Holiday Snaps – ft Graham Hodgson

Holiday Snaps - featuring Graham Hodgson

Founder and Chief Executive of Verdant Leisure Limited and runs a group of 10 parks in North East England and Southern Scotland. Born in Morecambe, Lancashire, Graham is married to Louise and they have two sons, Martin and James.

WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH INTO THE INDUSTRY?

As an HSBC Bank Manager I had several caravan park operators as customers, one of whom was John Morphet and his business, South Lakeland Caravans. In 2001, John tempted me away from the bank to join him as Chief Executive and so started my second career in the caravan industry. We quickly set about improving and professionalising the business before selling it towards the end of 2007, just before the financial crash, at a handsome profit. This enabled me, alongside Bev Dixon, who was then Operations Director, to set up Verdant Leisure in 2010, with a new Finance Director, Andrew Wall.

HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED?

The quality of both the parks and the accommodation that we offer in this industry has improved on all levels. Fundamentally, our customers still want the same thing, a place of their own to relax and get away with family and friends and our strap line ‘Relax, Explore, Experience’ remains as relevant now as it was when I started.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE INDUSTRY HAS RESPONDED TO COVID 19?

I think our industry has reacted fantastically to the pandemic to date. There was a lot of work going on collaboratively between the larger park operators including ourselves, and our trade bodies including the BH&HPA, NCC and UK Hospitality. I think that this coordinated approach was instrumental in enabling parks to re-open quite quickly following Lockdown.

BEST PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” While I think that this applies to life in general, it is equally appropriate to anybody in business. Too many people are focused on an end goal but that is just one moment in time. Whilst I certainly have a plan, I try to enjoy each experience as it comes, and, with hard work, success has followed.

HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR OUT OFWORK TIME?

I have always enjoyed lots of sports although playing has been replaced by watching over recent years! I spent 22 years as a Director of Morecambe Football Club, and this remains a big passion of mine

IF WE COULD GIVE YOU THREE GUESTS? WHO WOULD LIKE MOST LIKE TO SIT DOWN TO DINNER WITH AND WHY?

Winston Churchill – A flawed leader who achieved the most amazing things; Peter Kay – Always hilarious and would lighten the mood if the conversation became too intense; Mohammad Ali – One of the greatest sports personalities ever – and much more besides

WHAT ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO BE LISTENING TO IN THE CAR?

Often ridiculed! I enjoy the classic groups from years ago – Dire Straits; Fleetwood Mac; Queen and the like. The music I grew up with has never really left me – some would say I should move on

ANY CLAIMS TO FAME?

I can juggle!

WHERE DO YOU PREFER TO TAKE YOUR HOLIDAYS?

Barbados is my ‘go-to’ destination. I love it and hope to be able to return there soon.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS

USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS

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Social Media Sussex
www.socialmediasussex.com/courses

VERDANT CELEBRATE IN STYLE

VERDANT CELEBRATE IN STYLE

Bespoke holiday park operator Verdant Leisure recently celebrated its 10th birthday in style with gifts for staff and holiday homeowners. Through its social media pages, Verdant gave away 10 holidays to one lucky family who has a child that turned 10 years old in September. Verdant Leisure runs ten UK holiday parks in spectacular locations across South East Scotland, Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Perthshire & North East England offering a wide range of accommodation from self-catering caravans, deluxe lodges to camping pods, glamping pods and touring pitches at selected parks.

BEATING HEART

Customers and staff have been at the heart of the business since it was born in 2010 – the brainchild of founders CEO Graham Hodgson, Commercial Director Bev Dixon and Finance Director Andrew Wall. The company employs over 300 staff and is passionate about building a solid team, who are invested in the brand and deliver exceptionally high customer service. As a testament to their engaged and happy employees, Verdant Leisure were awarded 13th Best Company toWork For in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies List in 2020, 3rd in the North East and 9th Best Company in Scotland. “We value all members of the Verdant Leisure team and really treasure the people who make our company what it is. It has been the same since 2010 and each and every one of them has played a large part in our success, today is really about them and our customers – both new and existing,” says CEO Graham Hodgson. Verdant Leisure’s service levels ensured that 2019 saw 60% of guests booking again and the latest customer satisfaction survey results show that 95% of holiday guests would recommend Verdant Leisure to family and friends. “The 2020 customer base has shifted slightly, we’re welcoming lots of new customers into the Verdant family, many of whom may not have enjoyed a British holiday park break for a number of years,” continues Graham.

A significant number of new customers are also deciding to purchase holiday homes on Verdant Leisure’s parks as the post-Lockdown staycation uplift sees no signs of abating. Verdant Leisure was founded in September 2010 following a management buy-in of Dunham Leisure Limited, owners of Pease Bay and Thurston Manor Leisure Parks in South East Scotland. Verdant went on to purchase Viewfield Manor Leisure Park in Ayrshire in July 2011 and Riverside Leisure Park in Northumberland in 2012. Kingfisher and Heather View Leisure parks in Wear Valley, and Coldingham Bay were then acquired. Scoutscroft Leisure Park was purchased in February 2018 followed by Queensberry Bay in Dumfriesshire in October 2018. In January 2020 Verdant Leisure purchased Erigmore in Perthshire bringing Verdant Leisure’s portfolio to ten parks across Scotland and North East England. This deal continued the company’s growth strategy to create a strong regional group with significant scale, and Verdant Leisure remains keen to add further parks to its group over the next 18 months.

Verdant Leisure
Tel. 03300 535524
www.verdantleisure.co.uk

ALL THE WORLD IS A BLUESTONE PLAY STAGE

ALL THE WORLD IS A BLUESTONE PLAY STAGE

BLUESTONE TURNED TO KOMPAN

Pembrokeshire‘s Bluestone Resort, turned to KOMPAN to come up with a timber-based play design for an underused area of its Welsh resort. The task was to create a play area that had adventure but also a village theme for the village green area. As this was to attract people into the area, the play area had to be aesthetically pleasing and exciting to draw people into the area time and again. The client wanted an area where they could put on a show and children could watch it from the play equipment. The play area had to be constructed in three weeks, in limited hours of working, and with challenging access.

KOMPAN designed a village area that centred around a raised stage. The stage had pipework in it so that electrical cables could be channelled. The play area was constructed in three weeks by KOMPAN installers, on budget and on time. The village houses cater for very young children and children up to the age of 12. There are small houses as well as a large house with a 3m high net! The village coffee shop and public house has seen an increase In popularity and sales since the installation. The artificial grass surfacing made it inviting for people to sit or lie on. It has become the focal point of the village, where parents and caregivers can enjoy a coffee or two whilst the children play in the village green

WYBOSTON INVESTS IN SUSTAINABILITY

WYBOSTON INVESTS IN SUSTAINABILITY

WYBOSTON has invested in 24 charger points for its Bedfordshire resort

As Bedfordshire’s Wyboston Lakes Resort continues to search for opportunities and to introduce initiatives to be more sustainable, it has installed ten more electric car supercharger points for guests to encourage electric car usage. There is now a total of 24 charger points on the site. This latest development supports Wyboston Lakes Resort ‘2020 Green Objectives’ initiative, which includes reducing its carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2025. The resort recently partnered with The Energy Check, specialists in minimising energy usage costs and CO2 to increase energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint as part of the strong commitment to its sustainability strategy.

Some of the initiatives already in place include the reduction of energy consumption throughout the venue by upgrading the lighting across site to the latest energy efficient LEDs which are turned off by movement sensors when a room is not in use, and ensuring energy ratings are considered as part of the purchasing decision for all new heavy equipment. The resort recycled over 20,000kg of cardboard waste in the last year, is continuing to fulfil its ‘Zero waste to landfill’ promise for the fifth consecutive year and actively supports the #20percentless campaign to cut back on single-use plastics each year

CLS WINNERS ANNOUNCED

CLS WINNERS ANNOUNCED

SHARON AND DEAN PHILPIN

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has unveiled the winner of its Certificated Location of the Year Award 2020 as Woody Kiln Farm, near Milford Haven in beautiful Pembrokeshire. Certificated Locations (CLs) are privately-owned, maximum five- pitch sites found across the UK, open exclusively to Caravan and Motorhome Club members. The sites entered for the CL of the Year Awards are nominated by Club members, recognising the very best sites and rewarding hard-working owners who pull out all the stops for guests. Set on a small farm in the heart of the Pembrokeshire National Park, the only coastal National Park in the UK, Dean and Sharon Philpin opened Woody Kiln Farm CL in 2015. “Our aim is for visitors to be enjoying their holiday, relaxing and to be connected to all services within 20 minutes of arrival,” commented Dean and Sharon Philpin. “Visitors tend to really enjoy the farmland, which can be accessed for a daily stroll, or to exercise dogs and totals over 10 acres which is all lawned. “This includes a large pond, which has ducks, moorhens and swans at different times of the year.” All pitches are surrounded by peaceful paddocks where horses and sheep graze. There is a small orchard adjacent to the park and guests are welcome to sample the fruit. The site operates with hardstanding pitches which are well maintained.

PEACEFUL PADDOCKS

Dean and Sharon Philpin continued, “We have continued diversifying from agricultural activities and in August 2019 set up a hair and beauty salon in a traditional stone building just outside the grounds of the CL. This has been incredibly popular with visitors – to the degree that a number of our visitors book on the CL and stay to coincide with hairdressing appointments.” Nick Lomas, Director General of the Caravan and Motorhome Club said: “The Certificated Location (CL) of the Year Awards celebrate owners who truly go above and beyond to give visitors the very best holiday experience. “Our network of around 2,300 CLs provide Club members with the opportunity to stay at unique locations throughout the UK. CLs are the jewels in the crown of our nationwide campsite network and we are delighted that over 80 new CLs have joined the network this year. “I’d like to congratulate all of the winners and wholeheartedly thank our CL owners for their hard work and dedication that helps to make lifelong holiday memories for our members.”

HOT TUB PAYBACK

HOT TUB PAYBACK

Spas clinch the holiday booking deal...

LADY’S MILE HOLIDAY PARK say payback on a hot tub can be as little as six months

Open 365 days a year and based in the picturesque location of Dawlish in South Devon, Lady’s Mile Holiday Park currently offers 90 hot tubs on its lodge and mini lodge accommodation. The multi-award winning, family-run park knows that hot tubs are a key component when sealing the booking deal. “Customers are asking for hot tubs as part of their booking requirements,” says Stephen Brown Lady’s Mile Holiday Park’s Operations Manager. “It is now getting to be an expectation rather than a luxury add on,” Stephen continues. Stephen confirms accommodation offering hot tubs are returning value for money. “Lodges with hot tubs command a 20% premium in the peak weeks and up to 80% premium in low income weeks due to increased levels of demand,” he confirms. “Payback on a hot tub can be as little as six months,” he adds. “We certainly will be looking to increase our hot tub range on lodges and high-end caravans for the foreseeable future.”

PLUG AND PLAY

Lady’s Mile Holiday Park’s preferred spa supplier is Sunbeach Spas offering the holiday park sector five models in a ‘plug and play’ range, designed to run from regular household electricity supplies and starting from £1,995. “Whilst these tubs tend to be at the lower end of the price range we offer, they are not lacking in features and have everything holidaymakers need in a hot tub – easy to operate with space for all the family, and offer powerful jets, music and lights,” explainsWayne Green, Managing Director of the UK- wide Sunbeach team. “Holiday park operators also appreciate the fact that all our plug and play spas come with our R10 insulation, providing massive reductions in incidental heat loss over standard insulation, with savings of over 70% in test conditions.”

FIT FOR PURPOSE

Sunbeach Spas also build their hot tubs with two separate pumps – one for circulation and one for jets, instead of the oft-used solitary twin-speed pump which performs both tasks with a single unit. “Whilst this has a marginally higher outset cost, it will allow for significant savings on overall costs – as holiday park hot tubs see significantly more use than general, the circulation pumps are running at maximum frequency to unsure the water is reheated and retreated at all times,”Wayne explains. This range has additional convenient features for the holiday park, including built in/non-removable headrests (no pillows to get damaged or stolen) and twin filters with inline chemical dispensers allowing for superior water cleansing, even whilst the tub is in use. “We have also developed an acrylic control panel housing to prevent unwanted tampering with the controls on systems which don’t have a user lock-out built in,” addsWayne. When considering large numbers of hot tubs running on the same site, the question of running costs becomes all important; even a small saving on a single spa will prove significant when multiplied across an entire holiday park, and so it is vital that any recommendation takes this into account. Wayne points out: “The common perception of the unbranded, low- cost hot tub was one of “cheap to buy, expensive to run”, with better insulation and power saving technology reserved for high-end hot tubs from well established brands. “Sunbeach Spas philosophy is that you can have the best of both worlds - the R10 insulation we build into each of our hot tubs won us the Spa Energy Efficiency Award at the 2019 UK Pool and Spa Awards and we continue to innovate to improve on that baseline.”

SIMPLE STEPS

For holiday lets, simplicity the key, both from the perspective of the park and of their guests. The average holidaymaker does not want to have to wade through pages of instructions, so it is important that the chosen hot tubs are simple to operate, but also come with the features that make having a hot tub so appealing – relaxing jets, a good music system, fun lighting and so forth. SaysWayne: “From the park’s point of view, simplicity of installation, using plug and play systems to avoid unnecessary and expensive upgrades to the park’s electrical grid system.” All Sunbeach Spas holiday park customers are offered free training days, which are held on their own site (so as many of their employees as they wish can attend easily) and are conducted by one of the leading chemical supply companies in the UK. “We also offer on-site training with our own staff for hot tub operational training, as well as all year round, out- of-hours telephone support,” adds Wayne.

 

“CUSTOMERS ARE ASKING FOR HOT TUBS AS PART OF THEIR BOOKING REQUIREMENTS.” LADY’S MILE HOLIDAY PARK say payback on a hot tub can be as little as six months. - Stephen Brown, Lady’s Mile Holiday Park

TRAINING MATTERS

“In our opinion, having a well-trained, on-site team is key for any holiday park; a hot tub breakdown, even if caused by the guests themselves, can sour an otherwise perfect holiday experience. Having an on- site team minimises downtime and will also be available for preventative maintenance,” Having hot tubs which are easy to maintain is vital to getting things up and running again smoothly. It’s equally important that the regular maintenance (cleaning, sterilising etc) is a hassle-free job, to ensure that the tub can be made ready for the next party of holidaymakers to use. “All our hot tubs have inline chemical dispenser options to keep the spa water clear and safe during their stay and minimising the impact on the clean down crew at the end of the stay,”Wayne continues. “In the last couple of years alone, we have seen the technology available on hot tub control systems jump forward.” New control systems are being developed all the time, with new features and ways of managing the spas more efficiently. But not all changes are suited to all cases, and it is easy to get excited about new features which are not of true benefit. One of the pitfalls of a hot tub at a holiday let is guests having the correct information on how to use the hot tub safely. “Most guests just want to just get in it and use it but if they don’t shower beforehand, rinse their costumes, not walk around in bare feet, drunk too much alcohol then their experience and safety can be at risk,” advises Sunbeach dealer John Threadgall of Yorkshire Spas. “We encourage holiday let owners to clearly display a user guide both next to the hot tub and in their welcome pack also giving users reasoning behind guidelines. “This information can prevent guests contacting the owners regarding dirty water, help quicker changeovers and help keep guests safe.”

Sunbeach Spas
Tel. 01623 706185
E. sales@sunbeachspas.co.uk
www.sunbeachspas.co.uk

ADDED BENEFITS FOR HOLIDAY HOT TUB EXPERIENCE

ADDED BENEFITS FOR HOLIDAY HOT TUB EXPERIENCE

THE VISIONLIFT positions the hot tub cover to the back of the spa.

Specialist suppliers, Golden Coast has an extensive range of accessories designed to make the most out of hot tubs no matter what the season. When it comes to heating, costs can soar, but with the Dura Pro heat pump owners can cut bills by thousands. The inverter-driven air source pump heats water up to 40°C and maintains the desired temperature while operating on a lower current. This means it uses less energy compared to electric hot tub heaters, and the nominal current removes the risk of overloading the park’s power supply. Tried and tested even in cold temperatures as low as -15°C, Dura Pro is a high-efficiency pump that ensures consistent, year- round performance. If your hot tubs overlook picturesque scenery, be sure to maximise the impact by hiding the cover out of sight. The VisionLift hot tub cover lifter positions the cover to the back of the spa where it rests on the deck or patio — giving users an unobstructed view of their surroundings. The lifter is built from aluminium and high-strength galvanized steel with corrosion- resistant power-coating for long-term, maintenance-free use. When space is a premium, why not try the easy-to-install Cover EX lifter, which requires only 254mm of clearance space. It is suitable for most square and rectangular hot tubs and is built to last with robust aluminium brackets and reinforced double tubing on the bends. Adding steps to a spa can make access easier and safer for users. The Waterway step is made of durable UV-protected polypropylene, has large 838mm wide non-slip treads, and a sturdy 363kg weight capacity. It is perfect for all sizes of hot tubs and comes in a range of colours to suit the spa’s aesthetics.

Golden Coast
Te. 01271 378100
www.goldenc.com

BEST IMPRESSIONS

TATTERSHALL LAKES’ OUTDOOR ROOF BAR benefits from a strategic tensile canopy. Pic Fordingbridge

BEST IMPRESSIONS

Never has there been more attention on outdoor space, as Sue Hollingshead reports…

With the advent of a ‘new normal’ you could argue it has never been more important to ensure the outdoor space on our holiday destinations, not just meets but exceeds customer expectations. As we witness the stampede to UK holiday parks, demands on our outdoor space have been dramatically heightened with the combined influences of social distancing, and the need to stay at a safe distance, coinciding with a renewed interest in the great outdoors. “The initial first impression when a customer arrives on the park is paramount and can set the scene for the remainder of their stay,” believes Sian Gomersall, Group Marketing Services Manager, Poole Bay Holdings. “To create a great outdoor experience for owners and holiday makers alike, it is vital that holiday parks create a warm and inviting atmosphere,” she adds. “We offer recycled plastic furniture that has a host of benefits and lasts 25 years so there is no need to replace it for a long time,” Sian continues.

“Play areas for children are a big plus and again, recycled plastic outdoor play furniture such as play boats and planes can encourage little ones to explore imaginative play,” she says. Doug Barr, Sales Manager at Woodberry, points out “Customer flow and signage is also key to a great visitor experience, knowing where to park for reception, which way to go, what to do, all helps people feel relaxed and reassured - especially after this year of uncertainty.” It is not just about the landscaping, entrance layout, and perfectly planted floral pots, all of which are indeed important. Throw in a tidy grassed area, well maintained gardens, thoughtful customer-focused layouts into the mix and you are moving towards the ultimate top rates on reviews. Discreet bin storage is an essential day to day management element that can adversely affect the atmosphere if not managed effectively. Park lighting strategies are needed for visibility and safety, however, is also a vital part of the aesthetics. Small pockets of communal seating, in open spaces within the park, are essential for creating good aesthetics and areas for relaxation.

The children’s playground is typically a well populated area and an area where seating is important as Doug explains: “Seating is always a welcome addition adjacent to playgrounds, parents are on holiday too so they get to relax whilst still keeping an eye on their children and enjoying family time together. “It is also well known that timber play equipment has more anti-bacterial qualities than metal or plastic as wood naturally kills bacteria on surfaces quickly,” Doug adds.

“DEMANDS ON OUTDOOR SPACE HAVE BEEN DRAMATICALLY HEIGHTENED."

PERSONAL SPACE

Well-managed communal areas are great, but we do all like our own space don’t we. Therefore a few finishing touches of accommodation essentials should surely include for outdoor tables, chairs, parasol, BBQ and maybe an outdoor hot tub. “Within a holiday park, it is vital that the private lodge area has everything a visitor would want,” Sian emphasises.

“The option of a BBQ and dining tables and chairs create a home from home environment. Recycled plastic furniture can be wiped cleaned, meaning that the visitors can simply wipe down after a rain shower and use immediately. Decking and walkways can also be created from recycled plastic with an anti-slip finish for a safe environment. Recycled plastic raised beds would also be a great addition for summertime with blooming flowers, adding a nice touch of colour to the outside area of a cabin/lodge. EV charging facilities are now pivotal. In September, electric vehicle registrations increased by 183.4% compared to the same period last year. “Visitors will be at peace of mind knowing that the destination offers EV charging, whether that be free charging or tariff-based charging,” says Sultana Rahman, Marketing & Social Co-ordinator at Rolec Services. “As the government have set out plans to completely abolish the sales of diesel and petrol vehicles, the need for charging points at such destinations is fundamental and will be a determining factor towards which caravan/holiday park they decide to visit.”

PEDAL POWER

With the major uptake of cycling this summer, it would be a mistake to forget cycle storage, advises Fraser Dixon, Business Development Manager at Fordingbridge . “It makes perfect sense to promote cycling through a holiday park,” says Fraser. “Guests, more often than not, are looking for a healthy outdoor lifestyle when away, and anything to promote this is a definite must. “Not only will you have the safety benefits from reduced traffic through the park, but it also creates a feeling of wellbeing with guests. “That said, it is wise to move away from generic steel cycle stores in a holiday park setting; the last thing you want to achieve is remind guests of their daily commute to the train station when on holiday,” he says. Covered cycle areas can be pretty too; living sedum roof structures or flowing tensile canopies serve the need perfectly and complement the surroundings without looking utilitarian. Doug adds: “A good option is to have a few bike storage areas around the park, not necessarily that each accommodation has one – but so there won’t be one far away.” However you prioritise the multiple elements of your outdoor space management strategy, the overall principle is the same; to deliver the ultimate customer satisfaction to trigger return visits and repeat business, a worthwhile investment in your annual business planning

 

COMPANY CONTACTS
Woodberry of Lemington Spa
www.woodberry.co.uk
Fordingbridge
www.fordingbridge.co.uk
Poole Bay Holdings
www.poolebayholdings.co.uk
Rolec Services
www.rolecserv.co.uk

 

ATTENTION TO OUTDOORS DETAIL

Offering the ultimate flexibility for kerbside working, a Quad Chip 160 from Green Mech is the chipper of choice for Andrew Steel of AS Tree care - assisting him in delivering domestic tree works in and around Surrey and South West London. With parking and space at a premium in tight urban and suburban locations, the 360-degree turntable of the Quad Chip improves the speed and efficiency with which both timber and brash can be processed.

Green Mech - www.greenmech.co.uk

 

 

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY WITHOUT DOOR COVER

pic: Fordingbridge

On any park, the cost of buying and maintaining outdoor essential equipment can quickly add up. Compass Insurance recommend you record the replacement value of all your equipment, no matter how large, small, cheap or expensive the items are, ideally backed up with evidence of values, such as receipts. It will then be easier to make insurance claims (or make the decisions not to claim) should they get damaged or destroyed. As with any other equipment on a park, the likes of bike shelters, racks, bins, seating and other outdoor furniture will need to be regularly inspected for damage, wear and tear etc. All equipment should be kept in good condition and records of all risk assessments made, maintenance, checking, cleaning etc. should be formally documented and kept readily accessible. This is particularly important in relation to any Public Liability that might arise.

Compass Insurance
Tel. 0344 274 0277
www.compassparks.co.uk

BALANCING ACTS

BALANCING ACTS

WHITECLIFF BAY BEACH, AWAY HOLIDAYS –When project planning, Away Resorts always take into consideration environmentally and eco-friendly impact.

Environmentally-friendly tourism is in safe hands, as Emily Martin reports...

The holiday park industry is big business. In a 2019 study, carried out by Frontline Consultants on behalf of the UK Caravan and Camping Alliance (UKCCA), it was found that in the UK alone, campsites and holiday parks generate £9.3bn in visitor spending and support 171,448 full-time employees. That accounts for 8% of the UK tourism industry overall and is a colossal figure everyone involved is surely keen to protect. But, as any big business does, it can come with a great big dirty footprint and, for business owners, it’s striking the balance between what makes their accountants happy, but also what’s environmentally something to be proud of that poses a perpetual challenge. Happily, the custodians of the gorgeous pockets of the UK, known as holiday parks, are proving they are more than up to the challenge.

GREEN TOURISM

It is impossible to go any further without mentioning the David Bellamy Awards which takes place every year and is one of the longest-running green tourism awards in the UK. It is truly seen as the benchmark for holiday parks who pride themselves on their green credentials. The late Mr Bellamy himself, who sadly died in 2019, remarked when he piloted the scheme in 1996, that his dream was to: “Upgrade all caravan parks to some sort of conservation status so that they can educate the visiting public and help them respect and care for the countryside.” A romantic notion indeed, but sometimes being ‘green’ has to be lower down the priorities list for a business ultimately focussed on making a profit, or does it? In 2007 there was a major revision of the judging criteria for award winners, done to acknowledge the increasing importance of energy saving and sustainability issues. With businesses cottoning on to the fact that caring about the environment is well worth it in order to preserve their incomes for the future, it’s been embraced by the industry in a myriad of ways. Rufus Bellamy, environmental adviser to the British Holiday and Home Parks Association, and David’s son, is now charged with continuing his father’s work. He says, “Many parks in Britain are blessed with abundantwildlife, and their owners are generally mindful of the need to manage their natural surroundings with sensitivity.” And Jon Boston of the BHPA says: “Holiday parks are commercial operations - they need to make a profit to stay in existence and keep their staff employed. “But these days, and especially during the pandemic, people want to get out into the countryside and discover places where they can get the benefits of fresh air and rural surroundings, so it’s actually a commercial investment to ensure parks are environmental oases.”

UTOPIAN PARKS

This all sounds lovely in theory. Idealistic, utopian holiday parks teaming with squirrels, fluttering with butterflies and leafy trees filled with birds is what we’d all hope for, but when going green costs money, how does it all work in reality? How much do holiday parks actually prioritise sustainability, and crucially how much of their budget will get allocated to overcoming the challenges? Kaz Mortimer is Group General Manager of Shorefield Holidays, a family owned business with eight parks across the south coast, and proud recipient of a Gold David Bellamy Award this year. Kay says: “Good green credentials are very important to our business.We have started the implementation of electric vehicles in our company fleet, as well as installing LED lighting to reduce light pollution and power consumption. “Our indoor swimming pool at Shorefield Country Park, is heated and runs on bio fuel and, where essential tree works are carried out, we re-use the chippings on our gardens.” FraserWatts, Operations Manager at Away Resorts comments: “Any but there is a commercial benefit when you invest in your micro-ecology environment and it’s something which parks are very keen to do, basically because customers like it and it encourages more customers.”

KEY FACTOR

Zoe House of family owned Ladram Bay Holiday Park agrees: “Our family tries to make sustainability a key factor in all of our business decisions. “The David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme incorporates many of our values, and we have been closely involved with it from the outset,” Zoe continues. “Perhaps one of its most vital roles is to demonstrate that parks such as ours can play a major part in protecting and enhancing the natural world, and at the same time create a more exciting and enjoyable place for people to visit. “One very successful recent project was to retrieve one ton of plastic waste washed up on our private beach. We showed the growing total on a rising column of sand on a special display board near the beach path, and children especially showed great enthusiasm to help us reach our target! “Other initiatives involve substantially greater cost, such as our decision to reduce by 33% Ladram Bay’s carbon footprint,” she continues. “This has included a £300,000 investment in a solar energy system which will prevent a massive 171 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from entering the atmosphere.We have also expanded our fleet of all-electric vehicles, and plan to introduce car charging points for customers. “We don’t, of course, expect to gain commercially from such actions – but they all fit into the wider objective of providing the park with a sustainable future. This policy isn’t something we especially boast about to guests, but it’s amazing how many do take a genuine interest in our environmental work and are keen to hear about our plans. We have always felt privileged to be able to live and work in such a project we undertake, always has considerations for being environmentally and eco-friendly." added Zoe.

Without financial return on investment, is the appeal for businesses purely a desire to just…do something good? Jon Boston again: “David Bellamy himself was very keen on holiday parks publicising what they were doing to encourage people to go there, because that in turn would encourage the park to spend more on its environmental initiatives. “It’s not done for commercial reasons, it's a beautiful part of Devon, and putting something back into the region is its own reward.” Ladram Bay are not alone. This feeling that being green is simply the right thing to do, regardless of the investment it takes, is echoed widely. Henry Wild of Skelwith Fold caravan park comments:“Businesses, including holiday parks such as ours, will evaluate most new projects in terms of their cost and the likely payback period. “But this doesn’t work when weighing up investments intended to produce environmental benefits. They may, in the long term, make the park a more attractive or appealing proposition for holiday guests, but you would be hard pressed to see this reflected in the balance sheets.

 

SWEET SCENTS

Skelwith Fold go the extra mile with environmentally measures such as treating wastewater naturally by channelling it through specially cultivated beds of iris plants. Maintaining these beds is a costly year-round commitment, and it could be argued that simply using chemicals to make the water safe would be far cheaper. Henry says: “To my mind, sweet- scented irises provide a much more attractive outlook than an industrial treatment plant, and the system is more ecologically sound. “In a similar vein, our visitors greatly enjoy spotting the red squirrels and roe deer in our grounds. “But these animal numbers would probably be far fewer if we didn’t implement a labour-intensive winter- feeding programme, or spend time and money on creating the conditions and habitats which enable such species to flourish. “We choose to take such initiatives not for any financial gain, but so that we can have pride in a business which is impacting positively on the environment.” It’s certainly impressive and extremely heartening to find that the more you dig into the complex workings of holiday parks, the more intricate the environmental duty of care being practised really is. From tiny bee hotels to huge solar installations, it seems that the UK’s most celebrated and beautiful places are in very safe hands. HenryWild sums it up nicely: “I really don’t believe that business decisions should be entirely profit focussed. If this year has taught us anything, it is that quality of life is all about how we feel and our sense of wellbeing. “Connecting with nature benefits both, and if our park can play a small part in nudging this along, I’ll be perfectly happy!”