Conversion: how they managed to launch their “premium” nature campsite in the Cevennes

The project. Buy a nature campsite in the Cevennes and upgrade it.

The context. Céline and Françoise left the Paris region to run a campsite in a corner of the wild nature of Gard. The fatigue of the city dwellers’ behavior and the beauty of the place convinced them to change their lives.

The story. “Tired of !” : In 2019, Céline Paulo and Françoise Letanneur-Repessé left the Paris region. The two women live with their three children in a cozy farmhouse in Yvelines. But they are tired of “urban behavior and metro-work-sleep”. Françoise, 57, is the head of a driving school, Céline, 43, a videographer on Canal +. “I still love my job, but the environment no longer suits me,” she says.

The campsite Salendrinque is for sale. A wild corner of white water, waterfalls and nature in the heart of the Cévennes Gard. Two acres, one hundred pitches (minimum to live together) in a rural town of a thousand inhabitants: disturbance is a hell of a game!

“We were looking for a campsite near a lake or a river instead of the sea,” says Céline. But we did not know the region at all when the agency presented it to us. Céline and Françoise are not professionals in tourist reception. But they know how to adjust the stars. Completing a first season as volunteers with the transferors, Céline follows a two-week training course in Toulouse on ecotourism, especially on safety and administration. And the buyers are supported by the very dynamic economic development agency Alès.

In addition, the contribution from the sale of their house in Ile-de-France opens the doors to bank credit, and they benefit from a long sale: the fund first and a promise to buy six years later for the buildings (the land, in this case). Finally, the village of Lasalle, a few minutes walk away, is extremely inviting with its primary school, health center, shops and market.

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The first year of solo operation unfortunately starts in the middle of Covid, with an amputated season and a matching turnover. The new owners, in the absence of being able to present a previous financial year, are not entitled to “what it costs” from the public sector. But in 2021, a pleasant surprise, they greatly exceed the average turnover that the sellers announced when the fund was taken over!

Today, they abound with projects: “We want to develop an approach that is more centered on relaxation and nature, Céline announces. With better equipped, more premium lodges. We are also improving catering by going from snacks to local cuisine with local gardeners, goat herders, beekeepers and breeders. “This year, they have also invested in communication with a new website, Google Adwords and Facebook reference campaigns and a Waze subscription. challenges: to retain a small team of employees and … succeed in going on vacation a bit!

Expertise. Philippe Aparicio, Adviser to the Economic Development Agency in Alès.

• It is necessary to avoid the danger of pulse recordings, which are frequent. My role was to study with Céline and Françoise the feasibility of their project. They started from an existing base and revenue, but provided an ambitious improvement.

• We worked with an auditing firm on key figures and development hypotheses: extending the season by investing in rental housing, integrating quality catering to expand and retain customers, especially locals, and increasing the average basket. It was a risk to take, but at the end of the confinement, holidaymakers wanted more exclusive accommodation with individual sanitary facilities. This is a general trend in this sector.

• Now that the business is well launched, Céline and Françoise can fit into the network of local tourism actors – carriers, places, restaurateurs – and bring synergies and partnerships into play: cross-exchanges, discounts, ambassadors, etc.

• In order to retain employees, it is especially necessary to give them the opportunity to stay on site and to train them to ensure their versatility.

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