FRANCE’S first five star campsites will be announced this month as the industry enjoys a boom brought on by the recession and a rise in younger campers.
The Fédération Nationale de l'Hôtellerie de Plein Air (FHNPA) says it saw a 7% increase in the number of campers last year – up to seven million – as many tried it out to reduce the cost of their holidays.
From July 1 campsites will be applying for a new five-star classification – in line with French hotels which brought in the extra star last year.
Up to - and no more than - 50 campsites will get the new classification which will be based on the type of facilities offered such as swimming pool, sauna; services such as internet access or foreign languages spoken, accessibility for all, including the handicapped and the site’s commitment to sustainable development and energy reduction.
Luxury camping is growing in popularity with 58% of campers – and 65% of new campers – already opting for three or four-star sites.
Campsites who apply for the five-star rating will be assessed by a private body paid for by the industry and, if approved, will get their classification for five years. It is hoped the first five-star sites will be revealed this month.
While the new classification will define what services a site will offer, location remains a strong selling point regardless. Beyond the star rating, more than 1,000 sites have signed up for the Camping Qualité label over the past 10 years which commits them to following a list of 600 rules with the aim of providing a warm welcome to a clean site with privacy and which fits its surroundings.
The industry is hoping to keep the interest of a new generation of campers.
FHNPA said half of new campers in 2009 were under 35 and 60% were under 50. President Guylhem Féraud said: “We have kept our old customers and gained new ones.”
He added: “This new five-star classifications reflects the reality of what we offer in our open-air hotels.”
He added that more basic camping facilities would not be forgotten.
“We will continue to work and invest as we have over the past 20 years to offer guests – whether accustomed to camping or not – a variety of levels of classifications throughout France,” he added.
The five-star announcement comes too late for many who have already booked their holidays. More than a third of the people who use French campsites come from abroad.