A Czech 'Airbnb' for caravans cruises onto the holiday scene

More and more Czechs are opting out of air travel and embracing the open road. The founders of the Campiri platform explain why.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 25.04.2022 16:50:00 (updated on 23.05.2022) Reading time: 7 minutes

Caravan excursions may conjure images of retirees and dusty roads, but in the Czech Republic, recreational vehicles (RVs) are becoming an increasingly popular way of exploring the country's amazing places on a budget and with less environmental impact.

According to data from the Ministry of Transport, more registered motorhomes and trailers hit the Czech roads than ever before in 2021. In total, Czechs own 22,088 motorhomes and 31,396 trailers. What's behind the current trend toward holidays on wheels?

Lukáš Janoušek and Paul Tesar may have an idea. The duo's Campiri platform, a service akin to an Airbnb for RVs, has seen exponential growth since its debut in 2020 with no signs of slowing down.

The company digitizes the experience of renting a caravan (or lending out your own) via one convenient platform. As the summer travel season approaches we spoke with Janoušek and Tesar about their unique business model, plans for expansion, and why more and more Czechs are opting out of air travel and embracing the open road.

Camping and digital platforms just don't seem like a natural fit. What led you to connect the idea of creating an "Airbnb" for motorhomes?

LJ: Today people are used to buying goods and using services via the Internet. Digitalization of caravanning and camping is a way to bring more customers, especially younger ones, into the sector while offering them a much higher level of comfort.

PT: Plus, the connection between motorhomes and campsites is a natural one. A lot of campers are heading to campsites now and if you can book a caravan or motorhome online, you want to do the same for your pitches. By “pitch”, we're not only talking about campsites, but also other motorhome-friendly sites too.

Who is the average caravan user in Czechia, and how is that changing?

LJ: A few years ago, camping was mainly the domain of older people who had enough time and traveled with their grandchildren. Today, millennials are the fastest-growing group and smaller caravans are at the top in terms of demand. Younger people, often couples, who don't need as much comfort, are willing to travel with motorhomes more than before.

PT: In general, however, families with children dominate the summer months, followed by younger couples or, conversely, older couples who no longer take their grandchildren on holiday. As far as age is concerned, the strongest group are people aged between 35 and 50 and highly educated; think entrepreneurs or those in managerial positions. The common element for all of them is that they prefer online shopping, they’re from bigger cities, they like nature, and a holiday in a crowded resort in Egypt is not their dream.

Why was this moment the right time to launch your platform?

PT: In most cases, Czechia is following Western trends several years late. The wave of increasing interest in buying or renting a motorhome came here only a few years ago. At the same time, there was no dominant competition here, so we saw the potential of the local market to launch the service.

How does Czechia compare to other countries both in Europe and abroad when it comes to "camping culture"?

LJ: Camping has a strong tradition in Czechia, but I feel that the local market has fallen behind in its development. There hasn't been much investment in modernizing campsites…and generally, camping is perceived more as low-cost travel. Compared to foreign markets like Austria, Switzerland or France, there’s a big difference. I think it’s due to the fact that the Czech Generation X preferred to travel abroad after the fall of communism. 

PT: On the other hand, there was a boom in glamping in Czechia a few years ago, i.e. luxury camping, which has again attracted the attention of younger generations. This trend is sure to continue into the campsites, as people increasingly prefer individual travel with absolute comfort, which they are happy to pay extra for. This has also led us to invest 1% of our turnover into infrastructure development and sustainable projects related to caravanning and camping.

How did you choose which countries to expand into and how does the timeline look for your expansion efforts?

PT: Our primary goal is to bring together in one app the supply of caravans, campervans and motorhomes. From rental companies to private owners and campsites to caravan parks, all across Central and Eastern Europe. We want to add a world-class user experience and open it up to potential customers from other countries. We believe that the whole region has huge potential for this. 

LJ: In addition, we already offer caravans and motorhomes in Czechia, Poland, and Greece, and we’re launching in Slovakia now too. But we’re definitely not stopping there! We’re planning to open a branch in southern Spain later this year, so that customers can escape the winter and extend their summer.

What did you learn in your first year in business, and what do you think propelled your initial success?

LJ: We found that the interest was huge. But at the same time, a lot of people don't know how to do it. For example, some people don’t know that most motorhomes only need a normal car license to drive. While others aren’t aware that all modern vehicles nowadays have independent heating so that they’ll never get cold. As a result, we’ve found that we also need to invest heavily in education to make camping as accessible as possible. This will also help break down the preconceptions that it's not for everyone. At the same time, we want to show newcomers how to behave responsibly on the road.

In terms of your business model (which includes a great investment scheme) how unique is this in the world? It's kind of like a timeshare for motorhomes, right?

LJ: Our business model is very unique. We’re able to provide a comprehensive service to our customers and become their guide to the world of camping. We can help them rent a great vehicle and soon we’ll also add campsite bookings.

PT: For those who are passionate about camping, we can also sell them a campervan at a good price. They can then lend it to other interested people we bring in, and actually make a profit! At the same time, we also offer this opportunity to everyone who already owns a motorhome.

LJ: For people who want to have everything completely worry-free, we offer a complete service too. From parking to servicing and maintenance, to handing over to customers. We send the vehicle owners the money for the rentals, and when they want to go on the road, we prepare and hand over the vehicle ready to go. 

Are there Western models that are similar to what you are doing? 

PT: Yes, there are both in the US and in Western Europe. However, the vast majority of them do not operate in the CEE region at all. So we’re the only ones offering the service here today.

Prior to the existence of your platform, what were some of the challenges involved in renting a motorhome in Czechia?

PT: As far as rental companies are concerned, most of them don’t have an online booking process. Renting a motorhome was a long and painful process…the customer had to send emails, make phone calls, and find out where there were still vacancies.

LJ: In the case of renting campervans from private owners for a fee, insurance and special permissions for rental companies is a major issue. Unless the owner has a commercial insurance policy and a business licence (like a rental company does), their vehicle isn’t covered by collision insurance. With Campiri, we’ve changed this and are now the only player in the market to offer a unique insurance policy that covers the owner for exactly these situations.

What is your company's underlying philosophy and mission? What drives you (no pun intended)?

LJ: At Campiri we believe that camping and caravanning are great ways to reconnect people with nature, and to help make travel more eco-friendly. That's also why we want to help owners to use the motorhomes they already have, so that less new ones will need to be made.

PT: We also want to get people excited about slow-travel; make them think more about the impact of their travel and at least occasionally choose a motorhome trip to the countryside over a weekend in a hotel in Rome by airplane. That's why we carefully educate new campers. We let them know how to treat the place where they stay and how to support local businesses or communities on their travels. And as mentioned, we also set aside 1% of our turnover for camping and caravanning related projects.

This article was written in cooperation with the Campiri. Read more about our sponsored content policy here.

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