How we moved to France to run a luxury camping business
- Credit: Archant
British couple Nigel and Claire moved to France to run a glamping business in Tarn-et-Garonne after visiting a property exhibition in the UK two years ago
Nigel Francis spent 11 years running a tented safari camp in Kenya before returning to the UK, so when he and his partner Claire MacMenemey decided to escape their nine-to-five jobs in Harrogate, they decided to move to France and set up something similar.
They attended the French Property Exhibition in Wetherby in May 2016, knowing they wanted to run a “glampsite” somewhere in France, but not really knowing where to focus their search.
“It’s a huge country and the show helped us narrow down our ideas enough to plan a viewing trip. We made some really useful contacts with estate agents and were introduced to the beautiful department of Tarn-et-Garonne. We had never explored this corner of France before but on visiting, it was absolutely perfect for us”, said Claire.
They planned to buy land and start a luxury tented camp from scratch, and narrowed their search to the Tarn-et-Garonne area, at first travelling from the UK frequently for viewings. Before long, they decided it would be easier to find what they wanted if they lived closer, and took the significant step of moving to France. “Nigel moved over in September 2016 and I followed a month later,” says Claire.
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The search for a plot of land was often disheartening. At one point they thought they had found the perfect place, but when their planning application was rejected twice they decided to try another approach.
“We knew about Le Camp, as it would have been our main competition, and then one day we found out the owners were planning to sell,” says Claire. “We thought it was out of our budget but we spoke to them anyway, and we talked to the estate agents about our options for getting a loan, and it began to look possible.” Finally, it was all coming together – they made an offer and applied for a loan.
After a long wait for their loan, they managed to buy Le Camp in May 2017, five weeks before their first guests arrived. “It has always been run as a summer-only camp, so we had to put up all the tents and furnish them.”
This summer’s bookings were made with the previous owners, and many customers had been before, so they had to learn the ropes while meeting high expectations. “It’s a difficult gap to fill, but feedback has been really positive,” says Claire. “And Nigel has lots of knowledge and experience, so we have a safe pair of hands. Any problem we come up against, he has seen 10 times worse in Africa.”
“Now we are looking forward to another busy summer and hopefully quite a few off-peak bookings too. It really feels like home now and we have made lots of friends (mostly expats like us). We spend as much time as possible outdoors, enjoying the beautiful countryside. It’s a million miles from our old life in the UK but it’s the best decision we ever made.”
For anyone dreaming of a holiday home in France or even a move across the Channel, then why not visit The French Property Exhibition at Wetherby Racecourse on 19-20 May 2018.
The daily seminars offer free expert advice on all aspects of buying and living in France, there are lots of properties to browse through with great value properties still to be found and it’s a perfect opportunity to meet property agents face to face to discuss your plans.
Register for free fast track entry to The French Property Exhibition at Wetherby Racecourse on www.frenchpropertyexhibition.com