As website designers and developers, DMJ Computer Services was recently commissioned to revamp the existing website of a Brittany gite and camping business in the French département of Ille-et-Vilaine. The Le Bois Coudrais owners also asked DMJ to provide a version of their website in French. As this was a lovely project for a lovely business, we thought it might be interesting to ask Claire and Philippe, the business owners, a few questions regarding their move to France, how they went about starting their business, and much more. Read on…
1. Can you tell us about your journey from England to France and how you came to own a camping and gite complex here?
We moved to France at the end of May 2002. We arrived by boat from Jersey with 2 young children (5 and 8) and the 2 cats meowing on the parcel shelf of the car. All our belongings arrived by container a few days later.
My parents had recently bought a holiday home in Cuguen where my Aunt and Uncle already lived, so on visiting for Christmas 2001, we got chatting about the campsite that was up for sale in the same village.
We had always talked of retiring to France, so decided what was the point of waiting, may as well do it now! We visited the property in February but talked ourselves out of it. A few weeks later we made an offer thinking it would be refused, the rest is history!
2. What inspired you to start a business in the hospitality industry, particularly focusing on camping and gites?
We both studied Hotel management courses and worked in the industry.
Also having worked 3 holiday seasons, 2 as campsite couriers, in France whilst we were travelling, owning our own Campsite was something we had always talked about.
3. Can you describe the facilities and accommodations available at your complex? What sets your complex apart from others in the region?
We have a small campsite of 25 pitches and 4 gites. On moving here, we decided to keep it small with a personal touch and very much keep it as camping used to be. We have mainly families with young children. The kids love the pool, animal enclosure, and playground. Parents love the fact their kids can run freely and make new friends. Many families come back year after year which we absolutely love.
4. How have you embraced the local French culture in your business, and how do you incorporate it into the guest experience?
We actively promote local festivals and events with daily updates on what is happening in the area.
We sell local products in the Reception and of course, we have our lovely daily delivery from the village boulangerie during the height of the season.
5. What are some of the key attractions and activities guests can enjoy in the surrounding area? Can you recommend any must-see sights or local events?
The site is so well placed, 40 minutes in any direction and you can reach Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Saint-Malo, Rennes, Fougères, Dinan, Dinard, and the beautiful Emerald Coast.
If walking is your thing, there are miles of coastal walking on the GR34.
For the cyclists, quiet country lanes surround us, and many, many designated routes are just a short drive away.
6. How do you cater to different types of guests, such as families, couples, or solo travelers? Are there any specific amenities or activities tailored to these groups?
We do our best to accommodate people’s wishes. With direct bookings, we are able to provide a more personal service. Guests are able to ask for a specific pitch if they have been before.
Families often want to be in the field so the kids can play, whilst our seniors prefer to be nearer the facilities.
7. Can you share a memorable or heartwarming story from your time as the owner of this complex?
We have so many stories from the last 21 years, we need to write a book!
One thing is the number of guests that come back year after year, many becoming good friends. Some have even moved to France and become our neighbours
8. What challenges have you faced in running a camping and gite complex in France, and how have you overcome them?
French bureaucracy is definitely a challenge, but by perseverance and speaking French, we normally sort it out in the end.
9. How has your business adapted to changes in the tourism industry, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or the growing focus on eco-tourism and sustainability?
Adapting to new technologies is another challenge. We want to try to keep the personal touch where a customer can talk to a human when trying to reserve or ask a question, but it is getting harder each year. Since Covid 19, more and more customers want to book through large OTAs like Booking or Air.
10. What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a similar business in France or another foreign country?
For those wanting to take the plunge, do a lot of research and ask lots of questions. Learn the language and never assume that life in France will be easy, especially if you are coming with children.
The challenges for kids adapting to French schools, often with no language skills, are enormous. The benefits, in the end, are amazing though.
11. How do you handle language barriers, given that your target audience may be English-speaking travellers? Do you offer any language assistance or resources for your guests?
Most of our guests come from Holland, Belgium, and the UK so mainly English-speaking. All our documentation in Reception and signs around the site are in English and French and we now have our lovely new website in 2 languages as well.
12. Finally, what are your future plans for your camping and gite complex? Are there any exciting developments or expansions in the works?
Plans for the future? None at the moment, but development never stops and we are always open to ideas.
So what do you think? Did you find Claire and Philippe’s story about their Brittany gite and campsite interesting and motivating? Have you ever considered owning your own holiday business in France? Or perhaps you already own one and the interview got you thinking: would you like a version of your hospitality business website in French? Please feel free to take a look at our work and what we can do for you. Don’t forget to drop us a line or add a comment too. We would love to hear from you!
You can find Le Bois Coudrais at 35270, Cuguen, France.