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Camping Market in France

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Campsites in France increasingly resemble holiday villages, with chalet accommodation, a range of leisure facilities, shopping, restaurants and bars.

With nearly 7,800 campsites offering around 700,000 pitches, the camping market in France is by far the largest in Europe, accounting for around one-third of all sites across the continent.

It is also an industry that in recent years has been undergoing a major transformation, as traditional bare tent/caravan sites are replaced by chalets and mobile homes, on sites that offer a far more substantial range of amenities.

As a result of these changes, according the French national statistical office INSEE, whilst occupancy levels at French campsites last year increased by 7.5%, the number of pitches reduced by 2.5%, due to the space requirements of fixed structures and new amenities.

Over the period 2010-16, the number of bare sites has reduced by 10%, whilst fully serviced sites increased by 20%, and now account for 30% of the available capacity.

The creation of new complexes has meant that the sites now open for a longer period each year, extending into May and September, which explains the growth in occupancy levels. Since 2010 the longer season has offset the fall of around 2% in occupancy levels during the peak July/August period.

Most popular locations for campers are the coastal areas, which between them sweep-up over half all reservations. The size of the camping offer along the Atlantic coast is significant, accounting for around three quarters of all tourist accommodation along most of the coast.

As can be seen from the following graphic, which shows the distribution of occupancy levels in each department, the inland departments of Dordogne and Ardeche are also popular. At the top end, those departments coloured red had an average of over 2,050 booked nights in the year, whilst those in dark green less than 150 nights per year.

Nevertheless, the dominance of coastal areas has masked an increase in popularly in rural and urban locations. Occupancy levels in coastal areas have declined marginally by 1%, although it is primarily the one and two star sites that have not prospered.

The following graphic shows the trend in occupancy level by department since 2010. According to INSEE, there has been strong growth in the regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Pays de la Loire, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Bretagne and Nouvelle-Aquitaine, whilst in Centre-Val de Loire, Normandy and Grand Est occupancy levels have fallen.

Much of the growth in rural and urban locations has been due to the infrastructure investment that has taken place, which has hitherto trailed behind coastal sites.


Non-residents account for one-third of all sales, but they are less likely to frequent the holiday complexes, and sales to non-residents have only increased by 2% since 2010, perhaps due to the fall in the number of bare tent/caravan sites available.

The majority of non-residents are more likely to head for rural and mountain locations than French nationals, although the Normandy and Mediterranean coastal areas are popular with foreign tourists.

Seven countries alone account for 95% of non-resident visitors - Netherlands (36%), Germany (21%), UK (17%), Belgium (12%), Switzerland (4%), Spain (3%) and Italy (2%). Since 2010 there has been an increase in visitors from Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, the number of visitors from the UK has remained stable, but it has fallen from Italy (-26%) and the Netherlands (-16%) over this period.

As to prices, a separate report prepared last year by the trade organisation Fédération de l'Hôtellerie de Plein Air shows that between 2011 and 2015 the average price per night for a bare pitch remained stable, rising only from €20.95 to €21.01. The average price a week during peak period for a couple was €147. This rose to €717 for a two-bed chalet or mobile home.

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