Page last updated at 07:39 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 08:39 UK

'Big surge' in camping holidays

By Tom Warren
BBC News

The Vaughan family
The Vaughan family are enjoying their first ever camping holiday this summer

Camping is enjoying an unprecedented surge in popularity as people tighten their belts and seek out cheaper holidays, evidence shows.

BBC News examines why so many people in England are choosing to holiday under canvas this year.

It is the school holidays and peak time at Waldegraves Holiday Park, in Mersea, Essex, where hundreds of families have chosen to take a break this summer.

In many fields, tents stretch as far as the eye can see.

So what is it that is luring more and more people outside to spend a few nights under the stars?

Because more people are holidaying at home, camping is becoming seen as a better option
Sian Brenchley, Enjoy England

For first-time campers the Vaughan family, from Rowhedge, Essex, cost is a major factor.

"Friends gave us the idea, and with three kids it's easier and cheaper than other holidays," said Julie Vaughan, 36.

"The kids have never slept in anything but their own beds before, and as long as the weather is dry, it's great.

"The kids love it. They have been up since 6am playing outside."

Experienced campers the Hardings, from East Ham, in London, have been holidaying at Waldegraves for 10 years.

Boom in trade

Cab driver Gary, 47, his wife Irene, 45, and their children James, 18, and Ellie, 15, have made many life-long friends through their camping trips.

"We can book this pitch for six weeks rather than a two week holiday abroad," said Mrs Harding.

"It's the socialising. If you go abroad you do meet people, but with this you meet up with all your friends each year and you meet new people along the way.

"This is our main holiday this year. I would like to go abroad as well, but it's just money at the moment."

Irene Harding (left) and fellow camper Lisa Henderson
Irene Harding and family have been visiting Waldegraves for 10 years

It seems that campsites across England are enjoying a boom in trade this summer.

Dave Parsons, chief executive of website which has 350 holiday parks advertised on it, said he had seen an "unprecedented" rise in bookings over the last 12 months.

"We've been established since 1999 and our sales for camping holidays in the UK and abroad has increased by between 15 and 20% in the last year," he said.

"It's the first time it has gone up that much and I can only put it down to people staying at home or buying cheaper holidays."

'Better option'

Sian Brenchley, from Enjoy England, said evidence was showing a rise in people choosing camping holidays.

"We are definitely finding it's risen in popularity," she said.

"The current economic climate is going to add to that. In 2006 Brits made 4.7 million camping trips in the UK and that rose to 4.8 million in 2007.

"They spent 498m in 2006, rising to 522m last year - a 5% rise.

"Anecdotally we are hearing that because more people are holidaying at home, camping is becoming seen as a better option."

Estuary in Mersea
Waldegraves campsite in Mersea backs onto the River Blackwater estuary

Steve Harper-Smith, manager of Golden Sands Holiday Park, in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, said camping bookings had risen by more than 30% at his site in the last year.

In previous years, camping has actually been declining in popularity at the park, he said.

Haven Holidays, which owns the site, has also seen a 30% rise across the board.

The price of the euro and increased security checks at airports has probably put more people off travelling abroad, Mr Harper-Smith said.

"Petrol has gone through the roof and people want to go closer to home and get something more affordable," he said.

"People are used to going away more than once a year and now, of course, it's that much more expensive and everyone is watching the pennies.

"[Camping] is an affordable way of people going away more than once a year cheaply."

Mr Harper-Smith said this year's rise in camping holiday bookings was the biggest he had seen in his career.

On Friday BBC News looks into the rise of "luxury" campsites in England.

In pictures: Why people camp
07 Aug 08 |  In Pictures
Why the British carry on camping
17 Apr 06 |  England

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