Motorhomes: traveling in a bubble this summer?
Now that there is uncertainty about where and when we can go on holiday, a motorhome might be a good way to travel. You can simply switch from your bubble at home to a moving bubble, and choose where you want to go. Though it’s still to be seen which borders will open.
Officially, there are two million motorhomes in Europe. That’s less than in the US, where one in ten people have such a ‘recreational vehicle’. But their number is growing by 200 000 a year. The over-50s and more and more millennials, in particular, are opting for a wandering travel style.
According to Mark De Vos of Goboony, one of the main platforms for mobile homes, rentals will boom. “Our web visits are increasing by 30% every day. In terms of rental, we are ahead of last year. I expect most motorhomes to be gone by the beginning of June. We have 400 motorhomes of Belgian owners, but could rent out 4 000,” he says in the newspaper De Standaard.
Dirk Van Eyck, the owner of Belgium’s largest distributor, Dicar, also feels the interest of travel enthusiasts. “They can’t or don’t want to take a plane anymore, and are now discovering the motorhome. Whatever measures are taken by the authorities in the coming weeks and months, no matter how many borders open or close: with a motorhome, you can be flexible. You don’t need a hotel or restaurant, you are completely free to travel wherever you want to go.”
“Since 20 April, we have 20 times more bookings,” says Martijn Peeters, founder of Camptoo, the largest platform in Belgium and the Netherlands with 2 750 motorhomes. You can clearly see from the numbers of website visits and bookings how people still dreamed three weeks ago, and are booking now.”
According to Van Eyck, many rental customers are even considering buying a motorhome. “Because with a motorhome you can leave in the fall, or even next spring, and by then hopefully more borders will be open. We sell a lot of second-hand models these days. Rentals will also rise sharply: we will be short of rental motorhomes this summer anyway.”
But motorhomes are not cheap. A good new one will cost from €45 000 to €65 000. They have 2 to 6 beds/seats, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a toilet and shower. And used prices remain rather high.
Both Camptoo and Goboony are calling for more motorhomes to be shared. “In Belgium and the Netherlands there are 180 000 motorhomes, and only 5 000 of them are shared,” says De Vos. “That’s an incredible shame. A motorhome is only used for four weeks a year on average. If we shared more, we’d need a lot less.”
On rental platforms like Camptoo and Goboony, owners rent out their motorhomes for €70 to €130 a day. Professional rental companies charge about 750 a week, but their vehicles are never older than 2 years.
Traveling in a bubble
But will we be allowed to travel? An Ipsos study shows that barely one Belgian in four thought a month ago that the travel plans for this summer would go ahead. But last week, a Dutch survey by Holland Marketing showed that five million Dutch people hope to be able to travel abroad.
“In Flanders, a trip with a camper van until June 7 is considered non-essential travel,” says Ben Van den Bossche, chairman of the Flemish Camping and Caravanning Federation. “We depend on Europe, which will perhaps relax the measures today, and on the governments. That’s a pity because with a motorhome you can live on your own, in a bubble. Even better than people who have a second home.”
Motorhomes might sometimes have poor crash results, but from a health point of view, they are safe. “Anyone who travels with a motorhome, switches from the bubble at home to another bubble, as it were,” microbiologist Herman Goossens acknowledges. “You park in a special parking lot or at a farmer’s, which is quite isolated. You have your own shower and toilet, and a kitchen, so you have to make fewer social contacts. If you travel in a tent, you get much closer to other people. So yes, to me it seems the most suitable way of traveling, as far as health is concerned. The same goes for boats.”
Hygiene is important when renting out motorhomes, now more than ever. Kristof Colpaert, who runs a small motorhome rental company, will isolate his rental campers for two days. Goboony has an extensive cleaning protocol on his website. “Wash everything well with classic soap,” advises Goossens. “But if someone comes back and isn’t sick, the chance that a vehicle is infected is very small, it seems to me.”
Abroad or not?
Much hope now rests on Germany and France. These are large and well-equipped territories for motorhomes. Not coincidentally because together they account for about half of the owners in Europe. Germany seems to be open for tourism. Die Welt recently reported that the campsites on the north coast are almost fully booked, despite the coronary threat. “In Belgium and the Netherlands, many people are mainly waiting for a decision from French President Emmanuel Macron,” says Dirk Van Eyck.
If the Belgian borders won’t open up, motorhomes would have to start touring in their own country. “This also makes me enthusiastic,” says Martijn Peeters. “Rediscovering your own country means looking for new, unknown places. We have mapped a number of them.”
Van Eyck has faith in it: “During construction leave, it’s search time, but there are now more car parks for motorhomes in Belgium. And if you have a motorhome, you’re free. You can park wherever you want. As long as you don’t stay for 24 hours and don’t start a barbecue in a village square. That makes a lot possible.”