Farmers develop App to help campers easily find a site
Twenty farmers and landowners who run small campsites licensed by the Caravan & Motorhome Club have successfully designed, developed and launched a mobile App and website that allows caravanners to check availability and book a pitch on their sites.
The small 5-pitch caravan site we have on our farm is a vital part of our farm diversification, said Nicola Wetherill from Skybarn Farm in Lincolnshire. Ensuring we get good occupancy and helping campers find a site that suits them was the driving force behind the development of this App.
On the one hand we were taking phone calls from campers looking for a site, only to tell them that our site was full, or on the other hand, when we had space due to an unexpected cancellation we then had to advertise the space again on social media at short notice. Not something you can do very easily when you are busy farming.
Over the winter we got together with fellow farmers and landowners and realised there was a need in the marketplace. Some research kindly done by an A-level student son of one of the group determined that 49% of caravanners wanted to book online. After a couple of zoom-meetings and some research we found a developer who was happy to take the risk and do the work and I’m pleased to say it’s been a remarkable success.
“So far we have 115 sites – many based on farms – across the UK listing their availability in real-time” said Ted Howard-Jones, a farmer from Buckinghamshire. “We’re solving a problem for campers looking for a pitch for their caravan or motorhome and for farmers operating or running these sites who are looking to increase their occupancy or fill a cancellation”.
How many people are using it?
Over 8,000 campers have already registered to use the App, we have 18,000 followers on Facebook and so far we have generated over £70,000 worth of bookings.
What does it cost the farmer?
Unlike some other websites we’re not taking any commission on bookings. We simply ask each site owner to list their site and keep their availability up to date for a low monthly fee of £12.50, this is less than the average per-night pitch fee, meaning most sites will only need to have 10-12 nights booked via the website to cover their annual cost of listing. “It’s a no-brainer” said Julian Bailey, who runs one of the sites near the New Forest in Hampshire.
Although the Caravan & Motorhome Club, which oversees these sites provides a booking system for their larger club-owned sites, they haven’t had the resources or time to work with the 2,000 or so smaller sites during the Covid pandemic.
Who else benefits from this?
It’s not just the farmers who benefit. These small sites are often in very rural locations and their local economies such as village pubs and farm shops for example, also benefit greatly from visitors. In fact some research entitled ‘Pitching The Value’ conducted by Frontline Consultants and sponsored by an array of interested bodies including the Caravan & Motorhome club concluded that small campsites contribute £100 Million per annum to the rural economy.
What the customers say
Members of the Club call these sites ‘Little Gems’ and value them for the space they oer and their connection to the rural environment and communities. But finding out if they have space, or the right facilities has been particularly frustrating recently with members having to call the sites often to find they are full.
Typical comments from the users….
Steven Gibson – Brilliant, hopefully this will be the end of spending hours phoning around for availability
Avril Lazenby – This website was a great help in finding a pitch at very short notice due to family illness. Found a site and booked it within minutes. Thank you.
Simon Milner – Brilliant idea and I am sure it will gain many more owners on board. For people like myself the idea of going away for a couple of nights is very appealing but dicult to plan due to work commitments. To be able to see local CL’s that have free pitches on a Friday lunchtime is ideal.
How does it work?
CL Booking mimics the functionality customers have all started to expect from sites like AirBnB, meaning you’ll get all the information you, as a camper, need to know such as price, facilities and photos.
For the 115 CL site owners that have listed so far, the app allows them to quickly and easily advertise their site to thousands of campers. “With Covid, many people have had to change their plans at the last minute which means late-cancellations are a real issue for us” said Ted Howard-Jones, owner of Cholsey Grange and the leader of the consortium of farmers and landowners behind CL Booking. “With the App, if I get a cancellation I can immediately update my site availability to thousands of members with just one click, so much easier than having to go onto Facebook and create a post, or just hope the phone will ring”.
The key dierence between CL Booking and the plethora of other campsite listing sites out there is that it shows availability. We’re also ensuring that sites list themselves accurately with descriptions, features and photos and helping the user find a site that suits their needs with filters (such as CLs with Toilets or those who welcome dogs) . It is saving campers and site owners time by providing both parties with the information they need.
We’re adding new CL sites to the website every week, said Ted Howard-Jones. When owners realise we not only list them on the website, but also provide a full package of support, marketing advice and promotion they quickly appreciate the benefits and see that their listing fee (just £12.50 a month at present) is rapidly recouped.
Founded in 1907, the Caravan and Motorhome Club represents the interests of over one million caravanners, motorhomers and trailer tent owners across the UK. It has 2,200 Certificated Locations (CLs) in its network. CL sites are independently run, often by farmers, and are restricted to just 5 pitches. To book a CL site you need to be a member of the club with a valid club membership number.
Harvey Alexander, Director of Marketing and Membership Services at the Caravan and Motorhome Club says: “Our Certificated Location (CL) network is the jewel in the Club’s sites network crown. Our members love holidaying at Certificated Locations and many members cite the CL network as the reason they joined the Club. The Caravan & Motorhome Club provides the certification (planning permission) for these small rural sites to operate, inspects them annually to ensure basic standards are met and advertises them in its directories, but encourages owners of the sites to manage them independently of the Club. The club operates online booking for its own club sites but does not get involved in the day-to-day running of the Certificated Locations provided they meet their rules and conditions regarding certification.
CL Booking was envisaged by Ted Howard-Jones, owner of an award-winning CL site called Cholsey Grange in Buckinghamshire in 2020. Supported by 20 other CL owners who have contributed to the development costs, CL Booking has been designed to help all CL site owners who wish to be listed and Caravan & Motorhome Club Members find, view and book the CL site of their choice quickly and eciently.
Frequently Asked Questions
CL Booking is an ENQUIRY system for CLs across the UK. It is NOT a full-blown booking system per se. A booking system that takes payments may follow, but for the moment, you will only see the provisional availability for each CL site.
NOTE, you MUST confirm with the owner of the site you wish to visit (and we recommend that you do this in writing) that they DO indeed have a pitch for you and then CONFIRM your booking with them, and pay a deposit if requested.
The reason the availability on CL Booking may be out of date is that the owner may have taken a telephone booking, and not yet had a chance to update the system.
CAN I USE THE SAME LOGIN DETAILS AS ON THE CLUB WEBSITE
No. This website /App is completely separate from the CAMC website where you can book Club sites. As you will see below, this website is independently run, although we encourage all users to be CAMC members and will ask you for your Club Membership Number when you book any CL site.
SO HOW DOES CL BOOKING WORK?
1 – Enter the destination you wish to visit (or if you’re not sure, just enter for example ‘England’) 2 – If you have dates in mind enter your arrival and departure dates
3 – Review the CL sites that meet your search terms.
TIP: As you zoom out on the map more CLs will appear.
KEY: Those marked green are provisionally available for your dates. Sites marked red are not available. Sites in white have not yet provided their availability information, so may be available.
IF I MAKE AN ENQUIRY – IS IT CONFIRMED?
NO. Your pitch is NOT confirmed until you have heard back from the CL (site owner) that they have accepted your booking and you have paid (if requested) a deposit. CL BOOKING is only an enquiry facility. We will endeavour – on a best-efforts basis – to ask site owners to keep their availability as up to date as possible, but please DO NOT RELY on this.
MAKE ENQUIRY: Check the facilities of the CL that meet your needs and then press the ‘Enquire Now’ button.
If the CL site has online booking it’ll take you directly to their system. You can then make a direct booking.
Alternatively, you’ll make an Enquiry by completing your profile (your details will be stored for future enquiries) which will be sent to the owner by email who should respond within 1-24 hours. You’ll immediately receive a confirmation email (with the site contact details) and the site owner can then choose to accept your enquiry and proceed to book you in, or may need to reject your booking, in which case they will say why.
I HAVE CLICKED ON GREEN (AVAILABLE) DATES BUT CANNOT MAKE AN ENQUIRY Although the Site you have chosen may have pitches available on those dates, a single pitch may not have continuous availability. Try booking a shorter stay, or contact the CL to discuss whether they can juggle bookings around to fit you in.
DOES THIS COST ME ANYTHING
No. It’s entirely free for members of the Caravan & Motorhome Club.
WHO DESIGNED CL BOOKING
CL Booking has been designed and funded by a consortium of 20 CL site owners.
HOW IS CL BOOKING DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SITE LISTING SERVICES?
Two key reasons;
+ No other listing site provides up-to-date availability information from CL sites
+ Other listing sites are ‘general’ and not specifically tailored to CAMC members
In addition, we will address some of the frequent concerns that both Members and Owners experience on other lists of campsites.
We will ensure that each CL site has photographs and encourage a full description of the site itself, its location, local attractions and price.
For owners, CL Booking has been designed to be self-administering, meaning that owners can upload photos (and even a video) easily and quickly with no reformatting or resizing, they can adjust the location of their site entrance (ensuring members don’t get lost) add a What 3 Words location, and if they have a booking system, ‘connect’ their availability to CL Booking automatically.
WHO PAYS FOR CL BOOKING?
CL Owners will pay a small (fixed) sum per month to be on the system. CL booking, although similar to Pitch Up or AirBnB does not charge any commission per enquiry, it’s a known, fixed cost that is akin to the average price of 1 pitch night on a CL.
DO I HAVE TO BE A MEMBER OF THE CARAVAN & MOTORHOME CLUB
Yes. CLs can only be booked by current members. CL owners will check your membership number. If you are not a member, please join the club. There is a link at the bottom of this website.
HOW CAN I ACCESS CL BOOKING? Website, iPhone App, Android App. All free.
WHAT INFORMATION DO YOU KEEP?
I NEED THE CONTACT DETAILS FOR THE CL SITE
You’ll receive these when you make an enquiry (in your confirmation email), but contact details (just like on other platforms) are masked until you make an enquiry.
HOW CAN I LEAVE A REVIEW?
CL Booking does not yet incorporate this functionality. We will look to add a member star-rating or review option in the future if demand and resources allow. For the moment we suggest you read reviews on the club website and if you have enjoyed your visit to a CL, leave a review.
HOW CAN I REPORT INACCURATE INFORMATION SUCH AS PRICE OR FACILITIES?
We will endeavour to ensure that information uploaded by CL owners is accurate and we will remind them on a regular basis to ensure this. However, if you think something is amiss, please notify us by email email@example.com ensuring you provide the name and postcode of the site in question.
HOW CAN I REPORT NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE 5-VAN RULE
Certificated Locations should only accommodate 5 vans overnight within the curtilage (boundary) of the CL. Note that some sites run an adjacent commercial site. This can be a complex issue. Our recommendation in the first instance is to speak to the CL owner as there may be extenuating circumstances (such as the illness of a visitor, or a breakdown). If you still feel that the matter needs looking into please do so in a confidential manner (ie not via social media) by emailing the CL team at the Caravan & Motorhome Club with the name & postcode of the CL (many CLs have similar names), evidence (photos if you have them) and a description of the issue including dates. Email your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org You will receive an acknowledgement. Note that CL Booking will not become involved as this is a compliance issue and is strictly handled by the Club.
WHAT’S NEXT AND HOW CAN YOU HELP WITH CL BOOKING?
With the 2021 staycation now in full swing, our goal has been to get a functional service to you, the member, as quickly as possible. We know there are many bells and whistles we can add to this service to improve the experience and provide you with more options, such as filtering the searches. These features will come. We’d love your feedback and aim to continuously improve the user experience. This is a journey, and we hope you’ll be part of it. Please send your feedback to email@example.com
SPREAD THE WORD
Please spread the word about CL booking to other club members and CL owners. The more CLs that take part the more choice of pitches you’ll have to visit.