So I recently got to chat with the owners of Camping sites in Britain to talk about well running the camping directory. I hadn’t realised the site was 14 years old and the changes the business has been through.
- Can you provide an overview of your experience in managing camping sites in Britain over the past 14 years?
Things have certainly undergone quite a transformation over the years. I can vividly recall the genesis of this venture and the reasons that propelled me to initiate it. It was during my post-university days when I found myself scouring the internet for a suitable camping spot and faced quite a challenge. Back then, there was only one other website in existence, and even that was relatively nascent.
At the time, my now-wife and I were both employed by a renowned camping enterprise, managing their retail outlets. Frequently, customers would approach us seeking recommendations for campsites to visit over the weekend. They’d inquire about family-friendly sites in Yorkshire for those cherished getaways with their loved ones.
Our advice usually revolved around suggesting a range of guidebooks available for purchase in our stores. Yet, these materials often proved outdated or limited in scope, featuring only the larger, more established sites. The task of keeping our website meticulously updated with the influx of new campsites on a daily basis, along with the occasional closures, proved to be quite the challenge.
One day, as I strolled home from work, an ingenious idea began to take shape in my mind. I had diligently searched online for a comprehensive directory website, but to my surprise, none could be found. While a handful of campsites had embarked on crafting their own websites, it was the year 2009, and a significant portion of the camping landscape was yet to make its presence felt on the digital frontier. This is when the concept of constructing a website took root within me. Admittedly, I lacked the technical know-how to develop a website at that juncture, but that was hardly a deterrent.
- What motivated you to start and continue running camping sites in Britain?
The inception was rather straightforward and our core objective remains unaltered to this day: facilitating individuals in discovering the perfect site for their upcoming camping adventure. It’s fascinating how every camper is unique; some yearn for a back-to-basics, no-frills experience, while others seek out the comprehensive amenities offered by larger parks. Our unwavering goal has always been to swiftly connect people with new camping and caravan sites that truly resonate with them.
- How have you seen the camping and outdoor recreation industry evolve during your time as a camping site operator?
The transformation has been monumental. When we initially launched the website, we were still entrenched in retail work. However, the notion of procuring camping gear online was still a fledgling concept. Fast forward to today, and online purchases have become the norm for almost everyone. Remarkably, even with over 8,000 camping sites in the mix, a significant proportion still lack their own digital presence and rely heavily on web directories for new traffic.
- What strategies have you employed to ensure a positive customer experience for campers using your site?
Our guiding principle is to adopt the camper’s perspective. Whenever we contemplate potential changes, our litmus test is simple: “Would this alteration streamline the process of finding the ideal site for campers?” As avid campers ourselves, our needs and preferences have evolved with the growth of our family. This personal journey has been invaluable, infusing our site with fresh ideas and consistent updates.
- Could you share some examples of challenges you’ve faced in managing Camping Sites in Britain and how you’ve overcome them?
Two anecdotes come to mind. Initially, our very first site was pieced together in a spare bedroom using software I acquired from Costco, a rudimentary yet resourceful move. The software limitations necessitated manual page creation, with not even an option for page duplication. Uploading to a server was a whole other challenge, particularly in the absence of YouTube tutorials.
The second chapter of this narrative unfolds approximately two years later. By that point, I had invested a substantial sum of money with a reputable UK-based marketing company to construct the website of my dreams. The outcome was nothing short of impressive; the website boasted all the desired features, its aesthetic was captivating, and its popularity soared in no time.
Unbeknownst to me, the foundation of this flourishing digital presence was built upon the WordPress platform. Though this crucial detail wasn’t explicitly communicated to me during the initial stages, I realised that had I been informed, I would have readily embraced the opportunity to familiarise myself with WordPress and fortify its security measures.
Then came a noteworthy incident on the eve of Christmas in 2010. The website fell victim to a hacking attempt, which, fortunately, posed no threat to the integrity of our data nor did it compromise any sensitive information. However, the perpetrators succeeded in infiltrating the site and replacing its content with their own political message. Resolving this predicament became an unexpected but memorable holiday task, as I dedicated time and effort to rectify the situation and restore the website to its former state. This episode served as a profound lesson in cybersecurity, underscoring the paramount importance of safeguarding digital assets.
Despite the tumultuous Yuletide ordeal, the website’s foundation on WordPress endured. Over time, the website underwent substantial modifications and enhancements, with an imminent and transformative overhaul scheduled to coincide with our upcoming 15th anniversary milestone. Since that eventful Christmas Eve, the website has not fallen victim to any further breaches or adversities, a testament to the vigilance and protective measures that have been put in place.
6. How do you go about selecting and acquiring new camping sites for your directory?
Our approach diverges from traditional methods; we empower campsite and caravan park owners to list their own establishments on our site. Although we do conduct preliminary legitimacy checks before publication, the bulk of our listings stem from campsite owners seeking heightened visibility
- Can you discuss any sustainability initiatives you’ve implemented within your camping sites, considering the importance of environmental concerns in the modern era?
Camping undoubtedly holds an environmental edge compared to more conventional forms of travel, yet its impact remains. While we endorse the enrichment of cultural experiences through travel, our commitment to sustainability endures. Over the years, we’ve generated guides on efficient packing, fuel conservation, and gear maintenance. Repair not replace is a motto internally. Can you repair an item and use it again rather than just throw it away and buy new. Our plans include expanding these initiatives with our forthcoming update in 2024.
- What role does customer feedback play in shaping the services and features you offer at camping sites in Britain?
Customer feedback wields substantial influence. While we’re the source of many innovative ideas, we recognise the value of listening to our camper community. Engaging with fellow campers during trips has proven to be a fertile ground for insights and suggestions. Interaction and understanding camper needs have propelled our platform’s evolution. (Fun fact on our last camping trip. On the last night we were there we had half the campsite round at our tent, for s’mores and spider dogs for the kids. Games were getting played and memories getting made – but I digress). But these are the kind of sessions gives me great insight into campers requirements.
- With the rise of glamping and luxury camping experiences, how have you adapted your offerings to cater to changing camper preferences?
Indeed, since our initial launch, the landscape has significantly broadened. We initially featured “tents,” “caravans,” and “motorhomes” as the primary accommodation options, later incorporating “static caravans” only a few weeks later. The scope now stretches far and wide, with sites often urging us to add new categories as they diversify their offerings.
- In the context of Brexit and changing travel dynamics, how have you navigated any potential impacts on the camping tourism industry?
Curiously, unlike many industries, the ramifications of Brexit have posed minimal disruptions. The interest in camping across borders remains consistent. The pandemic, on the other hand, created substantial ripples. We even contemplated temporarily closing the site due to the surge in booking inquiries from concerned campsite owners.
- What advice would you give to someone who is considering entering the camping and outdoor hospitality industry in the UK?
If you’re able to spot a demand that resonates with customers and are equipped to deliver on it, seize the opportunity. However, if your approach hinges solely on replicating a competitor’s model, it might be best to reconsider. Our focus remains on user satisfaction, ensuring our longevity regardless of competitive presence.
- How do you envision the future of camping and outdoor recreation in Britain, and what role do you see your camping directory playing in that future?
With insights gleaned from trend analysis, conversations with campers, and economic projections, the trajectory indicates sustained growth in camping and caravan holidays. Factors such as climatic conditions could further drive domestic holiday choices. Our platform, poised to reach over 10,000 UK listing in the near future, will continue to serve as a cornerstone for the expanding camping landscape.
- Can you discuss any unique or lesser-known camping destinations in the UK that you believe deserve more attention from campers?
Our personal preferences gravitate towards smaller, tranquil sites devoid of overwhelming commercialism. We’re drawn to places with basic facilities and perhaps a park area for kids to enjoy simple activities. There’s just too many to list, but a family favourite is Lincolnshire Lanes and we are trying a new one next year called Sunflower Park (which is a animal rescue centre that uses the funds from the campsite to help rescue more animals).
- Finally, what have been the most rewarding aspects of running camping sites in Britain for you, both personally and professionally?
When I first started I remember emailing a bunch of campsite owners saying, “ we’ve just launched you can add your campsite for free etc”.
I got a very short email back saying “Don’t bother, this site has already launched (the only other directory site at the time), why waste your time”. I printed out that email and had it on my wall for years. It was my motivation when things got hard – he was right there was another site doing similar things but that doesn’t mean that more than one website can exist.
But I would say, still having the website going 14 years later and while we might have evolved and adapted in that time it’s still a great website we love working on.