Take me to church: the rise of champing

Take me to church: the rise of champing

Camping is always marching on, always diversifying, always presenting something new. But who would have thought of putting camping and churches together?

The Churches Conservation Trust, that’s who.

Take a disused church steeped in history. Take friends and families who are always looking for the next adventure, something different, something to feed the soul. Put them together and you have champing. Church camping. A juxtaposed stay as down to earth yet as close to heaven as you’ll ever get.

The Champing churches can sleep from 2 to 16 people. The hire of a church is completely exclusive; you won’t be rubbing shoulders with any strangers, apart from maybe the odd spider or two. Child-friendly, dog-friendly, group-friendly, picnic-friendly, alcohol-friendly, the experience is surely one to consider if you’re looking for an authentic, unforgettable mini-break experience.

Facilities are basic with camping beds, rugs, cushions and camping chairs supplied but you will have to rely on your own bedding and blankets to keep warm. It isn’t fancy yet there is a certain magic and humour about having the free run of a church for a night or two that makes it seem actually quite spoily. Think of it as a massive tent filled with history. Imagine lying there with the moonlight coming through the stained glass windows, pondering awhile on all the people who have paced the flagstones over hundreds of years. Imagine the kids playing hide and seek in the churchyard and swapping spooky stories by torchlight. That is quite something. And to top the Blytonesque experience, a steaming breakfast butty will be delivered to you by a friendly local in the morning. Sold.

Brainchild of Peter Aires, director of the Churches Conservation Trust in the south east, the scheme was piloted in 2014 and launched officially in 2015 with three churches. More than 150 holidaymakers stayed at a champing church that year, including Andrew Flintoff, the former England cricket captain, who documented his overnight stay in Aldwincle on Sky One after England won the Ashes series.

In 2016 the trust opened a further four more churches for their champing experience and nearly 700 guests came through their doors. The movement (for it certainly feels like a movement) is increasing to twelve churches in 2017. It is an imaginative way to generate income to maintain these congregation-less churches while offering a new phenomenon in camping.

Champing is certainly making the press sit up and take notice. It has been featured in the likes of The Times, The National Geographic, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and even on national TV. It really feels like there is a wave to catch here. With a new website launched today at www.champing.co.uk and our online booking facility in place to support them, the Churches Conservation Trust is already ramping up the bookings, even from as far afield as America.

So, are you going to frequent church anytime soon? We most certainly are. Champing. It’s the one to watch.

Will you be providing mild camping next season?

Will you be providing mild camping next season?

A new camping industry trend has been identified by VisitScotland and is set to roll down the length and breadth of the British Isles over the next few seasons.

Dubbed ‘mild camping’, it is a type of camping for people who want to experience the wild outdoors but in a safer environment. It sits somewhere between wild camping and the kind of experience you’d get on a traditional family campsite. So rather than hanging off a cliff edge somewhere by yourself hoping for the best, you might be pitched in a wild field with the landowner within reach for greater security. It provides a down-to-earth, exhilarating experience without the worry.

It is almost anti-glamping, the other end of the scale. No marked-out pitches will be necessary, electrical hook-up will be a no-no, campfires a must. Mud won’t be frowned on, facilities can be dressed down and basic. The phenomenon opens a new world to landowners, holiday parks and campsites already in business or those starting out. It lends an opportunity to re-evaluate land stock, rebrand, or launch a business in a more environmentally sustainable way.

In an age of increased digital immersion and fast-paced living, the desire among consumers to escape to the simplicity of the great outdoors is staggering. Some are turning their backs on holidays abroad completely in favour of camping among the undulating hills and hedgerows of our fair isle. This gives the camping industry both the need and the opportunity to continually diversify, which is good news for camping businesses and good news for us. Mild camping is a new craze within the industry but it most certainly won’t be the last.

If you are a camping business looking for an online booking system to get you connected to the right marketplace and with the functionality to keep your business up with the changes, sign up to Anytime Booking now. We are the camping people.

Holiday trends: lifestyle all the way

Holiday trends: lifestyle all the way

More personality, less formality

Reinvention is a word of the moment – and even the travel industry is joining in. There has been a huge rise of accommodation providers repositioning their businesses as homely, approachable, relaxed and earthy, without sacrificing quality or luxury. Why?

Because travellers seem less trusting of the ‘big boys’ – the bland hotel chains – and are choosing smaller, more unique places to stay to satisfy their need for something a little bit ‘different’, while conversely remaining ‘familiar’, and with more individual care.

‘Wellness’ is a buzzword right now, it’s about making choices that are good for you. People put wellness in their coffee, have it on their toast, wear it, consume it, and expect to stay somewhere that promotes it. The domestic market has upgraded in this respect, and staycationing clientele are putting a lot more money into the UK economy than ever before.

So holiday businesses have been looking more closely at what makes people tick – what they enjoy or care about at home, such as the environment, sustainability, local or home-grown produce – and transporting this back into their businesses, taking the time to ‘put the love back’, banishing the stuffiness and formality that have come to be associated with big hotel chains.

This is timely. While the staycation phenomenon is admittedly not as strong as in 2014-15, it still boasts higher figures than pre-recession. Falling oil prices mean that people are far more likely to put fuel in their car to go on their breaks, especially short-breaks, in the UK. Yes, oil prices also mean that it’s cheaper to jump on board a flight to foreign shores, but the security issues abroad of late balance out the scales between UK and international travel.

Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) is also consistently on the rise, by approximately 10% year on year, which means that many businesses are enjoying the bolt-on short-break holidays associated with this – a bonus for UK accommodation providers. It pays for them to ride this wave and to make sure the experience they offer matches up to leisure seekers’ expectations.

So what do today’s travellers expect?

Travellers are asking for more online transparency when they book holidays; they don’t want to have to go backwards and forwards via phonecalls and emails to secure their bookings anymore. Instant connectivity in all locations is also expected when they get there. They are increasingly turning away from holidays if they do not offer WiFi.

If you are an accommodation provider, it is advisable that you think about adapting to these pressures and consider advancing your WiFi connectivity, developing a responsive website, and installing a seamless, front-end online booking process. If you are more at the cottage end of the market, you could even upgrade the technology you offer on site, such as availability of good TVs, satellite, and mp3 players.

Guests generally want more choice, more flexibility, and authentic yet connected experiences. What’s more, they want these expectations to be managed from the outset. A place to stay must build the atmosphere from the very beginning – a guest will be asking, ‘will this place be able to satisfy me, will it live up to my expectations?’ from the moment they start browsing.

If there is no online booking system or a responsive website with truthful, hearty lifestyle photography and clear messages about what the holiday will deliver, the chances are, the guest will think it can’t. They expect to be put first and don’t like it if they are not. Accommodation owners can look into improving these areas to dramatically reduce turn-aways from potential guests and therefore any loss of precious revenue. It is crucial to get up and running with online bookings.

Let technology be your friend in business

If you are a holiday business of any kind, the actual technology does not need to be a barrier to your visibility on the web. Anytime Booking is a young traveltech company and we’re here to help you every step of the way to taking online bookings. We are real people behind the science!

Our booking and site management software gives you the flexibility to run your business your way. You can use it as a simple reservation system to verify the bookings yourself, or you can accept instant online bookings together with payment straight away.

When you come on board, our Account Coordinators are on hand to advise you of the best possible way to configure your accommodation on the system to mirror your business rules, giving you peace of mind that you are getting it right for your customers.

Are you an accommodation provider ready to take the next step? Sign up to Anytime Booking now.

Glamping: Passing Trend or Pitching To Stay?

Glamping: Passing Trend or Pitching To Stay?

Okay, we admit it, sometimes we fancy camping but with the comforts of home or even the luxury of a hotel. Oh, to kick off those muddy wellies and to roll into a king-sized bed with Egyptian cotton sheets.

Accommodation trends fluctuate all the time but there has been a massive shift towards glamping in recent years, the end of the market where camping is cooler than a polar bear in a chiller. Bell tents with beds, safari tents with full working kitchens, stylish water-tight pods, rambling treehouses, the bliss of an en-suite or, dare we say it, a hot-tub – they’re all out there to be explored. Traditional holiday parks are even starting to install their own uber-cool camping pods and tipis to get a piece of the action. So is this an indicator that glamping is here to stay and actually far more than a passing trend? We think so.

 

Peter Bull Glamping Pod

Peter Bull Glamping Pod

Many more people in the UK and around the world are turning to glamping as the stay-at-home solution for a unique holiday. No lengthy flights, ferry crossings or queues at passport control, just the promise of a home-turf adventure and a return to Enid Blyton-style days of dragonfly-hunting, marshmallow-toasting and getting back to the great outdoors, but with a difference. Comfort, luxury, and that something extra special.

Powered by the accessibility of holidays on the internet and the flood of oodles of gorgeous glamping images on our screens, this holiday sector goes from strength to strength – but ironically it’s escapism from connectivity that drives people to seek out this kind of holiday. And without the hassle of putting up tents in order to do it, of course it’s an attractive option. Old-fashioned camping doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone, whereas glamping is a spoily holiday that most people would probably consider. Back to the wilds of nature and warm, dry comfort with en-suites? The sound of crickets and owls with the luxury of hard floors, crisp cotton beds and unspoilt views? It’s a no-brainer that appeals to families, couples looking for romantic retreats and the older generation who can’t imagine resting their creaky hips against a ground-mat.

So, is anyone up for a spot of glamping? It’s a resounding yes from the team at Anytime Booking! We’re off to the Glamping Show in Warwickshire this Autumn to rub shoulders with some of the people who make glamping happen. Not only are we looking forward to showing the marketplace our fabulous online booking system, which is perfect for glamping businesses, we can’t wait to stay with one of our newest customers, Tiny Wood Homes (http://tinywoodhomes.webs.com).

tiny wooden house

Tiny Wooden House

With extended views of the Warwickshire countryside, our tiny wooden house has an ickle footprint but comfortable bedrooms, a smart granite-topped kitchen, a separate bathroom with shower, central heating, a wood-fired barbeque and hot-tub. Alice in Wonderland, eat your heart out, we’ll be far more comfortable! But isn’t that the whole point of glamping?

alice-in-wonderland-55.jpg

Alice is too big for the house!

If you are around, come to the Glamping Show at Stoneleigh Park between 24-26 September and say hi. It’s free to attend, just register online at: www.theglampingshow.com. Find us on Stand 53 and share all your news, views and ideas on glamping with the Anytime Booking Team.

Hope to see you there!