David Motton

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Young families loving caravan holidays is the advertising dream but, asks David Motton, is this targeting the right audience? Who's the future of touring?

Nobody likes to think of themselves as old. Even if they are.

But rightly or wrongly, caravanning is often perceived as a holiday for the older generation.

Does the caravan industry need to attract more younger enthusiasts?

Of course, in reality a wide range of different people already enjoy caravanning. You see many families at campsites as well as more senior caravanners.

But there is some truth in the idea that, on average, caravanners are getting on a bit. Stats put out by The Camping and Caravanning Club a couple of years ago put the average age of its members at 55, for example.

Given the number of family caravanners, to make the numbers balance out there must be an awful lot of us on the other side of the scale...

The crossover generation

Some caravan brands work hard to reach out to a more youthful audience. The Swift Basecamp is a good example. Here's a caravan aimed at adventurous outdoor types.

The Basecamp website has a video showing a couple, enjoying a glass or two after a day out on their mountain bikes. This isn't a caravan – it's a 'crossover camping vehicle'.

Do you drive a Fiat 500, Mazda CX-3, or a Nissan Juke? Are you child-free? Do you still go to music festivals, climb craggy peaks or go surfing at dawn? Then try a Swift Basecamp instead of a tent.

Is this the future of caravanning, sorry, 'crossover camping'? Well, clearly the caravan industry needs to attract newcomers as none of us will be around forever. And if they start in their 20s or 30s before having children, then great.

Doing the maths

But while it's easy for marketeers and advertising execs to worry about attracting a more youthful demographic, the industry should take comfort from a very important fact: the population is ageing.

Government statistics show that back in 1975, just 14.1% of the population was aged 65 or over. In 2015 that had risen to 17.8%.

In 2025, that's expected to be up to 23.6%. By 2045, when I'll be 70 if I'm still around, some 24.6% of Britons are predicted to be over 65.

So, if a quarter of the population is going to be 65 or over in 28 years, is chasing youth really the answer?

Time to tour?

I must admit I was rather cynical about the Basecamp at first, but having spent some time in one a few weeks ago I've rather been won over by its clever thinking, practical interior, and neatly integrated technology.

But these things will appeal to older caravanners looking for a van that's easy to tow behind a lightweight tow car as much as they will affluent single people and child-free couples who feel they have outgrown their tent.

There's another important fact about retired caravanners compared with youngsters: they have time on their hands.

If the big clubs and large independent sites want to fill their pitches during the week as well as at weekends – and throughout the year as well as in school holidays – it's older caravanners they need.

The 30-something lifestyle glampers of marketing imagination are too busy scraping together enough money to get on the housing ladder to spend all their spare time touring.

Is it time for a change?

Meanwhile, according to a 2015 survey by the Centre for Economics and Business Research commissioned by Saga, over 50s now hold almost 70% of the UK's household wealth. So not only have they got the time to go on holiday, they have the money, too.

My feeling is the older generation is more willing to give caravanning a go, and is less concerned about snide remarks or mickey-taking from non-caravanners.

What's more, people of this generation are more likely to know someone who caravans already and can give them tips, advice and a friendly nudge in the right direction.

To make caravanning appeal to younger people and to challenge some people's negative preconceptions about caravanning are laudable aims. But the older population is statistically more likely to caravan, and there are more and more of them.

If caravanning as an industry and a pastime is to prosper and flourish in the coming decades, the grey pound is more important than the youth vote.

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