Caravan fans begin fightback: Get off our back axles

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The Independent Online

Fed up with their image as the anoraks of the tourism world, bosses of the Caravan Club will launch a £500,000 publicity blitz this week to explain just how much their members are worth to the economy.

A series of newspaper adverts will suggest that it is time for the rest of the nation to get off caravanners' tow-bars and allow them to walk tall among rival fraternities of package tourists and backpackers.

The club, founded in 1907, speaks for 800,000 fans of the towable holiday home. It has calculated that members spend at least £1.2bn on new kit ­ from motor homes to tents ­ every year.

Some 21,000 new vehicles are bought annually and membership of caravan associations has grown strongly in recent years. Once the further £175m a year spent on local purchases such as food, clothing, fuel and visits to attractions is added, says the Caravan Club, a substantial contributor to the economy is born.

John Parsons, spokesman for the club founded in 1907, said: "Caravanning has always had a bit of a negative image but we have decided that it is time to stick our heads over the parapet. We spend a lot of money in the economy and we thought it was time to stop being apologetic. We are not being aggressive, after all we are a conservative organisation, but we are making our point politely.

"After events such as the foot-and-mouth outbreak, it is clear how vital tourism is to local economies. We just want to demonstrate how it can be a lifeline to rural businesses."

The campaign, to be launched on Thursday by Kim Howells,the Tourism minister, will encourage readers to phone a hotline for a booklet on the joys of a caravan holiday.

But quite whether one of the Caravan Club's new messages will fit with its new aura of quiet dignity remains to be seen. The adverts feature a traditional tow-bar coupling with the slogan: "Investing in the country takes balls of steel."

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