Camping / Holiday Village Properties in France

The main trading season for all campsites is July and August, when most sites do 60-70% of their annual turnover. However there is a Northern European clientele, i.e. Dutch, Belgian, British and German who are mobile from Easter until October. These clients require comfort and places of interest to visit, or special activities such as painting, cooking, fishing, etc.

As with every type of business, marketing is the essential ingredient for success, and each site has a different clientèle to be targeted and satisfied

There are two principal styles of campsite:

  • Beach - sea - sun sites: Within easy access of a beach, with the maximum of entertainment on site, especially for children. This is becoming "big business" camping for the professionals who must aim for maximum volume in a very short season, often 7-10 weeks. This can be very profitable, but now requires substantial capital and continuous investment to maintain their market share, in a very competitive part of the business. The most profitable are those sites which were created 15-50 years ago when land costs were negligible. If they come onto the market today the land value often makes the total purchase price seem too high to give a satisfactory return on investment.
  • Rural sites: Situated inland, preferably within easy access of a good tourist route and natural attractions; historic towns, mountains, lakes, etc. Generally these sites are more "low-key" than the coastal sites, offering larger pitches, peace and quiet, with the emphasis on the environment, often with a family atmosphere, and offering more of a way of life for owners. These sites are often open all year round or at least from May to October. In any event if the site is well placed, the bar and restaurant can remain open throughout the year.

After marketing comes client satisfaction: Keeping all age groups entertained, and to obtain the highest expenditure per camper on the site with shops, restaurant, bar, organised tours, entertainment, etc. This is where the real profits can be made.

Service is all-important: Staff must speak the languages needed and create a good atmosphere with clean facilities. Many of the campsites for sale today are owned by people reaching retirement, who created a site with the minimum of capital cost, have \'lived off\' the business, but who are seeing their clientele diminishing because there have been no improvements/investment on the site to keep up with the competition.

Clients are becoming more discerning and there is a little doubt that the \'Hotel pleine aire\' is the camping of the future, i.e. chalets or mobile homes, fully equipped in an attractive setting with access to natural attractions.

There are a growing number of campers who rent a permanent pitch on a campsite for their own caravan or mobile home, and visit more than once a year. By giving the management/rental of their caravan to the campsite, they generate an income to cover costs.

Camping is not, as many people believe, a poor-man’s holiday, the majority of campers choose the freedom and open-air, and will pay for quality in the right place. There should, however, always be a place for the ruck-sack and tent at a sensible price.

So, leaving the beach sites to the tour-operators and professionals, the majority of buyers look for a site in a good position, which can be up-graded and improved, but which has an existing clientele.

The creation of a new site is not for the faint hearted. The bureaucratic process can take at least 12 months and the cost of installations to comply with EEC regulations is very high. It takes 3-4 years before a site will become profitable which is why the goodwill of a site is so valuable. Many sites are quite simply in the wrong place and will never be a good investment.

Investors looking for a good return should consider leasehold sites (rare). The protection for the tenant is 100% and the freehold can often be negotiated at a later date.

The minorities of campsites for sale include a comfortable family house – which the majority of our clients require. The solutions are:

  • Build – in most cases permission would be possible, but should not be taken for granted.
  • Buy/rent in a nearby village, often more satisfactory for families to integrate into the community.
  • Install a park-home (prices from €48,000 (£30,000) Leisure & Land can arrange).

The successful running of a business is difficult on both sides of the Channel, but a foreign language plus unfamiliar laws and regulations make it essential that a serious investor seeks professional advice.

To buy and upgrade a campsite which will produce a "living"/income requires a minimum capital of €500,000

In addition a comfortable house on site will add approximately 160,000€ to the budget. We therefore recommend that a potential purchaser has at least 500,000€ capital and is prepared to borrow to buy an established business.

Obtaining finance for the purchase of a campsite depends on two things:

a) The declared turnover of the business, and length of time trading.
b) The previous business experience of the buyer.

Each site is different and must be studied individually, but the main problem is always the turnover. As with most cash businesses, the declared figures are rarely true. Although the banks know this they will only lend against a declared, positive track-record.

If the buyer is a professional in tourism, and/or has a background in business, marketing, speaks the language, etc., it is often possible to negotiate better terms for finance. Unless a site has exceptional possibilities, we advise against a loan in excess of 50% of the purchase price – the purchase price to include legal fees and immediate/essential investments.

Commercial leases in France are granted for 9 years, with 3 yearly reviews. The reviews are index-linked, unless there have been changes to the property. The lease is automatically renewed after 9 years providing the tenant has behaved and paid on time. The rent is reviewed at market price on the 9 year review, this can involve a court to decide a fair amount.

If the landlord wishes to terminate a lease, notice of at least 6 months has to be given and the tenant is reimbursed the value of the goodwill of his business.

Our website has a wide range of sites in many areas of France. To protect our French colleagues we regret that we cannot give out further information by phone or mail. We are able to discuss and advise on the phone, but the next stage is a trip to France. Our aim is to ensure that a client buys a suitable property, within their budget, and has the resources and technical support available to guarantee the success of the project.

It is not just the purchase price that is important, it is the overall package that Leisure & Land negotiate on behalf of the buyer that will ensure the success of your project.