Information camp-sites

Below you will find useful information about the purchase and exploitation of a camp-site. The services of Inter-France are also available to anyone who has found a property them self and is ready to make a purchase. Have you found a suitable property? Check our page advise for purchase.

Types of Camp-sites

Nature camp-sites

A "Camping Rural" can be found in the direct vicinity of the residence of the owner, in either a rural or natural environment. There are approx. 1.100 of this sort of Nature camp-sites in France. Sometimes, depending on the location, the exploitation of a nature campsite can be combined with Gîtes or Chambres d’hôtes, whereby a somewhat larger basis of business activities can be obtained. Just as for the "tourist" camp-sites there is a classification of 1-4 stars, provided by a cooperation of organisations, for this type of terrain the stars are not called “stars” ("étoile" ) but "épis" (ears).

Camping à la Ferme

A “Camping à la Ferme” has maximal 6 pitches and offers a reception capacity of, at most, 20 people. Each camping pitch has a surface area of minimum 300m² and a maximum distance from sanitary supplies of 100 metres. A “Camping à la Ferme” may only be open for 2 months of the year and there are restrictive provisions, no mobile homes may be stationed there for example.

Aire Naturelle de Camping

An “Aire Naturelle” has minimum 7 and maximum 25 pitches with a reception capacity of, at most, 100 people. The camping pitches have a surface of at least 400 m² and there is legislation that imposes restrictions to the exploitation. In a number of departements the opening of a camping à la ferme or of an aire naturelle is only permitted if the camp-site exploitation is a part of an agricultural activity.

Camping “Tourisme” of “Loisirs”

A “camping/caravan - site” should be in the possession of an official licence from the local counsel (de préfecture). This contains the number of pitches, the star classification and is where the definition of “Tourist” (“Tourisme”) or “Leisure” (“Loisir”) camp-site will be stated. The licence shows whether it is primarily a camp-site for tourists “Tourisme” or if their are almost only permanent pitches, “Loisir, which are occupied by the same renter during the whole of the open season. The Star System is obligatory for a “Tourisme” camp-site and should comply with all kinds of standards and rules concerning the available facilities, planning of the terrain, installations, sanitary supplies, hygiene and safety. The presence of a swimming pool is also subject to strict legislation.

Parc Résidentiel de Loisirs

Parcs résidentiels de loisirs" a site where minimum 35 chalets (maximum 35m²) or mobile homes are located. The locations can be hired out, or the land can even be sold and the owner then pitches their own chalet or mobile home on the location. There are provisions concerning the number of locations, the percentage of the terrain surface area for communal facilities, the surface of parcels or pitches and concerning the maximum number op people who may stay on the terrain.

“Murs” and “Fonds de Commerce"

When buying a camp-site or other business a distinction is made between the acquisition of real estate , the “Murs” and the handing over of “Fonds” or “Fonds de Commerce”. A Fonds de Commerce can be compared to the Dutch used definition “goodwill and inventory”, the business activities together with any fittings, rights, trade names, contracts, permits and existing customers. A site is often offered as “Murs et Fonds” and is thus the transfer of ownership of real estate (“Murs” – grounds and buildings), as well as the business activities. Should the offer be exclusively for “Fonds de Commerce” you do not become the owner of the terrain and permanent buildings (Note: chalets up to 35m² generally belong to the transfer of a Fonds de Commerce and not to that of a real estate transfer, so these are usually included in the purchase of a Fonds de Commerce). The real estate will then be the subject of a commercial lease agreement and a yearly rental sum should be paid. The tenant often has the option of first rights to the purchase of the real estate and in some cases an option to buy can be set up against an already determined price. A transfer of a Fonds de Commerce therefore includes goodwill, inventory and affairs such as the right to an already existing tenancy contract, transfer of drink- and exploitation licences, telephone numbers, website, domain name and other rights, but also the transfer of a number of obligations. It is therefore of great importance that you are assisted by an expert consultant, so that it is made clear exactly what you are taking over and also what preferences and charges you do and do not want to take on! Inter-France is ready to assist you with council and action.

Licenses, Standards and Star System

The most important licences for the management of a site are the exploitation licence and the different drink licences. Below is an overview.

Exploitation License

For a “Tourisme” or “Loisirs” site a “classement” applies in one of the 4 categories that are defined with a number of stars ranging from 1 star (étoile) for a terrain with simple facilities to 4 stars for a site with a high level of comfort. This Star System is defined in an arrangement with the préfecture and is obligatory for all camp-sites in these categories. Camp-sites are sometimes offered without a star status or when threatened with a star declassification, these should be handled in the right way during the purchase period in order to avoid future problems for the new owner. Inter-France is ready to assist you with council and action.

Drink Licenses

As well as an exploitation licence as described above a camp-site will already or not sell or serve alcoholic drinks. The owner needs to have a drinks licence for this, a “Licence de débit de boissons”. A distinction is made between the serving of drinks as part of a meal (“Licence Restaurant”) or as a consumption without food being eaten with it. In addition there is a distinction made between licences for serving drinks with food and take-away sales. Sites are sometimes offered with a drink licence that, following further investigation, are only a licence for serving drink with a meal. A Baguette is not recognised as a proper meal and on the basis of such a licence the owner may not serve drink other than with a proper (!) warm meal. In general, a Licence I is for all non-alcoholic drinks, II for beer and wines, III for drinks with an alcohol content up to 18% and IV for all alcoholic drinks. See below the official list of drink licences:

I II III IV Petite licence Grande licence
Teneur en alcool < 1,2°
Eaux minérales / gazéifiées, jus de fruits ou de légumes, sirops, sodas, limonades, chocolat, café, infusions
X X X X Uniquement à l'occasion de repas principaux et comme accessoires de la nourriture Uniquement à l'occasion de repas principaux et comme accessoires de la nourriture
Teneur en alcool < 3°
Vins, bière, cidre, poirés, crèmes et jus de fruits ou de légumes, vins doux naturels
- X X X
Teneur en alcool < 18°
Vins doux naturels, vins de liqueurs et apéritifs à base de vins, liqueurs de fraise, framboise, cassis et cerises
- - X X -
Toutes boissons non interdites Rhums, tafias, alcool de vins, cidres, poirés, liqueurs anisées édulcorées de sucre ou glucose et toutes boissons non interdites - - - X -


It is obligatory in France since mid-2007 that the new holder of a licence II, III or IV has followed a training with which they have received a “Permis d’exploitation” (Permit of Exploitation). Per April 2009 this obligation also applies to the new holders of a “Licence Restaurant“. The training that should be followed for is for 3 days at a recognised institution. Inter-France has more information and recommendations concerning this. As well as the licences and standards named above there are also many other demands which the site must satisfy, for example in the field of hygiene and safety. During the transfer of a site it is of importance that the contracts are given the right attention to conformity and to eventual summons or potential closure threats which could be send to the previous owner. Expert guidance is essential.

Mobil Homes and Chalets

On most sites 80 to 100% of the pitches are supplied with mobile homes, unless they are equipped with parts which characterise “mobility”, such as wheels, a pair of shafts, reduction- and brake installation and displacement is not hindered by a renovation or permanently built terrasses for example. The surface area may not be larger than 35m², some models are permitted up to 40m². Ther are a number of instances where limitations exist for the placement of mobile homes or for the number that may be pitched, should a terrain be in a floodable area for example or if their are special laws or council regulations which limit the placement of mobile homes. An important term in these matters is “Habitation Légère de Loisirs”, the H.L.L. Many chalets fall under this catagory. An H.L.L. has a livable surface area of maximum 35m² and is allowed on a “Tourisme” site, in the most cases it covers 20% of the total pitches. No construction licence is necessary to place an H.L.L.. Restrictive conditions may be valid in some local councils.

Example Final Accounts (camp-site*** 100 plaatsen.)

Turnover site 120.000
Turnover shop sales 15.000
Turnover catering 40.000
Total 175.000
Purchases shop
Purchases catering
Total purchases 22.000
External costs
water 1.000
electricity and gas 4.000
maintenance/repairs 4.500
fuel 1.100
insurances 2.000
honoraria 3.000
pubilicity 8.000
travel costs 2.200
representation 1.000
stamps 1.000
telephone 1.500
taxes/levies 4.500
salary personnel 19.000
salary owner 23.000
social charges personeel + owner 23.000
depreciation 10.000
Total costs 108.800
Total purchases and costs: -/-130.800
Gross profit: 44.200

The Gross profit amount is available for payment of interest and repayment of financing, taxes (corporation tax) and unforseen posts.

Should the site mentioned above be offered for sale, the asking price would be decided on the following: The worth of the fonds de commerce (goodwill and inventory/materials), in the example above to be estimated at 350.000 à 450.000 Euro. Addition of the taxed value of the real estate. The purchase price of the site in this example could be circa 850.000 Euro with a funding possibility of circa 425.000 (50% of the purchase price). Your own capital contribution should in this case be a 425.000 Euro investment, for the payment of the purchase price, as well as an amount for professional expenses and initial capital to the amount of minimum 75.000 Euro, therefore in this example your own capital of circa 500.000 Euros must be available.


Banks in France are very reserved and financing is only provided if they are convinced that there will be enough “ repayment capacity”. They become convinced of this if exploitation results from the previous year can show this clearly. They would never provide financing solely on the basis of a good business plan with a promising prognosis, if it is not accompanied by visibly good results from the past.

In practise the purchase price of a site is determined by the value of the real estate and the (perceptible) company results from the previous years. As a rule the realisation of an increased yearly profit leads to a higher value of the company activities and therefore to a higher purchase price. A higher price class then often means a higher perceivable turnover and results.

For sites in the higher price class (from 1.000.000 euro) it is mostly possible thereby to receive a higher percentage of financing, a French bank seldom provides more than 50%, or in exceptions 60% of the purchase price. The rest should be invested from the personal assets of the buyer (and so should not be lent from anywhere else!). Even if the real estate would be enormously overvalued the acceptance policy of the banks would still be reserved. The reason for this policy is, amongst other things, the short exploitation period (many sites realise 80% of their profit in a period of 6 weeks) and the sensitivity of a camp-site to external influences such as the weather, economic factors etc. Besides, what affects a small company is also a certain dependence on the character of the owner and their condition of health, also a perspective the bank considers, and a factor which leads to their reserved behaviour. Moreover what also plays a part is the fact that purchasers of a site in France do not often have professional experience with the exploitation of such a company and so they have little “foothold” on that which is necessary for a successful exploitation.

Assuming that the buyer is to become dependant on their income from the company on offer, the general rule is that sites up to a purchase price of 200.000 to 250.000 Euros can almost never be provided with financing, for the category between 250.000 and 500.000 the rule is generally that the percentage financing provided is between 0 and 35% and for the price class from 500.000 Euros the percentage can run up to 40 to 50%, by an exception it can be a bit higher. Of course all this is dependant on the exact business results.

The above information means that it is impossible or seldom possible to receive financing before the purchase of a piece of ground and the subsequent setting up of a new camp-site. Moreover the costs involved in satisfying all the rules and regulations are extremely high and the setting up of a completely new camp-site is only by exception a profitable activity.

Should the purchase be exclusively the Fonds de Commerce of a site (the terrain and buildings are then rented) financing is also a limited possibility, for reasons as those above and additionally the lack of security from real estate. Besides, for the financing of the purchase of a Fonds de Commerce provided against a slightly higher interest rate a considerably shorter term of repayment is brought into effect (7 years), as a result of which the yearly overheads rise and the availability of a loan is made difficult if the company results are limited, such as is often the case with small camp-sites. In practice, as a rule, the financing of a Fonds de Commerce at the purchase price of 100.000 to 150.000 Euros can almost never be supplied with financial aid, for the category between 150.000 and 200.000 Euros financing, mostly to the value of 0-20% thereof, can sometimes be supplied. For the price class above that the percentage runs up to approx. 30%, and by exception slightly higher.

In addition to the percentage indications of possible financing as named above, you should also take into account the reservation of a sum of money from your own assets to cover the transfer costs payable such as purchase costs, initial investments and start capital.

The table below gives an indication of the relation between the net amount own capital to be invested and the maximum purchase price. In addition to your own capital for the purchase you are also required to reserve a sum for purchase costs and an initial capital for eventual investments or personal maintenance in the start up period. The total amount of own investment should therefore be (slightly) more than the amounts shown as “Own Capital” in the table below, in any case approx. 10% of the purchase price should be available.

An estimate is made in the middle column, of the maximum purchase price by the purchase of “Murs + Fonds de Commerce”, where the “Murs” being the terrain and buildings are being bought, as well as the “Fonds de Commerce”, being the business activities (goodwill, inventory, licences etc.) The right column shows an estimate for the purchase of a “Fonds de Commerce” only where terrain and buildings do not become the buyer’s property and will be rented.

Own Capital Maximum purchase price
Purchase Murs + Fonds de Commerce
Maximum purchase price
Purchase Fonds de Commerce
150.000 150.000 190.000
200.000 200.000 280.000
250.000 250.000 tot 300.000 350.000
300.000 350.000 tot 400.000 420.000
350.000 400.000 tot 500.000 500.000
400.000 500.000 tot 700.000 600.000
500.000 700.000 tot 950.000 750.000
600.000 950.000 tot 1.200.000 800.000
700.000 1.100.000 tot 1.400.000 1,5 x own capital
>1.000.000 2,5 x own capital 1,5 x own capital

Example: if your total private assets amount to € 350.000 and you reserve € 50.000 for purchase costs and start capital, you can offer € 300.000 as start capital. In the table you see that a site “Murs et Fonds” can be bought for a maximum of € 400.000 or a “Fonds de Commerce” for a maximum of € 420.000. With your own capital of total € 230.000 and a reserved € 30.000 for purchase costs and start capital you can offer € 200.000 as start capital. There would be no possibility of financing in the catagory “Murs et Fonds” and the maximum purchase price equal to your capital would in this case be € 200.000, a good alternative would be the purchase of a Fonds de Commerce up to max. € 280.000. By doing this notice that sites offered with a purchase price of approx. 200.000 nearly always have a lack of turnover, and therefore low company results. Should a Fonds de Commerce actually be offered for € 280.000 you can expect a large turnover and company results for that price.

Conclusion: should the buyer not have access to a minimum of 150.000 to 200.000 euro of their own capital, the purchase of a site, even in the lower price class is not feasable. Should you wish to obtain the ownership of not only a Fonds de Commerce but also the terrain and buildings a noticeably higher amount of own capital should be available.

Setting up a New Camp-site

The purchase of a terrain with the intention of setting up a new camp site is a very complex and capital intensive matter, for which in the most cases no form of financing is available. Even if permission is obtained to realise the camp site and whilst executing the activities according to all conditions demanded on the building licence, the business, once finished will be inspected by a commission representing many disciplines the result of which can be unpredictable, due to the subjective perspective of the people inspecting or through local circumstances. This is how, despite the granted licences, the opening of a new site can be hindered by all sorts of new demands, that are partly a result of a trend in the tightening up of legislation. All in all it is a process in which the course and result can be the subject of surprises with serious (financial) consequences. For those who prefer to develop and renovate it is often a more interesting option to look for a terrain with a (valid) exploitation licence but with a lagging turnover or in a lesser state of maintenance.

Purchase Process

The purchase process of a site is a very specialist matter, in which attention has to be given to licences, legislation, the existance or non-existance of instructions or obligations to carry out work (renovations) and also the things people would like to take on and the charges that people prefer not to take on. It is therefore of great importance that you are supplied with expert guidance from the beginning. Inter-France has years of experience and broad expertise in this field in order to set your purchase on the right track.