Swiss campsites, faced with a constantly decreasing number of overnight stays, are betting on a new urban and connected clientele. The aim is to change camping’s reputation from being something for hippies to something for hipsters, or other people perceived as cool and trend-setting.
Between 2009 and 2015, the number of nights spent in tents in Switzerland dropped by 30%, according to figures released on Monday by the Federal Statistical Office. Last year some 2.7 million overnights were recorded, two-thirds booked by Swiss campers.
The number of Swiss pitching tents actually rose by 10% on the previous year, but this wasn’t enough to offset the 17% drop in European campers. Germans, Dutch and French in particular decided to set up camp elsewhere.
While the strong franc is partially to blame, the tourism research centre in Valais, a canton with 61 campsites, pointed to changing expectations.
“To remain competitive, it’s been necessary to be innovative and come up with new forms of accommodation,” said Ralph Lugon from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Valais, told Swiss public television, RTS. “Here, we’re shifting from the hippie era to the hipster era when it comes to camping and caravanning.”
The Touring Club Switzerland (TCS), which owns 27 campsites with a turnover of CHF20 ($20.45 million) in 2015, is one of the main players in the sector. In order to survive, it has decided to offer a wide range of accommodation.
“When it comes to Swiss campsites, there’s something for all price ranges: from CHF12 a day for a simple plot with a tent, to CHF180 for a tent chalet for six people,” said Mattia Galli, in charge of camping at TCS.
Jean-Nicolas Revaz, owner of the campsite at Botza, canton Valais, has invested more than CHF3 million in the hope of kick-starting his business. The canteen, for example, has been turned into a real restaurant open almost all year round.
“It’s possible to love nature and to go for walks but also want to be able to get online in your camper or by the pool,” he said.
But not all owners have the means to make such investments. According to some estimates, a fifth of Switzerland’s 410 campsites could disappear in the coming years.