Camping under the stars is no longer enough | DW Travel | DW | 13.07.2016
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Camping under the stars is no longer enough

In the past you'd go camping, but these days an increasing number of sites are offering more luxury. However "glamping" has been slow to catch on in Germany.

Instead of bedding down on the ground, campers slumber in canopy beds, their tents are en suite and have their own kitchen - even the bread rolls in the morning are delivered. What was once a cheap holiday option has become a very competitive business sector.

"Glamping" - a name which combines camping and glamour - has for the past few years become a growing trend in Europe. And although its been very successful elsewhere, Germans are only slowly taking a shine to it.

Deutschland Campingplatz am Seehamer See 1963

Camping idyll back in 1963 in Bavaria

"Camping is still associated with many clichés - midges, dirty shower rooms and huge amounts of beer," says Jeroen Callewaert, managing director of the Vacansoleil booking platform. This portal offers a choice of some 450 "glamping sites" across Europe - of which only 13 are in Germany.

Those responsible for running German campsites are only slowly investing in golf courses, 24-hour service or waterparks. "Many campsites do not reach glamping-standards," Callewaert explains. "A pool is a must for any place that we offer," he adds.

Frankreich Pool von Zeltplatz in Frejus Riviera Cote d'Azur

Aqua park at a campsite in southern France

The Federal Association of German campsites in 2015 nevertheless recorded over 29 million overnight stays - which was an increase of 4.8 percent on the preceding year. And according to the Federal Statistics Office, eight percent of Germans say they prefer a tent to a hotel for their summer holidays - preferably in Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Pomerania and Lower Saxony.

Hotel service and luxury standards are still in low demand in Germany. But that is about to change. Campsites have, in the last five years in particular, worked on improving the quality of their sites, according to Viktoria Groß from the German Camping Club (DCC), representing some 110,000 members.

Deutschland Regenbogen-Camp Prerow

Camping in the dunes in the Western Pomerania Lagoon Area National Park

These days, there are campsites that offer free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, or gourmet chefs who prepare fine dining meals at a campfire. Campers and site managers have found a new direction in which to develop.

Several factors have influenced these changes, says Groß, including long periods of bad weather in southern Europe or the threat of terrorist attacks in popular holiday destinations. These uncertainties mean that many shy away from booking far in advance and prefer instead to spontaneously head off with a camper van.

But once at a camp site, these holidaymakers are not prepared to forgo the luxuries and comforts associated with hotels.

This is the market site managers and outdoor-equipment manufacturers are invigorating with some unusual offers - like fixed timber-huts shaped like a barrel or giant, luxury campervans with private whirlpools installed on their roofs.

"Camping next to the site's own golf course or spa - this would have made most people shake their heads in disbelief just a few years ago," says Groß. Germans are now also prepared to pay for these luxuries. A recent study found that whereas holidaymakers would pay up to 27 euros ($30) a day for a campsite 10 years ago, that had already risen to 46 euros by 2010.

Today it is as much as 70 euros, Groß estimates. Those booking with providers like Vancansoleil can pay twice as much. On average, a family that goes glamping will spend 1,500 euros for a week in an 80-square-meter (861-square-foot) safari-tent.

Deutschland Waldseilgarten Höllschlucht

Tree-house tent in a Bavarian high-rope climbing forest

Families are the main target group for glamping. "People who really didn't know what to make of camping discover it through glamping," Groß explains. "But most just want to give it a go, but in the long-term Germans are not likely to become dedicated 'glampers' - their love for nature would stop them," she adds.

is/ks (dpa)

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