Pick Of The Bunch
Recognising and promoting the very best holiday and caravan parks in Scotland is the core aim of the Thistle Holiday Park scheme.
By supporting its members with marketing initiatives throughout the year, the scheme provides holiday makers with above: The Thistle Holidays Parks initiative focuses on promoting the quality of Scotland’s best holiday and camping parks with information and advice, allowing them to make an informed decision when choosing a holiday destination.
Many holiday parks and attractions already support the scheme, including Discovering Distilleries, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Historic Scotland, the Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.
Thistle project manager Judith Sleigh, explains: “Good quality and good value will continue to be important to holidaymakers, and as we offer both, our members are able to profit. The challenge, however, in an era when cheap flights abroad to guaranteed sunshine, is that Thistle Parks continue to improve their product and establish themselves as being in the forefront of the industry.”
Recently, parks involved in the scheme have been able to take full advantage of the staycation trend which kicked in with the economic downturn, due to domestic visitors looking for holidays which offer both good quality and good value for money in Scotland and England.
By joining the scheme, holiday parks can benefit from a number of marketing tools to promote their park. All members are entitled to an entry in the Thistle brochure, which is distributed at over 10,000 information centres and is downloadable from the website. The brochure is also circulated at various exhibitions and trade shows throughout the year, and a further 600 copies are mailed out to those on the Thistle database. Members are also entitled to an editable entry on the Thistle website, which receives over 80,000 visitors per year.
To become a member, caravan parks must meet certain criteria; firstly the parks must be awarded four or five stars by VisitScotland. They must also have high quality lodges and holiday home caravans, and at least some touring pitches on firm ground, with links to services and facilities. David Halley, current chairman of Thistle Holiday Parks, says: “As the owner of a small park on Loch Lomond, I joined Thistle because of the extra promotion and also because I felt that the industry had to work together and Thistle offered the right vehicle for this by enabling us to get to the market, as a group, with the right message in the right way. Having Tourism Scotland as the project manager means that the promotion is professionally handled; the owners are running their parks and don’t have time to devote to marketing.”
The Thistle Holidays Parks scheme began back in the 1970’s and was a joint initiative between the tourism industry and the Scottish Tourist Board. The Board was one of the first to undertake a wide-ranging inspection of both serviced and self-catering accommodation in a drive to improve the quality of facilities and services. Caravan parks were able to have their holiday home caravans checked against a precise set of criteria, which included fixed heating throughout, mains drainage, and double-glazing.
In 2012, the Scottish Tourist Board, renamed VisitScotland, handed Thistle Holiday Parks over to the industry, to a committee which included owners and managers of parks of various sizes and types. The concept of Thistle Parks was extended to include touring as well as self-catering, but the criteria for inclusion continued to be based on high quality.
David Key, Regional Director of Parkdean Holidays has also been closely involved in the initiative since it began: “The industry was keen to work with the Scottish Tourist Board in order to raise the overall quality of the parks by encouraging them to invest in their product. We appreciated the fact that the board gave considerable funding to support the scheme in order to promote the high quality of the parks and their accommodation. Parkdean, with six parks in Scotland, felt and still do that being a member of Thistle is important.”
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