Covid-19 is like a big family Wedding. Although there’s a lot of love in the room, it has also unleashed the worst side of some. Unfortunately, when you add domestic and Home Nations tourism into the mix, you’ve got fisty cuffs brewing that is akin to obnoxiously drunk Uncle Johnny and melodramatically sanctimonious Uncle Phil arguing over a territorial bedroom incident that occurred back in 1999.
It only takes a few badly behaving tourists and a few anti-tourist locals to give everyone a bad name. Divisions grow and misjudged reputations take hold.
The question is, does the camper van trend add to this animosity? Unfortunately, it seems it does. But in my view, it really shouldn’t have to be like this. I should probably disclose that I have a conflict of interest here, but in due course, all shall be revealed.
Now let me tell you a little about camper van owners – they are a bit like members of political parties, in that they are part of a broad church. Some are boringly reasonable people, who’d never dream of leaving litter and their waste behind or of parking up illegally overnight. These are the people who excruciatingly plan every minute detail of their voyage, almost to the extent that they remove the fun from it. They pedantically zoom in on satellite images of every car park that they’re headed to ensure ample room and minimum stress. How do I know that this species exists you ask? Confession time… I am one of them.
At the other end of the camper van owner spectrum are the few selfish, “I don’t care what anyone else thinks and I am entitled to park and dump wherever and whatever I want” people. And then, of course, there is everyone in-between. As is often the case, it is the extreme few who end up giving a whole category of people a bad name.
There are also so many different types of camper vans, some which are smaller than pickup trucks and then those, which are the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the van world. Unfortunately, some camper van owners choose an inappropriate type of van for their terminus. If you want to get a monstrous van, which is ten times the size of an average London flat and has the technical abilities of Optimus Prime, then really, you shouldn’t be heading down the small meandering lanes of Pembrokeshire or Snowdonia to a family farm campsite.
Yet for those more sensible van owners who’ve chosen a suitably sized van for a country lane (which will be way easier to reverse than a caravan); our local tourism sectors needs you. Those who book in advance at family-owned campsites, pay to park in National Park car parks and pick up all their rubbish; our local economies need you! Farmers who have diversified into tourism need you! Local restaurants and pubs need you! Please don’t be put off by this anti-tourist noise.
Wales should be accessible for as many people as possible. Hiring or investing in a campervan can be much more affordable than regularly flying abroad or renting a holiday house. Turning more and more houses into second homes and holiday cottages also create problems and divisions, which I am not going to get into here.
My rather protracted point is that camper vans can be great for tourism. Camper van owners on mass just need to tone down their spontaneity and perhaps we need some more locally developed measures brought in to fine and take action against those few camper van driving tourists who ruin it for all.