Red hot leisure sector!

Business is booming in Cornwall’s campsite market, says Miller Commercial leisure expert, Graham Timmins

Graham Timmins

It would fair to say that at the current time, the leisure sector in Cornwall – campsites and associated leisure attractions – is experiencing enquiry and sales levels that match those pre-recession in 2007 and 2008.

So who is enquiring, offering and purchasing these leisure sites?

In our experience, small campsites have always been sought after by individuals or families coming together within the £500k to £1 million bracket.  Beyond £1 million buyers are often medium size operators who may already have 10 to 15 sites across the UK.

At price points in excess of £1.5 million we are seeing interest from institutional investors such as pension funds and fund managers.

By far and away the highest proliferation of enquiries we receive is within the small campsite sector, those valued between £500k and £1 million with touring sites, as opposed to fixed static caravans sites being the most popular.

Touring Sites are popular simply because they are generally easier to run, require far less continual investment in a depreciating asset and have little or no staffing requirement, other than the owners.

Our clients who run small to medium size campsites have reported year-on-year increases in bookings over the last couple of years and this trend has continued into 2017.

Latest figures suggest that from a base point of 50% of the UK population taking a ‘staycation’ in 2015 (when this term was first widely used), 2017 will see that figure rise to 60%. This is very good news for campsite owners.

So how do you buy a campsite?

In order to buy a campsite the purchaser, of course, needs the ability to proceed. Most campsite investors partly fund their acquisition by selling their residential property and we are seeing a stable housing sector, meaning that persons wishing to sell invariably do, at the price they expect.

Our discussions with the main high street lenders suggest that generally they will support the financing of campsites and leisure facilities, often against the full value and to include all the assets, such as buildings, land, permission, fixtures and fittings and of course the goodwill.

No tourism article would be complete without mentioning the effect of the impending Brexit on both inward visitors and the view of UK holiday makers on either going abroad or staying at home, given the exchange rate effect.

Certainly, it is expected that the 2017 prime season will see more visitors from continental Europe and the US and that as the Euro Zone becomes more expensive for UK residents, more people are likely to stay at home this year and are likely to stay on a campsite.

While demand for the peak season remains very high, another trend we have seen in recent years is the quality of the offering, be it an upgrade of a shower block, the introduction of glamping tents/pods and a wider range of onsite facilities, all adding to this diverse sector which has significantly moved on from its inception and initial growth period in the 1960’s.

In summary we have a very active or ‘hot’ market at the moment for principally touring sites, between £500k and £1 million, which cools somewhat over £1 million and where static caravans or fixed assets are part of the mixed site. However, the market is not necessarily in danger of overheating as there are reasonable levels of supply and lending Institutions are willing to lend, but of course will always take a very pragmatic approach to any lending application.

If you would like expert advice regarding a sale or acquisition of a leisure site across Devon or Cornwall please contact Graham Timmins, at Miller Commercial on 01872 247019 or via