UK Aires – Does CAMpRA have the Solution?

motorhome on a UK Aire

CAMpRA - The Campaign for Real Aires

CAMpRA, or the Campaign for Real Aires is probably one of, if not the, most important movement for progressing the motorhome and campervan leisure industry within the UK right now by advocating and organising a common approach to increase the number of UK Aires.

If you’re not aware of what CAMpRA is, how to help, or why it is so important then you’re in the right place. We’ve rounded up all the information and top resources for you right here.

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    Aires in Europe

    French Aire

    If you’ve ever toured continental Europe and made use of the extensive Aires system in France, or the comparable systems in other countries (Italy – Sosta, Germany – Stellplatz, Spain – Area para Autocaravana) then you’ve probably wondered why on earth we don’t have anything comparable.

    The continental Aires system works extremely well. There are very few points of tension between Aires, Campsites and local residents; and everyone benefits.

    Tourists spend more money in the local area, campsites are still full, and it has worked for decades in harmony.

    So why have Aires not arrived en masse to UK shores?

    UK Aires – The Problem

    Lack of appetite for change and lack of understanding of the benefits from industry and government means that any changes that are happening is from the bottom up. This is an extremely slow, inefficient way to drive change of this type.

    And here we’ve stumbled across the root cause of the problem.

    This lack of appetite stems from a couple of things:

    • Lack of awareness of the solution to overcrowded, overpriced campsites that do not meet the basic needs of many motorhome and campervan tourers.
    • Lack of understanding of the benefits that a comprehensive UK Aires system could bring
    • Lack of understanding that campsites and Aires can operate side by side quite happily
    • Push back from large camping organisations that fear loss of revenue
    • Lack of properly coordinated lobbying at various levels of industry and government. This is where CAMpRA comes in – but more on that later.

    Benefits of Aires in the UK

    Increased revenue from tourism year round. When touring vehicles spend less on their overnight stay they have more spare cash waiting to be spent elsewhere in the local economy.

    When campsites reach bursting point at peak season, tourers are unable to visit the area and as such local businesses lose out on potential customers.

    When campsites close for the winter tourers are again unable to easily continue to bring much needed revenue with them across the UK.

    A sanitary and convenient way for vanlifers and wildcampers to manage their waste and facilities on the road.

    But what about campsites!

    Campsites worry that they’ll ultimately lose out if an Aires system is introduced. But this is a (very understandable) misconception.

    They can still benefit!

    Tents and other types of camping will still rely on campsites. This will be unchanged. Many touring vehicles will continue to regularly use campsites for longer stays.

    In addition many campsites will be able to add low cost Aires to their sites – a proven financial strategy that is fairly common on the continent. CAMpRA estimates that some 2600 campsites have attached Aires as a supplement to their main site.

    Many motorhomes and campervans tour year round and yet many campsites close for the winter.  Aires would provide campsites additional, year-round revenue as well as increase their maximum capacity during peak season. 

    Campsites could then charge a small fee for facilities only visits to encourage would be passersby to use their facilities.

    A cleverly marketed convenience or artisan goods at the facilities station could also help boost revenue.

    Campsites can remain popular, and profitable alongside Aires, as demonstrated very clearly over previous decades on the mainland.

    Will this discourage acceptance of wild, or free, camping

    This is a difficult one as wild camping in the UK is already a touchy subject.

    But we firmly believe that respectful wild and free camping is a perfectly legitimate lifestyle or leisure activity.

    Some of the more difficult aspects of ‘vanlife’, as it’s come to be known, such as waste management can be made easier through readily available, and cheap campervan Aires.

    And thus, Aires will help clean up the image of vanlifers which has an unfair reputation attached to it as most vanlifers are extremely responsible, forward thinking and open-minded individuals.

    Isn’t this just Brit Stops under a different name?

    Not at all.

    We’re massive fans of the Brit Stops system and see no reason why it can’t live alongside an Aires system quite happily.

    Brit Stops is a way to tour the country staying overnight for free without facilities at pubs, farm shops and other attractions. An Aires scheme would focus on offering free or low cost overnight stays with facilities, often close to towns and villages.

    There are two distinct offerings each with their own market. 

    Proven as a viable option abroad through the popularity and success in France of both Aires and France Passion (similar to Brit Stops). In Portugal through Aires and Easy Camp. Spain, Germany, Switzerland and many others also have similar schemes running side by side very amicably. 

    Are there any UK Aires already?

    Yes!

    Not many yet, but CAMpRA has had some success already and is gaining traction. Lookout for the CAA marked entries on search for sites as these are CAMpRA approved Aires.

    So, what is CAMpRA?

    campra logo

    CAMpRA is a small group of enterprising and forward-thinking individuals have teamed up to try and create a co-ordinated, systematic approach to lobby across all levels of industry and government the benefits of a UK based Aires system.

    This coordinated approach allows a comprehensive, standardized strategy to be implemented at grassroots level, utilizing a hive mind mentality of top level organization, with many warriors carrying out the tasks en mass in a unified approach.

    They’ve done an extremely impressive and thorough job of rounding up the key stats and projections from official sources that unequivocally highlight the potential benefit of a UK Aires system across various industries. 

    From the average spend per day of a typical motorhome user (£47), the number of registered motorhomes in the UK (386,000), the projected increase in domestic and international tourism revenue and much more.

    How can I help CAMpRA create UK Aires?

    CAMpRA have made this super easy, you can:

    Keep an eye out for potential Aire locations; Download the relevant letter template from their website; Populate it; Find out if the car park is council or privately operated; Send the letter to your local Councillor or relevant private company; Get your friends to do the same.

    Examples of relevant companies to contact:

    • Campsites with excess space going unused on the edge of their site
    • Village/Town car parks
    • Motorhome dealerships
    • Supermarkets with large car parks
    • Leisure centres with large car parks
    • Village/Town halls

    In addition to this the Campaign for Real Aires has put together a really comprehensive list of documents covering everything from example costs of installing and operating black and grey water disposal to potential income guides as well as a good document explaining why Aires don’t take business away from campsites.

    So perhaps include the relevant documents in any communications you have with Councillors and private companies.

    How can I learn more about CAMpRA and stay up to date?

    Participate on the forum.

    Join the Facebook group.

    Stay up to date:

    UK Aires Summary

    aires france sign

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    Wouldn’t it be great to have a really world class Aires system across the UK to make touring much more freeing than it currently is.

    Every year we flock abroad and praise the motorhome culture of whatever country we’ve visited – let’s make that true of the UK as well.

    Get in contact with your local authorities, encourage your friends to do the same and lets all rally together to make our collective voices un-ignorable!

    Let us know your thoughts on UK Aires and the CAMpRA movement in the comments below!

    Go Explore! On Aires (hopefully!)

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