When 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
"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.
“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.”
In 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.”
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.”
There 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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SKELWITH FOLD CARAVAN PARK
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