The best kind of holiday – an interview with Martin Brandt, CEO of the Erwin Hymer Group, on the cancellation of Caravan Salon 2020 and the caravaning boom.
Traveling by motorhome, campervan, or caravan is booming like seldom before: More and more people are discovering the mobile freedom of caravaning for themselves and are committing themselves to conscious, decelerated, and self-determined slow travel. A trend that is being further strengthened by the Corona pandemic. Martin Brandt, CEO of the Erwin Hymer Group (EHG), explains in an interview what this is all about and why the EHG brands – including Freeontour – will refrain from participating in trade fairs in Europe and also at Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf until the end of 2020.
Freeontour: Mr. Brandt, in terms of new registrations in Germany in 2020, the caravaning industry has recorded the best first half in its history – despite the Corona pandemic. How do you explain this development?
Martin Brandt: First of all, we are pleased about the continuing great interest in the area of motorhomes, campervans, and caravans, which has already been very high in recent years. Above all, we are of course pleased that our pandemic plan in the lock-down phase has proved its worth and that the Corona-induced slump in April has already been made up for in May and June in some European countries. In Germany and also in other European countries, new motorhome registrations in June 2020 even showed impressive growth compared to June of the previous year. On the one hand, we certainly see a lock-down induced catch-up effect here. On the other hand, this development also confirms the long-standing trend towards relaxed and self-determined travel by motorhome, caravan, and campervan.
Analogous to the slow food movement, we summarize this under the term slow travel. However, we also see that many people are becoming interested in camping for the first time due to travel restrictions in other forms of vacation and want to try out caravaning in a rented vehicle.
Freeontour: So the trend towards caravaning could even be strengthened by the COVID-19 virus? In your opinion, what are the advantages of caravaning compared to other forms of holiday?
Martin Brandt: We are convinced that the current crisis will further strengthen the trend towards slow travel. In the current situation, camping is proving to be one of the safest and most flexible forms of vacation: In your home on wheels, you automatically maintain more distance from others than on a plane, in a hotel complex, or on a cruise ship. You travel with your family, partner, or close friends, you have your own four walls to feel good in and you spend a lot of time outdoors. Motorhomes and many campervans are also self-sufficient with their own toilet, shower, and fresh water tank, meaning you are on the safe side in terms of hygiene and, at the same time, not necessarily dependent on the infrastructure of the campsites.
This provides more flexibility and also allows for spontaneous changes of location. To a slightly lesser extent this also applies to caravans. Completely independent of the pandemic situation, caravaning and slow travel also stand for individual, conscious, and nature-oriented travel – and are therefore trending among holiday makers of all ages. Both stand for the form of travel of the future.
Freeontour: Under the motto Slow Travel is Conscious Travel, the brands of the Erwin Hymer Group advertise self-determined and slowed down holidays with motorhomes, caravans, and campervans as part of a Europe-wide campaign. What exactly is Slow Travel?
Martin Brandt: Slow Travel stands for relaxed and safe travel – and thus for deceleration and attentiveness. It’s not a question of how fast a vehicle is traveling, but rather of slowing down the pace of everyday life and perceiving quality experiences differently. It’s all about really enjoying your holiday, instead of always gaining new impressions in as short a time as possible, and simply staying where you like it and learning to appreciate the really important things in life again.
Beyond package vacations and mass tourism, caravaning offers you the opportunity to really decelerate and consciously shape your vacation. Those who travel slowly and in a minimal way simply see more and perceive their surroundings in a completely different way. Because in a world that is becoming ever faster and as everyday life becomes ever more complex, many people are also rethinking their holiday plans. The need for deceleration and self-determination is growing. A need that no other form of vacation satisfies as well as traveling by motorhome, campervan, and caravan. That’s why we think that the enthusiasm for caravaning and Slow Travel will continue to grow in the future.
Freeontour: In light of this growing interest, trade fairs such as the Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf are usually an ideal opportunity for caravaning fans to find out about innovations and to view and buy recreational vehicles in person. Not least, attractive trade fair conditions are often tempting here. However, due to the pandemic situation, EHG and all its brands will refrain from participating in trade fairs and major events in Europe until the end of 2020. How can customers still find out about new vehicle models and innovations?
Martin Brandt: The safety and health of our customers, employees, and partner dealers is a top priority for EHG. And since the pandemic with its special requirements for social distancing and hygiene will certainly accompany us for some more months, we have decided, together with our brands, not to present our new products and innovations at trade fairs throughout Europe. This decision was not easy for us, because ultimately the Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf is also an important platform for information, advice, sales, and the exchange with our customers. However, as so often in recent months, a shift is needed, because the past few weeks have repeatedly shown us how quickly a local or regional infection hotspot can develop.
We therefore recommend all our customers and interested parties to obtain information and advice directly from one of our partner dealers in their own region. This is because they have already made comprehensive arrangements for contactless consultation. This includes telephone and online advice, online vehicle configuration, 360-degree sessions, or even test drives. With a network of 1,200 partner dealers throughout Europe, we can thus ensure that all interested parties can experience our product innovations 2020/21 in a safe and relaxed manner – naturally also with attractive offers and financing.
On the new landing page slowtravel.partners interested parties can now easily find their nearest slow travel partner.