Campsited, the online campsite specialist, was launched in Ireland three years ago when founder Finán O’Donoghue could not find a single website where you could successfully search and book campsites in Europe.
O’Donoghue’s frustrating experience led to the idea for Campsited, an online marketplace which initially offered camping locations around Ireland and then the UK. This was expanded to 12 countries across continental Europe in spring 2018.
Earlier this year, Campsited also won the Pioneer Travel Tech Award from Enterprise Ireland, which was judged by a panel of executives from leading travel and technology companies including Delta Air Lines, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and JetBlue Ventures.
O’Donoghue talked to tnooz about Campsited’s journey so far and expansion plans for the business:
Tell us about how you have expanded into Europe this year?
We began partnering with a French company in 2017, which is contracting on behalf of Campsited so we could get more supply on to our system. We built an integration between their system and our booking engine.
This has allowed us to add 900 campsites in 12 new European countries, including about 600 in France. When we launched our new website in this spring, we started to drive customers to this new supply.
Since then, we’ve been seeing 20% week-on-week growth in sales, so we’re doubling our bookings each month, although that’s from a zero base.
The European campsites are our primary focus and it’s big growth in terms of revenue. We will keep adding further supply to drive consumer growth, as well as focusing on building up the platform’s user experience to make it as good as we can.
This move has been huge for us – probably our biggest step forward.
What has Campsited’s journey been like since you started the business in 2015?
We initially offered campsites in Ireland and then added campsites in the UK in 2016. Then at the end of 2016 we ran out of cash and I thought the show was over. But, in hindsight, it was the making of the business.
In April 2017, we came second in a Google Adopt a Startup Programme - that gave us some winnings and put the business on a fresh trajectory. It also gave us some good PR - from that we started multiple conversations and then formed partnerships allowing us to close a sizeable enough round of funding. I was delighted.
What are your short-term priorities in expanding the business?
The immediate plan is to focus on three areas: we want to significantly scale our supply by adding more countries and more campsites in every country; we want to continue to drive our growth based on the trajectory we’ve been on over the last few months; we also want to raise more money – between €1 million and €1.5 million.
So far, we’ve raised €1.4 million – all of our money has come from Enterprise Ireland and private investors.
For the next round, we probably will go through private investors, do some crowdfunding and then look at venture capital a bit later in the year.
Will you be expanding to cover more countries in Europe?
We’ll look at countries like Slovakia and Slovenia, which have a huge culture of outdoor pursuits. We want to bring these markets to the rest of the world by increasing consumer visibility to places they probably never thought about. It’s a bit like when Ryanair started opening new routes to places you’d never thought of going.
Do you see Campsited eventually expanding its portfolio beyond Europe?
What’s really interesting is we’re getting inbound queries from campsites in Africa and Latin America – places like Botswana, Bolivia and South Africa. As we grow organically as a brand, we will be able to start selling far-flung destinations.
I think we’ll start adding some countries beyond Europe organically by the end of 2018 and then reassess the markets outside Europe in 2019 as part of a more strategic approach.
We’ve already created a position paper on Australia and New Zealand, and we will pursue that.
How will you develop your online platforms?
Currently we have over 2,100 campsites, of which roughly half - around 1,000 - are bookable with live availability. The others are listings.
Most of the people who book through Campsited are from the UK and Ireland, but we will be going live with sites in French and Spanish in the next two months. We will probably add other prominent languages thereafter.
What about longer-term ambitions for Campsited?
Our end goal is to become a marketplace for outdoor pursuits – there’s a huge opportunity to offer more than campsites with camper vans, activities, adventure tours and adventure holidays. The campsite market is worth an estimated €15 billion globally per year, but the outdoor adventure market is close to €200 billion.
Because we’ve built the technology it would be quite easy to adapt and integrate other services. By the end of 2019, we should have the first additional product and service live.
Will you be increasing your team as you grow?
Currently we have three full-time staff and hope to get that close to 10. We will be growing our marketing and customer service. There’s also another 10 people working on the project as outsourced partners.
With my background in technology, I’m kind of fixing a problem for myself. There is lots to do, but it’s very exciting – it’s not really like working.
Related reading from tnooz:
Takeaways from a day on the Irish travel startup scene (May 2018)
Irish startup weekend taps the spirit of Pokemon Go for tours and activities (Nov 2017)