The ocean is only 15 kilometers away but it’s already too far to compete with the coastal resorts. The quiet city of Quimperlé (Finistère) plans to sell its small campsite with 40 pitches, which certainly had its regulars but has an operating deficit of €20,000 per year. “It is well maintained, we are keen on it, but the financial context is too difficult,” explains Nadine Constantino, deputy mayor in charge of tourism for nine years. The elected representative evokes the reduction in state grants and the increase in energy prices. In addition to the financial aspect, the choice to part with it is also motivated by the difficulty of finding staff. “We need to find three seasonal workers per summer and last year, one of them left after ten days. »
Like Quimperlé, several municipalities that are not located on an exceptional tourist site are selling or closing their campsites. According to figures from the National Federation of Open Air Hotels (FNHPA), the number of campsites in France has increased from 9,000 to 7,500 in twenty years (read the benchmarks). Half of the closures concern municipal campsites, the number of which has fallen to around 2,700. A very damaging situation, estimates Nicolas Dayot, president of the FNHPA. “A campsite that closes does not reopen, and creating new ones is more and more difficult with the scarcity of land. Losing a hundred campsites a year is madness. According to him, the mayors underestimate what is at stake. Indeed, at the Association of Mayors of France (AMF), this is not a subject on the agenda. “It’s a sector that is becoming more professional without posing any problems, unlike the development of Airbnb”, reacts Alain Chrétien, mayor of Vesoul (Haute-Saône) and in charge of the AMF’s tourism commission.
In fact, many municipalities choose to switch to private management, most often via public service delegation but also by resorting to commercial leases. The FNHPA has just published a guide to help elected officials find their way around. For Nicolas Dayot, the public-private partnership saves small rural campsites by allowing them to move upmarket.
“When you’re not on a very attractive site, the only solution is to provide equipment such as a swimming pool, which requires investment. If such a prospect is not ruled out, it nevertheless leaves Nadine Constantino skeptical. In Quimperlé, pitches cost €17 per night for a family with two children. “If we equip, the prices will rise and if we find ourselves at the level of those by the sea, will we be competitive? asks the chosen one. This modest “two star” also embodies a certain idea of a simple and quiet holiday. Nicolas Dayot wishes to recall the little-known sociology of customers. “Camping attracts the working classes as much as it did forty years ago,” he says. Contrary to popular belief, they are the ones who frequent well-equipped five-star campsites the most. The fact remains that municipalities often remain the only accessible solution for travelers passing through or for low-income households who rent a permanent location. A tourism that municipalities intend to preserve, like Bas-en-Basset in Haute-Loire.
Of the 457 pitches, 366 are rented out year-round. “We have a lot of families from the agglomeration of Saint-Etienne or Lyon”, specifies Catherine Blangarin, deputy mayor in charge of attractiveness. For a price of 1,200 to 1,550 €, they settle there in a caravan or mobile home. “It’s the price of a week in the South”, laughs the chosen one.
Although protected from the whims of the Loire by a dyke, the classification of the land as a flood zone prevents the construction of facilities such as a swimming pool. The municipality has begun a reflection on its future but does not currently plan to entrust it to the private sector. “We are doing well and it brings money to the municipality, welcomes the elected official. It’s a bit aging audience, but the atmosphere is friendly and it’s an asset for businesses. In summer, Bas-en-Basset goes from 4,600 to almost 9,000 inhabitants.