gave way to cars as the means of towing, people were able to consider much longer journeys even for short weekend trips. Also, progressive improvements to the road network worldwide made this method of travel faster and easier and so it became much more than just a way of getting away from home. It was fundamental to the development of touring camping - in other words caravanning which offered those special characteristics of flexibility and freedom.

This year, tourism is expected to become the largest industry in the world. Tourism include a wide range of activities of which camping is one of the oldest and most traditional. These days, camping itself takes on a variety of different forms too.

Camping today

What is camping? In general we can say that camping is an affordable holiday for everybody. Camping is fun, enjoyable and relaxing for children, youngsters, adults and the elderly - male and female - families, couples and singles.

Most natural way to camp is with a tent as it enables one to get closest to nature. Indeed many campers are of the opinion that it is the only way to camp. Tents are most popular with young people but there are also a lot of adults who share their enthusiasm. It is also the least expensive way to camp - all you need is a small tent, rucksack and sleeping bag.

For families with small children a "home-on-wheels" or caravan is ideal and is one of the most family-friendly ways of spending a holiday. For elderly couples, a motorcaravan probably offers the easiest and healthiest solution. Camping is a real holiday for all kind of people a holiday in a free and green environment.

I believe that interest in camping is increasing as the world becomes more affluent. With people's increasing prosperity, cost is rarely an issue. The main consideration is usually how one can make best use of his available leisure time. No other type of holiday can compete with camping in terms freedom and flexibility. Only when we camp can we say: "Here today, tomorrow there - and always in our own home!" We, as more experienced campers, can add that camping is not in fact any ordinary hobby. It is a style of living which offers us quality leisure time in clean natural surroundings together with other people with the same spirit.

In France, statistics show that number of overnights on campsites is more than double that for hotels. In Germany, 4 million people camp in 450.000 motorcaravans, almost 900.000 caravans and countless number of tents generating an annual income of over 10 billion DM for the camping industry. In Europe, there are around 21.000 campsites of which little less than half are located in France, 15% in UK and 10% both in Italy and Germany. However, nowhere else than in Netherlands, more than two-thirds of the total population are using tents, caravans or motorcaravans for their holiday. Last year, there were around 36 million campers on the road throughout Europe generating more than 37 billion DM turnover.

By comparison, in the USA there are more than 9 million recreational vehicles or RV's (as they call caravans and motorcaravans) with an estimated annual total value of more than 16 billion USD. The USA now has around 25 million camping enthusiasts and more than 16.000 nation-wide camping grounds. 92 % of parents who own an RV say that RV's are the best way for families and children to travel and that was agreed by 63 % of parents who have never even owned an RV. Nine out of ten RV owners agree that RV's are the best way to travel because they offer the convenience of home away from home.

Campers today

According to a survey carried out on 36.000 families in Germany, campers are perceived to be mobile and social people who want to experience nature first hand. Campers are usually socially active, they are used to co-operation and being neighbourly and are generally willing to be of service to those who need their help while travelling or camping. Mutual dependence is fundamental and background or social position of a person is therefore irrelevant. Only a man himself is important.

Campers are nature lovers. They want to leave the noise of cities behind them and seek relaxation in a clean environment. They know that it is essential to protect the environment and that in nature especially caravans and motorcaravans have to be used responsibly and avoid any kind of negative impact which may result in polluting or destroying nature.

In this context, I would like to mention the Environment Symposium which was organised here in Japan in 1994 during the 55th International FICC rally in Hamada city, Shimane Prefecture. That symposium was co-ordinated by Professor Kawashima from Gakushuin University and resulted in the so-called Hamada Declaration. That declaration gives very valuable recommendations which encourage the harmonious co-existence of campers and the natural environment. Taking good care of nature and keeping our environment sustainable for coming generations must be one of the basic considerations for all organised campers.

We are living in an era in which relations between people and nations are facing new challenges. Frontiers are disappearing and becoming meaningless making the interaction between different cultures easier than ever. For us campers, this is progress is a reason for great joy.

For campers - for people who are seeking new horizons - different cultures and languages, different lifestyles and different habits are all matters of keen and positive interest. Campers are not afraid of them, neither do they feel discomfort based on ignorance. They understand, that their own respect towards other cultures is a precondition for getting respect towards their own nations and cultures. This is why campers in general are more tolerant towards others also in their everyday life.

Campsites today

Modern campsites are clean, well equipped and safe. Reception is welcoming and friendly. Fresh drinking water is always available, toilet and washing facilities are practical and clean. There are playgrounds for children. Electricity is available, as is also fresh water and waste water service stations for caravans and motorcaravans. Great care is usually taken to protect the environment. A good example of this is the separating out and recycling of rubbish in today's modern campsites. I would like to mention especially Germany as a worldwide leader in setting an example in separating and recycling garbage even in campsites.

In an survey concerning the priority to be given to services on future campsites the "top ten" list emerged as follows:

1. Friendly service in reception 72,2 %
2. Modern and clean washing facilities 69,9 %
3. Electricity for each pitch 67,4 %
4. Playground for small children 67,0 %
5. Fresh and waste water service points for caravans and motorcaravans 63,0 %
6. Security - main gate and fence 59,4 %
7. Supermarket on the campsite 56,1 %
8. Special facilities for disabled 55,7 %
9. LPG gas supply 52,5 %
10. Divided pitches in natural surroundings 45,7 %

At the same time, questions were also asked as to the least important services for campsites of the future with the following results:

1. Pay telephone 81,9 %
2. Dishwashers 80,3 %
3. Cable and satellite TV rental 74,7 %

A good indication about the future development of campsites is that even now, modern campsites are more commonly referred to as holiday parks than campsites.

It has been estimated that camping and caravanning directly employ today over 1,5 million people, mainly in campsites.

Future of Camping

I believe that interest in camping is increasing as the world becomes more affluent. As I mentioned earlier, the one vital factor in encouraging people to go camping is the amount of leisure time available and of course their increased prosperity. In future - as in past and present - people are going to realise the importance of social contacts and understand that being close to nature gives them a wonderful sense of freedom.

However we campers have to be aware that also other leisure time activities are developing and that increasingly, individuals and families are opting for other activities like boating, canoeing, hiking, climbing or golf. Many of these have the same basic qualities as camping and almost all of them are also social activities pursued with friends in the great outdoors. Still, I believe that camping is going to maintain its position in the future for the following reasons:

1. Camping is the best social activity for the whole family.
2. Camping offers more, camping means travelling, camping is a form of tourism.
3. In camping you are always in your own, but never alone.

In spite of these facts it is my opinion that in order to maintain our hold in this competitive field, it is essential to organise meetings, symposiums and congresses where questions concerning the future of camping can be widely discussed. It is also clear that camping has to develop and progress as we embark on the new millennium. That is why this congress is so vital when giving us the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas over the next few days.

I believe that there will be greater cooperation between consumer organisations and producer organisations in future. By producer organisations I mean campsite owners organisations and manufacturers of camping equipment. It is obvious that we have to work together to improve the facilities and safety of campsites. But we also need to ensure that the manufacturing industry produces the sort of quality and safety of tents, caravans and motorcaravans which the consumer wants at a price he can afford. This type of cooperation has already started in Europe and I hope that the idea will spread and encourage similar cooperation also in other parts of the world.

Mark of Asia Pacific Commission

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