30 years travelling with the kitchen sink

NOVEMBER 2012

18-03-01Germany. Germany yet again. That was where the first modern caravan was made. It was 1931, and Arist Dethleffs decided to take his family and the kitchen sink on his travels. Modern caravanning was born. The economic recovery after the Second World War encouraged mass tourism and Europe, caravanning became a genuine phenomenon.

So in 1956, Dethleffs began the mass production of these vehicles which in France – with the famous roulottes – soon became all the rage. On Spanish roads, caravans shared the tarmac with animal-drawn carts and the occasional car.

18-03-02The 1950s – the first caravan

The first Spanish caravan was manufactured in 1956. Pedro Martínez Aznar describes himself as the pioneer of caravanning in Spain. “I got the idea to manufacture caravans, first out of a love for camping, and second, because of my profession as an insurance adjuster, and a bodywork manufacturer for cars and coaches. This was the reason that I began work on the first caravan in my workshops in calle Tuset in February 1956.” That was how Caravanas Tuset started.

18-03-03The 1960s – the public profile

Once again, Barcelona was a spearhead. The first trade fair in Spain featuring camping and caravanning took place in 1960. It was the first Sports and Tourism Show, held in the old Hospital de la Santa Creu.

The event moved to Fira de Barcelona after four years. In the official brochure for the 1963 show, the change of venue was justified as follows: “The warm welcome provided required the appropriate pavilion for the presentation of this fourth event, and this could be none other than one of those in the Montjuïc trade fair area, precisely because of their ideal conditions.”

Spanish society in the 1960s began to take an interest in a different type of tourism which was explained by the president of the 1963 event, Carbó i Vidal, in terms of the “rise in Spaniards’ living standards.”

18-03-04The 1970s – modern caravanning

Twelve years later, in 1975, the Sports Show, which had a strong presence in the sectors of camping and caravanning, became part of the International Boat Show, which was created in 1963. Modern caravanning began to gain a foothold in Spanish society, which was increasingly receptive to new experiences.

A businessman in the sector, Antonio Lluch, estimated the number of caravans sold between 1973 and 1976 at 5,000. According to Lluch, “Spaniards are waking up to the need to get back to nature.”

After these experiences, the International Caravanning Show, in its modern format as the leading trade fair event for this type of tourism and leisure, was born in 1977. The president was José Maria Ordeix, and the caravanning sector took on a life of its own within the International Boat Show.

18-03-05The 1980s – towards Europe

However, despite the efforts to raise the profile of the benefits of this lifestyle, caravanning failed to find a niche. In an interview published in ‘Mundo Deportivo’ in 1985, Ordeix complained that “60,000 caravans are sold in France, while in Spain, we don’t reach 4,000.”

At the time, Spain was about to enter what was then the European Economic Community and Ordeix saw this event as a great opportunity for the sector due to the adoption of a new tax that seemed to come from another galaxy. “The luxury tax is being abolished and VAT is being adopted and implemented,” he said.

1989 saw the first International Caravanning Show as an independent fair. The press release for its launch said that “the creation of this new specialist trade fair is due primarily to the new situation in the sector arising as a result of the significant growth in this business in recent years.” It was the thirteenth time the event had been held, but the first as an independent show.

18-03-06The 1990s to date – constant features at the event

Then came the roaring 1990s. At least, they were roaring for a sector that was experiencing significant growth. So much so that in 1991, more than 15,000 units including caravans and motor homes were sold. The robust health of the sector led to the International Caravanning Show’s relocation in 1998 to Gran Via, which is the current home of the exhibition.

The leading camping and caravanning event in Spain and southern Europe has been held there ever since. In 2012, it is taking place from 3 to 11 November, keeping its annual appointment with all lovers of this lifestyle. As it has done since 1977.

To travel in freedom

Travelling in freedom. That is the main thing that sets caravanning apart. Being able to drive, park and camp “freestyle,” as the youngest exponents say – is the most highly rated aspect by caravan lovers. And to do so, as well as the typical caravan that you hook up to your car, the best option is the motorhome, a vehicle in which the chassis and the cabin are connected. Of course, they are not all the same.

There are the “alcove” models, which are the most recognizable for having a large alcove above the driver’s seat which holds a large bed; the “semi-integrated” models, with a smaller alcove; the “integrated” models, in which the driver’s compartment and accommodation are all in one, and the “campers”, which are the mass produced vans with the interior fitted out as a motorhome and pop-up ceilings as the most typical feature.

E. PÉREZ MOYA