Sent by Dr. Gianni Picilli, President of Confedercampeggio, Italian Federation, founding member of the FICC

Availing ourselves of an information data bank that began in 1959, we would like to open a debate that includes those in the business end of our industry, and others, in order to get a better grasp of the current economic crisis and its effect on the use of recreational vehicles.

The economic and financial crisis that has affected Europe, and therefore also Italy, now and again shows timid signs of abating, both in terms of types of product and in terms of geographical areas – by which I mean both Italian and foreign markets.  The open air tourism industry, from this point of view however, has only now begun to feel the consequences of the crisis, somewhat later than other sectors of Italian industry. 
The initiatives embarked upon by manufacturers and dealerships to stem the crisis have been many and varied.  It has not been easy, also because in moments of such a generalized and devastating economic crisis, it is difficult to convince consumers to spend on non-essential items as opposed to essential ones.  Add to this the restrictions now imposed on the lending policies of banks, loans which are essential to the purchase of an RV. Of course, when the crisis is over, the manufacturers will not have an easy task of calmly analyzing the market data to relaunch production which, without a doubt, unless there are changes of a nationwide and European legislative nature, will not reach the levels enjoyed in the past.
Registrations of new vehicles have fallen compared to 2009 and 2008.  This is why the restrictions of credit access for families and their tendency to not purchase non-essential goods, takes on new levels of importance, not to mention the hefty increase in the cost of petrol over the last six months, with no end in sight.    

The forecast is not a rosy one, and will not be so, until manufacturers are able to make their new vehicles more appealing, perhaps proposing a freezing of prices and models for two years. This would also allow for changes to be made on current assembly lines, or allow in-depth studies of the industry’s market (by hiring experts in tourism and marketing economy with firsthand knowledge of our particular industry).
The used vehicle market enjoys moments of peaks only because Eurotax evaluation has been eliminated: vehicles are sold at prices lower than the normal estimates. Fortunately, buyers are protected from “bad deals” by the guarantees offered by the dealerships. Italians are very slowly rediscovering the caravan (“camperized”), with its affordable purchase price that can be easy absorbed into a middle-class family budget. 
What is needed, now that the extra stock that was parked on the lots of Italian manufacturers has disappeared, is a different kind of planning (and I refer to the manufacturers and dealership networks), although we must not underestimate the importance of the fact that many areas in Italy are still difficult to fully enjoy by itinerant vacationers.  Many local authorities still have qualms about letting RVs stopover in their areas, perhaps unaware of the fact that these vacationers annually generate a considerable amount – several million euros – of financial turnover.   Let us also not forget the hostility that some campsite operators feel towards those who travel in campers (perhaps the feeling is mutual?) even though of the 2,573 campsites in Italy, Confedercampeggio tells us that 1,149 offer camper services to its clients.
We must, today more than ever, unite to defend our hobby: Manufacturers + Dealerships + Campsites + Ourselves = freedom of movement = development of the industry = the revival of the local tourist industry = an increase in revenue for everyone.
Our campers, above all, participate in gatherings organised by clubs all around the country (there are some 5,000 initiatives every year all over Italy):  it is an inexpensive way to get to know new areas and also enjoy their cuisine. In fact, the mayors of many “minor” towns have increasingly been in favour of these initiatives which, undoubtedly, also boost the local economy. Other mayors, on the other hand, still do not allow RVs to stop or circulate in their areas, citing petty and easily contestable reasons. 
And all of this also in the great art cities of our land. Our itinerant tourists travel the country far and wide (abroad as well) choosing areas that offer well-serviced rest areas.  Need I remind you that, in these cases, the cost of overnighting is reasonable (for a family), less than the rates charged by campsites: from free to 10 or 15 euros per day.  Unfortunately, however, rest areas do not always welcome those who arrive in caravans.
Those who prefer not to overnight in designated rest areas go to campsites and put up with various types of harassments” that are not always demonstrable nor reportable.  While seeking the safety and the use of the many services and comforts that these campsites offer, many have complained to us that the operators charge, for one night, rates that correspond to a three-night stay. The camper services are usually located far away from the tent pitches, with the consequent nuisance this causes. Not to mention the fact that the concept of a plot and the surface area of a plot do not always have the same meaning in April, May, June and July. And it means nothing when we talk about the first half of August, when the sites are overrun by vacationers; they miraculously reopen again after August 15, when many tent campers start heading home as their holiday time ends.    
Confedercampeggio has made a summary of much of the data collected from 1959 to the present and brings it to the attention of the manufacturers, the dealerships and all of those who love and believe in open air tourism. Confedercampeggio is happy to offer its experience and expertise to all.  Not only, together with another organization, it presented the Ministry of Tourism with a report highlighting the need to revitalize itinerant tourism at zero cost, starting with the premise that the “black gold” (tourism) of our country is still an untapped resource.  

  • Confedercampeggio believes that – now more than ever – a legislative tool is called for that can beat the competition and can improve the all-round services offered, something that is in the interest of both campsite operators and designated rest areas. Obsolete regulations must be immediately abolished.  Opening a new campsite, or improving one, invariably means encountering bureaucratic difficulties, but designated rest stops also encounter the ostracism of the big cities.  The last legislative decrees that dealt with tourism (in particular those that were once called “complementary accommodation complexes”) dates back to 1983, after which only a few national laws were passed… and then a complete void, partially made up for by conflicting regional laws.
  • Confedercampeggio calls for a law that recognizes the importance of open air tourism, like the one called for – thanks to our involvement – by the Federazione Internazionale del Campeggio e del Caravanning (International Camping and Caravanning Federation), the F.I.C.C.  The important role of itinerant tourism must be recognised, both from an economic point of view, as from a cultural point of view. Open air tourism is a lifestyle choice that respects all the rules of every aspect of civil society.  It is a choice that deserves to be respected and taken into consideration.   
Italy manufactures RVs that are competitive on a European level, are sold by several hundred firms and are appreciated by millions of people.  We therefore demand our right to enjoy our hobby in complete freedom and according to the rules of democracy… in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It is a hobby that, today, generates vast revenue and employs thousands upon thousands of Italians.
Calenzano, 24 February 
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