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Loek van de Loo – Vacanze col Cuore

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Loek van de Loo, founder of Vacanze col Cuore, talks to us about how this 2020 season marked by the pandemic went, how glamping is evolving and the ambitious plans for 2021. That after the start of “winter glamping” in Tuscany, already operational, will see the opening of a new facility on Lake Idro and the management of a recently acquired camping village in the Netherlands.

Camping Business: How was the season at Vacanze col Cuore?
Loek van de Loo:
Last year I had very high expectations, but compared to what I thought in March or April it went much better. In Tuscany we worked well, while on Lake Garda – in Lombardy – it was much harder and more difficult. As a Vacanze col Cuore group we work a lot with the Dutch, who unfortunately did not arrive in Italy in large numbers. Fortunately, the Italian public has grown, but is not always used to the open-air world. Some of these people had great problems understanding their spirit and adjusting to camping life.

Camping Business: According to several of your colleagues, the season in the end did not go badly, also because there was often a reduction in costs. Were you able to do the same?
Loek van de Loo:
We work very well even in the low season, but this year April, May and June were lost months for everyone. In my opinion, something can be saved, but the customer who is used to certain standards certainly cannot be offered less services due to Covid-19… When we understood that the borders with the Netherlands and Germany would be reopened, we developed a package which was worth maybe 90% of the normal offer, but we didn’t cut it down that much. We are convinced that, even in a year like this, it was important to offer the same quality as always. Costs have dropped anyway, because we had not insured and hired staff until mid-June, but the reduction was not sufficient, especially in Lombardy, to compensate for the lack of turnover.

Camping Business: You, an “Italian Dutch”, created Vacanze col Cuore, setting up your business strategy on investments in Italy to date. Recently, however, you made another investment in the Netherlands. How does the scenario or the strategic vision change at this point? Is it an investment linked to a simple opportunity or are you planning to grow in countries other than Italy?
Loek van de Loo:
The idea of ​​diversifying and not remaining alone in Italy had existed for some years. We had already done some research on the Dutch market, also because we wanted to understand why so many French groups were buying campsites in Holland. And this “curiosity” gave us some answers. We understood that it was an interesting thing because the glamping movement in Holland is only partially developed: there are just 10 campsites designed like the Italian ones of Vacanze col Cuore. There is therefore still a lot of space and there are still many “virgin” structures ready to be transformed. The owner of this campsite (De Papillon, ed) has been a business partner for many years. When we learned of his intention to sell, we took the opportunity, but for the future we are planning other investments in the Netherlands.

Camping Business: You were a bit of the inventor of glamping as we have known it. If and how is this type of holiday evolving?
Loek van de Loo:
There was constant development underway, but with Covid-19 everything slowed down. I’m not saying next year, but in the near future this type of holiday will certainly grow much more than before, because it has elements that give customers security: the distance between the independent structures, larger and more comfortable spaces, restaurants where in 80% of cases you eat out without being in a closed place. Compared to a hotel or an apartment, open air glamping has characteristics that will be increasingly sought in the near future.

Camping Business: Let’s talk about the news for the 2021 season…
Loek van de Loo:
We have three new features. The first will be the opening of the Lago Idro Glamping Boutique, after 10 years of negotiations with the municipality of Anfo. We were supposed to inaugurate for this season, but due to Covid-19 we were unable to obtain permits. It is a magnificent place, with only 50 pitches and as many housing units built with our formula: a very nice restaurant, sports, entertainment, a swimming pool and a boutique, and the latter is new. If all goes well, we will open in May 2021.

The second novelty is the De Papillon camping village, which is a structure of 400 pitches with a very beautiful internal lake. We plan in 5 years to transform it into glamping and to bring a bit of a Mediterranean atmosphere to the Netherlands, because the Dutch who remain within the national borders appreciate the areas that are somewhat secluded and not very popular with tourists.

Finally, we will address the theme of “winter glamping”, for which we have taken an example from Norway, Denmark and Sweden. In these countries, customers are used to living in the cold and even winter has turned into an opportunity. Given the current health emergency situation, however, we will not talk about it until next year.

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