Gregor Hakkenberg, Sunday, 20 March 2011
You dream of running your own campsite in France? You're not the only one. As the
, I do get a lot of requests in that direction. People mail me: "We are interested in that house and land. Would it be suitable for starting a
campsite?" And this also happens with adverts for big houses with lots of rooms: "Is this object (I don't know why a house would be called an
all of a sudden) be suitable for a bed&breakfast?
There are some key-in-hand campsites and tourist objects on Immogo. In that case people always want to know about the annual turnover. "Because",
confide a bit huskily, "we will be selling our house in the Netherlands and start all over again in France. Something completely different."
(Heavy sigh). Of course all this is none of my business. I advertise houses, that's all. Just like with all the other requests, I just give the
who is interested the coordinates of the seller, so that he can ask all his questions directly. But I am groaning inside. I would want to tell them:
DON'T! In most cases it is not funny at all to start something completely different, if only because people usually don't know the first thing about
the something different they have in mind. And where did you get the idea that you would be happier as a tourist entrepreneur in France?
I admit, running a campsite in France seems to be the perfect job, at first sight. Quietly talking to your clients on the front porch of your cute
little farmhouse, having dinner all together under the trees in the evenings, while the children are playing about in the pool. But reality is a bit
different. Guests arrive at the most inconvenient times on your private ground and always ask the same stupid questions. Is it alright to drink the
water from the tap? Where is the next flee market to be held? Do you have a brochure with set-out walks? How do I get the sticky stuff from the maple
trees off my car? Nja-nja-nja-nja... You don't have time to have dinner with them, because there is all the cooking, serving an washing up to do.
happily break all your stuff (and don't leave their names, of course), their spoilt offspring are screaming all day long and the ones peeing about
happily are the drunken fathers, who preferably choose your cute clay wall behind the kitchen to do this, thus slowly changing it into a smelly,
Apart from that you have to get up very early each morning, before the first guest wakes up, to clean out the toilet area with a hose, a floor cloth
and Lysol, scrub the toilets while gagging and fish the hairs out of the shower. Including those unrecognizable bits. Shampoo. You hope.
Well, you can count on it: you will really be longing for the dull office job you had in your former life. And that is all for the better, because it
is difficult to make any profit out of a campsite in particular a small one. Those few euro per tent per day won't make a rich man of you. So you
will have to find additional sources of income, like meals and drinks. And as soon as you do that in a serious way, the food hygiene control will pay
you a visit. Your kitchen has to meet the highest hygiene standards. You have to prove that the cold chain is respected from supermarket to frying
pan. You have to take samples of all the food you prepare, in order to be able to prove that your guest's dysentery (get out the Lysol) is due to Le
Toque Blanc and not your terrace. With all the investments that implies. So there is a big chance that your campsite will go broke within two or
years and you - broke but much richer in experience - will go back home to Holland. With your head high, of course. Because at least YOU tried. And
all the other slaves of the office can't claim to that!
Well, this is of course a worse case scenario. Not everybody is in that position. Of course I hope that you too through
or not will realise your dream in France for a perfect and maple-free campsite, where all the obstacles you might meet will be overcome without pain
and where you will be very happy. But still, if it doesn't work - don't forget you can always put your campsite up for sale again with me, on
. For I do get a lot of requests in that sense.