I am a campsite owner, before that I ran a successful hotel in the French Pyrenees. The campsite has 140 spaces and is not a 'hobby' but a full blown business, the hotel in France was very successful and had a clientele who were 95% French and cited the food as one of the things they enjoyed most!
I wish to address a blog post by Gregor Hakkenberg with which I take great issue. http://www.survivefrance.com/profiles/blogs/thinking-about-starting...
I hope it would be considered fair to say that at least some of Gregors motivation is to direct people to his property website, certainly he mentions it. In the interest of balance I have a website which advertises tourist businesses for sale 'BuyMyDreamHotel' and usually when I write posts like this it is for the reason of bring people to my website although on this occassion the reason is rather different...
I also have a blog where I have recently started posting articles intended to inform potential owners of campsites and hotels, the blog can be accessed by from our main website.
Anyone reading through these articles will see that I offer advice that is actually gained by running a hotel and a campsite. I am accustomed to seeing unqualified, non-expert advice on the internet on these topics, general 'biz for sale' websites (not specialists in tourism) and even some estate agents write blog articles on areas in which they have no practical experience in the hope of getting search engine traffic - its called SEO and the text is called 'copy' and increasingly the quality is considered less important than the keywords and phrases that are littered throughout the text in the interest of getting search engine attention - not in actually providing original, accurate or authoritive information.
I felt that the advice being offered in the blog post was not qualified by experience and to this end I felt motivated to start writing an article on the risks and rewards of being self employed and entering tourism as a business.
The entry is called "Should You Start Or Buy A Tourist Business?" - go to our main website, scroll down the front page and you will see a link to our blog.
I do feel a moral weight on my shoulders runing BuyMyDreamHotel.com Gregor is absolutely right to point out the risks but I have to question what experience lies behind his remarks on what it is like to run a campsite, he seems to think he knows what it is like to run one but he does not tell us which campsite he has run. Lets put this into context, I run a campsite, I also belong to a union of 500 other campsite owners and we meet regularly and discuss, statistics are gathered and industry reports are circulated.
So yes it is very tough, people do go under and some people do lose money but then again so do entrepreneurs in all fields. There are people with rose tinted glasses who are a danger unto themselves but again this is true for all entrepreneurs - do we think Richard Branson got to where he is by being scared and keeping the day job? Ok so I dont know campsite owners as rich as Mr Branson but I do know some who are millionaires after starting decades ago with a field. Most campsite owners will never get rich - many will struggle to earn a better hourly rate than they would get in MacDonalds ( we were like that in our first year although working fourteen hour days meant that the take home pay was not as bad as you might think - at least as long as you dont think about the hourly rate )!
And as to financial security? I have never felt safer - through years of hard work and driving second hand cars we are finally in the position where our savings match our liabilities and we could live as reasonable life by cutting costs if our revenue should fall by 50%. I wonder how many of those employed by others in regular jobs would feel that their job was safe if their employer reported a 50% drop in earnings?
One of the striking things about living in an idyllic location and running a campsite is you get to see how many people with regular jobs, 9 to 5 and bosses they feel are unreasonable confide in you about just unhappy they are. This very morning a customer broke down infront of my wife and confessed her life was not fun - I dont know what it is about breaking free but it seems to attract people to you who need to talk about their unhappy or stressed lives. The tourism business does not offer a remedy for the worlds unhappiness or stress - if we all escaped the rat race to run hotels and campsites then who would our customers be? Clearly it is not a panacea for all and there is risk and some people will end up even worse off if they take the leap - my God taking the leap is as scary as hell and it should scare you otherwise please dont do it.
My advice - be incredibly well researched. Do not listen to business transfer agents, estate agents or other non-qualified interested parties and equally well be very careful in verifying things the person selling the hotel or campsite tells you. If you even suspect you still have rose tinted glasses on then you have not done enough research yet.
I would never never go back to the old life - that wasnt living - I had to ask 'permission' to take a days annual leave, I was told what to do, if the company was struggling I started feeling insecure. I am now much braver, more resourceful and I know that whatever happended I would land on my feet - I have learnt and grown. And even if for some reason I did not land on my feet - if it all went horribly wrong, I have really lived - I know what its like to see eagles circling through my roof skylight - I know what its like to live on a 3000 metre mountain where I can find sunshine even if its cloudy in the vallley and now on our beach side campsite I can take my little boy to the beach when I am not working. I work hard but its flexible, its on my terms and I dont have to listen to corporate ideology or the ramblings of a boss anymore.
A Declaration Of My Vested Interests.
At this point in time I am not selling my own business.
BuyMyDreamHotel does not charge but I do have designs on making it deliver a return one day ( we will always offer a basic advert for free) - I am not completely neutral but I do feel morally obliged to point out the dangers as well as the rewards - but this information is based on actual experience and knowledge.
My articles on running a campsite are not designed to encourage or discourage people from buying a campsite, they are designed to inform from the horses mouth.
I hope this rebut will be allowed and past the "dinner party guidelines" I felt stronly that it was necessary and I will continue to post articles on my blog from myself and other campsite owners so that qualified information can prevail.
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