THE DIVERSIFICATION JOURNEY

THE DIVERSIFICATION JOURNEY

 

FOLLY FARM’S new lodge offering blends seamlessly with the attraction side of the business.

 

Families who holiday in South Wales will typically include a trip to Pembrokeshire’s fabulous Folly Farm Adventure Park. Located just 15 minutes from the popular seaside resort of Tenby, this fun-filled destination, complete with vintage fairground and world-class zoo, is now the largest privately-run, paid for visitor attraction in Wales.

A working dairy farm until the late 1980s, Folly Farm has expanded so much over the last 30 years that it’s now a shining example of what can be achieved with a clear commercial vision and a diversification strategy to match.

 

 

TAKE THE PLUNGE
And it was this never-stand-still spirit that led Managing Director, Chris Ebsworth, to take the plunge and open a holiday park next to the visitor attraction just after the first lockdown. This 43-pitch five-star touring park and campsite - complete with four cool and quirky Showman’s Wagons - has been so popular over the last two years that Chris has now decided to diversify further into the holiday let market with the addition of six fairground-themed luxury lodges with hot tubs.

Chris knew introducing lodge accommodation was something he wanted to do to capitalise on continuing strong demand for UK breaks, but he also knew it would be prudent to call on the advice, guidance and support of a trusted expert partner to help bring his vision to life, his product to market and crucially to ensure the best possible return on his investment.

That’s when he turned to Luke Hansford, Vice President Business Development at Awaze – the parent company of staycation specialist Hoseasons – a decision Chris says has ensured the location’s new lodge offering blends seamlessly with the attraction side of the business as part of an all-round ‘stay and play’ package perfect for families looking for experiential breaks.

 

FOLLY FARM is a shining example of what can be achieved with a clear diversification strategy.

 

“We’ve always been farmers, it’s in our blood, but diversification is what keeps us thriving as a privately owned, family run business,” says Chris, adding: “We could see the lodges were a good idea, but it quickly became apparent as a relatively new accommodation business, that we would need to draw on the expertise, knowledge and professionalism of a brand like Hoseasons that has successfully been delivering family holidays for years.”

“We had many meetings with Luke to run through the options, weighing up the pros and cons of different types of accommodation before making our decision. He also supported us to perfect the presentation of our new lodges – from reflecting the Folly Farm brand in the interiors to making sure the landscaping and planting were right.

“Luke was also instrumental in bringing to our attention the importance of an arrival experience for our guests – something which has resulted in a brand new customer reception, along with plans for an onsite shop selling local produce, which we are hoping to open next year.”

 

FOLLY FARM opened a holiday park next to the visitor attraction just after the first lockdown.

 

PAYING DIVIDENDS
Luke believes the care and attention Folly Farm have put into their new development will pay dividends over the next few years as families see the value of staying somewhere aspirational with fantastic facilities, activities and entertainment on their doorstep.

He says: “It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Chris to bring his vision to market. He really understands the importance of continuing to evolve the offer so that they stay relevant in an ever-changing market. “Pressures on family budgets mean people will be looking to get the most out of their UK breaks over the next few years – something that bodes well for locations like Folly Farm Adventure Park who know they need to invest and innovate to keep pace with guest expectations.

 

CHRIS EBSWORTH worked with Hoseasons to fill his lodges and showman’s wagons.

 

“You only have to look at their high occupancy rates and average 9.6 out of 10 rating on our independent review system Revoo to see their approach is working.” Working with Hoseasons to fill his lodges and showman’s wagons has given Chris the confidence to push on with the next phase of development, including rhino-themed lodges overlooking the black rhino enclosure, lion-themed lodges and giraffe-themed safari tents – all of which are expected to be up and running by Spring next year. All the new lodges and showman’s wagons at Folly Farm Adventure Park are exclusively available to book via Hoseasons.

www.hoseasons.co.uk

HOLIDAY SNAPS – PAUL EVANS

HOLIDAY SNAPS - PAUL EVANS

Paul Evans is the Vice President of Awaze UK, the UK’s leading managed vacation rentals business. Paul brings 24 years of travel industry experience to his role, which sees him take responsibility for the company’s entire property portfolio across its Hoseasons, cottages.com and regional brands.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Having worked in and around holiday parks all my working life, I love having the chance to visit parks and meet owners and operators on an almost daily basis. I see innovation, quality and a genuine desire to provide the best possible experience for our guests, and that’s an incredibly rewarding element of the role.

WHAT’S BEEN THE LANDMARK MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER?
Taking over as a GM on a park that was struggling and turning it into the highest performing location in the group’s portfolio within 12 months without any extra resource was a real watershed moment for me. It not only gave me the confidence to trust my own instincts, it also showed what great results you get by trusting your team and giving them the freedom to get on and do their job to the best of their ability.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE HOLIDAY PARK INDUSTRY AT THE MOMENT?
I think it’s an exciting time. We’re continuing to see significant investment and innovation in accommodation and facilities across the sector and that’s starting to attract an audience who wouldn’t necessarily have considered holiday parks before. Those who deliver an excellent first-time experience are not only helping their own chances of repeat business, they’re also helping to promote staycations more widely. It’s up to all of us to do our bit to keep the sector strong.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING THE SECTOR?
The challenges faced by the sector are the same as those affecting the country as a whole – rising costs for operators and customers alike and an uncertain economic outlook. However, the past few years have shown us just how much people value a break and time away with those who matter most, so as long as operators continue to offer a fantastic guest experience aligned with pricing that reflects the market I have no reason to doubt that we can have a successful year ahead.

WHAT’S NEW FOR HOSEASONS HOLIDAY PARKS OVER THE COMING MONTHS?
Our specialist collections have really helped to drive both occupancy and the Average Weekly Rate over the last 12 months and our newly-launched Magnificent collection is going from strength to strength. Home to a range of different property styles, all put customer experience at the heart of their offer and are proving incredibly popular with guests looking for a wow-factor getaway.

WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF BUSINESS ADVICE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN? AND BYWHOM?
My first boss once said to me: “The harder you work the luckier you seem to get” – It’s something I’ve always remembered and it certainly seems to work for me!

WHERE DO YOU GO ON HOLIDAY?
Well, obviously I love a staycation! My next break is a family lodge holiday in Dorset – something we’re all very much looking forward to.

MAKING A VIRTUAL SPLASH

MAKING A VIRTUAL SPLASH

 

Visualising a splash pad that hasn’t been constructed can be challenging so using Virtual Reality technology, The Splash has revolutionised the process of designing a splash pad that is perfect for your holiday space. Renowned for pioneering a more sustainable approach to water play with their Eco Splash range, the latest innovation from The Splash enables users to view their bespoke splash pad, within any proposed setting, from the comfort of your office.

Users now have the opportunity to get a feel for how space flows, perspective and visual assistance in decision making around layout and features, prior to any building work commencing. Due to the design and manufacturing capabilities at The Splash, all features are custom-designed and made to order which allows endless theme options to either compliment or coordinate with any location.

VR plays an important role in evaluating design concepts and can also be used as a sales or presentation tool with other team members. If you’re considering a new splash pad, or an update on an existing facility and would like to discuss Virtual Reality visualisation of your project, contact enquiries@thesplash.uk https://thesplash.uk

PORTABLE SMART CHARGING SOLUTIONS

PORTABLE SMART CHARGING SOLUTIONS

 

THE CTEK CS FREE is the perfect solution for off-grid battery charging.

 

With 72 spacious touring and camping pitches, Cote Ghyll, in the idyllic countryside of the North York Moors National Park, is a picturesque and quiet retreat, and an ideal location for families or groups of friends who enjoy the great outdoors. Cote Ghyll is the perfect stop-off for hikers, walkers or cyclists exploring the 554 square miles of the North York Moors National Park, boasting 26 miles of coastline and an incredible 1,408 miles of footpaths.

Since lockdown, the camping and caravan market has seen a growing trend towards shorter and more frequent breaks with more and more people new to the world of camping and caravanning. Cote Ghyll experienced a massive 137% increase in bookings in the 12 months to March 2022 as holidaymakers rushed to secure pitches. This early booking trend meant that seasonal staff returned to work as early as January to cope with the demand.

This increase in demand, coupled with the inexperience of many new campers, means that there is more often a requirement for the park to provide charging solutions for both flat car batteries after a camping holiday, and for guests returning to the site after a long day of walking or cycling requiring a portable source of power to charge smartphones, cameras and other technology. The CTEK CS FREE is the perfect solution for all of these requirements, a multi-functional portable charger and smart maintainer with ‘Adaptive Boost’ technology.

 

CTEK PROVIDES a portable source of power to charge smartphones, cameras and other technology.

 

Along with the solar panel kit, it is easy to operate and easy to understand, and it will get users on the move from a flat battery within 15 minutes, meaning that visitors aren’t stranded on their pitch unable to start your vehicle at the end of a younger campers holiday. Jon Hill, Owner of Cote Ghyll said; “Since the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 we have seen an increase in younger and less experienced campers who have a new-found love for being out on the trail. We are right are on the doorstep of so many amazing walks and cycle rides, there is no better way to experience the North York Moors than under your own steam.

“When it comes to packing the right equipment, it is not always easy to think of everything, and now that we, as a fair and intelligent society, have realised that smartphone batteries last a day at most, it’s more essential than ever to pack a bit of extra power when camping or touring in the great outdoors.“

www.ctek.com

POOL & WELLNESS PULLING POWER

POOL & WELLNESS PULLING POWER

 

SPATEX, the pool, spa and wellness trade show takes place early next year at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

 

For those looking to inject new pulling-power to their pool, spa and wellness offering, then SPATEX, at the Coventry Building Society Arena, from Tuesday January 31st to Thursday February 2nd presents the obvious shop window.

Showcasing products and innovations from around the world, such as the newest hot tub models, super insulating covers, solar heating, air source heat pumps, variable speed pumps, provides an opportunity to see, touch and compare the most up-to-date selection of energy saving equipment all under one roof.

With free attendance to a double seminar and workshop programme on all three days of the show, you can pick up the latest energy saving guidance from experts and glean impartial advice for your own individual projects. With knowledge, the latest technological advances and careful management, there are effective ways to significantly reduce energy consumption and bills,” says the event organiser, Michele Bridle. “It’s this positive message that, with the help of our exhibitors and experts, we aim to convey to our visitors.”

Register FREE www.spatex.co.uk for SPATEX 2023 and receive monthly updates

FIVE PARK SALE COMPLETED

FIVE PARK SALE COMPLETED

 

LYONS HOLIDAY PARKS has completed the purchase of Sunnysands Caravan Parks and the freehold interest in five holiday parks.

 

Sunnysands Caravan Parks has completed the sale of the business, which includes the freehold interest in five holiday parks located in North Wales, to Lyons Holiday Parks, the largest independent holiday park operator in Wales, for an undisclosed amount. Sunnysands Caravan Parks is a portfolio of five well-located holiday parks in North Wales.

These parks include: Parc Caerelwan, Moelfre View Caravan Park, Tyddyn Goronwy and Sunnysands Caravan Park which are all located in the popular coastal location of Talybont, and Snowdon View Caravan Park, the Group’s only inland holiday park, which provides stunning views of the Snowdonia mountains. Combined, the entire estate extends approximately 83.88 acres and offers over 1200 pitches.

 

WORK ON LUXURY WELSH PARK UNDERWAY

WORK ON LUXURY WELSH PARK UNDERWAY

 

OAK VIEW WILL PROVIDE luxurious all-year round occupancy in an outstanding Welsh setting.

 

Work has started on a £2.2m Oak View Lodge Park in Denbighshire, North Wales, a development which will see 89 luxury lodges in landscaped surroundings. With sweeping views across the tranquil Vale of Clwyd, the 18-acre park is being created in the grounds of a former hotel which closed in January 2009.

Twenty lodges are being released in the first phase of the development, with prices starting from £225,000. Purchasers will be offered a choice of two and three-bedroom architect- designed lodges, selected from leading UK lodge manufacturers and complete with central heating and high levels of insulation.

Facilities include private hot-tubs, luxury furnishings and fittings, high-speed fibre broadband, and many other pampering touches such as an on-site concierge service. Business owner Jamie Hughes, who has 25 years of experience in the holiday homes and lodge industry said: “Oak View provides a glorious rural setting with superb walking opportunities right on the doorstep and is within easy reach of Snowdonia National Park and the North Wales coast.

“Our high-speed fibre internet connection ensures that those who are able to work remotely can do so in a peaceful, picture-perfect environment and enjoy a wonderful work-life balance.” Owners will be able to have full use of their lodges throughout the four seasons as Oak View has a 12-month operating licence which allows stays throughout the year.

BEAMING SUCCESS FOR TORCHLIGHT FESTIVAL

BEAMING SUCCESS FOR TORCHLIGHT FESTIVAL

 

THE CAMPING AND CARAVANNING CLUB’S first Torchlight Festival of Camping this summer relaunched the previous National Feast of Lanterns which dated back to 1921.

 

More than 4,500 people attended The Camping and Caravanning Club’s first Torchlight Festival of Camping this summer at Walesby Forest in Nottinghamshire. The new-look festival built upon the Club’s long history of running family- friendly events and relaunched the previous National Feast of Lanterns (NFOL), which dated back to 1921.

The festival’s main stage, sponsored by Cotswold Outdoor, played host to big-name music acts including Squeeze, Gabrielle and The Wurzels. The Club’s President, TV presenter Julia Bradbury, also took to the decks for her own DJ set where she performed on stage alongside The Invisible Circus – a spectacular illuminated show of acrobats.

And there was also a wide range of activities in the Family Tipi and an on-site wellness sanctuary. Nicola Simpson, the Club’s Director of Marketing and Insight, said: “We were delighted to welcome campers to our very first Torchlight Festival of Camping. “Torchlight saw us launch a new festival and at the same time pass the traditions of a fantastic Club event that served us well for a century on to a new generation of campers and festival-goers.

“It was wonderful to see so many caravans, motorhomes and tents illuminated with lights across Walesby Forest while families and friends met up and had a great time enjoying outdoor activities and top music acts. The festival was ageless with Club members ranging from babies right up to campers in their 90s, which helped create a fantastic atmosphere. We’ve been overwhelmed by so much positive feedback.”

EYES TO STAR-STRUCK NORFOLK SKIES

EYES TO STAR-STRUCK NORFOLK SKIES

KELLING HEATH has designated 10 premium pitches exclusively for astronomers. Pic Andy Green

Renowned as one of the best places in England to discover the dark skies, Norfolk’s Kelling Heath Holiday Park, welcomes astronomers for its Winterfest from Thursday to Monday, November 24th – 28th. Accredited as a ‘Dark Sky Discovery Site’ in 2017, Kelling Heath boasts the highest ‘two star’ site accolade as seven stars of the Orion constellation and the Milky Way are visible to the naked eye from the Park.

Kelling Heath is one of only five Dark Sky Discovery sites in Norfolk. For 2022, 10 premium pitches within the Yellow Dragonfly touring field have been designated as exclusively for astronomers*. These dedicated pitches are perfect for stargazers as they are hidden in a secluded and sheltered part of the Park.

Lucy Cook, Marketing Manager at Kelling Heath says: “We are pleased to welcome more astronomers throughout the year and look forward to building our offering to support stargazing in Norfolk. “We look forward to welcoming stargazers for many years to come.” The British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies commended Kelling Heath for its commitment to educating guests and its work in protecting the areas dark skies, leading them to receive a Good Lighting Award in 2019.

The Park provides stargazing information for guests and Holiday Homeowners including leaflets, a dedicated website section and new interpretation boards at its Dark Sky Discovery Site area on Park. Michael Timewell, Director of Blue Sky Leisure, who owns Kelling Heath Holiday Park, said: “Kelling Heath gives many guests their first true dark skies experience. The excitement and wonder you see on the faces of those experiencing the majesty of the night sky at our star parties is something that will never get old.”

“We pride ourselves conserving the natural environment at Kelling Heath, and part of that is achieved by helping our guests make the most of the natural landscape around them in a responsible way – this includes how they interact with the dark skies on Park. Our Countryside Team continue to provide guests with educational talks and dedicated events to help them immerse themselves in the Park’s stunning natural surroundings.”

EXTENDING VISITOR SEASONS

EXTENDING VISITOR SEASONS

Neil Campbell reports on his recent autumnal holiday stay...

 

THE CCC LISTS 18 of its campsites as being open all year round.

 

With modern motorhomes and caravans now built to withstand cold weather, equipped with proper insulation and efficient heating, more and more sites are extending their bookings to include autumn and winter stays. My wife and I recently decided to give out-of-season touring a go and hired a motorhome for a long weekend at the St Neots campsite run by the Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC), situated next to the River Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire.

The Hardwick Road campsite is open until the end of October — long enough to embrace the autumn half- term holidays and Halloween. We had checked in online as the CCC encourages you to do, and this made arrival a seamless process. We were met at the gate as we arrived with a friendly welcome, which makes all the difference. We didn’t even have to get out of the motorhome and were led by one of the managers to our pitch – and in fact we were given a choice of three.

 

YOU CAN BUY FISHING LICENCES on-site for the nearby River Great Ouse.

 

A speedy reception and check-in makes all the difference and makes for a more relaxed start to your holiday, with online check in a massive advantage. It is a real help if there is plentiful local information, with brochures for local cafes, takeaways and taxi firms, and several maps showing the local area. Hooking-up could not have been simpler, with the electricity point directly behind the pitch.

There was a waterpoint about 10 metres away if we needed it, although we had a full tank. There was also a well-equipped motorhome service point where you could drain grey water and fill up with fresh water, and two chemical toilet disposal points. We were on a hardstanding pitch of about 8 metres by 4 metres, with an electric hook-up.

There was just about room for our pop-up gazebo, although we didn’t put it up in the end as the weather was good. There would have been ample space for a motorhome awning, and as the CCC has a policy of six metres between pitches, the whole site felt well spread out. The grounds had very well-kept grass and mature trees across the site, so that it retained a feeling of being in the country even though it was on the edge of a town, about 10 minutes’ walk away.

 

TOURING SITES NEED to balance the benefits of extended visitor seasons against the increased costs involved.

 

STAY RATES
We paid just under £100 for three nights for two adults. A grass tent pitch with electric would have been about £95, or a tent pitch without electric just under £80. We paid a 25% deposit, with the balance being collected on our day of arrival. It would also have been straightforward to change the dates of our booking online. There was also a lot of site information available on the CCC website, so we knew what would be there.

Check-in time was from 1pm, and contactless, which is a real advantage for arriving campers, particularly when the days are getting shorter, and checkout was mid-day, allowing for a leisurely start to the day without any need to rush. Facilities were excellent – spotlessly clean and spread across two blocks, so when one was shut for cleaning for 45 minutes, the other one was open. There were plenty of showers, although no shower curtains although there were locking doors of course.

 

THE ST NEOTS CCC SITE in Cambridgeshire is open until the end of October — long enough to embrace the autumn half-term holidays and Halloween.

 

The washing-up areas were under cover and there was plenty of hot water, and the laundry looked well-equipped with plenty of machines. Disabled access to the facilities looked to be excellent. There was a parent and baby room. I was also very impressed that there was a defibrillator machine, in my opinion every campsite should have one – it could save someone’s life. The bins were located at one location near the entrance, presumably so that the dustbin lorries only had one place to pick up from.

There were no separate recycling bins, so everything went in one rubbish bag. We were told that they were sorted out by the refuse collection teams. The campsite wifi was also very effective, and with an easily remembered password. There were lots of dogs and it seemed a very pet-friendly site. There was a code to get through the barrier onto the site, and an automatic barrier when you left. There was also a code for one of the loo blocks, as I think passing walkers had been using the facilities for free!

 

THE TOWN FACILITIES were within easy reach for walking or cycling.

 

ON-SITE SHOP
There was no shop on site although LPG gas was available from reception, as was the ability to freeze ice packs crucial if you are tent-camping. You could also get fishing licences for the nearby River Great Ouse. I think in an ideal world motorhome or caravan hardstanding areas would have individual water supplies and drainage points for grey water.

A small shop stocking essentials would be very useful – canned goods, bread, basics such as pasta, milk and perhaps eggs. If there is a shop, the essentials of camping gas, charcoal, firewood and batteries for torches should be freely available. Highly desirable food items would include marshmallows, hot chocolate, cake and anything that can be toasted on a fire — crumpets and teacakes chief among them.

Providing local information is also vital some sites offer the wonderful service of a visiting pizza or fish and chip van, but if not then leaflets for local takeaways, and directories for other services, can make a huge difference. Games, books or DVD’s to borrow or buy offer added value. The CCC lists 18 of its campsites as being open all year round, with the most northerly being Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland and the most southerly being Tavistock in Devon.

Touring sites will of course need to balance the potential to attract visitors during the off season against the cost of doing so. From the campers’ point of view, a full range of facilities need to be available if a campsite is open — hot showers and a laundry being probably top of the wish list. Our experience of holidaying in autumn has only served to make us want more — we are already planning a winter trip and wondering if we are hardy enough to try it in a tent!