Best in Britain

Best in Britain

Best In Britain

ABOVE: Norfolk's Searles Leisure Resort has been crowned the UK's champion holiday provider.

Judges in the annual AA holiday awards have told the family owners of North Norfolk's Searles Leisure Resort they are the UK's champion holiday providers. Awards given by the AA – based on guest reviews and a ‘secret shopper’ visit by inspectors - are regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of the holiday parks industry. The park fi rst began welcoming campers over 60 years ago onto what was then a farm, and it has since grown to become one of Eastern England's largest and best-loved holiday centres.

PITCH PERFECT
best in britain image 6Searles' provides more than 800 holiday home and touring pitches, including luxury lodges to buy and rent, plus a raft of family-friendly attractions and outdoor activities. Attractions at Searles include an innovative new indoor ‘splash zone’ with a host of different water play features, a new outdoor gym, and an adventure play park plus nightly entertainment.The citation from the AA's award judges noted that Searles: “Never stands still, and every year offers something new to delight visitors seeking a truly memorable and high quality experience. "The park's success and popularity is thanks to the vision, passion and hard work of four generations of the Searle family, and their quest for ever-rising standards,” they continued.

 

STAFF PRIDE

best in britain image 4

Paul Searle says staff played a big part in securing the win.

"All the resort's facilities are spotlessly clean, and there is a general feeling of pride from the friendly and hard-working staff. Searles is a very worthy winner," the judges concluded. Searles is also a highly-regarded local employer with around 200 staff, and provides valuable training and skills development opportunities especially to younger workers. Speaking on behalf of the family, managing director Paul

Searle said that the AA award celebrates not just the park, but also the entire workforce: "Standards of customer service are an important criteria for these awards, so our team at Searles can take a major share of the credit for this achievement," he says. "So many of the reviews we receive from customers mention the great atmosphere here, and delivering this is very much in the hands of our park team. "We hope the publicity from this AA award will also benefit other local tourism businesses by putting the spotlight on north Norfolk as an amazing holiday destination," adds Paul. Earlier this year, the park was crowned as the region's perfect park destination in the holiday parks category of the Norfolk and Suffolk Tourism Awards 2018.

Searles Leisure Resort
Tel. 01485 534211
www.searles.co.uk

 

Shared Vision

Shared Vision

The Inside story on the rise and rise of Bridge Leisure..

Shared Vision 1

ABOVE: Witht he help of its experienced team, Bridge Leisure is stamping its mark on holiday park locations around the country.

Founded in 2008 by Andrew Howe and Simon Williams as a holiday park consultancy and management business, Bridge Leisure initially focused on operating holiday parks for third parties. Both Andrew and Simon worked in the holiday park industry before setting up the company and both shared the vision of wanting to own a portfolio of individual holiday parks across the country. Andrew has worked in the leisure industry for 16 years, within both independent and plc companies including Talarius PLC, the UK’s largest High Street slot machine operator, and UK holiday parkoperators, Park Resorts. He shaped Sandy Balls Holiday Centre into the UK’s benchmark independent park and developed Park Resort’s lodge strategy. Equally at home on the park or in the boardroom, he expertly bridges the gap between the two. With 20 years’ experience of holiday parks, including at Bourne Leisure’s and Park Resorts’ leading locations, Simon has extensive industry knowledge. He heads the operations of our parks, both owned and managed.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Their first office was based in the spare bedroom of Andrew’s house where they spent two years building the business and looking for an opportunity to work with financial backers to help them purchase their first park. In 2010, with the backing of Kings Park Capital, the pair expanded into the operation of owned parks with the acquisitions of Trevella Park in Cornwall and Sand Le Mere Holiday Village on the Yorkshirecoast, followed by Turnberry, in Ayrshire, at the end of 2012. The recent acquisition of Yorkshire’s Bowland Fell takes Bridge Leisure’s estate to nine parks as it continues to consolidate the fragmented UK holiday park market. The Milton Keynes based company has now trebled the number of parks it owns since completing a management buyout supported by Phoenix Equity Partners (“Phoenix”) in 2015. Bowland Fell is a beautiful park set in an expanse of countryside between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Forest of Bowland – an area of outstanding natural beauty.

KEY PLAYERS
Andrew comments: “We are excited about the prospects for the park under Bridge Leisure’s ownership and plan to invest to further improve and grow the park in the coming years. “The park is run by a great team with lots of experience and enthusiasm, so we are really looking forward to joining forces and working together to take the park from strength to strength.” Bridge Leisure already own parks in Cornwall, Scotland, The Peak District and a second Yorkshire based park in Tunstall while in addition provides operational consultancy services to other park operators. Other key team players include Richard Hunt, chairman of the restructured Bridge Leisure Management, who boasts 20 years of board and executive level experience in senior general management roles in the leisure sector, with both private equity-backed businesses. Operations Manager, Alison Watson, has worked in the holiday park industry for more than 25 years, starting in 1989 as a children’s entertainer at Rockley Park in Dorset and then working across the country in roles covering retail, caravan sales and general management, running holiday parks in North Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland. As operations manager, Alison works closely with holiday park owners so that Bridge Leisure can help grow their business fi nancially and ensure a superb experience for their holiday home owners and holidaymakers. Andrew concludes: “It’s been a very successful few years for the company with a sustained period of growth and investment. “When we undertook the management buyout in 2015 we owned three parks but had a clear and ambitious plan to grow the group through acquisition and organic growth. “A little under four years later, with the backing of Phoenix, we have been able to add a further six parks and substantially grow both our existing and acquired parks.

Bridge Leisure
Tel. 01908 067900
www.bridgeleisure.com

 

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£7.5m Winter Investment

£7.5m Winter Investment

£7.5m Winter InvestmentThe Camping and Caravanning Club will invest £7.5 million into its network of 106 UK Club Sites in the coming months, with large-scale capital works taking place at seven sites, including Wyeside near Rhyader in the Cambrian mountains of mid-Wales and West Runton on the north Norfolk coast. Money has been spent as part of the Club Sites investment programme which improves facilities for the future enjoyment of campers; both members of the Club and non-members. Proceeds raised by the Club through camping on Club Sites over the course of the year are invested into the site network annually as part of the programme. Bob Hill, Sites Director, said: “The site investment programme has been running in its current form since 2010 and in the last five years alone we’ve increased the number of hard-standings on our Club Sites by 7%, helping more members to enjoy camping year round – plenty to keep us busy.”

Holiday Park Pool Title For Plas Coch

Holiday Park Pool Of The Year Title For Plas Coch

Holiday Park Pool Title For Plas Coch

Plas Coch Coastal & Country Retreat has scooped the title of Holiday Park Pool Of The Year in this year’s UK Pool & Spa Awards. The Leisure Complex, part of an outstanding holiday resort in Anglesey, has recently undergone some remodelling, in order to offer more privacy for guests and to improve the exterior pool area. This year has seen the addition of an even wider variety of water based activities to our calendar, such as kayaking, underwater explores and birthday pool parties Exclusive to Plas Coch members, Plas Coch’s luxury hydrotherapy pools are designed to provide state of the art hydrotherapy treatments. Being immersed, buoyant or massaged in water relieves the body in a variety of different ways, ensuring guests feel fully relaxed. The pools use varying temperatures and speeds of water, allowing a different pampering experience as guests travel through the pool. The facility is overseen by Leisure Complex Manager, Luke Mitchell, Assistant Complex Manager, Cole Whittle and Complex Supervisor, Chris McNaught with Estelle Loynd as Activity Coordinator.

Luke says: “Each year, we invest in the development of the team in various ways. We ensure that our team members are Pool Plant Operator qualified, in order to guarantee that all technical aspects involved in the running of the pool are taken care of.” Luke adds: “We invest heavily in training our team members in activity instruction, with industry leading providers In2Action - who deliver a number of exciting and exhilarating activities such as; Archery, Underwater Explorers, Body Zorbs and much more.” The judges, that included category sponsors, BioChemica Leisure, commented: “The quality on display at Plas Coch was astonishing; words and pictures did not do it justice. “The pool was quite clearly well-kept and had a really clean nonchlorine smell. The hydro pool was a great extra and the treatment rooms were out of this world. We were all left purring over the features of this amazing pool.”

Brexit Boom For UK Holiday Sector

Brexit Boom For UK Holiday Sector

Brexit Boom For UK Holiday Sector

The UK holiday sector looks set to be in line for a Staycation boom as families steer away from overseas holidays, part of the Brexit effect. Fears over the stability of the pound, medical cover in Europe and travel concerns have led to a fall in bookings. And, it was revealed by The Sunday Times recently, that families will be advised not to book holidays after next March, according to contingency plans being drawn up to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The proposed guidance, which will shock the travel industry, was expected to be discussed at our cabinet level, after civil servants were told to ramp up emergency planning. According to a leaked report, steps are being considered to protect holidaymakers who have yet to book trips, amid fears a no-deal Brexit will see fl ights grounded and spark chaos at airports and ports. The European Regions Airline Association, which represents 50 airlines, wrote to the European Commission warning a no-deal Brexit could have ‘disastrous consequences’, affecting routes, aviation safety and border security. The Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, said in September that a hard Brexit could lead to fl ights being grounded and that its likelihood was underestimated. Its rival, easyJet, has registered more than 100 aircraft to a newly created airline based in Vienna and switched pilot licences to German and Austrian permits, according to the Times. Meanwhile, the hottest new trends, from menopause, divorce, and grief retreats to ‘mumcations’, are forecast to make wellness one of the most infl uential holiday trends in 2019. With mental health being such a hot topic, fi nding ways to combat issues such as anxiety, stress and depression has become more important than ever before. According to specialists, Health and Fitness Travel, the global wellness industry is now worth $4.2 trillion with wellness tourism experiencing a 6.5% annual growth; more than double the growth rate for overall tourism.

Sky No Limit For Hoseasons Team

Sky No Limit - HoseasonsSky No Limit For Hoseasons Team

Team members at Hoseasons in Lowestoft have braved a skydive, taken on the Tour de Broads cycling event and tackled a Tough Mudder, with more plans to climb Snowdon and hold their own Golf Day later this month in their efforts to reach their £10,000 fundraising target. The product team at Hoseasons are taking on this series of fundraising challenges to raise money for the Family Holiday Association, the only national charity providing seaside breaks and day trips for families struggling with issues such as severe and long-term illness, mental health issues, bereavement, domestic violence and disability.

Angie Watson, Head of Fundraising and Comms at the Family Holiday Association, said: “We are thrilled that Hoseasons have set themselves such a fantastic target, and the energy and ambition of the staff involved has proven to be simply wonderful! The support has been fantastic and the money raised will help many, many more families for whom a holiday is a lifeline – giving them relief from daily struggles, a chance to smile together and create precious memories to last them a lifetime. What a gift to give!” Scott Drew, Head of Product at Hoseasons, said: “We’re delighted to work with the Family Holiday Association and support such a worthwhile charity. Taking a break can make a real difference when it comes to family wellbeing and there’s no better place than the seaside to put a smile on people’s faces.”

The Extra Factor

The Extra Factor - Title Pic

The Extra Factor

Under new ownership at Scottish resort…

Summer has seen the launch of a substantial investment project at Callander Woods Holiday Park, following its acquisition earlier this year by Wood Leisure. Located in the popular tourist town of Callander, the Scottish holiday park is at the Eastern gateway to the Trossachs National Park and the dramatic Loch Lomond. It is also on the Rob Roy Way and the Birds of Prey Trail and is close to the famous Bracklinn Falls and the stunning Loch Katrine – meaning holiday makers can enjoy a great range of activities in the area. Within the upgrade plan, the majority of older static caravans have been upgraded to meet the high standards set within the holiday park group. In addition, brand new 2018 caravan holiday homes were introduced to the park. Boasting an airy open plan living and dining area, spacious double bedrooms, modern kitchen and ample storage space, these modern homes are providing luxurious holiday experience to families from the UK and beyond. To meet the ever-rising demand in glamping and camping in Scotland, brand new camping pods have been installed on the park sleeping up to four and up to six people. These pods are fully insulated and come complete with a small fridge, microwave, toaster and kettle. They are well suited to couples and families looking for a little break in nature away from hustle and bustle of busy cities.

FURTHER INVESTMENT

The Extra Factor 4The park is set to benefit from further investment as Group’s Operation Manager Bruce Thomson explained: “We are excited to be upgrading facilities at the park. We will create 10 new fully serviced pitches with new state-of-the-art touring bollards as well as increasing the number of hard standing pitches available for use throughout the Winter months. “We would like to welcome families from Scotland and beyond to come and make this park their second home,” adds Bruce. Guests seem to have appreciated the makeover. This is what Steven said in his review on TripAdvisor having stayed at the park in July: “Having only stayed at Lomond woods holiday park before we were sceptical about trying somewhere new. But were we delighted with our stay in Callander. “We were greeted by Cameron, really friendly and he explained all about the park and the area. Our caravan was brand new and it was perfect, stocked with everything you could need. “The park is large and the caravans are sited in a lovely spot at the back of the site, really quiet and peacefully, perfect for a relaxing stay. We travelled into Sterling on the bus which stops just outside the park, also travelled to the safari park which is just a short drive from the park. A wonderful site that we will visit again, good luck and best wishes to the Wood family on their new site.”

PARK ROOTS

The Extra Factor 5Some of touring guests have chosen to put down roots at the park. This is what a lady called Lynn said in her review on TripAdvisor after she stayed at the park in July: “We came here for two weeks in a tourer and loved it so much that we bought a static from the new owners. The site is extremely clean and well ran. The shower block is lovely and lots of showers so u don’t have to queue. The play is wonderful for the kids - they had a ball. I would very highly recommend this caravan park, you will come back again and again. Within the proposed plan for 2019, in line with other Wood Leisure holiday parks, the family are enthusiastic to extend the opening at Callander Woods to give holiday guests greater flexibility. They will be adding ten extra weeks to the holiday year and remain open until the end of December, instead of closing for the season in mid-October. Wood Leisure is a family-owned holiday park group that has been welcoming visitors from the UK and beyond since 1981. Committed to maintaining and upgrading their holiday parks to meet customer expectations, Wood Leisure’s efforts have been recognised with a number of awards including ‘Family Business of the Year’ at the Scottish Outdoor Leisure Awards, Best Caravan Park Group and Best Glamping to name just a few.

Callander Woods Holiday Park
Tel. 01250 878123
www.woodleisure.co.uk/our-parks/callander-woods

AT A GLANCE

Location: Stirling Rd, Callander FK17 8LE
Season: March - December
Accommodation: Caravan rental, glamping, touring and camping pitches, residential park homes, lodges.
Amenities: Bar and bistro, small shop, children's outdoor play area, salmon and trout fishing, dog walking area, cot hire and high chair hire, laundry facilities, putting green, heated pool from March to October. Attractions: Nearby historic castles, swimming pools, Red Kite nature reserve, golf, fishing, Adventure Planet, children’s activities.

Make ‘Em Laugh

Make Em Laugh - Title Pic

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.”

Make Em Laugh 3STAR CAST

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.”

 

Make Em Laugh 2MULTI-APPEAL

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.”

Make Em Laugh 4BEST VALUE

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.”

 

Make Em Laugh 5PLAN AHEAD

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.Make Em Laugh 7
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.

Or

“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

Company Contacts

BEVERLEY HOLIDAYS www.beverley-holidays.co.uk

BUNN LEISURE www.bunnleisure.co.uk

LIVE MUSIC MANAGEMENT www.lmmuk.co.uk

 

Umbrella Campaign

Umbrella CampaignUmbrella Campaign

The Family Holiday Association has launched a new strategy and umbrella campaign called ‘Together’ with the goal of doubling the number of families offered a break annually by the end of 2020. The two year ‘Together’ campaign includes new initiatives such as Adopt a Caravan – inviting individuals and organisations to fund one of their owned caravans for a year – and building on existing successes such as their annual Shades Day awareness day in May. As part of the new approach, the charity is also looking to grow the number of donated accommodation, attraction and travel tickets they receive to UK destinations. Commenting on the campaign, Angie Watson, Head of Fundraising and Comms, said, “So many families are trapped in terrible situations, and they desperately need our help. They need a reason to smile. “That’s why we’ve set ourselves the goal of doubling the number of families offered a break annually by the end of 2020. “It’s ambitious, but by working together with colleagues in the travel and tourism industry we can reach our target and change even more lives. Together, we can help families find sunshine through the rain.”

Praise For Secret Wood

Praise For Secret WoodPraise For Secret Wood

A Somerset holiday park which has helped release hundreds of birds and animals into its woodlands has been praised by the charity behind the scheme. Holiday Resort Unity in Brean Sands has been working this year with Secret World Wildlife Rescue to give crisis-stricken creatures a fresh start in life. Each has been cared for by the charity following injury, sickness, or being abandoned by its parents – and then put back into their natural habitat on the park. Now Holiday Resort Unity has celebrated its successful partnership by naming its two acres of woodland after the volunteer-led charity. From now on, it will be known at the park and on local maps as Secret Wood. Holiday Resort Unity, which has been family-run for over 70 years, is one of the Somerset coast’s largest and most popular parks with holiday homes to let and buy.