Swift has been creating leisure vehicles and extolling the virtues of outdoor adventures since 1964, when Ken Smith and Ken Day built their first caravan, The Ten, in Hedon Road, Hull.
Almost six decades later, the iconic caravan manufacturer has expanded massively, with a vast range of top-notch caravans, motorhomes, campervans and holiday homes – but it’s still based near Hull and its mission to help its customers make the most of their leisure time and create great memories remains the same. Oh, and founder Ken Smith’s son, Peter, is still the Chairman!
Swift continues to evolve, but always has its customers’ needs front of mind, as it designs and builds some of the world’s finest caravans – everything from the lightweight, wallet-friendly Sprite to the super-spec’d, luxury Elegance Grande.
For true outdoor-adventure fans, Swift offers the revolutionary and sporty Basecamp in two, four and six-berth flavours, while more-traditional caravan fans can choose between the excellent Sprite, Challenger and Conqueror ranges.
There’s literally something for everyone in the superb Swift portfolio, whether you want a keenly-priced and lightweight family tourer or prefer to indulge in a super-stylish, eight-foot-wide caravan, with underfloor heating and luxury fixtures – basically an opulent apartment on wheels.
Check out the full range at swiftgroup.co.uk.
We’ve sat down with Martin Hailey, Head of Business Development at Swift, to find out more about the brand, discover what 2023 holds for them, and more.
What do you do at Swift?
I’ve just changed role to Head of Business Development across touring caravans, motorhomes and holiday homes. I identify opportunities to benefit and grow the group.
How did you get into the industry?
I joined Swift 26 years ago. My dad worked at Swift. I came into the business after Uni as a six-month stop-gap… and I’m still here! I’ve had a really varied and interesting career path with Swift. The great thing about a company the size of Swift is that there are lots of opportunities.
What makes Swift the Best of British?
It’s the whole ethos of the business, which is all about people. There are 1300 people here and we manufacture components and lead the way in technology in the leisure vehicle industry. It’s based on the back of UK customers buying our products and Swift reinvesting that money in the business. For example, our composite panel factory leads the way in Europe.
What does the rest of 2023 hold for Swift?
We’ve had some massive marketing investment including our TV ad campaign. It’s the first time since the early-70s that anyone in this sector has invested in TV advertising. I was on that shoot and you wouldn’t believe the number of people involved in making a 30-second advert.
We’re trying to build the brand and we want to reach new people who may not have thought about entering the leisure-vehicle market. We also launched our ‘virtual show’ during Covid and sold over 1000 caravans, when people couldn’t go and view products. We learned you’ve got to engage with all forms of social media and technology. Virtual Reality viewings at the NEC show proved to be very successful.
Our plan is to go to town on the October show. We’d rather do one show really well, than do two shows where we know we won’t get the same volume of sales at the second. We’d rather spend that money investing in things like the TV campaign.
What do you think the key considerations are when someone is choosing a caravan?
It’s for us to give as much information as possible, so that people get the right vehicle for them. What we try to do at Swift is offer something for every budget and every leisure experience.
What are the biggest changes you can see happening within the industry over the next decade?
Electrification is something we’re very focused on at Swift. We’re talking to experts to try to understand how we will navigate our way through that transition. When we talk to specialists, the advancements are already taking place. But it’s understanding the ramifications on our industry.
What makes the British touring scene so special?
If you get the weather in the UK, like we’ve done in recent years, you’ve got all sorts of beautiful areas of the country to travel to. This weekend, I’m away in the Yorkshire Dales in a campervan. There’s nothing better, and you really don’t have to go that far.
What’s your top tip for anyone thinking of taking their first tour in Britain this season?
Successful touring is all in the planning. You’ve got your sites booked and your route planned, and you’ve got some ideas for wet weather days. On a first trip, it’s also good to go with someone who’s a bit technical!
Where was your favourite tour?
I’m 50, and I’ve been on caravanning breaks for 50 years! My favourite tour was to Austria as a child with my parents. We travelled through Germany and stayed near Salzburg.
And where would you like to go next?
Where I’m going this weekend. God’s Country!
Tell us something about Swift that might surprise people!
Something we don’t talk about much is our export market. We manufacture around 1000 products each year for Australia, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, the Benelux countries and others. Also, the fact that Swift employs 1300 staff on our 100 acre site!
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