Published: 06:00, 09 August 2020
Camp sites across Kent have been hit with a slew of last-minute bookings, as holidaymakers choose to take trips closer to home this summer.
As quarantining rules for international travellers continue to develop in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, families are resorting to the great outdoors for their summer holiday getaway, resulting in a short supply of pitches and camping equipment.
Sally and Lee Stone, who own Broadhembury caravan and camping park in Kingsnorth, near Ashford, have had to turn eager campers away after selling out of their August slots.
Broadhembury is split into two sections - a family park and an adults-only park.
Sally said: "On the family park we've literally got four one-night windows between now and August 31, absolutely nothing other than that.
"I feel like we're disappointing a lot of people, but that's just the way it has gone this year - it's really, really busy."
Aside from the regular camping veterans, the couple have also noticed a much larger proportion of first-timers this summer.
Sally said: "Unfortunately we haven't got our continental visitors, but that's been more than made up for by the UK market.
"There are lots of people who are first-time camping, who maybe wouldn't have picked it as their first choice of holiday, but actually the weather's been glorious, so they're loving it and having a good time.
"More people are wanting to book and needing to book as they realise they're not going to be having their holiday abroad this year."
Laura Benaggoune runs Welsummer Camping in Harrietsham, near Maidstone.
Despite the month not always being the busiest for the camp site, this year is drastically different.
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She said: "August is not our best month normally, but this time around we haven't got a spot left until September."
Although booking inquiries have risen, decreased capacity in order to comply with social distancing guidelines has also played a part in the lack of available pitches.
Laura said: "We've got one field left and half as many people, as well as less people in the tents, but it's actually making for a really nice, intimate change."
With holiday plans changing for families across the country this year, Laura is hoping places like Welsummer will prove to holidaymakers that Kent deserves its place as one of the best counties to camp in.
The campsite owner said: "People might not have really spent time in Kent before - even if they were going to go camping I think traditionally people think of Cornwall or Norfolk, but Kent is so gorgeous."
Tony Bennett, who runs Little Switzerland in Folkestone, has also noticed a number of guests who are new to the camping life.
He said: "About 20% of people are first time campers.
"The bulk of our trade is usually people coming and going from the ferries, so usually very continental, but it's not like that this year."
Tony, like other campsites owners, has been forced to admit a significantly reduced number of visitors to make sure people staying at Little Switzerland are kept safe from potential contamination of coronavirus.
He has also taken extra measures to give guests peace of mind.
The campsite manager said: "We've put in place our own kind of system, giving each person sanitising spray to spray the toilet seat, to clean the floors and tiles of the showers before use.
"We've decided to do that off our own back - it's not in the guidelines but we've done that ourselves."
Camp site owners are not the only businesses to feel the growing increase in camping holidays.
WM Camping, a specialist store in Herne Bay, has had an 80% increase in its sale of tents and camping equipment.
David Warrington, owner of the store, said: "The first three months of our season were diabolical because we weren't open, but as soon as the government announced the camp sites could open business just went through the roof.
"The problem is a lot of our suppliers were erring on the side of caution earlier in the year and cancelled some of their later deliveries, so getting stock is proving difficult as well.
"We've seen a dramatic increase in first-time campers and new customers who are starting out and wanting all the advice to go on camping holidays."
David hopes the renewed interest in camping getaways this summer is here to stay, even once people can begin to travel abroad more easily again.
He said: "I think there will be a doubt from people about going abroad even next year, so I hope a lot of the new customers we're getting through at the moment might find they like it and keep with it and upgrade their equipment for years to come."