The number of people deciding to holiday at home is at an all-time high, thanks to glorious weather, uncertainty about the future under Brexit and the pound at a record low.
According to Visit Britain, staycations last year were up 5% on 2017 and the number of short breaks rose dramatically – up four million in the past decade.
Tim Paige, boss of the family-owned Tamar Caravan Centre in Plymouth, says many of his customers have decided to holiday in the UK this year.
“When you get the weather, it’s just lovely. You don’t need to go abroad,” says Tim. “And it’s not just holidays, lots of people have their caravans packed and ready to go so they can go off for the weekend. People travel for hours just to reach the Westcountry and here we are already. We’re so lucky to have it on our doorstep.”
Tim, who joined the Navy from school and left the service as an aircraft engineer, worked in car sales before taking over the family-run Tamar Trailer Centre in January 2005 with his dad Rob.
2008 saw the addition of a New Sales Director – Ian McNulty and in 2011 they merged with Simon Graham’s Tamar Towing caravan servicing business and became Tamar Towing and Caravans.
The enterprise has gone from strength to strength and in 2015 they moved to a showroom in Marshall Road, Plympton, which has the capacity to display 65-70 caravans under one roof.
Tim says they are able to offer a one-stop-shop service which is useful because caravan ownership can be complex.
“We are very involved with every purchase and I liken it to buying a luxury four-bed apartment on wheels,” says Tim. “Customers will look at buying a caravan in the same way that they would look at buying a new house. Our work doesn’t just stop at the sale. Our relationship with the customer is much more long-term.”
A Basecamp model (a cross between a caravan and a tent) will start at around £16,500 and a top of the range new model will be around £30,000.
“A top model with have a shower, loo, heating, fridge, cooker and maybe solar energy,” says Tim. “You can control the central heating and check your battery levels from your smart phone. They are very technically advanced these days.
“Our customers are generally 35 and over, couples or families with young children, or retired couples. But we do get younger customers who go for the Basecamp which still has all the facilities like a shower, toilet and a fridge but it has an awning at the back and you go in from the rear. It’s popular with a younger audience who like to just shoot off for the weekend and go surfing or to festivals.
“For families we tell our customers that they could go to Disney and have an amazing time and spend £8-10,000. Or they could invest that money in a caravan and have lots of holidays and breaks. Even if the caravans are luxury models, you’re still pitching on grass and it makes a wonderful way for families to connect together.
“On a camp site you’ll see kids running around and having fun by not being on their iPads and iPhones – there are parts of the Westcountry where you can’t even get a signal! That’s also great for adults – like me! – to relax and unwind and not be tempted to answer work emails.
“You don’t need to go far to really make a difference.”
Tim and his team put a lot of effort into looking after their customers and it has paid off with a major award this month from brand leaders Swift, who own 40% of the market with their British-made caravans.
Swift set up a scheme to recognise good customer service, creating a list of approved dealers.
Tamar Caravan Centre was named Dealership of the Year in the first awards in 2017 and have picked up the title again this year. They are also one of only three dealerships in the country to get full five star recognition from Swift.
“In the first year we were really pleased because the awards scheme was new to the industry,” says Tim. “This year we went up a turnover category so it was great to win against some of the bigger boys who have been going a long time.
“There’s no financial gain for us, but it’s great that our efforts in serving our customers are recognised. We are a team here and we provide a great service in sales and after care. And I’m very proud of our showroom. It’s all under one roof and we can have up to 70 caravans on display. There’s not another one like it in the South West.”