Want to pitch up, get out and see the sites? Try a glamping holiday
GOOD weather and festival fever is prompting a return to recession-busting camping trips.
More than 300,000 Irish people took camping trips at home last year, as Celtic Tiger boutique hotels gave way to canvas and sleeping bags for cash-strapped families.
Failte Ireland said the caravan and camping sector outperformed all others last year, with two-thirds of campsites reporting an upturn in the number of nights spent under canvas during 2010 -- a trend other tourist providers can only envy.
And the Irish Caravan and Camping Council said a record number of people went camping over the Easter holidays, with campsites predicting a similar influx this weekend as the temperature rises.
Two big trends have helped the revival in camping fortunes, according to Tracey Coughlan of Failte Ireland: the need to economise and a big growth in luxury camping spreading from other countries.
"Glamping" in top-end tents and old-style yurts -- large wood-framed tents -- are offering people a different experience and one Irish operators are looking at developing to cash in on people's desire for something different on their holidays, she said.
"Camping was definitely something people turned away from for a few years -- it was all hotels people wanted -- but it's back now and it's sexy because of yurts and glamping and all that. You even see tents and camping gear on sale in supermarkets, which you wouldn't have before," she said.
Failte Ireland is carrying out a review of the sector to see how it can appeal more to this desire for a novel holiday experience and to attract more visitors from Britain and Europe, with motorhomes another growing market.
The growth of music and arts festivals such as Electric Picnic or this weekend's Flat Lake Festival in Hilton Park, Co Monaghan, have also helped, as these actively encourage visitors to pitch their tent or bring a camper van. This is a trend that's particularly popular with families with small children who otherwise might be left out of the festival loop.
Bell tents and yurts are also up for rent at the Flat Lakes festival for those who don't want the hassle of bringing their own.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office show Irish people made 309,000 camping trips at home in 2009, up from 279,000 in 2006.
Though the 2010 data is not yet available, it's expected to show a significant upturn, based on a Failte Ireland survey showing 65pc of campsite operators had seen an increase in the number of nights Irish visitors spent with them last year.
The ICC said that, altogether, Irish people and foreign tourists spent 2.4 million nights on Irish campsites in 2009, contributing €96m to the local economy.
Its 90 member-parks had seen a significant increase in the number of Irish visitors who now made up nearly half the total, and it wasn't just families as 52pc had seen more couples staying.