Specialising in providing unique, sustainable overnight stays that are immersed in nature, Dutch startup Campspace has just raised €3 million. The traveltech company has also just announced the acquisition of its German competitor, Pop-Up Camps.
The funding was led by Swedish investment company VNV Global and included notable angel investors, former Booking.com board member David Vismans and former Booking.com director Andrea Carini. And, with the acquisition, the startup is taking on hundreds of new campsites and hosts in the process.
Nature-based and sustainable-focused travel choices have been one of the standout trends in the travel industry since the pandemic – more and more of us across Europe are looking for these unique experiences to disconnect from the buzz of city life.
At its heart, Campspace is a platform that specialises in unique outdoor stays be they in a personal tent, campervan, or in a cosy treehouse, yurt or cabin. But what sets it apart is a focus on supporting local tourism and a desire to make the local outdoor overnight stay a key part of a sustainable lifestyle.
As more and more people rediscover the beauty of the great outdoors, interest in Campspace and the sustainable travel movement has risen rapidly. A recent study by Booking.com found that 81% of travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the next 12 months, a notable increase from 62% in 2016. Alongside this, 73% of travellers want to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel.
Campspace solves both these issues by allowing guests to book previously inaccessible spots in nature, often located on privately-owned land or on little-known campsites, and cultivating a close-knit community of travellers and hosts that share a deep appreciation for nature and human connectivity.
Hugo van Donselaar, CEO and Co-Founder of Campspace said: “Currently, the travel industry accounts for about 10% of global CO2 emissions. Due to continued population and prosperity growth, the number of tourists and the negative impact on our environment is only set to increase. By opening up hidden outdoor stays closer to home, we make tourism more sustainable and meet the needs of the next generation of travelers. We live in the most well-connected time in human history but on a person-to-person level we remain incredibly unconnected. Our platform provides people with unique experiences and memories, but not at the cost of the planet and local communities.
Inspired by a trip in 2017, the idea for Campspace came from co-founder Alexander van Nimwegen’s desire to bring about closer connections to nature. Frustrated with identikit campsites and motorhomes that were increasingly too full to provide a good experience, he rang the doorbell of two locals and asked to stay on their property. Having been warmly received and given many recommendations for the surrounding area, Alexander returned to the Netherlands and founded Campspace with friends Hugo van Donselaar, Merijn Straathof and Jeroen Wielaards in an attempt to recreate that experience on a broader scale.
Since then, Campspace has grown at a rate of 300% per year, with a focus on offering a variety of one-of-a-kind pitches and accommodations on the platform right across Europe. While the pandemic and its associated lockdowns were responsible for a surge in the popularity of outdoor stays during early 2020, global demand has yet to slow down. Camping is now a popular pastime across Europe – not just the famously outdoorsy nations of Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Despite this rapid growth, the company has ensured genuine human connection is the priority. Campspace encourages multiple interactions between the hosts and the guests ahead of the stay, prompting travellers to forge a bond and learn as much as possible about their new surroundings before arrival. Additionally, the vast majority of the unique locations offer overnight stays on the host’s land or with the host in the nearby vicinity, meaning the platform facilitates a more personal and authentic experience of the area for the guests.
The community feel that underscores Campspace is perhaps best demonstrated through the story of one of its hosts – Luc in the Belgian Ardennes. Luc offers his land for camping, hosting small festivals and also has a small cabin called Chalet Rosée. For Luc, the platform has made him new friends and nourished his passion for nature, allowing him to show those who live in urban areas the beauty of his surroundings and impress on them the need to protect local habitats.
Luc said: “Campspace has allowed me to live out my dream, to meet new and interesting people and demonstrate the importance of protecting our local habitats. The best part about hosting for me is showing someone from the city how wonderful it is to pluck a carrot straight from the earth and eat it. Their eyes grow wide and they say ‘Wow!.”
Campspace’s team also prioritise cultural fit when vetting potential hosts – ensuring that hosts understand the Campspace philosophy and human-centred approach.
Campspace, which already offers over 2,000 unique places to stay in over 30 countries, will use the investment and acquisition to rapidly expand the company’s offering throughout Germany, France and the rest of Europe, with the ultimate goal of making sustainable outdoor overnight stays accessible for everyone, no matter where they live.
Although the terms of the deal are not being disclosed, the acquisition of Pop-Up Camps will facilitate a seamless expansion for Campspace into the German market. Eventually, the team wants to lead a cultural shift away from the idea that rest and relaxation can only be achieved by travelling halfway around the world. Instead providing opportunities to nourish and revitalise yourself at hidden nature spots in the local area.
Daan Sanders, Tech Investor of VNV Global, said: “The pandemic has greatly strengthened everyone’s connection to the great outdoors, particularly those areas on their own doorstep. But too often people are limited in their choices when it comes to local overnight stays. That’s where Campspace is making a real difference by unlocking previously inaccessible areas and connecting people. Their network of hosts, guests and scouts provides the opportunity to take many large steps in the area of sustainable travel and create a positive impact in communities right across Europe. We are excited to see where Hugo and the team go next.”
Jobst von Paepcke, Founder of Pop-Up Camps said: “We can only tackle the climate crisis if we leave old ideas behind and are open to innovation when it comes to reducing the carbon emissions associated with tourism. Since the inception of Pop-Up Camps, the focus has been on local, sustainable tourism and I am delighted that we have found like-minded people within the Campspace team who share our mission.”