All Inclusive

All Inclusive

All inclusive main picWhen it comes to accommodation, the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy is long gone, as parks now strive to provide bespoke options to suit all tastes and clientele. Today’s holiday parks are more inclusive than ever before. With a vast selection of accommodation and activities now available to choose from, it’s no wonder that an increasingly broad clientele of people are opting to holiday close to home. Parks up and down the country are expanding their horizons when it comes to accommodation, with most offering a good range of options for families with small children, teenagers and young couples as well as the older generation. And what’s more, it’s a shift that’s paying off, with more and more parks reaping the financial rewards. Henry Wild, of Skelwith Fold caravan park in the Lake District, says that new ways for guests to stay on parks are helping to ensure bookings and drive down the average age of visitors: "About a decade ago, many park industry commentators became concerned at what they saw as an increasingly mature market of visitors and holiday home buyers. Their conclusion was that without new blood being drawn in, numbers in these sectors would be sent on a downward trajectory. "What they didn't foresee was a combination of factors, which has led many younger couples and families to become familiar with the park product, helping to underpin this industry's future.”

BANG ON TREND
Leading the way has been glamping in all its different forms. What began as a type of accommodation characterised by quite basic timber huts has now evolved into a sophisticated and often luxurious staying option for people seeking a new holiday experienceIn addition, park-based glamping holidays are being increasingly featured in the media where they are often described as ‘cool’, and highlighted as a much more exciting type of escape than a hotel or rented cottage. "Often these types of accommodation attract younger generations, and we see plenty of evidence of this with those booking our fully equipped safari tends and top-end glamping modules based on the Swift S-Pod,” says Henry. "Motorhomes are also very much on-trend with younger holiday guests, and last summer we saw a rise of eight percent in the number of motorhome bookings compared with the previous year, with the result that motorhomes now occupying almost half of our touring pitches.” Henry goes on to explain that the continuing confusion surrounding what Brexit will mean for travel in Europe next year also appears to be driving UK holiday makers to play it safe and holiday closer to home.

CLOSE TO HOME
All inclusive pic 5"Another factor which couldn't have been predicted a decade ago, and which has also broadened the appeal of parks to new markets, are concerns over Brexit and the accompanying fall in the value of the pound .which has driven up the cost of holidays overseas,” he comments. "Combine this with a series of spectacular summers in recent years, and many people are now questioning whether a UK holiday might offer more fun and a lot less stress than going abroad. The superbly high standards of modern holiday homes reinforces the argument, and makes a pretty persuasive case for owning a holiday home in this country.” According to holiday park owner and operator Bridge Leisure, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is already having a positive impact on UK staycations. Their advance bookings for 2019 have seen a 30 per cent increase across their nine parks, with Ashbourne Heights in Derbyshire already up by 150 per cent on the same period last year. CEO Andrew Howe believes they are definitely benefitting from the Brexit effect, he said: “Staycations are becoming increasingly popular anyway but with the lack of clarity around what a deal or no deal Brexit means for travellers, people just want to avoid any nasty surprises and seem to be opting for a UK holiday instead.” To meet the demand, Bridge Leisure are continuing to invest in their accommodation options, to ensure that they are hitting the spot when it comes to their customer’s expectations. “Staycations are becoming more and more popular, so the various types of accommodation continue to evolve and develop to meet what the customer is looking for in all sorts of shapes, styles and sizes,” says Andrew.

GROWING DEMAND
“You only have to look at the popularity of lodges with hot tubs to see that the demand is still there and growing.” He adds: “Above all people are looking for experiences, good quality and choice. They are also looking for something a bit different which you can’t get everywhere like our two storey safari lodges. They are very popular with families and provide a sense of adventure with the added touches of luxury.” The group recently invested in Safari Lodges at Trevella Park in Crantock, Ashbourne Heights in Derbyshire and Hedley Wood near Bude, to offer guests the ultimate glamping experience. Set over two floors, each lodge features a spacious double bedroom and a second bedroom on the upper floor, as well as a fully equipped kitchenette with hob, microwave, fridge and sink, and WC with shower. The lodges also boast an outdoor hot tub with a large porch and parking. Andrew believes that today’s guests have ever increasing expectations but as ever cleanliness is king: “Generally our guests are looking for a home away from home experience with all the added comforts. We offer ready erected tents to minimise stress and packing and en-suite touring pitches for added comfort and convenience. It’s the extra touches which can make the difference.”

TOP FORM
Dorset’s Ultimate Beachside EscapeIn terms of maintaining a high standard of accommodation on their parks, Bridge Leisure have a dedicated on-site team who carry out regular checks and keep everything in tip-top condition. “There isn’t really a hard and fast rule for when accommodation should be replaced. Different types will have different life cycles,” says Andrew. “We have an annual refurbishment programme across all of our parks and this year we are investing over half a million in new units. We want to make sure customers have a choice of different accommodation to suit different requirements and budgets.” For park owners that are looking to invest in new accommodation, choosing the right supplier is a key decision. A good supplier is easy to deal with, consistent, reliable and provides quality products and suitable prices. In turn, this helps you to focus on your park and deliver a high-level of service to your guests. An average supplier can, at best, take up your valuable time and, at worst, can cause a knock-on effect that impacts your service, guests and profit. “When choosing an accommodation supplier I’m sure top of most people’s lists will be value for money, quality and innovation,” comments Andrew. “But in addition, we look for suppliers who understand the demands of our business and deliver within agreed timescales.”

LIABILITY RISK
From an insurance point of view, the potential for an insurance claim to arise is ever present, even on the best run holiday parks. Identifying and managing the risks associated with all types of park-owned accommodation units relies upon a park carrying out regular and thorough risk assessments. The demand for high-end accommodation and luxury facilities such as hot tubs continues. Apart from the extra operational demands of these facilities, they can increase risk and as such may have insurance implications. “It is all too common for a liability claim to arise in respect of park-owned units,” explains a spokesperson for Compass Insurance. “For example, steps, beds, showers, baths, hot tubs and wet surfaces are associated with slip, trip and fall claims. Park owners will also understand that carbon monoxide poisoning can pose a life-threatening risk to customers staying in various types of accommodation units and of the need to ensure that the necessary detectors are in-situ.”

NO SHORTCUTS
All inclusive pic 3There is no shortcut to risk assessing each and every park-owned unit onsite. The risks associated with a caravan holiday home or lodge will differ from those associated with a glamping pod, which will differ still to those associated with a tepee, safari tent or ready tent. Parks should ensure that all park-owned accommodation meets relevant regulatory safety requirements. This is also required by the Policy wording. Subsequently, units should be kept in good condition and it is crucial that records of all operating procedures, maintenance, checking and cleaning are meticulously documented and kept readily accessible. The Compass spokesperson warns: “If a park cannot prove, using up-to-date and documented evidence, that it has taken all reasonable steps to minimise health and safety risks, it may be impossible for an insurer to defend a liability claim. The park could also end up in trouble with the HSE!” According to Compass, the type of cover and the cost of insurance will vary according to the type of accommodation on a park. This is relevant to the risk presented. For example, it may be more expensive to insure a pod with a wood burner than one without, simply because there is more likelihood of a fire-related incident where a wood burner exists. Premium costs will also vary depending on the number, variety, age and value of the units requiring cover. “Insurance can be expensive so while it is very important not to underinsure, over-insuring won’t help either! In this regard, maintaining an accurate valuation of park-owned accommodation is vital,” advises the spokesperson. “The value of accommodation should be reviewed on an annual basis, but policies can and should be amended mid-term too if new units are purchased or sold. It is important to keep your insurer informed about investment and development throughout the year so that they can ensure your policy is fully up-to-date.” To keep things as simple as possible, park owners would be wise to choose a specialist provider that can cover all of their park-owned accommodation under a single policy avoiding issues, should a claim occur, over which provider is responsible.

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COMPANY CONTACTS

BRIDGE LEISURE
Tel. 01908 067 900
www.bridgeleisure.com

COMPASS
Tel. 0344 274 027
www.compassinsuranceservices.co.uk

FAIRVIEW LODGES
Tel. 01327 349297
www.fairview-lodges.com

SKELWITH FOLD CARAVAN PARK
Tel. 015394 32277
www.skelwith.com

 

 

On-Site Charging

charging on siteOn-Site Charging

Holiday park group Bridge Leisure has completed a project to add electric car charging points at eight holiday parks across the UK. The company, which owns parks and provides professional management and consultancy for the industry, teamed up with Lincolnshire-based electrical distribution systems specialist Caravan Park Electrical to install the charging points in time for the summer season. Parks that benefited from the development are Trevella Park, Seaview Holiday Village and Hengar Manor in Cornwall; Hedley Wood in Devon; Ashbourne Heights in the Peak District; Sand le Mere on the Yorkshire coast; Turnberry Park in Ayrshire and Silver Sands in Moray. Simon Williams, Bridge Leisure commercial director says: “The future of driving is electric, so having our own charging points will help us provide a better holiday experience of our electric-car driving customers. “We are already seeing high use of the charging points, particularly at our Peak District and Cornwall parks, so there is clearly demand for this kind of facility.”

Planning For A Successful Succession

Planning For A Successful Successionplanning for a successful succession

Planning and managing a family succession can be fraught with emotion and impact on relationships away from the business, so if passions are running high or it is difficult to take the challenging decisions needed for a successful handover, Howe recommends bringing in outside help to remove emotion from the decision-making process and help all parties focus on making choices that benefit the long term health of the business.
Recognising this challenge is what led Andrew to join forces with other industry experts to create Bridge Leisure Management in 2008. 10 years on, the company provides day-to-day management of holiday parks for owners who want to successfully step away from their business.
He says: “As professional managers we can focus on the park, its success and development. We don’t have an emotional attachment so we can focus on what is good for the business and good for the owner.” Discussing the transfer of the business from one generation to the next can often unearth unresolved conflicts between family members, such as arguments over business direction, perceived family favouritism, or lack of confidence in abilities.
Planning4ASS2Rather than confronting and discussing these families are more likely to bury their feelings and beliefs, eroding trust and increasing their stresses during the succession process.
At this point, outside support can be invaluable in helping the process of handing control from one generation to the next, when any changes made by the younger group keen to make its mark can be seen as a criticism of the work done previously by family.
“We work alongside families to help get the best from everyone and maintain an absolute focus on the business Holiday park owners are spending so much time working that they are failing to plan for a successful retirement. Andrew Howe, chief executive of Bridge Leisure Management says that one of the biggest mistakes park owners make is to ignore questions of succession.
He says: “If your goal is to handover to family members, there can be many tricky questions to answer, made more difficult by the close relationships of those involved.
“For example, what if the next in line is not ready, not up to the task of running your business, or if there are several family members vying to take over a small park where there’s really just one job to fill?” Howe’s belief is that successful succession planning must start years in advance so business owners can identify and address the weak spots and potential problems of handing over to family members.

DEVELOP AND THRIVE

By clarifying the skills that your business needs to develop and thrive, you can decide who is best placed to take over responsibility for running the park and put in a place a training or coaching plan to account for areas where they are lacking. Giving family members a long-term view of the park’s potential can help them understand what is expected of them for a successful
handover, but for park owners who have grown their operations as the sole person in charge, it can be a difficult change in mindset to start having open and honest conversations about their business. Howe’s advice is to make family members responsible and accountable for the park’s growth by showing them the business challenges and future opportunities.and success. All parks are different and so our role is to find a management solution that works for each individual owner.” In many instances, holiday park owners may discover that their children don’t share their same enthusiasm for succession, and so their next step may be to look at selling.

EMOTIONAL TIES

AndrewHoweYet the emotional ties of a family business can often make this simply too difficult a decision; who wants to be the generation that sold the family business? Additionally, the commercial realities of a sale can create additional issues, especially when an owner has over-estimated the value of, and interest in, their business. Bridge Leisure worked with a caravan park owner who expected his son to take over when he retired. But after completing university, his son decided on a different career path. Says Andrew: “They thought of selling but were in for a shock when the agent’s guide price was far below what they expected and was at a level that the owner felt neither reflected his hard work nor the true value of the park.” Their response was to bring in Bridge Leisure to take over the park operations in return for a management fee and a bonus to grow the business, while the owner kept the profi ts and retained ownership of the park, ready to benefit from a future sale when profits and market conditions get better. “By bringing a degree of flexibility and freedom to the park owners, they could step away from park operations but still benefit from the true value of their business,” says Howe. “Wrestling with the ‘whys and wherefores’ of succession or a sale can put a stop to owners successfully retiring from their business, and making a decision on what next can be heartbreaking. “Putting a plan in place early, and taking control of the different options and outcomes, is the simplest way to make your next steps a success.”
Bridge Leisure Management
Tel: 01908 067 900
www.bridgeleisure.com

Holiday Snaps From Alison Watson

Holiday Snaps From Alison Watson

HolidaySnaps - Alison WatsonOperations Manager At Bridge Leisure Management - a company that provides professional management and consultancy for the caravan holiday park industry.

What was your career path into the industry?

In 1989 my friend and I decided that we would do a summer season as children’s entertainers for a bit of fun and I ended up never leaving. I have worked in every department from Entertainment to Retail but mainly in Caravan Sales and General Management

How has market changed during your time in the industry?

The biggest thing I have noticed is that holiday guests are looking for more breaks per year and the seven or 14 day holiday in the UK has pretty much disappeared, to be replaced by more, shorter breaks.

How do you predict things will change in the next five to ten years?

One of the things I love about this industry is its resilience in the face of economic adversity. Private letting is one to watch as there has been a bit of a shift to external booking agents such as Airbnb and Booking.com, which could become even more prominent moving forward.

What is the best piece of business advice you have been given and by whom?

“Invest wisely now to save later.” I think of this anytime I am deciding on a major purchase.

What do you most like to spend your time out of working hours?

I love spending time with my family, eating out and keeping fit.

My favourite past time is cooking, whether it’s baking fresh bread to cooking for friends.

Who would like most like to sit down to dinner with and why?

I like variety so probably Tina Turner who would belt out a tune, Peter Kay as he is one of a few comedians who makes me laugh out loud and probably my Great Aunt Elizabeth, who was an inspiration to me from an early age.

Do you have any claims to fame?

I am a grade 8 musician and have played the trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn since I was around eight years old.

Where do you prefer to take your holidays?

Anywhere hot. I love the Canary Islands, a good beach holiday with a few day trips suits me down to the ground. I also love the US and would love to explore there - Route 66 is on my bucket list.

 

 

Holiday Snaps

Holiday Snaps

snaps

Neil Ainsworth
Head of Operations & Retail at Bunn Leisure

After spending eight years working for Bourne Leisure and three years with Bridge Leisure, Neil moved to Bunn Leisure in West Sussex in January 2016 to become Head of Operations and Retail. His responsibilities include oversight of all retail experience at the Bunn site; bars, catering, shops and the Oasis pool complex.

You’ve spent most of your career working in holiday parks, how have they changed?

Without a doubt it’s our visitors’ expectations – they have risen enormously. The difference in expectation when I started with Rank in the early 1990s to now almost can’t be compared. What visitors expect to see in their caravan; anything from double-glazing to central heating, plus the basic functionality of them has risen and so has their expectation of how their children will be entertained, both during the day and the evening.

What’s the most important aspect of your job?

It’s got to be the ability to understand the business from the customer view. I think it helps that I’ve spent a number of my holidays in the past either on holiday parks. If you’ve enjoyed this type of holiday it gives you invaluable experience to bring to the job.

Anything specific you’ve taken from your own experience at these places?

I remember being at Disney and noticing that the team there all had name badges which wasn’t particularly innovative but then they’d include the place they came from, such as ‘Jake from Denver, Colorado’. I introduced that at one of the parks I used to work on for Bourne Leisure. Little things like that can make a big difference – critical non-essentials, I like to call them!

What is the main focus of the retail side of holiday park work?

Ensuring good and consistent working practises and looking at everything we sell and how we sell it. I’m always looking into new ways and new products to retail – what do our customers really want to see in our shops, bars and restaurants – and how we can help our guests buy our products at the best possible price.

Is live entertainment still important?

Absolutely. I think we’re miles ahead on this - we spend more than £1.5 million a year on entertainment at Bunn Leisure and our guests and owners really appreciate it. They love the idea that they are getting world-class performers, such as Billy Ocean or Heather Small, as well as the activities we produce for teens and children.

 It sounds as if children and young people are increasingly the key?

If they are it’s because we attract so many families and one of the reasons for that – and for UK holiday parks still being so popular - is because it’s a safe and secure environment for children. There’s a feeling here that you can allow your children to roam free and enjoy a wide range of activities and facilities. When I was a child you could go out and play in the street but parents are far less likely to let their children do that now so it’s great they can still do this in holiday parks.

Industry Returns To The Good Times

Industry Returns To The Good Times

A highly successful year for many, 2015 got off to a good start with an extended spring season and the early onset of summer, which put a spring in the step of many holiday park operators.
Riding the crest of a wave, the holiday park and tourism industries in general are feeling positive and confident as we head into the New Year. Holiday Park Scene magazine asked a selection of leading industry personalities to give their take on 2015 and their predictions and resolutions for the year ahead…

Tim GibsonTim Gibson

Managing director of Haven Holidays

“2015 was very positive for Haven; our business grew by over 6 per cent, with more customers searching out and enjoying their holiday in our luxury end accommodation. As a result, they did pay more for their holiday in 2015 but the improvement in our guest satisfaction scores suggest that they found the extra investment in their holiday well worthwhile.

“The good early season weather certainly helped get the year off to a good start and we were able to maintain the momentum throughout the year. Also, our continued investment in the product both physical and service elements has contributed to an increase in repeat custom which bodes well for the future.

“Looking ahead to 2016, we are already seeing more people choosing to book early to secure their first choice of park and chosen accommodation. Some of our most exclusive units are already very well sold and people will increasingly discover that if they wait, it’ll be too late.

“I hope to spend more time on park this year speaking to our park teams and our guests. I also plan to continue to work smarter, to make sure we continue to deliver our business objectives in the most efficient but also the most enjoyable way possible.”

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Park Group Growth

Park Group Growth

Park Group

Bridge Leisure recently purchased Seaview Holiday Village in Cornwall.

Specialist holiday park group Bridge Leisure Parks has expanded its portfolio with the purchase of a fifth holiday park. The acquisition of Seaview Holiday Village in Polperro, Cornwall, means that Milton-Keynes based Bridge Leisure Parks now owns two holiday parks in Cornwall, along with properties on the Yorkshire coast and Scotland. Andrew Howe, chief executive of Bridge Leisure commented: “Seaview is a truly lovely holiday village with a superb south coast setting. We are looking to mirror the success of our first holiday park in Cornwall - Trevella Park - and we predict impressive results at our newest destination. “This is the second holiday village we have bought in 2015, following a management buyout and new investment at the start of this year.” He adds: “Our plan is to buy more parks and continue to grow, and we welcome contact from park owners interested in selling their business.”

Bridge Leisure
Tel. 01908 686 600
www.bridgeleisure.com

Bridge Leisure Expands Portfolio

bridgeBridge Leisure Expands Portfolio

Holiday park specialist Bridge Leisure has recently completed a management buyout with support from private equity firm Phoenix Equity Partners.

The agreement means that the existing Bridge Leisure management team, led by CEO Andrew Howe, will continue to run the company. Phoenix will support the growth of Bridge Leisure through further developing its four existing parks and providing capital for new acquisitions.

Andrew Howe, CEO of Bridge Leisure, said: “Our plan is to buy new parks. We have the funding, team and know-how to grow in 2015 and beyond and we welcome contact from park owners interested in selling their business.

“We are very pleased that Phoenix will be supporting Bridge Leisure as we look to further expand the business.”

Headquartered in Milton Keynes, Bridge Leisure was founded in 2008 as a holiday park consultancy and management business initially focused on operating leisure parks for third parties. In 2010, the team expanded into the operation of owned parks with the acquisitions of Trevella Park in Cornwall and Sand Le Mere Holiday Village on the Yorkshire coast, followed by Turnberry, in Ayrshire, at the end of 2012. Strengthening its portfolio, Bridge Leisure is simultaneously acquiring Silver Sands Holiday Park, located close to Inverness on the east coast of Scotland.

Holiday Snaps: Andrew Howe, Bridge Leisure

andrew

Holiday Snaps: Andrew Howe, Bridge Leisure

Andrew Howe is CEO of Bridge Leisure, which owns holiday parks in Cornwall, Yorkshire, Ayrshire and in Moray, Scotland. Andrew has worked in the leisure industry for 17 years, within both independent and plc companies including UK caravan park operator Park Resorts and Sandy Balls Holiday Centre.

How is 2015 shaping up for Bridge Leisure?

We couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the year; a new park acquired; new funding in place for more acquisitions and we are seeing good like for like growth in terms of holiday home sales and holiday sales at our parks. It’s looking like a great year!

How do you see the UK holiday industry at the moment?

The sector is in good shape as consumers and the economy gather confidence and momentum. Of course there are winners and losers and those operators with tired parks are struggling to retain ever more demanding customers.

What are the challenges facing holiday parks at present and how are you meeting those challenges?

Two main challenges; red tape and ever increasing regulation. No one objects to the sector being regulated but the burden is growing exponentially and affects good operators perhaps more than the poor operators it is aimed at. Secondly, the sector lacks coordination and a single voice. We have very good trade associations but park operators resist working together which is a shame.

What is the single best marketing or promotional tool for attracting visitors?

The internet – but only if you know what to do with it.

What is the best business advice you ever received and from whom?

Not something addressed to me directly but a quote from a former CEO of Swissair who remarked “if our tray tables are dirty our customers will worry that we don’t service our aircraft engines properly”. It’s worth remembering and encourages a customer eye view of what you are doing; no other view has any lasting relevance.

Who is the most important person in your business and why?

Front line staff; they see our customers and I don’t. It’s the team at the parks who make the difference between happy and unhappy customers.

Where do you go on holiday?

Sounds clichéd but I don’t get many holidays. I like ‘doing’ holidays and skiing particularly.

Anything else you would like to add?

Yes, we are looking for more parks to buy!