LONDON — This summer season, Louise Towers and her associate are loading their 4 kids and Nellie the canine right into a camper van for their annual vacation. It’s an honored custom: Each of the previous 5 summers, they took a street journey via continental Europe in a home-on-wheels.
But this 12 months is totally different. Ms. Towers, 48, and her household will stick nearer to house. Specifically, they’ll be at a campsite in Wales, “just an hour down the road.”
Traveling abroad simply doesn’t really feel protected through the pandemic, Ms. Towers mentioned.
Across the nation, in numbers that journey companies say that they had hardly ever seen earlier than, lockdown-freed Britons should not solely staying near house this trip season however spending it in motor properties, campers, campsites and glampsites. Vacationers are turning to tenting as the vacation of selection for some social distancing within the nice outdoor.
“For the first time in the U.K., owning a caravan is kind of cool,” mentioned Gareth Mills, a 38-year-old father who lives on the English seaside, referring to massive, boxy campers or motor properties. “Some of my parents’ friends who are caravan club enthusiasts, they are very smug at the moment.”
Mr. Mills and his spouse and two younger kids have delay a deliberate household journey overseas and can head as an alternative to a caravan park in September. “We’re trading Greece for Devon,” he mentioned.
Hotels have largely reopened in England, however a lot of them are at 30 to 40 p.c occupancy, with common areas similar to Cornwall and elsewhere within the southwest faring higher, mentioned Patricia Yates, a director on the tourism group Go toBritain.
Still, issues about crowds have saved many away from historically crowded shoreline spots.
“People are looking to go to the countryside,” mentioned Kay Barriball, the chair of Farm Stay U.Okay., a corporation whose members provide lodging, tenting and different rural lodging.
Many are looking for a “relatively safe place to have a break,” Ms. Barriball mentioned.
Finding a spot for your caravan or tent could also be extra aggressive, as demand has surged. During a current weekend, Pitchup.com, a reserving website for tenting spots, recorded 6,100 bookings, virtually double the quantity from the identical weekend in 2019.
“We think that this sector is relatively well positioned,” mentioned Dan Yates, the enterprise’s founder.
Camping has deep roots in Britain. The man thought of the daddy of recent tenting, Thomas Hiram Holding, was a touring London tailor whose 1908 how-to, “The Camper’s Handbook,” documents the joys of self-reliance and getting away from it all, inspiring generations. About the same time, the Boy Scouts were started in Britain, followed by the Girl Guides a couple of years later.
Caravan parks across Britain have been flooded with bookings for the traditional summer period and into the fall, according to the National Caravan Council, an industry group. Parkdean Resorts, which operates 67 parks across the country, reported a 140 percent rise from last year at its parks in Devon.
Huw Pendleton, the managing director of Celtic Holiday Parks in Wales, said he hadn’t seen anything like it in his two decades in the industry.
“We’re sold out pretty much through to September, with little or no availability now this season for the top-end lodges and glamping with hot tubs,” he said.
Ms. Towers, too, noticed how popular motor homes seemed to have become when she tried to sell her old one in the pandemic. She and her family were planning to buy a camper van instead to comfortably fit the whole family.
In March, she said, there was hardly any interest in her motor home, but in June she sold the vehicle within 24 hours. “There’s obviously a really high demand,” she said.
Other businesses are reporting similar increases. The Caravan and Motorhome Club said its site bookings were up more than 35 percent this summer. Canopy & Stars, a British travel agency that offers luxury camping, saw a 230 percent increase in traffic to its website, the company said. It added that it had its best booking day in 10 years when England lifted lockdown restrictions in July.
The surge is helping many of the companies balance out a sharp loss of business in the spring and early summer, before the lockdown eased.
Lindsay Berresford, the owner of Quirky Campers, a business in Bristol that rents out customized caravans, can usually count on the Glastonbury Festival in June as its largest revenue generator. An outdoor, weeklong gathering for music and other performing arts on a farm in Somerset, Glastonbury often draws about 200,000 people, including many campers. When it was canceled because of the pandemic, Quirky Campers lost nearly 400,000 pounds (about $520,000) in bookings, and staff members were furloughed, Ms. Berresford said.
Now business is back, and some vacationers are extending the season.
“We’re seeing bookings until the end of October, which is kind of unheard-of at this point in the year,” Ms. Berresford said.
Tourism experts say domestic vacations in Britain used to attract primarily older people and families with young children. Now, “we’ve seen a slightly different demographic,” said Ms. Yates of VisitBritain, as young adults forgo trips to the continent or farther for more local adventures.
Clem Balfour, a London native living in Bristol, recently spent 10 days exploring the southwest coast in a rented van. She had once rented a van for a vacation in Australia, but this was the longest vacation she had taken in England, she said.
“We had just as good a time in Cornwall as traveling a van in Australia,” Ms. Balfour, 34, said.
Carys Riley, 28, had never rented a camper van until this summer.
At the height of the pandemic, she was working as an intensive-care nurse at a hospital in the north of England. The unit’s bed capacity more than doubled as the coronavirus raged, her days stretching to 12 hours. When she could finally take time off, Ms. Riley was too scared to book anything abroad, she said.
“Having the camper van and our own space gave us a bit of reassurance so we didn’t have to interact with hotels,” said Ms. Riley, who drove more than 300 miles to Cornwall with her boyfriend.
“The beaches were full,” she said, “which isn’t ideal in a pandemic, but it was lovely.”