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Start your own campsite in France? Don’t do it!

 Do you dream of running your own campsite in France? You’re not the only one. As webmaster of IMMOGO, a site full of French real estate from private sellers, we often receive requests to this effect. People mail the owner or even call us on the phone: “We are interested in this property, because it has lots of land. Can we start a campsite there?” The same thing happens with advertisements for large houses with many rooms: “Is this object (I don’t know why such a house would suddenly become an ‘object’, but well) also suitable to start a Bed & Breakfast?”

There are also a couple of up-and-running campsites and other tourist businesses on IMMOGO. With those properties, prospective buyers always want to know what the annual turnover is. “Because”, they entrust us with a sense of urgency in their voice, “because we want to sell our house in England and start something new in France. Something completely different.”

Sigh. Of course it’s none of our business. We advertise houses, nothing else. We don’t know all the details about the properties for sale on Immogo and by the French law, we are not even allowed to give advice on a sale. So usually, we simply ask the interested party to contact the seller through the form on the site, so that they can pose their questions directly to the owner. But inwardly, God can hear me moan. I would like to shout out: “DON’T DO IT!” Starting ‘something else’ is in most cases no fun at all, if only because you don’t have a clue  about ‘something else’. What makes you think you would be happier as a recreational entrepreneur in France?

Admittedly, when you first think of it, running a campsite in France seems like an ideal job. You’ll be standing on the veranda of your picturesque farmhouse, shooting the breeze with your guests, have a nice dinner at a large table under the maple trees in the evening, while the children are splashing around in the swimming pool. Very idyllic. But then reality knocks at the door. Guests arrive at the strangest moments to boldly step into your private domain with the same stupid questions over and over again. Can we drink the water from the tap? Where is the next flea market? Do you also have a booklet with walks? How do I get that sticky stuff that fell from the maple trees off my car? Yada, yada, yada… You can’t really join the diners in the evening, because you have to cook, serve and wash the dishes. Your property is damaged (and of course nobody leaves a note, let alone a bank note), the uneducated offspring keeps screaming all day and the only ones who splash around cheerfully are the drunken dads, who when in dire need seem to prefer the picturesque mud wall behind the kitchen, which therefore slowly degenerates into a smelly puddle of mud.

Moreover, very early every morning, before the first guests wake up, you have to enter the sanitary blocks with a water hose, a mop and bottles of disinfectant, in order to scrub toilets while suppressing your gag reflex, and fish little whet bunnies of hairs out of the shower drain. With some undefinable lumps in it. Shampoo. You hope.

After all this, you will soon be longing to return to your boring office job in the UK. That’s a good thing, by the way, because a campsite – and especially a small one – is difficult to make profitable. The few euros per tent per day doesn’t really add up. So you’ll have to look for alternative sources of income, such as selling meals and drinks. And as soon as you start seriously cooking, the hygiene inspection people will come to visit. The kitchen has to meet the highest standards. You have to prove that you control the cold chain from the supermarket to the frying pan. You have to take samples of perishable goods, date them and store them separately, in order to prove, if needed, that the guest has contracted his diarrhoea (bring out the disinfectant again!) at Le Toque Blanc, and not on your terrace. This brings along a lot of investments. So there’s a good chance your campsite will go bankrupt in two or three seasons and you – penniless but with a rich experience – will return to the UK. With your head raised high, though. Because at least you have tried. And all those stupid office slaves can’t say that!

Of course, this is a disaster scenario. It doesn’t have to be like this for everyone. We really wish you the best and hope that you too – whether or not via Immogo – will find a dream spot in France for a perfect and maple-free campsite, where you will gloriously overcome all unexpected obstacles and become very happy. But if it doesn’t work out after all, please know that you can always put your campsite up for sale at on IMMOGO. We often receive requests to this effect.