Sun. Aug 25th, 2019

Pitchup, the camping booking platform is now available in France! Interview with its founder Dan Yates

9 min read

Born in 2009, the Pitchup camping reservation platform is riding on the rise of this resort mode throughout the world and on the multiplication of rental accommodation types (yurts, tipis, tents, caravans, mobile homes, etc.). Similarly, there is a rise in the range of establishments, giving birth to the concept of “glamping”, a mixture of glamor and camping. This enthusiasm has reached for a long time the French tourists, thanks in particular to more than 100 million overnight stays in 2017. This Pitchup offers the opportunity to book in a few minutes, thanks to a discount, your next holiday vacation, among 80 research filters between more than 4,200 outdoor accommodations, and 1,108 in France. In order to better understand this success-story, we met Dan Yates, the british founder.

1) What made you decide to create this reservation platform of Pitchup in 2009?

I was born and brought up on a holiday park in Devon, so it was probably inevitable I wouldn’t stray far! Each of us helped out in different areas of the business: when the internet began to take off in the late ‘90s, I jumped at the chance to create the company’s first website. Working with local web designers and skipping lectures at university to work on the project, I knew there was an opportunity for something bigger after we achieved number-one rankings in Google UK and received half of the bookings online by 2002.

After the business was sold, I kept wondering why such a large part of the travel market – the biggest type of domestic holiday by nights in the UK  – was still so neglected online. High-profile online travel agents targeting all the other categories of accommodation were growing fast: campsites were losing out as customers moved online to find their holidays. Arguably campsites were in greatest need of all, as the market is so fragmented, with limited or non-existent marketing and technology budgets.

It was only a matter of time before someone else spotted the opportunity. By 2008 I was working at lastminute.com and, witnessing the new world of online travel at first hand, realized that failing to act would be something I’d regret. In the other hand, something you wouldn’t regret would be your night at Les Cabanes de Fontaine-Châtel, in Seine-Maritime (France) in one of the charming eco-friendly treehouses in a peaceful woodland! Cherry on the cake, the breakfast hampers included… (photo credits: Pitchup).

 

2) All kinds of holiday parks are eligible to be part of the offer listing? Which services and facilities offers Pitchup, considering the customer’s reservation (the added value of Pitchup in fact).

Pitchup.com operates with a simple commission-based business model with immediate confirmation (no ‘on request’), charging no booking fees.

At the moment Pitchup.com offers more than 4,200 outdoor accommodations available in 65 countries around the world (yurts, geodesic domes, teepees, lodges, cabins, cottages, campsites and wild sites for tents) and it is available in 17 languages, thanks to a team of 30 native translators. Easier if you wish to spend your honeymoon in a Bolivian tipi, located in a scenic mountainside site above the Valley of the Flowers, only half an hour from La Paz (photo credits: Pitchup).

Pitchup.com has developed an award-winning mobile site so customers can book in a couple of minutes even when they are already travelling (in fact, bookings made via mobile on the dedicated website increased from 37% to 44% between 2017 and 2018).

Other advantages of using Pitchup include fully-automated payments – we automatically bill the customer’s card on the balance due date – as well as the ability to save your card. Other details, such as the type and size of your size, names of your party members, address and telephone number, can also be saved, making new bookings a breeze.

A simple, one-page booking process makes for a seamless “find and book” experience, which can take as little as a few minutes from start to finish. Once the booking has been made, we help with direction finders and automatically updating the customer’s online calendar.

Because Pitchup.com aggregates an eclectic range of listings, we adopted the tagline ‘Make your great escape’. This reflects each customer’s ability to craft their perfect holiday from billions of combinations, filtering results using more than 80 filters from electric pitch and dog friendly to waterslide and nearby sailing. For example, having rest in one of those cosy pods on the banks of the Savinja river in Slovenia, would be for sure a great combination!

We have even imported EU bathing water data for 20,000 EU beaches, enabling customers to see the last four years’ water quality at the beaches near their campsite.

Awards and recognitions:

The Financial Times listed Pitchup in its FT1000 ranking of Europe’s 1,000 fastest growing companies in 2019 (for the second year running). Previous awards have included Deloitte ‘Fast 50’ 2016. 

 

3) How many nights are booked through your services? How stands the French market?

8 million nights away have been booked through Pitchup.com since its launch. 2.5 million nights were booked last year only.

In 2018, Pitchup.com recorded £25 million euros in business volumes, as well as 19 million visits to the site (up to 155,000 site visits per day), among them 84,157 people who went to France via Pitchup in 2018 and 29,116 French having booked their vacation with Pitchup in 2018.

In the last 12 months( May 22 2018 – May 21 2019 compared to SPLY), France has been the second most important market in terms of bookings per country of origin. In the last 12 months bookings made by French customers – all destinations combined – have increased by 63%. This country offers a large choice of nearby activities in the club, such as yoga in La Parenthèse – Camping Les Ormes in the Périgord natural region (photo credits: Pitchup).

Growth of our international markets by bookings by origin (in the last 12 months):

  • UK: + 28%
  • FR: + 63%
  • IT: +51%
  • ES: + 42%
  • USA: +10%
  • DE: + 49%

The huge growth in France is much understandable, thanks to the originality of many site… Let’s experiment the wooden caravan life in the Camping Le Reclus, in the Vanoise National Park (photo credits: Pitchup).

In the last 12 months, bookings with France as destination (from customers from all over the world) have increased by 29%.

Growth of our international markets by bookings by destination (in the last 12 months):

  • UK: + 31%
  • FR: + 29%
  •  IT: +50%
  • ES: + 27%
  • USA: +10%
  • DE: + 47%

One of our best sellers in France (Camping Paris Est) has already received 117 bookings from January 1st, 2019. However, the Transparent pods from the Bulle d’R in the Périgord-Limousin Regional Natural Park may come over in the rank!

The fastest-growing countries in the last 12 months are European markets such as Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

 

4) How many campsites are listed on the website? Would you extend your selection to other countries? And other types of hospitality?

Every week we have new campsites from all over the world that go live on the website. Currently, we have more than 4,200 outdoor accommodations and 1,108 sites in France, available in 65 countries around the world, with plenty of amazing landscapes if you could admire this one five minutes from Ispra, at the Lake Maggiore, Italy (photo credits: Pitchup).

Destination-wise, Pitchup currently offers accommodation in 65 countries throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and ANZ, with Tanzania, Malawi and Serbia added most recently, meaning that customers can rely on Pitchup whether holidaying at home or on more intrepid trips on the other side of the world.

To reach this, Pitchup is now available in 17 languages (including Chinese, Russian and Catalan) thanks to a team of 30 native translators, and it supports 19 currencies. Among our newest destinations are:

– Brazil
Bolivia
Peru
Serbia
Montenegro
Thailand
Malawi
Zimbabwe
Then river views, wildlife spotting and fab African sunsets would be at your own view, like this Ngandu Safari Lodge, a family-friendly site in Namibia… (photo credits: Pitchup).

5) Do you notice some trends in terms of structures and equipment depending on the country, where are located those sites?

We have noticed many differences between glamping and camping and that some countries seem to like glamping more than others. 

Become a glamping addict, starting in a cosy yurt in the Kent countryside? Surrounded by farmland and a half-hour walk from the beach, at Daleacres Experience Freedom Glamping ⁣(photo credits: Pitchup).

General trends:

– 62% of glamping bookings made by women. This compares to only 49% of overall camping trips booked by women.
– Average group size: 3.2 people, larger than the average camping group of 2.9 people.
– 44% of groups are adult-only, with no children in the party. This compares to 58% for the average camping trip.

There are some countries that are growing most rapidly based on bookings for glamping accommodation. Over the last year, annual growth has been highest in:

  • Italy (200%)
  • Republic of Ireland (+111%)
  • The Netherlands (+67)
  • Other fast-growing destinations include South Africa, Germany, USA and Australia.

 

6) Do you also notice some trends in habits regarding your customers, depending on their origin area?

General trends for all customers:

  • Camping and caravanning are moving younger/ more up market.
  • Growth in environmental awareness, desire for simplicity, provenance, authentic experiences, outdoor activity holidays, spontaneity and short breaks, improving facilities and glamping.

We have carried out a booking analysis by country of origin and there are quite a few differences among the countries.

The stay length is on average 3.9 days for France while it is only 2.9 for UK customers, 3.2 for Germany, 3.0 for Spanish customers and 3.3 for Italian customers, so it seems that French are booking longer stays.
The lead time (days before arrival) is 35.2 for France, 34 for the UK, 23.4 for Spain, 26.1 for Italy and for 42.4 Germany, so it seems that German customers prefer to plan their holidays more in advance.
If we take the % of bookings with no children, on average, UK has 53%, France 62%, Spain 63%, Italy 62% and Germany 62%, so it seems that British customers are more likely to bring children on holiday.

The Volkswagen Van was one of the pioneer vectors for camping lifestyle and glamping. Why not renting one heading to the Back-of-Beyond Touring Park in Dorset? There would be over a 30-acre wildlife haven and free fishing on the site’s own lakes and rivers (photo credits: Pitchup).

 

7) What are your future projects in order to develop Pitchup? An application maybe?

Our aim is to be the international online travel agent for outdoor accommodation globally, so we will remain focused on our international business with the aim of it reaching 50% of revenue over the next couple of years.

To achieve this, we will be signing up campsites to match our portfolio more closely to patterns of global camping demand. In Europe, we’re particularly looking to expand in France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands, as well as in the US, the largest camping market in the world. We’ve also recently launched marketing initiatives in most of our new territories to raise awareness of Pitchup and attract both campsites and bookings, like in Croatia with this incredible luxury treehouse, 30 minutes’ drive from Dubrovnik (photo credits: Pitchup).

Integration is always a priority for our clients to enable them to maintain vacancies and import bookings automatically. We now have links with over 45 campsite booking systems, with more to come to enhance the booking process for both campsites and customers.

Although we used to offer a traditional app, customers preferred to use our mobile site by a margin of 15 to 1, so we now offer this as a ‘progressive web app’, downloadable from the browser in the same way as a traditional (‘native’) app.

Finally, although we’re making improvements continuously to our websites, a more significant redesign will go live later in 2019 with an entirely new look and feel. We are lucky to be working in a highly innovative sector with plenty of inspirational imagery and will project that with a fresh, clean look ready for the 2019 summer season. It would be the occasion to admire the horizon from the Cerenety Eco Campsite in Bude, Ireland (photo credits: Pitchup).

We want to remain pragmatic, and not make the mistake of wanting to do everything at the same time. Before thinking of selling transport or other services, we want to continue to open new sites, new destinations, and first of all in France, the largest market for outdoor hotels in our top priority. 

For starting your Pitchup adventure, one click into the official website!

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