Make 'Em Laugh
Entertain to gain, advises Karen Cotton…
With more Britons choosing to holiday in the UK, according to research from Travelodge, the pressure is on park operators to attract and retain this new business. Guests expect great facilities and food, but they also are hoping for great entertainment. For many, it’s the nightlife and shows which add value to their break – making it truly memorable. Nowhere is this truer than at Bunn Leisure in Dorset, where four parks on one combined site cater to different tastes and budgets. Head of Entertainment Adrian Douthwaite explains: “Our clients expect a consistent, high quality and diverse range of entertainment.” He adds: “As technology has drastically advanced in recent years, so have expectations as to the ‘look and feel’ of the entertainment, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising.”
In recent months, the Dorset holiday park has hosted names including Pop Idol alum Gareth Gates and X-Factor star Sam Bailey. Names like these deliver real value, as Adrian explains. “Big named artists and shows that create a ‘buzz’ have more impact than ever before, as the use of social media amplifies the desired value of the entertainment.” Careful planning is essential to ensure you hit the right note with all your guests. Stephen Pearce, Marketing Manager at Beverley Holidays says: “Entertainment really is the most subjective thing in the world, as trends and people’s expectations and perceptions of entertainment change… “Whilst not everyone will absolutely love everything we do, by having an exciting range on offer we aim to ensure that whilst somebody may not like something, there will, within the product, be something they do like.”
The aim for the park on the English Riviera, is to keep its entertainment fresh and current… but there is a space for oldies-but-goodies, too. Stephen continues: “There will be nostalgic moments, games and concepts, however these must be delivered appropriately to an audience in 2018. A knobbly knees contest doesn’t go down as well now as it may have done in the ‘80s.” At Beverley Holidays, near Torquay, guests have a wide range of daytime activities to choose from. Its ‘Be-Active’ umbrella houses high-energy sessions that are popular with guests of all ages, with soft archery, Water Walkerz and body Zorbing. The Kids Be-Active programme allows younger guests to find their inner princess, pirate or superhero. “These sessions aim to capture the creativity and imagination of our younger guests,” says Stephen. “For our older guests, we offer something a little bit more laid back – whether it be a poolside quiz, coffee morning, line dance or darts tournament, we have it all covered.” Bunn Leisure also sources a wide range of entertainment spanning all areas and tastes. For Head of Entertainment Adrian, this can be tricky. He says: “The teenage and young adult market consistently proves difficult, whereas the children and 50+ age group are much easier to cater for as there is much more product to choose from when buying in.”
Working with an annual budget of approximately £1.5 million, Bunn Leisure’s in-house product offering is generated and produced internally – with little to no outsourcing of services. “This, in turn, helps to control quality and costs,” adds Adrian. “Routing and increased frequency of appearances for outsourced artists and shows can also help a little with regards to value – but isn’t paramount when devising the product offering.” At Beverley Holidays, the secret to getting the most from your budget is simple. Stephen reveals: “The best way to get value for money is to invest in the people who are most passionate about the performance. It is the individuals that are responsible for the delivery of the product, and of course the delivery of the product, on the whole, that creates that experience guests remember forever. “By far, alongside great show concepts and animated daytime activities, bottom line is the ‘coat-style’ entertainer and their approach to the role – as the ‘face of the holiday’ – builds relationships with guests, making them feel welcome and appreciated.”
While planning at Bunn Leisure begins 18 months in advance, at Beverley Holidays the team plans for the following year each September. By reviewing and evaluating the uptake and successes of the previous year, the team can make the informed decisions necessary to develop their product moving forward. Where visiting acts are involved, timing is everything according to Stephen from Beverley Holidays. He says: “To ensure we are able to book what we want and not just what is available, [our] process is on-going.” This is especially important when operators are looking to secure big-name attractions. Sometimes bookings are required as far as 18 months in advance.
With 20 years’ experience booking acts for holiday parks, Live Music Management has worked with numerous operators across the UK and suggests that bookings be made at least nine months in advance and promoted as part of the offer Managing Director Rick Baines explains: “It’s increasingly difficult to get people into club houses as home drinking has become the norm. But people will come out if there is consistently good entertainment on.” Budgets will differ depending on the size of the venue. If you’re working with smaller budgets, he sagely advises: “It’s better to have a high-quality act once per weekend, then two ‘pub-quality’ acts!” It’s important to widen your scope, too.
Rick suggests: “Look at who the national companies are booking with and consider them, as well as local agents. You might find better quality at similar prices.” One of the most popular trends he’s spotted is Bandeoke, which is also known as live band karaoke. He says: “It’s still massive. It allows all the family to join in and brings Instagram moments that will stay with the guests.” He adds: “Pop-up entertainment, not necessarily fixed to a stage area, also brings an immersive experience which will thrill guests and lead to social media sharing.”
Which Trip Advisor Reviews Would You Prefer This one?
“Park lovely… entertainment awful” - Natasha L
“Great views, awful entertainment” - Superdave10uk
“Nice grounds, perfect caravan, poor entertainment” - Gwen L.
“Best entertainment, great stay!!!” - Pixie G.
“Entertainment team were amazing!” - Andreacleaton60
“Night life was very good can’t wait to book again for next year” – Janetholmes2724
“Brilliant [80’s] weekend. Everyone dressed up. Looking forward to the next one…” - Biff0r
BEVERLEY HOLIDAYS www.beverley-holidays.co.uk
BUNN LEISURE www.bunnleisure.co.uk
LIVE MUSIC MANAGEMENT www.lmmuk.co.uk