On the road:
The Camper Club's
journey into motorhome
Get ready for the ultimate road trip experience! In this interview with Barbara and Roderick, founders of The Camper Club, we discover how this dynamic company is innovating in the way people explore, offering so much more than just motorhome rentals. Are you buckled up? Let’s get going!
Why did you start The Camper Club?
We first started a travel company specializing in selling travel and holidays to Canada. When Covid-19 hit we had zero turnover and were worried about our mortgage and kids. We thought if we can rent out a motorhome in Canada, we must also be able to rent them out here.
We went to Dusseldorf where they still had one camper caravan salon. We bought 15 motorhomes and made up the name The Camper Club and the logo. Three months later we had 15 motorhomes in a building. We still had to rent them out but we managed. We built a community and with that name we tried to be a bit different, and it worked.
Currently, we run the company and it's going really well. We are almost sold out for summer. Marcel, our new team member, joined us this year because we're so busy.
What services do you offer?
The Camper Club is the only one that is really focused on renting out motorhomes, like they do in North America. Our whole fleet is a rental fleet and our travel background helps in thinking like our customers do.
We also have agreements with, for example, “France Passion" which is an organization with 2,000 farmers, 2,000 wineries in France and everyone who rents with us can stay for free at one of those farmers.
If somebody doesn't know where to go, we'll listen to them and have a discussion. We take the map and recommend where to go based on their preferences. And that really helps, especially with first timers. So you rent it, everything is in it, and we'll look at a destination for you, suggest a campground and help a little bit with hitting the road.
It's the total package and there are no hidden insurances. We are a little bit high-end in the market price-wise but that’s because we offer an all-inclusive concept. We have only one motorhome model so you don't have to choose. It works for one person but also for five.
"You rent it, everything is in it, and we look at a destination for you, suggest a campground and help with hitting the road."
What inspired you to start a motorhome rental business?
We are fans of Canada. We like the lifestyle, the country and the wildlife. In Canada motorhomes are really popular. Around 70% of the people that visit the country rent a motorhome and only 30% a rental car. And that’s how we got involved in the motorhome business.
As a family, we go to Canada by motorhome. Now we translated the whole experience to Europe. There is a lot of potential for growth. If we look at it from a European point of view, we can sell motorhome trips in Canada to the Dutch, but we can also sell motorhome trips to Canadians or Americans and use the airport as a pick up point.
Are there any challenges in running your business?
We don't like to think in challenges, but in little bumps in the road and solutions. The growth that is needed at the start is actually not that difficult to achieve. However, the phase from childhood to puberty as a company is more difficult than the birth of the company.
The challenge is finding more money, buying more motorhomes. And one of the questions also is what are we gonna do with it? If you look at sustainability and going green, then motorhomes with a diesel engine are not really the future and if Europe cuts down on the selling of diesel engines in 2030 you are faced with the question “What do you do now when planning on buying motorhomes in two years?” “How do you become sustainable as a motorhome rental company?”
It’s also the problem that we face with flying people in an airplane to a country with a lot of nature but the pollution that we create by flying a whole family doesn't really match with the experience they have there. How do we as a company cope with that whole issue?
“Vev gives us a helping hand in knowing whether it’s going to be a busy day or not. ”
How does Vev help your rental business?
It helps everyone in the company. We have young kids, and it was very difficult to be at the company all the time and wait for people to come in to check out a motorhome. We really didn't know what to expect beforehand. Sometimes one of us would be here alone the whole day and sometimes we were really busy.
As soon as we started using the Vev planning software the whole concept and dynamic changed. We now know when somebody is coming in. For example, today, we know we have four visits. It gives us a helping hand in knowing whether it’s going to be a busy day or not.
How do your customers use Vev?
Usually people were a little bit shy to come in because they didn't know about The Camper Club and they saw a big building in the industrial area. Now with our Vev page, we allow them to make an appointment to visit the motorhome. We call it “See a motorhome.”
People schedule a specific time slot and say “Oh, I have an 11 o'clock visit appointment” and we'll be there for them at 11 o'clock, so they also feel special. It feels like giving them a hand to come in. Suddenly, all these appointments are booked, while they normally wouldn't be without Vev.
In the end, people understand it, plan their visits and it’s way easier. They don't have any questions and that’s the most important thing.
“Suddenly all these appointments come in through Vev, while they normally wouldn't. ”
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
We are constantly thinking about ways in which we want to work in the future. The problem in Europe is that everybody goes to the same country, the same campground and the same city. We want to help and change that, working together with local people and farmers and thereby hopefully spreading tourism.
For us, as a motorhome rental business, it's interesting to be an innovator and think how we can approach traveling in a different way. There are so many places and so many farmers that have land they don't use. This way we can take the pressure off of the places where everybody now goes to, too!
How do you keep up with trends to advance your business?
If you're open-minded and if you follow the news, then you can see what's happening. And if you are able to think two steps ahead, you can also predict what the news will be in half a year.
For example, sharing the land and bringing land owners together with people who go camping, that's an idea that we already had a couple of years ago. In Canada it's really picking up already. These are trends that we foresee to arrive in Europe too. It’s interesting to be aware of things like these and preparing your company ahead of time.
“When you have a gut feeling that the direction is going that way, then you're probably right, and you should do it. ”
What’s your best advice for other entrepreneurs?
The biggest lesson is that you should listen to yourself. We people always tend to listen to others. You think they are wiser than you, and they know better.
We've listened to people that told us we had to go in a certain direction, and they're not even in the business anymore, and we're still here. Things can get confusing from time to time, but the most important thing is to listen to yourself.
Listening to others will tap into the doubts that you will certainly have. But you can better listen to your gut, because you probably know what is the right thing to do yourself. Just be enthusiastic and go. You can do it.