There is an air of optimism in this 14th edition of the Salone del Camper inaugurated today in Parma, Italy. The numbers of the sector are slowly returning to positive figures, those of outdoor tourism are confirming the excellent results of last year. From the new president of Fiere di Parma, Franco Mosconi, to the Minister of Tourism Daniela Santanchè – passing through Simone Niccolai, president of the APC; Andrea Corsini, councilor for mobility and transport, infrastructure, tourism, commerce of the Emilia-Romagna Region; Ludovica Sanpaolesi, general director of APC; and Antonio Cellie, CEO of Fiere di Parma – the chorus is unanimous: recreational and open-air vehicles are a perfect combination to create new tourism opportunities in Italy.
“The 14th edition of this beautiful show is, on a European scale, the second trade fair event,” said Franco Mosconi, recently elected president of the board of directors of Fiere di Parma. “It is a strange crossroads between manufacturing and tourism, both excellent products of ‘made in Italy’ well known outside our borders. Construction excellence lies in Tuscany and the excellence of outdoor tourism concerns the whole country. Today we are not inaugurating a strictly sectoral fair: we are working so that manufacturing and tourism become 2.5 instead of 1+1“.
Salone del Camper in second place in Europe
Some official numbers have arrived from APC – Caravan and Camper Manufacturers Association to confirm the health of the sector. “When we started, no one believed that this event would become so important: the second in Europe behind only the Caravan Salon and with truly impressive numbers,” explained Simone Niccolai, president of APC. “In Germany, which accounts for 45% of the European market, the Düsseldorf event reached 260,000 visitors. The Salone del Camper is worth 110,000 (2022 data, ed.), while the third event, which is the French one, does not reach 80,000 visitors“.
“The 2023 edition promises to be one of the most beautiful because there are over 350 exhibitors, or almost all European producers,” continued Niccolai. “Italy is in third place for the production of motorhomes after Germany and France. After the supply difficulties of the last two years, production is picking up pace. This is a very important signal, both from the point of view of production continuity and from the market point of view. The data is encouraging, because in the last quarter we recorded a +4.7 percent in registrations, even if we still have a slight negative sign for the entire season. 80 percent of Italian production is exported and in Germany registrations in the last six months have recorded a +1.4 percent: it is an important figure, especially for the Italian product“.
Finally, Niccolai underlined how much the world of caravaning has changed. “Until a few years ago we could talk about using vehicles almost exclusively for holidays,” he said. “Today the words motorhome and outdoor should instead be associated with continuous use throughout the year. The habits of Europeans have changed. Having a recreational vehicle allows you not only to satisfy your holiday needs, but also to have a multitasking device. We are talking about a growing movement that is increasingly expanding, affecting a greater number of people with different needs.”
Tourism in Emilia-Romagna: positive numbers
Confirmation has come from regional councilor Andrea Corsini that the tourist season now seems to be heading towards satisfactory results. “These are important and very beautiful days for tourism, because it feels like mid-August: we are full of tourists in our region, as in other parts of Italy,” he underlined. “Fairs are an extraordinary lung in the economy of this region and Parma is an important piece. Open-air tourism is an important piece of our tourist offer, raising the level of internationalization of our presences. We will do the math in October, since we still lack the August and September numbers. But despite the Cassandras, I think that in October we will essentially confirm the data for 2022, which was an important and positive summer“.
An interesting photograph has arrived from Marianna di Salle, MET Coordinator – Master in Tourism Economics and Management at Bocconi University. “When we talk about open-air, we talk about campsites and rest areas, with an offer that seems small from the point of view of the number of structures (1% of the total), but which in terms of beds is worth a quarter of the availability. Open-air tourism represents 9 percent of Italian arrivals and 16 percent in terms of overnight stays. They are interesting numbers if we consider that open-air represents the first option in the non-hotel sector, with an average length of stay of 6 nights, compared to an average of 3.8 in other structures. It is a tourism very linked to international presences, even if we are talking about proximity tourism, with 97 percent of foreign presences coming from the European continent“.
Some data, collected with the collaboration of FAITA-FederCamping, has also managed to paint the profile of tourists who love to frequent campsites and villages with their own recreational vehicle. In this segment, 80 percent say they travel with their family and children, 26% with their partner, 13% with friends, 11% with their family without children, and 5% alone. We are talking about fairly young tourism, with 25% of Millennial respondents, therefore between 30 and 40 years old, and 42-43% belonging to generation X, born between 1965 and 1980.
The value of open-air tourism
The intervention of Ludovica Sanpaolesi, general director of APC, was effective as always, focusing her reflections on accommodation facilities: campsites and villages on one side and rest areas on the other. “These two pillars are not antithetical, but complementary,” she emphasized. “Throughout Europe, traveling tourism has developed thanks to the collaboration and coexistence of campsites and rest areas. There are over 6,150,000 recreational vehicles in circulation and an audience of users and potential customers of over 20 million people. And this is a minimum estimate, which does not take into account rentals and multiple people using the same vehicle.“
Sanpaolesi also wanted to dispel the myth that it is tourism with little propensity to spend. “A German study says that users of motorhomes and caravans circulate €23.37 billion in Europe every year. This is a lot of money that we want to intercept as a country system, taking into account that this amount excludes the purchase of vehicles: we are only talking about tourist expenses. The German magazine Promobil carried out a survey discovering that the average amount left per person in the territories visited is €530 per week: a crew of two people is ‘worth’ €1,060“.
Itinerant tourism constitutes an opportunity for traditionally less popular destinations, such as mountain communities, villages, small towns that most need to be brought to the forefront. Caravanning is also a fundamental pillar of deseasonalization: people use motorhome all year round, not just in summer, and this allows you to offer more opportunities to all territories. This is why facilities for hosting motorhomes are essential.
“In Italy the rest areas are between 1,900 and 2,000 units, but above all we have a great lack of homogeneity between regions,” explained Sanpaolesi. “Germany boasts over 5,000 areas, France 4,200: in the other countries they are racing because deseasonalization is a fundamental strategic element for welcoming this type of tourism. In Germany 10 years ago there were only 3,000 areas: the gap with Italy hurts the heart a little… We must have a more solid and distributed reception network across the territory. Those who use the motorhome will decide where to go also based on the landing places they will find in the area“.
An experiential tourism
For Antonio Cellie, managing director of Fiere di Parma, “the Parma Salone del Camper is much more than a simple exhibition of recreational vehicles, which also represent the level of technological evolution that the manufacturers of this sector have reached; it is the celebration of a regenerating, sustainable, and unrestricted holiday, which highlights a form of experiential tourism that is constantly growing in popularity. The motorhome, in fact, does not just represent a means of travelling, but an authentic lifestyle, the luxury of moving in freedom, autonomy, and safety“.
Daniela Santanché’s commitment and support for Assocamp
Finally, Daniela Santanchè, Italian Minister of Tourism, spoke and showed herself to be very determined in her desire to support the entire industry. “Our challenge is to make tourism the first Italian business by focusing on deseasonalization,” she declared. “Italy has all the characteristics for tourism to thrive all year round, thanks also to the constant growth of the plein air sector and a type of tourist who invests in the area. It is the government’s will to be alongside entrepreneurs in the sector and our commitment will be aimed at the implementation and redevelopment of existing rest areas“.
The Minister closed his speech by underlining the importance of reducing VAT to 4% for the purchase of campers for disabled people. Francesco Michelotti has presented a bill on which there should be no political divisions. “It’s not a question of right and left,” said Daniela Santanchè, “but it’s a question of justice. Tourism is also an extremely important element for people with disabilities”. Immediately after his speech and the grand opening of the Salone del Camper, the Minister went to the Assocamp stand, where in front of the president Ester Bordino he signed the petition launched in recent days by the association that brings together Italian vehicle dealers and equipment for outdoor tourism.