A Rebutal To An Artcle Entitled Thinking about starting a camp ground in France? Don't!


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-a-camp

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.

Hi Jon

I thought Gregor's post was amusing and even if you didn't find it funny, as he did not breach any of our terms of service I don't really see the point in this, so I suggest you drop the subject.



Thank you for this opportunity. I will gladly take the last word. Here goes:

We have a saying in the Netherlands: "As the innkeeper is, he trusts his guests." You say I wrote my not so funny article as a serious attempt to get my site linked. You register here today for a 'rebutal', mentioning your site three times, pointing everybody to your blog, filling your profile with advertising and adding the following excuse:

"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..."

Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.

Sure. In the interest of balance. If you will read my article again, you'll find no mention of my site's name. I think your criticism on my way of using blog entries for advertising says more about you than me.

I wish you all the best with your exploits.

I like humour but when its actually funny!

You aint no John Cleese - he makes me laugh - your 'copy' is not something that tickles my funny bone and irony takes a lot of skill to master.

The last joke I enjoyed was yesterday - group of adults hanging from a helicoper - it was too heavy - someone had to go - a brave volunteer made an eloquent speech - the others were so moved by this act of selfless sacrifice they all clapped loudly - yup I liked that one.

Actually the Danes do like their humour - in particular they adore English humour.

Anyway I gather the protocol on this site is to politely dis-engage as per at a dinner party when people arent getting along or feel they have reached the end of the road.

In my view I caught you with your trousers down (as the English humourists like to put it) you dont like being publicly caught out and now you try to regain ground - I am out of this one, not because I want the last word ( you can have it if you wish go ahead ) - but because I made my point and you have re-enforced it. I have nothing left to say because you have already said it all for me - thanks.

As a matter of fact, Jon, I will now forego any attempt of irony and humour, since you obviously don't get it

I spent my youth holidays on numerous (naturist) camp grounds and I've always loved it. Also, I worked during one long holiday on a camping in the Netherlands in the 'hygienic service department' which means I had to get up at 5 in the morning to muck out toilets and showers. And on my blog http://hollandais.en-france I used get lots of stories from camping owners. From all these first and second hand experiences I distilled the (fictional!) article you are referring to.

I first wrote this article in Dutch on my website as a lark. For fun. I'm a copywriter. I like to write. No other reason. Later, it was re-published on a site called la-vie-en-france.nl belonging to a web acquaintance who uses it to make some Google income. And who indeed as a return favour, allows me to advertise on his site with my property advertising agency Immo à Trois. Later, I translated it in English and published it here. Still, for the fun of writing and being read. For making people laugh, or at least snicker. And (there, I admit it) for making them have a look at my profile and my site.

There is no serious information in it, because it wasn't meant as serious advice. It was meant to be read and enjoyed. Only someone with a seriously atrophied irony muscle would not get that and post a ranting reply as to how I don't know anything about camping and should shut up.

Maybe living in Denmark has made you forget what it is to write something tongue in cheek? Now you are registered, you should drop by more often on SFN. That will certainly help. Maybe you can republish some of your riveting stories here about how to drive a tractor on a camping. I'm sure we would all enjoy that (oops, there I go again).

To Gregor

Well if you hate camping why not leave it to those who love camping and those who choose to run a campsite to get on with it? Opinion is free and available to all but passing on advice to others on a topic you know nothing about is questionable particularly in a business context and if it was not for SEO purposes (because we both know it was) then what was it for?

We both know that negative marketing can be effective - anyone who is dead set on buying a campsite is still going to take a look at your website especially since if they have done any research at all they will have detected chaff but may still hope to find some good leads on campsites for sale - a good lead can come from someone who knows diddly squat about running a campsite.

Actually I thought your strategy was clever - I just deeply disaprove of this kind of chaff - I much prefer the usual business transfer agents copy - you know the one who lives in London and commutes on the tube each day, wouldnt know how to hitch a caravan, dig a drainage ditch but wax lyrically about the great life of a campsite owner - they tend to be fairly bland, state the blindingly obvious and paste their link. Useless but inoffensive and any real campsite owner will just laugh it off - not sure whether they would do the same if they read your article.

Your interest as you yourself declare it is surely not sufficient motivation to write that article so unless you take pleasure from writing on random topics of which you have zero knowledge one must conclude your objective was connected with your website.

I have ridden a horse once or twice and whilst I did not particularly dislike it I feel my experience (30 odd years ago) was too short, too shallow and frankly too hard to remember to offer my knowledge on the subject to those thinking of opening a riding school.

Thankyou for the reply it adds clarification for everyone - you have said in your own words exactly what any interested party needs to read.


Hi, Jon,

Oh dear. I'm so sorry. It is true I don't know the first thing about running a camp site. I'm devastated that you have seen through my devious plot to write a column devoid of any real contents or practice-based advise on order to lure people to my site.

I've actually only been to a camp site once. That was enough to make me realize I loathe camping, it being the perfect way of having a perfect holiday ruined by other campers drinking beer, playing loud music and laughing during the day, and snoring, farting and having loud fornication sessions at night. The insulation of these tents and caravans is abominable! It is quite irritating to have to live next to people having unmitigated fun.

As for the commercial angle... since I have a website where private owners sell many camp sites, B&B's, hotels and other tourist business, don't you think it would have been smarter of me not to write this caveat emptor at all?

Good luck with BuyMyDreamHouse!

Hi Jon,

I can only imagine that running a campsite is very hard work, and anything published that helps others avoid errors in any avenue has merit. That, in my view, is the beauty of the web, oodles of info on tap. I do agree that 'real' information is most valuable, much like a friend's recommendation, sorting the chaff from the wheat is a chore, especially as it is all too easy to simply copy and paste with no forethought, but that is the nature of the beast. My best buddy often quotes an adage 'Many people are opinionated, some are opinionated and know what they are talking about."

I do think there has been a shift, however, in recent years where tradespeople and professionals alike have loosened their strangle hold on 'tricks' of the trade ( techniques, preferred equipment, suppliers etc ) in favour of sharing advice, often with no strings attached. I'm all for that, life's too short.

Wishing you continued success.

Hi Ron


Internet marketing is an interesting activity but actually on this occassion I was not motivated by the wish to promote my website or SEO

My failing in life is that I really dont like advice or opinion presented as informative guidance when it is not based on solid direct experience. I will leave it to the interested party to rebuke me with credentials of campsite ownership but in that event I would say why on earth write an authoritive article without offering your credentials? So actually I stand by my decision to write that article - if you seek to educate or inform responsibly in an age of internet "chaff" then I think there is an obligation to state ones credentials - otherwise its just unsubstantiated chaff and hearsay disgested and regurgitated in the mess that consitutes some part of the otherwise wonderful institution known as the web.

Eitherway I cannot believe that the article was authoritive because of it contained no real meat. On my blog you would find articles about using a tractor safely on a campsite (because I drive one), you would find articles about campsite septic tanks (because I have suffered the inglorious and smelly job of looking after one) and you would find articles about how revenue varies during the year (because my wife does our accounts - or at least the preliminary work before the pro finalises the results) so I feel I do put real substance into my articles whether or not their intention is to gain visitors. At the end of the day people can hopefully spot the differences and the chaff will sink to the bottom of the waters of the internet.

Hi Jon, SEO, much outlined on SFN, is a study which interests me greatly, as do FREE advert enties. Well done. Ron