The Vendée was the leading department in numbers of campsites (362) in front of Hérault and the Var. The majority of pitches were bare and the permanent accommodation that existed mainly belonged to the owners. The mobile home market at that time lay mostly in the hands of English brands like Willerby, Abi and Atlas. They faced competition from a few French manufacturers such as IRM, O’Hara, Gitotel, Fabre 2012, Campilux, Pierre et Bois, Chalets l’Abeille and Sun Chalet.
One campsite in 3 with a swimming pool
In terms of facilities, less than 30% of campsites had a swimming pool, and in most cases it was just one pool. The wash blocks were a far cry from the cubicles we have now and very often the hot showers were token operated. As regards campsite shops, these were limited to a minimarket in certain 4* establishments and in terms of catering, sausage and chips in a tray was still extremely popular.
Compact and inexpensive caravans
On the road, caravan manufacturers were fighting in a still buoyant marketplace. Aesthetically, there was a shift away from the "cube on wheels". As proof, following the Amsterdam trade fair, journalists wrote about "caravans with increasingly angled front ends and a futuristic design". In parallel with what was happening with the camper van, the fashion was for compact, affordable models. This was borne out by the Bürstner "Kiss", on sale for around 40,000 Francs (roughly €6,000). It is a really good example of the battle waged by the brands in this segment. At the other end of the scale, the April issue of the same magazine announced the arrival of the fabulous American Airstream caravans in France... A flash in the pan!
Cars: the turbo-diesel is king!
As regards towing vehicles, the Turbo Diesel was all the rage, in particular the Opel Vectra 2.0 TD, the Volkswagen Passat 1.9 TDI and the Citroën Xantia 2.1 TD. That year, the Citroën Xantia 2.1 TD won the title of "Towing car of the year" which was awarded by the editors of Caravanier, the leading trade magazine. LPG, a clean alternative to diesel, was introduced into the ranges of manufacturers like Renault, which offered a LPG version of its 1.8 petrol Laguna. On a more anecdotal note, 1998 also marked the appearance of... an Alien, a car whose styling was described by many as atrocious, "as if it had been designed by someone on acid"! They were, of course, referring to the Fiat Multipla.
Current events in 1998
- 6 February: French Prefect Erignac assassinated in Corsica
- 2 May: Launch of the Euro which would go into circulation on the 1st January 1999
- July: Nightmarish edition of the Tour de France. This was the beginning of the Festina affair which would end up in the entire team being expelled from the Tour de France. Riders' strike which led to the cancellation of the stage between Albertville and Aix les Bains.
- 12 July: the French football team won the World Cup, beating Brazil 3 - 0 in the final The whole country took to the streets and gave the impression of a 'Black, White and Arab' France. We know how that ended!
*Source Officiel des Terrains de camping