What can caravanners expect from lockdown easing?

We all have questions about what will happen when lockdown is lifted – we take a look at what we can expect over the next few months.

When will campsites open?

Under the UK government’s guidelines issued on 11 May, it looks as if businesses offering accommodation will not be allowed to reopen in England until the beginning of July, and even then only if the government’s strategy for containing Covid-19 appears to be working.

But there is a strong possibility reopening times will differ in different parts of the UK.
While the Scottish Government is to start lifting its restrictions from 28 May, it looks as if tourism businesses such as caravan parks will not be allowed to reopen until the third of its four planned phases, which currently looks like some time in mid-August.

Northern Ireland has adopted a similar phased system to Scotland, with no dates (although caravan parks in the Irish Republic have provisionally been told that they can open on 20 July).
Wales is introducing a traffic light system, with different business sectors possibly being allowed to resume at different times, although there is as yet no formal date for when caravan parks can reopen.

Certainly the two main caravanning clubs, the Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club, say they are currently working towards early July as a time when there might be limited opening on some sites.

How will campsites open?

The clubs say they are still waiting for briefing documents from the government before they can assess exactly how their sites can reopen. Certainly social distancing rules will still have to be in place, so how this might affect such things as campsite events or rallies remains to be seen.

A spokesman for the British Holiday and Home Parks Association (BH&HPA) said it believed that parks would be more likely to open for static home residents only first, because their units are more self-contained. Communal areas such as washrooms, he said, would be likely to remain closed for much longer. So you may have to rely on the washroom facilities within your caravan.

Haven Holidays, one of the UK’s biggest operators, is keeping all its sites closed until 2 July, but for the rest of this year will only be reopening them as Haven Hideaways – with the takeaway, launderette and shop opened, but the bar and restaurant closed and not activities or entertainment.

What about smaller operators? Guy Hodgkin, founder and director of our Top 100 winner, Concierge Camping in West Sussex, says many caravan visitors to his park are perfectly capable of self-isolating within their vehicles (even with the superior washrooms he he has at his park) so he will be happy to see motorhomes return.

Even still, he has installed hand sanitisers at the entrance to each of his washblocks. “We honestly think that anyone who refuses to use them will be asked to leave,” he says.

Tyddyn Isaf Caravan Park in Anglesey has also installed hand sanitisers, and plans to use them on things like key fobs too. Hayley Mount Leonard from the park thinks monitoring how effectively they are used by people going into a washblock is going to be difficult, and wonders how easy it will be to install social distancing measures in a relatively small caravan park shop.

She thinks mobile homes (which take up much of her site) may open first, although she thinks tourers could also come back soon. She doubts if tents will be allowed to return at all this year.

Both parks are offering refunds to customers who may have already booked, but only as a last resort, with credit or vouchers being a preferred option. Concierge Camping is even offering a 10% discount to anyone who is happy to defer their booking for some time later in the next 24 months.

Both parks are also expecting a very busy autumn period this year, particularly around the October half term.

Clachtoll Beach Campsite near Lochinver in northern Scotland is hoping for something similar too. Co-owner Tom Lochhead says they are currently hoping to reopen some time in mid-July, but could extend their opening season until early November – and then, for the first time ever, open up again for a week over the New Year, following hot demand. He is reasonably positive. “We currently have a 99% rebooking rate,” he says.

Over in Northern Ireland, Cathal O’Dolan, of Rushin House Caravan Park in County Fermanagh, is disappointed that caravan parks were not even mentioned in the Northern Ireland Executive’s published routemap out of the lockdown. He can’t see how even when his park is allowed to reopen it will be possible to open the washblocks. But he says customers he has spoken to are quite happy to use their own facilities. And he plans to stay open later than usual this year to make up for what he already knows is going to be increased demand.