Wheel good times: The unstoppable rise of motorhomes

Wheel good times: The unstoppable rise of motorhomes

Even before COVID-19 put the kibosh on the foreign-destination holiday plans of many Brits, the popularity of motorhomes was in its ascendancy. Now, with the staycation looking like it’s here to… well… stay, sales are positively booming. Wrapper takes a look at the rise of motorhoming…

Back in July, as the country emerged bleary-eyed and desperate from a months-long national lockdown, thoughts immediately turned to holidays. The six-week summer break was looming, the weather was being decidedly un-British with the sun beating down, and with international flights essentially grounded, the staycation looked not only like the sensible option but one that might even be enjoyable.

Cottages, holiday lets and campsites all saw massive surges in interest as people sought an escape from the homes they’d been confined to since March, and it wasn’t long before they were all fully booked up, sometimes for months in advance. The unprecedented level of demand far out-stripped a supply that was being stretched to breaking point by UK Government social distancing guidelines that reduced capacity even further.

UK holidaymakers were forced to think creatively about their holidays, and to look for solutions that would keep them and their families safe. They wanted hygienic self-containment. They wanted to be able to take a bathroom and a kitchen with them. They wanted their own things, but in a different place. They wanted a motorhome holiday.

An upwards trend

Interest in domestic tourism has been on the rise for the past few years, spurred on by a decade of summers that has seen heat waves at home, terrorist attacks abroad, a global climate crisis, Brexit, and a pound in free fall against the euro. Between 2016 and 2019, as the lure of the short-haul European break waned, domestic tourism grew by a tidy 14.5% as those who might previously have hopped on plane to Spain began looking towards more familiar shores.

Holiday lets, caravans and campsites have all been doing a roaring trade over recent years, but more and more people have begun turning to motorhomes as a long-term solution to travel uncertainty.

In 2015 alone, the UK’s caravan trade body, the National Caravan Council, reported a massive 21% growth in new motorhome registrations, followed by a further 20% increase in 2016. This is an upwards trend that continues today.

The new breed of motorhome

The NCC attributed the rapidly growing popularity of motorhomes to the manufacturers themselves, who, it said, were stepping up to give consumers what they wanted. Looking at what’s now on offer from the major motorhome brands, it seems a good conclusion to draw. Manufacturers are tapping into the holidaying landscape with incredible levels of insight, harnessing innovations to capture a burgeoning new market that demands regular escapes and all the comforts of home. The latest breed of motorhome is virtually unrecognisable to anyone familiar with the draughty, sparsely-equipped vehicles of yesteryear – they are packed to the rafters with high-tech kit and high-end finishes that equal, and sometimes even better, the ones at home.

Almost every element of the motorhome experience has been given a twist of luxury. This is not just to meet the wider expectations of fancy-kit-as-standard, but to cater to an emerging customer base made up of style- and eco-conscious city-based business people looking for regular escapes. And the manufacturers know that, while they’ll sometimes be travelling with their families, they’ll also, in the remote-working post-coronavirus world, sometimes just be looking for somewhere peaceful to work, with a different view when they look up from their laptop screens.

So the NCC’s conclusion is a good one. The on-board experience has undergone a massive renaissance, and the new standard of design features is undoubtedly making it easier, and more enjoyable, to live a life on the road.

A new work-life balance

Even before coronavirus forced us all to work from home, we, as a nation, were growing tired of the office. The work-life balance seemed to lose its equilibrium somewhere around the Noughties, and more and more of us had begun seeking to redress that balance. We began to think creatively about holidays, happy to sacrifice an annual two-week break in guaranteed sunshine if it meant we could get away more regularly. So over the past decade, as the daily grind became less 9-5 and more 24/7, we have become increasingly drawn towards long-weekend adventures in new places, where we can shut down, switch off and reconnect with ourselves, our families and the natural world.

It’s no surprise, then, that those leading the surge in motorhome sales are those under the age of 55, with the 18-34 age group particular well represented in the number of new owners.

And with the uncertainty around COVID-19 lockdowns set to continue, we can expect to see the growth of a new type of professional – the digital nomad – who lives and works on the road, with an enviable amount of freedom. For these workers, the everyday is a getaway.

The future looks bright

For anyone who has owned a motorhome for years and has long appreciated the lure of the open road, the future is looking brighter than ever. Our horizons are being expanded in more ways than we could’ve imagined even 10 years ago. As the market grows, campsites and holiday parks are stepping up and investing heavily in facilities to capitalise on the increased demand. They no longer feel the need to try and please everybody all of the time, and are increasingly catering to specific clienteles with all manner of niche interests – and they’re doing it well.

Now, as motorhome owners, we can park up at an outdoor-adventure site one weekend to indulge our passions for rock-climbing or coasteering, and head for a relaxing spa weekend with hot-tubs and massages the next. Couples, hipsters, retirees and families alike are relishing this increased level of focus and innovation. We’re all winners.

But with the open road ahead of us, and everything we need in the back, we kind of knew that anyway.

Take a look at our article ‘Caravanning during covid: What to expect’