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Harvey Alexander interview: People are falling back in love with touring the UK. The Director of Marketing at The Caravan and Motorhome Club has been talking at length with CaravanTimes

by Tom Leaning of Caravan Times

CaravanTimes recently caught up with Harvey Alexander, Director of Marketing at the Caravan and Motorhome Club, who has just returned from participating in the JustGo motorhome re-location programme with his family.

Mr Alexander also discussed what he attributes the Club’s record year (2016) to, in terms of member retention and acquisition, what he believes clubs and organisations can do to continue this growth and how the Club is attracting younger members.

Here’s the interview transcript below:

“We picked up a motorhome from a company called JustGo, and drove it back through Italy, Switzerland and France, stopping at 4-5 of our sites along the way, and brought it to the UK where it will spend another year touring the UK.”

On how long the holiday took and what the highlights were:

“So, you can take anywhere from up to 14 days. We took 5 days. Some of the highlights were just the driving through Italy and Switzerland, which was inspiring. It wasn’t a chore at all. When you think of driving around the M25 on a bank holiday, it sends a shiver down your spine. But when you’re out there in a motorhome, you’re high up and you’re touring and you’re really stopping wherever you feel you want to. It was just amazing. We stayed at some really stunning sites: one on the edge of Lake Como, where you’re literally by the water, lovely surroundings, there’s mountains in the background, the kids were playing football outside the motorhome, as they do. And then, from there we went on through Switzerland and ended up in the Morvan forest in France – again, one of the most stunning landscapes you’ll see. And we stayed at this tiny little site, with probably 20 or more pitches; just a really lovely setting in the forest, a fishing lake at the bottom of the site. [It just us] the ability to escape the pace of everyday life, to simplify things and get back to nature – it was just incredible, a real treat.

On the JustGo motorhome re-location programme:

“JustGo offer this to anyone who wants to try and drive a motorhome across Europe. They do it every year to bring their new fleet back to the UK, and we did it as a bit of a trial for our members to really see how we can make that the best experience it can be, in terms of getting the right routes for people, and giving them the opportunity to build their memories.”

On what he attributes the CAMC’s record year (2016) to, in terms of member retention and the acquisition of new members:

“It’s really interesting. We’ve seen record amounts of new members joining. Also, we’ve seen 90 per cent of existing members staying with The Club. And I suppose what’s most important to us is the fact that we’ve had a record amount of members touring our sites network across the UK. So I think it really comes down to our members loving what they’re doing, and enjoying it so much that they’re extending their season. Our last quarter of 2016 – October, November, December – was one of our best last quarters ever. So, it’s just incredible. We’ve got 40 per cent of members coming in who own a motorhome now, which is really interesting because they’re changing the dynamic and we’re seeing that motorhomers tour later into the season, which is great. So, we need to make sure that our sites are ready for the caravanners and the motorhomers, trailer-tents, whoever wants to come, but making sure we’re always staying relevant for that touring member.”

On what clubs and organisations can do to make sure these positive results continue:

“Well, I suppose the key thing, in this digital age, is we’ve got to keep inspiring people to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s about recharging. We attribute quite a lot of the increase down to shorter breaks. We have members who love their summer holidays with the Club or their Easter breaks, but it’s also down to the members who decide on a Friday night who say “d’you know what? Let’s just go away for a few days this weekend. Let’s recharge. Let’s get back to nature, and enjoy ourselves” rather than getting caught in that daily grind. We all feel that it all goes too quick and you’ve never got enough time to do anything, but I find myself if you just put that bit of effort in to just stop, go away – it doesn’t even have to be that far – I live in Rochester and we’ve got some wonderful sites around Kent. I go to Daleacres in Hythe or Bearsted – they’re literally 45 minutes away. But what it means is we can go and we can be in the middle of a lovely countryside park, within for 40 mins to an hour, where we’re just enjoying time as a family.”

On attracting younger members:

“I think that if you go around any of the shows and you look at these caravans and motorhomes, they’re anything but basic. They are homes from home. Some of them offer more luxury than their own homes. And I think that the fact is with all the latest mod-cons where you’ve got the proper heating in there, you’ve got cooking facilities, you’ve got digital [equipment] in there. It just helps people enjoy the great outdoors without feeling compromise. We’ve just come off the back of sponsoring the UK surfing championships down in Cornwall. The age group there is obviously not a typical age group for the Club, but they all love Club sites, they all love being part of the Club because we’ve got 40-odd locations that are near the greatest surfing resorts across the UK. So, I think it’s about being relevant for members and those people thinking of joining and creating that relevancy for them because there has been a stigma attached in the past that [the Club] was just for retired people, but I’m 40+ with a young family, and I guarantee you the best holidays we have are when we get the motorhome out or the caravan and we go down to the coast and we just have a great weekend.”

On falling back in love with the UK:

“We have recognised that people are starting to enjoy the UK more. They’re falling back in love with the UK. And that’s really the spirit of the Club in terms of touring. So, I think it’s important to recognise that, that they’re so much on our doorstep to explore.”

For more information about the JustGo motorhome relocation programme, visit:  

Just Go

Christopher Macgowan