Four Season Appeal
Ashleigh Bissett presents ideas for boosting your all-year-round appeal…
In days gone by, the winter season signalled a sharp decline in the number visitor bookings. But nowadays the ‘out of season’ period only sees a minor let-up in the volume of holidaymakers and holiday homeowners choosing to enjoy a park break during the cooler months.
When Silverdale Holiday Park first opened 60 years ago, only a few hardy caravanners would ever consider a winter stay on a beautiful but elevated sea-facing location in South Cumbria.
But today, says Michael Holgate – grandson of the park’s founder – it’s very different scene. Silverdale continues buzzing throughout the winter months, and the prospect of cold bright days in the Lake District is more likely to inspire than deter visitors. Silverdale has around 500 caravan holidays homes, including a small letting fleet, and provides a range of activities and facilities which, like the park itself, are open all year round.
Michael believes that a parks industry with fewer peaks and troughs throughout the calendar is good for business in more than one sense: “Our six parks in Cumbria and North Lancashire employ around 135 people, and each year we find ourselves less reliant on seasonal staff and better able to provide more fulltime positions.
“This allows us to attract higher calibre recruits, and to be able to invest in their personal training and development, which benefits both them and us in the longer term. “Increased continuity also means that permanent staff gain a more intimate knowledge of our business, and can play an even greater part in helping customers and driving us forward.
The start of the 2016 season saw Michael’s business put the finishing touches to a £1m investment in its indoor attractions, and he predicts that this is likely to bolster even further the appeal of the park to winter visitors. Silverdale’s leisure complex now includes a swimming pool with spa and sauna, a professional gymnasium, a high-tech US-style bowling alley, soft play areas, and a café, bar and restaurant.
“Although our leisure complex does give the assurance of something to do whatever the weather, I don’t think our winter guests would necessarily name it as the number one attraction,” says Michael. “Most people’s motive for buying here is the outstanding scenery, and winter in Cumbria presents all those familiar picture-postcard views in a different light, so walking is very popular. “Winter also seems to inspire a desire for change, and we’re delighted to find that increasing numbers of our customers also choose this time to make an upgrade!” he adds.
Henry Wild, director of Skelwith Fold Caravan Park in Cumbria, believes the Lake District has an unfair advantage over some other traditional holiday honeypots in winter: “Seaside destinations really need sunshine and warm weather to bring out their best, but here the lakes and mountains become even more breathtaking under a winter sky,” he says.
“We’ll be kept busy right through November before the park closes with both owners and touring customers, and the atmosphere is always decidedly relaxed. I think one reason is that, unlike in summer, people don’t feel compelled to be out and about all the time, and are happy just taking things easy on the park.”
Skelwith Fold has around 300 privately owned caravan holiday homes and some 150 touring pitches. This winter, the park will also be providing the option of renting one of its two-person hideaway glamping pods located in a quiet forest glade. Their central heating and high levels of insulation mean cold snaps stay strictly outdoors
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