Thinking about starting a camp ground in France? Don't!

Ever dreamt of running your own campsite in France? You’re not the only one. As the webmaster of a FSBO property website, I get a lot of questions in that particular field. People mail me: “We are interested in this house with the big plot. Would it be suitable for starting a campsite?" The same goes for adverts for big houses with lots of rooms: “Is this property suitable for a bed & breakfast?”

There are some turnkey campsites and tourist objects on the site. In that case people always want to know about the turnover. “Because”, they confide in me, “we will be selling our house over here and start all over again over there. 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 questions, I just send them on to the owner, who can answer all questions directly. But inside, I am groaning. I want to scream: “DON’T!” In most cases it is no fun at all to start ’something different’, if only because people usually don’t know the first thing about the ‘something different’ they have in mind. No surprise. It’s different! And where did they ever get the idea that they’d be happier running a tourist business in France?

I admit, running a campsite in France seems to be the perfect job, at first. Quietly talking to your clients on the front porch of your cute little farmhouse, having dinner all together in the dappled shade of the maple trees in the evenings, while the children are splashing around in the pool. Paradise.

But reality is a bit different. Guests invade your private space at the most inconvenient times, just to ask the same stupid questions. Is it all right to drink the water from the tap? Where will be the next flee market? Do you have a brochure with walks in the region? How do I get the sticky stuff from the maple trees off my car? Yada, yada, yada… You don’t have time to have dinner with them, because there is all the cooking, serving and washing up to do. They happily break all your stuff (without leaving a note, of course), their spoilt offspring are screaming all day long and the only ones splashing are the drunken fathers secretly urinating against your picturesque clay wall, changing it into a smelly, muddy puddle.

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 lumps. Bits of soap. You hope.

Count on it: you will soon be longing desperately for the dull office job you had in your former life. Which is just as good, as it is very difficult to make any profit out of a campsite, in particular a small one. Those few euro per tent per day won’t make you rich. So you will have to find additional sources of income, like meals and drinks. And as soon as you really get into that, some jealous neighbour will alert the food hygiene control people. Your kitchen will have 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 in the village and not your terrace. With all the necessary investments this entails, there is a big chance your campsite will go broke within two or three years and you - broke but much richer in experience - will go back home. With your head high, of course. Because at least YOU tried. And all the other office slaves can’t claim to that!

Well, this is of course a worse case scenario. It does not apply to everybody. Of course I hope that you too - through my site or not - will realise your dream in France for a perfect and maple-free campsite, where all the obstacles you might meet will be effortlessly overcome 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. For I do get a lot of questions in that particular field.

Any service industry dealing with the public strikes me as being at a default level of extremely hard work with a lot of irritation. I have no desire at all to open a campsite, gite, or any other public-contact business! I’ll stick with my boring office job in a office with a window and a door that shuts. :slight_smile: