The Caravan Club is Europe’s premier touring organisation representing the interests of over one million caravanners, motorhomers and trailer tenters.
The Caravan Club offers a great range of benefits, special offers, quality products and services that enable people to enjoy holidays both in the UK and abroad. Membership to The Club enables holidaymakers to pitch up in stunning locations and enjoy member discounts at over 200 Club sites and 2,500 small five van, privately owned places to stay. The Club has also researched all of the top worldwide tour operators and has hand-picked the very best selection of once-in-a-lifetime adventures for members in countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Australia and America. We caught up with their Director of Marketing to find out more.
LM: Please give our readers a brief overview of your role at the Caravan Club.
HA: The role is great…encouraging more people to join the best touring club in Europe. The challenge is to help potential members understand what a wonderful Club we run and the benefits of being part of an organisation that has a loyal membership who share common values and a passion for the great outdoors.
What excites me about my role is how we are going to appeal to the next generation of tourer. What will the younger more digitally savvy member want in the future? We must align our values with the next generation’s expectations. If experience has taught me anything it’s that our expectations have grown. As consumers, we all want better experiences and more value for our hard earned money. With over 200 sites in the UK, 250 across the continent and our newly launched international tours, I am in the right place to deliver our existing and new members increased expectations.
LM: What are your career highlights?
HA: Challenges are my career highlights! I’ve spent a number of years in Marketing and Sales and the challenges I’ve faced have given me an overwhelming sense of purpose and satisfaction. My first real challenge was very early on in my career when I worked for a traditional marketing agency. My boss at the time (a great man who loved challenge and to push me hard to see what I was made of) challenged me to set up a digital web business within his agency. This meant working most evenings and every weekend for a year. The end result, however, was a successful digital business with a sustainable portfolio of clients and is today the bedrock of the whole agency.
My next move was into the fast-paced world of mobile phones. If you are lacking a sense of urgency or challenge, go and work in mobile phones for a few years. The rest of your career will feel reasonably paced! Having worked closely with all of the major networks in the UK (including the likes of O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and 3), my greatest challenge was to win the hearts and minds of the board and my corporate sales force to focus on data and digital. The networks had predicted it was the future! Well, they weren’t wrong and the company I work for now is strategic data partner for O2 and boasts one of the largest data accounts in the UK.
Most recently at Eurotunnel I managed to achieve the 6th best consecutive summer performance EVER and the best year EVER in 2014 so it was a good time to leave and move onto new horizons. At The Caravan Club, we have just achieved one of our best performing booking days taking nearly 60,000 bookings in day, at 8am we were taking a site booking every 10 seconds!
LM: The organisation owns a significant quantity of land in the UK. When and why was it acquired?
HA: The Caravan Club network comprises over 200 sites throughout the UK ranging in size from 2.5 to 63 acres.
These sites offer a wide variety of locations and breadth of facilities and have been developed at a pitch density which is significantly lower than the average commercial site. Most sites have substantial areas of indigenous tree and shrub planting to enhance their biodiversity making them very popular destinations for bird watchers. Red squirrels and otters are among the many species of wildlife who are regular visitors – in addition of course to our many members!
This portfolio of quality locations has been acquired, developed and regularly improved over many years, with some dating back to the early 1950s, the first one being at Crystal Palace in South London. No two sites are the same, but each and every one has been acquired for is strategic position as part of the nationwide network and is subsequently developed and improved to maximise its appeal to the modern holiday maker wishing to enjoy the great outdoors.
LM: The Caravan Club counts celebrities amongst its clients. Could you give us a few pointers as to who they are?
HA: The Caravan Club represents over one million caravanners, motorhomers and trailer tenters. We have people in membership from all walks of life. Many celebrities use caravans and motorhomes when filming, and many also use them for their leisure time and holidays. Celebrities such as Rowland Rivron, Mark Blundell, Patrick Duffy, Jason Robinson and Vicki Michelle all regularly enjoy touring holidays both here in the UK and abroad. We are very fortunate that our celebrity ambassadors really do love working with us and they are great advocates for this pastime.
LM: What are the ultimate and most extravagant caravans on the market today?
HA: There is quite a range to choose from, some of the large American-style RV’s can cost in excess of £250k, they have slide-out sides, under floor heating and some even have Jacuzzis! Airstream is an iconic Travel Trailer (caravan), they have been sold in the UK for 10 years and there are around 750 of them on UK roads, including vintage models. The European model range starts with the single axle caravan costing around £59k. Nearly 50% of Airstream owners tow with Land Rovers.
LM: Where are the most luxurious camping facilities?
HA: Luxury can mean different things to different people. Caravanning in the UK or Europe means I can wake up, look out of the window and see hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, the sea, rolling hills – that to me is the ultimate luxury – knowing it is all there for me to explore. People take their caravans or motorhomes with them, all have luxurious home comforts and knowing you can pitch them in places where you would never find a hotel is fantastic and very liberating – it really is the definition of freedom.
LM: Which high-end vehicles are used to tow today’s caravans?
HA: Each year The Caravan Club holds The Caravan Club Towcar of the Year competition. Vehicle manufacturers are invited to submit cars for testing, which takes place at Millbrook Proving Ground – arguably the best car testing facility in the country. Cars are carefully scrutinised by five expert driving judges to assess the suitability as a towing vehicle. The Caravan Club Towcar of the Year Champion for 2016 is the Land Rover Discovery HSE LUX.
LM: Have you ever owned an Airstream, and what proportion of your members own them?
HA: Sadly I have never owned an Airstream – they are so distinct and have a truly iconic design. Due to the number that are sold in the UK, it is a small proportion of our membership that tours in them, but they are unmissable when you see them on a campsite.
LM: During your spare time, which luxurious destinations do you like to travel to?
HA: For me luxury is the environment, the surroundings and most importantly the experience. In that sense, my idea of luxury is the Lake District and all of its stunning scenery. Whenever I can, I like to get out on my road bike and challenge myself with the breath-taking (literally) climbs of Wrynos Pass and relax at the picturesque riverside cafe at Skelwith Bridge. They have the most exquisite selection of cakes and coffees in the whole of Cumbria! Perfect for a quick snack and a doze after a full day’s riding!
Looking further afield, I don’t think you can beat Canada. The formidable mountain ranges and national parks make Canada a year-round adventure playground. Skiing in Whistler is a particular favourite of mine. I love Whistler Village at the start of the season. The rich eclectic architecture of Whistler Village complements the glistening Blackcomb mountains.
The Caravan Club also offers a series of Worldwide Tours so people can tour around New Zealand, Australia, America and Canada in motorhomes.
LM: What is your ultimate luxury in life?
HA: Time. I never have enough of it! Which is why I probably have so many watches. There is something about a beautifully crafted timepiece that resonates with me. I have a number of watches (I can’t divulge how many in case my wife is reading this article), each one special in its own way, and fit for its purpose. My nemesis is the Apple watch. I desperately want to buy an Apple watch, however I am worried that if I do, it could be the last watch I ever wear!
The Caravan Club – Where and How?
For more information on The Caravan Club, visit www.caravanclub.co.uk.
About Simon Wittenberg