It’s easy to see the appeal of running a campsite. You get to spend time outdoors, interact with new people, and have the potential to have every day different to the one before.
If you have been dreaming about buying a campsite for ages, getting a little advice on how to do it can be your final push. We have put together some of the most important things you should know when buying and running a campsite.
Finding the right campsite
You not only want to find the right campsite, but the right campsite for you. Do you want to be surrounded by beautiful scenery? Do you want a busy business all year round, or are you looking for something seasonal?
Answering these questions will bring you closer to finding your ideal business. If you are searching for a business online, you can filter your search by using these guidelines. Remember, though, to keep an open mind as the right business may be one to which you can make the necessary changes once you have taken it over. Focus on the things you cannot change, like location and size.
There will be other practical constraints, of course. You will have to consider the cost of the business that you are looking to buy. If you have a family, you may also be considering the living arrangements and the nearby towns. For many future campsite owners, living surrounded by land and having an outdoor lifestyle is essential to buying a campsite. If this is you, you will need to find a site that is on the right property.
Research the market
Traditional camping has remained steady in popularity in the UK. Other options like caravans and motorhomes have been popular options for British families over the years. These traditional options are likely to remain popular; however, glamping has become a new trend. This has opened camping up to a whole new market.
All three of these options can appeal to local and foreign tourists. Of course, when it comes to camping, staycations have become more prevalent in the UK, with places like the Lake District, Cornwell and the Scottish Highlands topping the lists. Holiday parks have remained popular with tourists and have generated much revenue for the sector.
Before you decide which camping business you will buy, make sure you are on top of trends and future market predictions. Building glamping options on your property can be a significant investment if they are not there already. You will also need to have planning permission to do this. This also applies if you were to have motorhomes on the property. There also needs to be some infrastructure available for your guests. For example, if you are planning on allowing for caravaners, will you have the right power points for them to hook up to and have you thought about the condition of the pitches?
You should also remember that drawing customers has become a matter of offering them an experience rather than just a place to put up their tent. Partnering with local businesses like restaurants, farms, bakeries, or breweries can allow you to offer customers packages that include cooking lessons, food sampling or beer tasting.
Do your due diligence
Once you have found a business that you think fits the bill, you must ensure that it holds up under further inspection. When buying an existing business, you must ensure there aren’t existing problems.
Finding issues with the business or property does not always mean walking away, but it can keep you from paying too much for what you are getting.
Regarding campsites, you must ensure that all the legal requirements are in place before accommodating any customers. The business you buy should already have these. Consider things such as planning permissions and site licences.
Get in the professionals- lawyers, accountants etc. - to help you look through the business’s accounts and to see what is included in the sale. What are the exact boundaries of the land? Does the business have the right access? Will the purchase be freehold or leasehold?
Find out if any existing tenants will remain on once you have taken over the business. You should also assess the ablutions and whether these are adequate.
Taking an in-depth look into the business books will mean going back over the last few years of records and analysing whether everything was recorded correctly. You need to know how many guests the business has had over the years and the revenue the business was able to make.
Are the costs and expenses that are recorded once-off, or do they repeat? You don’t want a healthy-looking turnover to end up with no real profit.
The reputation of a business like a campsite is also something that can stay with it long after new owners have taken over. Scour the reviews that the business has on various review sites. Bad reviews on TripAdvisor or Google Reviews can put people off coming to stay at your campsite.
Day to day management
Finding the right business to buy is crucial to owning a successful business. The other key component is being equipped to handle the day-to-day management of the business.
Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses and how you will run a campsite. Remember that you’ll primarily be dealing with people, so you need to be a people person.
Although a campsite seems unique to other businesses, it is similar in many ways. You will still need to be able to manage the bookkeeping, marketing and other business basics.
Of course, you can hire help in any of these areas. You will then need to be prepared to pay them a salary. Busy campsites often have managers to share the workload, as having people staying with you can require having someone available to help almost around the clock. Will you have the time to run the campsite and market it?
Your business will be busiest during the summer months and weekends. Are you prepared to work your hardest at these times? It is also best to have some basic camping and handyman knowledge to help the campers that need it.
Before buying the campsite, you will also need to have a clear and thorough business plan to lay out how you plan to operate the business over the coming years. This business plan will help you apply for loans and can work as a road map for the business during the first few years of operation.
Be sure there is growth potential
To ensure you get a good return on your investment, you will need to identify areas for potential growth in the business.
Will it be possible for you to grow the business after you have purchased it? Be realistic about how this could be done. Does the licence you have, allow for more pitches? If there is a restriction, will you be able to improve the services offered to the extent that customers would be willing to pay more money for a stay on your site?
Expanding the number of pitches on your site will include other considerations like increased ablutions and parking. You need to know how the campsite deals with sewage and waste from the beginning! You can then make an informed decision as to whether the capacity can be increased.
You will also need to consider the off-season and whether the business attracts people during this time. If it doesn't, can you make changes that will encourage people to visit you all year round?
Figuring out your growth strategy will play a role in the long-term plans for your business. Despite how counterintuitive this may feel, you should be thinking of your exit strategy from day one of operation. Growth in the business will allow you to add value and cash in when the time comes!
Do your research and be sure of what the market can offer. Combine this knowledge with what it is that you envision for your future, and you should have a winning formula for your camping business.
Editor - Alan Rogers Guides
Rob has been involved in the leisure industry since completing a BTEC in Travel & Tourism in 1993. Previous roles have included the promotion of tourism in Yorkshire and running a motorcycle touring company in the Australian Outback.
He is the General Manager at Alan Rogers Travel Group, responsible for the ongoing development of the Alan Rogers website and the publication of the Alan Rogers Guides and 'Destinations' magazine.
He regularly travels with his wife and young daughter in their Dethleffs 'Campy' caravan. A keen cycling fan, Rob can often be found in a field in Belgium during the 'Spring Classics' season or riding his Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle.