CAMPING holidays are changing - and there is no bigger proof of this than the upcoming sale of Eurocamp.
The iconic tour firm flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, making holidays under tent or caravan a 'respectable' choice for the middle classes, but it has now been put up for sale by its owners, India-based Cox & Kings.
"The sale of Eurocamp is a signal of an end of an era," admits Noel Josephides, chairman of Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
"There is now an enormous supply of accommodation in hotels across Europe, much of it is cheap. And campsites, like hotels, know they no longer need to work with operators like Eurocamp when they can get business direct from websites."
Mark Hammerton, whose father launched a camping holiday firm in the early 1970s, alongside Eurocamp, agrees that the big camping operator business model is outdated.
"When camping holidays in Europe took off from the 1970s, campsites were owned by farmers who couldn't speak English and holidaymakers wanted reps on hand to sort out problems. Now campsites are more professional."
While the sale might be sad for Eurocamp it isn't sad for the industry as a whole.
"Things have changed massively in the camping and caravanning world - but this sector is very much alive and kicking," believes Hammerton.
RUSSELL Wheldon, managing director at Alan Rogers Camping, which arranges bookings or lets customers make their own plans at 170 European campsites, echoes this view.
"With tents and camping gear now available through Argos, Tesco and Amazon, there's a terrific buzz about the sector.
"Campsites are becoming more professional, with infinity pools and water slides. Others settle for a lake in the middle of nowhere."
Wheldon explains that many people discover camping by going to pop festivals, but can feel daunted about setting off for a family camping holiday.
To ease these nerves, Alan Rogers Travel is launching 'instruction tours' for first-time campers in 2014 - they will meet in Portsmouth, with an experienced group leader, and find out how to tackle problems which might arise on a French campsite.
Your pocket will thank you for overcoming your jitters - families of two adults and two children can spend less than £1000 on camping holidays in Europe next year, including ferry crossings.
Camping holidays also give you the chance to be on-trend in our changing economic times. Wheldon says: "Many families like the idea of children enjoying a simple way of life."
Alan Rogers Camping (01580 214000 and www.alanrogers.com); several camping and mobile home holidays firms belong to the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) at 0208 744 9280 and www.aito.com.