What can we learn from Germany's camping boom?

Camping tourism has always been big business in Germany, and it’s really no surprise. The country littered with fantastic campsites in stunning locations that really cater to the needs of campers in tents, caravans and motorhomes. But a recent study by Germany’s Caravaning Industrie Verband (CIVD) has revealed that last year it was worth a staggering €15billion to the German economy. Everyone knew it was a big deal, but perhaps not that much of a big deal. The figure represents an 18 per cent jump from the figure from three years ago, and according to CVID and the German Tourism Association, the rise is being driven predominantly by motor caravan or motorhome tourism – a finding that has caused both organisations to call for improvements to the tourism framework to cater for motorhome tourists by creating more pitches and building better infrastructure.


The nitty gritty

First, let’s talk numbers in Germany, because they alone are impressive.

There are 1.6million leisure vehicles registered in Germany (approximately 43 per cent caravans and 36 per cent motorhomes).

There were 51 million overnight stays on German campsites by tourists in 2019, that’s an increase of 2.6 per cent on 2016.

Motor caravan pitches recorded 16.6 million of those stays, which is up a whopping 23 per cent compared to 2016 (and estimated to still be growing).

The average caravan and motorhome owner spends about €50 per day on their camping holiday in Germany.

Overall benefit to Germany

Dr Bernhard Harrer is CEO of dwif, the think tank that carried out the survey that these figures came from on behalf of the University of Munich. He said: “The operators of campsites and motor caravan pitches pay suppliers of goods such as energy suppliers or bakeries as well as service providers such as craftsmen, advertising agencies, tax consultants, insurance companies and the banking industry.”

In total, it is estimated that sales of €14.8 billion were generated by camping tourists in Germany through various means last year. And that is before we have even considered what effect the COVID-driven staycation boom is having on the market in Germany. Heady days indeed.

Norbert Kunz, managing director of the German Tourism Association, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has hit almost no other industry as hard as tourism. We are pleased to see that the camping and caravanning sector is doing well at the moment, despite or because of the current situation. Especially motor caravan tourism has gained enormously in importance for tourism in Germany over the past few years. This will now increase once again.”

Planning for the future

The parties with interest in the camping industry in Germany are not just sitting back and letting the good times roll, however. They are keen to capitalise on the potential of this growth spurt for camping and are calling for an improvement in the framework conditions in Germany, such as a simplification of the Federal Registration Act and greater support for the construction and expansion of motor caravan pitches. As part of the study, the dwif conducted a quantitative survey of the 4,200 motor caravan pitches in Germany. In total, these offer capacity for 67,230 motor caravans – 8.4 per cent more than three years ago. However, the number of overnight stays increased by 19.5 per cent in the same period, followed by an increase in capacity utilisation.

Daniel Onggowinarso, managing director of CVID, said: “If these two developments continue in the coming years – which is to be expected – we will run into a problem. We are therefore engaged in a constructive dialogue with politicians in order to reduce the identified obstacles, in particular excessively long approval procedures. The study shows the economic opportunities offered by the creation of motor caravan parking capacity.”



It's clear that many other countries have been experiencing this general upward trend of camping tourism in the last part of the 2010’s decade, and with COVID fuelling the desire of people to camp more, we can expect this trend to grow and grow. But is every country making the same collective moves to make the most of this upward trend? Perhaps they are, perhaps they’re not. There is much to learn from the German example, as one of the heartlands of camping.