ROLLER COASTER YEAR

ROLLER COASTER YEAR

The ups and downs of 2020,as the Holiday Park Scene team reports...

It was emotional to witness the end-of-week show at a leading UK holiday resort just before the start of England’s second Lockdown. Not knowing if they were going to get the opportunity to perform in December, the outstanding entertainment team burst into festive song for their encore, just in case they never get the opportunity to stage their Christmas show. The disappointment and uncertainty was tangible. A roller coaster year of famine, feast then famine again, Covid-19 has taken its toll on morale across the UK holiday sector through 2020. A short reprieve from Lockdown this summer meant many holiday parks were able to fire up and get back to some form of business as usual, albeit with restricted booking numbers to comply with new safety measures and a great deal of logistical thought going into communal areas and social distancing.

SECOND WAVE

As the next wave of this pandemic continues to batter Britain, a second enforced national Lockdown has forced holiday parks to cancel bookings and close once again, with staff left fearing an uncertain future. All is not lost. With overseas travel restricted and families desperate to fit in a winter break, December and January are shaping up as the new peak season months. Helen Scott is the Director of Cofton Holidays in South Devon. A family-run business established over 40 years and usually booked year-round with guests enjoying the luxury cottages, lodges, bubbling hot-tubs and static caravans; the bustle of busy restaurants serving Devonshire cream teas. As she spoke to Holiday Park Scene magazine, the resort lay still, silent, empty - with almost 95% of its workforce on furlough.

Our staff are like our family,” says Helen, “We are all so close and work together well as a team, so we are feeling sad. “Nobody knows how this will play out or what the future holds,” Helen continues. “The uncertainty of not knowing if there will be further Lockdowns in the future is something that worries us all and, as we’re usually open 365 days a year, this second national Lockdown has hit us hard.” After months of hard work to make sure guests could visit safely, this Lockdown has been such a blow to places like Cofton. Helen says: “Our team worked tirelessly after the first Lockdown to secure bookings for November, so to see them cancelled is a real shame. It seems so strange for us to have to send our customers away once again.”

SOUTH DEVON’S family-run Cofton Holidays is usually booked year-round with guests.

December could be one of the busiest months of the year at Park Holidays UK after hundreds of families learned that their hopes for a November break had been dashed. The latest Lockdown means that the company has had to cancel all November holidays, but director Tony Clish says that many guests have opted simply to delay their stay. “Under our coronavirus guarantee, customers can book with confidence because we promise a full no-quibble refund if they are forced to change their plans.

TIME-SHIFTS

“In fact, we’re finding a large number of couples and families are asking if they can time-shift their break until December – and we’re happy to make the changes without cost. “Added to the high volume of existing bookings we already have, I think it’s likely that December will be as busy as high season across our parks. “It’s great news for everyone, including Britain’s tourism economy, but it means people will need to be fast on their feet if they want to enjoy an escape next month. “Some of our parks are already approaching capacity, so we must work on the basis of first come, first served,” said Tony. Instead of closing after the October half-term, a total of 13 of the group’s 30-plus parks are this year continuing to welcome guests until the week before Christmas. Despite the heavy demand, says Tony, off-season prices will apply.

During December, and guests will stay in luxury lodges and premium grade holiday caravans. The holidays are all being offered on an “accommodation only” basis with many of the parks’ usual facilities remaining closed or operating on reduced hours. “There’s going to be a very relaxed atmosphere across our parks, and I think that’s exactly what people will be wanting after another month of Lockdown,” said Tony. “Roads, towns and visitor attractions will all be less busy, and you can enjoy beautiful coast and countryside walks with the feeling that you’ve got it all to yourself. “It will be a great chance to chill – but also to stay snug as all our holiday homes have super-efficient central heating and high levels of insulation.”

The owner of a Cornwall holiday park has spoken of his ‘gut-wrenching dismay’ at having to cancel more than 130 free holidays for Lockdown heroes in November. Patrick Langmaid of Mother Ivey’s Bay in Padstow had pledged to give key workers the holidays as a massive ‘thank you’ for their bravery and commitment during the continuing Covid crisis. But with the second Lockdown, the no-cost stays are having to be put on ice. “I am so desperately disappointed that we are having to cancel the free holidays that we had planned and were so looking forward to providing,” said Patrick.” We had hoped to be welcoming staff from the NHS, police, fire service, local foodbanks and care workers for their richly deserved breaks. “Now, instead of preparing for their arrival, we are contacting them to let them know they can no longer come with their families and spend time with us,” he said. Throughout November, 137 key workers from across the UK were to be welcomed at Mother Ivey’s, and a further 21 in December at its sister-park, Martha’s Orchard in Constantine Bay.

“I have great respect and admiration for those who have kept Britain going during these challenging times, and it’s so sad that they are not going to be able to have the benefit of these holidays. “Key workers need respite too, and their personal wellbeing seems to have been forgotten during the recent announcements.” Patrick is calling upon the Government to make special provision for key workers and their wellbeing during this new Lockdown, including giving them the important downtime to relax. “Everyone needs a break, and especially those who have been tirelessly working on the frontline for the past six months,” says Patrick. It is not easy for the on-site owners who, Cofton’s Helen Scott says, have been very understanding, or the customers, many of whom have had rearranged trips cancelled yet again: “Our customers are very sad to see us closed but understand this is what needs to be done,” Helen says. “Cofton Holidays is their haven; their get away from it all. Helen says they’re using the time as best they can and trying to look ahead positively: “We are making the most of being closed and progressing with work that we would have found difficult to achieve with customers staying on site.

SUPER PITCHES

“We want our customers to really see the difference when they return. During the last Lockdown, we improved our roadways and footpaths, developed our beautiful wildlife corridors, introduced new super pitches and increased security with the installation of ANPR barriers. We know that next year will be a bumper season for staycations. We’re already seeing a significant increase in our bookings for 2021.” Helen remains pragmatic about the government handling of the crisis. “I just keep thinking, who would want to be in their shoes? Would any of us do a better job? “The furlough scheme has been a godsend and has helped us protect the jobs of our Cofton team, which is extremely important to us. “Looking back to earlier this year, I wonder if the first national Lockdown was too harsh, especially on Devon and Cornwall which was not as affected by the Coronavirus compared to other regions.”

 

“LOOKING BACK TO EARLIER THIS YEAR, I WONDER IF THE FIRST NATIONAL LOCKDOWN WAS TOO HARSH, ESPECIALLY ON DEVON AND CORNWALL WHICH WAS NOT AS AFFECTED BY THE CORONAVIRUS COMPARED TO OTHER REGIONS.” - Helen Scott, Cofton

STRATOSPHERIC SEASON AHEAD

STRATOSPHERIC SEASON AHEAD

Park Holidays UK is plunging £2 million into the building of a new luxury pool at Dovercourt Holiday Park in Harwich – and says its bracing itself for a staycation year ‘like no other’ in 2021. The group reports that it has given the green light to new investments across its 30-plus holiday parks as bookings for next year hit ‘stratospheric’ levels. “Make no mistake, Britain will be the place to be on holiday in 2021 and we are going to be ready for it,” says Park Holidays UK director Tony Clish. “Families will be seeking-out top quality experiences in this country as a substitute for going abroad, and that’s just what we intend to deliver,” he continued. “The group will be investing heavily this winter both in its leisure facilities, and in top quality accommodation such as luxury lodges, so nobody will feel they are getting second best.”

Many of next year’s bookings are from families who took a staycation this year and were amazed by how much more enjoyable it was than an overseas holiday. “Less hassle, less cost, beautiful countryside and coasts, and so much more for kids to enjoy - the time is now right for Britain to play up to its greatest strengths” said Tony. Work on Dovercourt’s new swimming pool began this month, and it’s planned that park guests will be dipping their toes in the water from next March with the complex’s interior decked out in a nostalgic seaside theme, plus pool-side relaxation areas and cascading slides.. Next year is likely to be the park’s busiest on record, according to Park Holidays UK. ”We do normally start to receive a flow of bookings around autumn across the group for the following year’s holidays, but this time it’s turned into a deluge,” said Tony. “We are responding by channelling major investments into our parks this winter and making sure that guests will have all of their expectations exceeded.”

Park Holidays
Tel. 0191 256 0795
www.ParkHolidays.com

WISH YOU WERE HERE – Golden Cap Holiday Park

WISH YOU WERE HERE

Picture postcards from Dorset's Golden Cap Holiday Park

Guests to the real-life Jurassic Park on the scenic Dorset coast are unlikely to get bored of the scenery in a hurry. Even after the sunset, Golden Cap Holiday Park have some of the most breath-taking views from their popular Stargazer tents. Marketed under the West Dorset Leisure Holidays banner, Golden Cap Holiday Park has a picturesque location on the Jurassic Coast, just 150 yards from Seatown Beach and surrounded by 2,000 acres of National Trust land. Ideally situated for walkers, dog owners and families, the park is nestled in a quiet valley next to a stream and is surrounded by footpaths. Boasting a fantastic location next to Seatown Beach the Park is a paradise for walkers and dog owners.

There is a peaceful fishing lake on the park as well as a reception, pizza takeaway and visitor information, while the South West Coast Path runs right past the park Just a short drive from the park are Lyme Regis and Charmouth - worldrenowned for fossil hunting and breathtaking scenery. And for those wanting to stay a bit closer to home.

Family-run, Golden Cap welcomes families, friends and couples with a range of accommodation – luxury two and three-bedroom Lodges with sea and countryside views, two and three bedroom holiday homes, glamping units including a Stargazer Belle Tent, Safari tent and camping and glamping options, pitches for touring caravans, motorhomes and camping as well as holiday homes for sale. In 2018, the park celebrated 40 years under the ownership of the Cox Family.

The occasion coincides with the arrival of some brand new modern camping pods, perfect for families, couples and groups. These pods expand the popular glamping range to nine units, some of which are dog-friendly.

Golden Cap Holiday Park
Tel. 01308 442139
www.goldencapholidaypark.co.uk

ADAPTING TO COVID-19 IMPACT

ADAPTING TO COVID-19 IMPACT

Woodberry is a leading supplier of outdoor furniture to the UK hospitality industry, with over 100 years combined experience in the family team. As a family run company, Woodberry was fortunate that it didn’t have to shut during lockdown but the company has certainly diversified. With all customers closed, Woodberry quickly diversified their workshop to manufacture temporary hospital doors for the NHS Nightingale Hospitals.

During March and April, the seven-strong family team produced 200 doors per week. In May, it started to supply Covid-19 secure products, such as perspex screens, hand sanitisers and outdoor serveries, to help prepare hospitality customers for reopening. Woodberry also started to run webinars cohosted by industry experts to help prepare customers and interpret the guidelines issued by the government. Speed of delivery for customers was crucial in June as we all finally got confirmation of a reopening date.

Woodberry has good levels of stock and was and is able to delivery within 1-2 weeks of order (or quicker given the need). “We have been incredibly fortunate to be able to remain open and support our customers during lockdown,” says Tim Barr, General Manager at Woodberry. “As a small company we can respond quickly to change. By constantly talking to our customers we have been able to understand their needs and to help their businesses get back up and running quickly, easily and most cost effectively.”

QUIET SITE SECURES TOP AWARD

QUIET SITE SECURES TOP AWARD

DANIEL HOLDER with fresh produce from The Quiet Site’s “zero waste” food shop

Family and team members at The Quiet Site in Cumbria are celebrating their triumph in the finals of the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020. The Watermillock Park was named as the Silver winner in the category for sustainable tourism businesses which bring benefits to the environment and local communities. This year’s award ceremony, hosted by popular TV presenter Julia Bradbury, was a “virtual” event streamed live. It was watched at The Quiet Site by Daniel Holder and his wife Anne along with family, friends, holiday guests and members of the Quiet team.

“We were thrilled when it was announced that The Quiet Site is among England’s top three tourism businesses championing sustainability,” said Daniel. “The VisitEngland awards are known as the Oscars for the holiday industry, and we’re very proud to be able to bring this silver award home to Cumbria. “I hope it will help put the national spotlight on our county as a place where visitors can enjoy the world’s most beautiful scenery without impacting negatively on the environment. “After what has been a very testing time for tourism enterprises everywhere, this is a wonderful way to show that the Lake District is truly back in business,” added Daniel.

The Quiet Site has invested heavily in sustainable technologies including solar panels and biomass heating, as well as banning single-use plastics, and implementing a “buy local” policy. Last year, the park opened a “zero waste” food shop which specialises in Cumbrian produce free from unnecessary packaging, and with the fewest possible food miles under its belt.

TRIPLE TRIUMPH FOR OLD OAKS

TRIPLE TRIUMPH FOR OLD OAKS

Glastonbury’s Old Oaks Touring and Glamping Park has scored hat-trick of awards in a national poll carried out by the UK’s two top touring magazines. The readers of Practical Caravan and has scored a hat-trick of awards in a national poll carried out by the UK’s two top touring magazines.

The readers of Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome voted Old Oaks as their favourite park on which to stay in Somerset, Avon and Wiltshire Dorset. In the same annual poll, readers also named Old Oaks as Britain’s best park for enjoying adults-only stays which are free from the patter of tiny feet.

Completing the hat trick of honours, the publication presented the park with its national award for the Best Green Site in the UK for eco-friendly holidays. Old Oaks has been in the same family’s ownership for over 30 years, and is managed by family members Tara White and her husband James. As well as touring pitches, the park provides a range of exciting glamping options including luxurious fully-equipped mini cedar lodges, shepherds huts and cosy camping cabins.

WELCOME FOR FIRST TIMERS

WELCOME FOR FIRST TIMERS

First-time motorhome users are being promised a soft and sympathetic landing when they pull into one of the Lakes District’s most popular parks for tourers. Skelwith Fold in Ambleside is going all out to win the confidence of couples and families taking their debut drive in a motorhome this year. “It’s clear that many people during lockdown were dreaming of experiencing just such a holiday, and now their chance has come,” said park director Henry Wild. “Hiring a motorhome is now very much on trend with younger guests, and we want to ensure that their first taste of this lifestyle will give them an appetite for more.” Guests arriving at the 130-acre park for the contactless fast check-in will be asked by staff if they have visited before, and offered help if this is their first motorhome outing. “Motorhome hire firms usually do an excellent job of explaining everything during handover, but after that you are on your own and it can feel a little daunting,” Henry said. “Our message is, never be afraid to ask for help at the park – if it hasn’t already been offered by other more experienced motorhome users nearby, which often happens. “Some of our first-timers have already become second-timers, so we’re delighted that those lockdown dreams are living up to expectations!” added Henry.

THE NEW NORMAL

THE NEW NORMAL - Swimming Pool Focus

Step up your duty of care pool protocols in light of the pandemic…
In the light of the global pandemic, it has never been more vital to show duty of care for your holiday park swimming pool users. You don’t just need to follow the guidance. You need to evidence you are following that guidance. Swim England has published and is constantly updating comprehensive Return to Pools Guidance to coincide with the government controlling lockdown measures. All available through the Swim England website and easily downloadable, five detailed documents have been created and are based on the latest scientific advice and government guidelines. The guidance includes robust recommendations for operators, casual swimmers, lane swimming, family-fun sessions, club activity, teachers and those attending swimming lessons. “As pools reopen, it will not be a case of ‘business as usual’ and we know that things will have to be different, but if we are to play our part in protecting the NHS from another wave of Covid-19 admissions, it is important we follow the latest guidance and adjust to the new ‘normal’,” comments Jane Nickerson, Chief Executive, Swim England The Swim England information aims to support operators in re-opening swimming facilities following the period of closure, due to Covid-19, and provides guidance on reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission within the swimming pool environment.

 

HYGIENE REGIMES

The information highlights the continued requirements for safe social distancing and enhanced hygiene regimes, along with guidance on how this will impact on the operational management of swimming facilities. The guide also includes details on getting pools back to operational requirements, certification, programming, understanding the new needs of users coming out of isolation (especially the most vulnerable) and protecting and training the workforce. Operators should have a dedicated officer responsible for Covid-19 considerations, making sure that they are up to date with central or local government recommendations. If your pool water is chlorine-treated to Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) guidelines, you can state, with confidence, that Covid-19 should not be transmissible through the swimming pool water. It is worth noting that most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, Swim England advises, however where systems serve multiple buildings, or operators are unsure, advice should be sought from an appropriate heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineer or adviser.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Maintaining social distancing is paramount in order to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid 19 between participants, this is important both whilst in and out of the water.
Distance: The greater the distance between participants the lower the level of risk of transmission via air droplets.
Activity: The way in which participants move during the activity will determine how you can control the above two parameters, for example lane swimming is a controlled setting where participants are guided to swim in a set direction.

THE BREAN SPLASH POOL not only serves holiday park guests, but also to the local community.

The swimming pool industry is urging holiday park operators to urgently have their swimming pool check plantrooms and water testing systems by appropriately qualified specialists. “Following extended shutdowns, we have to warn holiday swimming pool operators, they are potentially returning to the most dangerous pathogens lurking in pool water,” warns Dyfed Thompson-Smith of leading supplier, AstralPool UK. “Follow correct procedures including bacteriological tests in case there has been any significant break in disinfection. “It is not scare-mongering,” he emphasises. “It is just being sensible.” Pool users too are being urged to comply with guidance including arriving ready to swim, showering away from the pool and changing rooms, and leaving he pool as soon as possible after swimming. Pool users are reminded to respect people of different swimming standards and abilities, always maintaining appropriate social distance between yourself and another swimmer.

Swimmers need reminding that if they change their pace, by opting for a slower stroke, they may have to switch designated speed lanes while staying hydrated by bringing their own ‘prefilled’ water bottle on to poolside during your swim. Meanwhile, Swim England has pleaded with the Government to ensure swimming doesn’t become leisure’s ‘forgotten activity’ – after it was revealed almost a third of public pools could remain closed for another six months. However, less than 20 per cent of local authority-owned facilities will welcome swimmers back into the water on reopening day – and many of those will be at a reduced capacity. New research also shows 30 per cent of public pools may remain closed into 2021 due to the exceptional costs councils face to reopen facilities – coupled with the income lost during the lockdown period.

 

BLUE SKY THINKING

BLUE SKY THINKING

The cloud holds the power for switched on holiday business...

If we have learned anything from the global pandemic crisis, and its impact on our holiday business, it is surely the importance of access to user-friendly, joined-up management systems. From on-line marketing to ‘click to confirm’ buttons, as the Covid-19 curtain was raised, a booking stampede was triggered with demand exceeding availability by an estimated three-fold. Switched-on operators now boast sophisticated monitoring systems to alert them to booking trends. The big players will know from geographic triggers which destinations are top of the holiday pops. Equally, from tourer pitches to luxury lodges, they will have a close eye on the trends for holiday accommodation requests. Like all aspects of business, knowledge is the key to success. Capitalising on the gold rush, those operators were quick to raise prices as demand spiralled. Constantly monitoring those graphs, with performance alerts, they are more akin to stock market traders than the traditional bucket and spade brigade. It’s more important than ever that park operators keep pace with technology – especially when it comes to maximising online bookings and sales.

USER-FRIENDLY

In today’s post Covid-19 market, sharp and effective websites with user-friendly online booking systems, search engine optimisation, e-blasts, apps and cookie-based promotion – the e-marketing revolution is in full flow with the majority of holiday businesses investing or ignoring at their peril. Net Guides are the brains behind one of the market’s most popular systems, GemaPark.

“Online bookings are so important in saving time and increasing revenue,” advises Netguides Managing Director, Dawn Bee. “In the new socially distanced world of today the system should provide online check-in, easy ways to keep in touch with customers if things change, and the ability for customers to manage their bookings and rebook if required,” Dawn adds. “Make sure they are easy for your customers, integrate well with your website, and give you the flexibility to sell what you want.”

Still not convinced? A huge proportion research their holidays on line before going on to click booking links to confirm their holidays. Google data shows that 45% of UK travellers feel comfortable researching, planning and booking trips to new destinations using only their mobile smart phone. More than a third, 33%, of consumers say they’ve used a virtual travel assistant to help organise and plan their next trip. 72% of mobile phone bookings happen within 48 hours of last-minute Google searches. Those booking systems cannot just be business-friendly they need to be user-friendly. For a visitor to the website, the online booking system should be straightforward and easy to use, and clearly provide the visitor with all the information they need to book their stay. It must be logical, with quality pictures and descriptions so that customers can make their preferred selection.

LOOKS MATTER

Having the booking page designed in the same style as the website and having the payment taken directly from the website page considerably helps this, and directly increases the number of online bookings made. Customers like to feel comfortable and secure as they navigate around the website booking pages. Equally, the system should be just as simple for the reservation team to use, making it easy for them to carry out tasks such as taking payment, amend bookings, calculate tariffs, generate ‘remote access’ arrival and departure reports and undertake online marketing initiatives. A key advantage of having a webbased booking system that operates off one platform, is that when an online booking is made it immediately goes into the management system, therefore avoiding mistakes and errors.

CASHING IN

Another area technology that has started to see major take up by caravan and holiday parks, arcades and family entertainment centres worldwide is the cashless payment system. The system replaces traditional methods of transaction like tokens, coins, and admission tickets with a simple card. Guests use the plastic card, similar to a credit card, to make all of their transactions on site. The cards can be loaded with any amount, and once swiped at an activity, the appropriate value is deducted. The card system goes well beyond a payment method, but includes a full suite of products designed to handle all the pay to play activities, as well as the monitoring of customers activity and games performance. Park operators benefit from the endless marketing and pricing opportunities that become available, while at the same time reduce operating costs and improve cash control. With all customers using cards for their activity within the site or across multiple sites of the same chain, operators have the opportunity to profile their customers and create marketing promotions and packages based on the real spending habits. This in turn can generate more return visits and higher spend during each visit. Ignorance may be bliss but it will be the switched-on holiday park businesses, who embrace new technology, that stand to reap the rewards and benefits of multiple net gains.

 

KNOWLEDGE IS PLAY POWER

KNOWLEDGE IS PLAY POWER

Knowledge is power in all facets of our holiday park provision but especially in the key aspects of play. Getting the play recipe right means the best use of precious revenue and increased customer loyalty for those that include play as part of their offering. Recent research is therefore vital as it arms decision makers with key clues about the opportunities that exist in play solutions. That research, by leading play providers, Proludic, reveals a whopping 89% of parents and carers are more likely to be drawn to a leisure destination with a good quality play space.

GETTING OUTDOORS

The findings show, for the UK population, play is about the child being outdoors, expending energy and expressing themselves. For families and those with closer ties to the child’s development, it is also about spending time together, something which the leisure sector is a big proponent of. It is also viewed as time spent away from digital devices, such as smartphones and tablets. For those with junior aged children, it represents an opportunity for their child to make friends. Due to the impact on overseas travel because of the global pandemic, this year is set to be another recordbreaking year for the UK’s hospitality and leisure sector with both domestic tourist expenditure. “This presents a great opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the increased revenue and grow their market share,” says Anne Parkin, Key Accounts Manager for Proludic, who says holiday destinations are reviewing the play facilities they offer. As providers of creative play, outdoor gyms and sports areas to the leisure sector, leading suppliers, Proludic, carried out their research into the type of play facilities are most desired during their leisure time. “When planning your on-site facilities understanding what families want is vital, whether your business is a holiday destination, pub, restaurant or visitor attraction,” says Anne. “To aid in this, Proludic has undertaken some primary research to discover the key factors involved when selecting a place to visit, and also to understand what will ensure your visitors return.”

DWELL TIME

The Proludic research evidences the importance of attracting custom, extending dwell time and the financial consequences of that for your business. It identifies the importance of targeting the family market and addressing the diversity of ages. This allows you to plan appropriately for future years to keep pace with the increasingly competitive leisure market. With its extensive range of play equipment for all ages, Proludic offers a varied material palette,” says Anne. “We can also provide bespoke play features to suit your environment to suit space and budget. “We also offer a free design service, which will realise your dreams and work towards ensuring your business stands out in the crowd.” One in three (35%) agreed that they would be happy to travel further to a destination with a good play space. Play also appears to be a good way to build customer relationships and encourage repeat business, with nearly half (46%) stating that they are more likely to return. The research also tells us that half of all leisure customers (48%) would be more inclined to stay longer if a good playground for children was evident. This figure rises to 76% when family customers are taken into account.

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