Away Resort's raises the UK holiday park bar...
International travel is back, but the Great British Holiday continues its rise. At the forefront of this increasingly sophisticated market are innovative operators like Away Resorts. A UK holiday park operator with a difference, Away Resorts started life in 2008 when Chief Executive Carl Castledine teamed up with industry stalwarts Neill Ryder and Greg Lashley.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather who ran one of Britain’s first holiday camps, it was written in the stars that Carl would enter the parks business. In fact, according to colleagues, if you cut Carl in half, he would have the words ‘holiday park’ and ‘Away Resorts’ running through him like a stick of rock! With the acquisition of their first holiday park – Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight – and a self-confessed ambition to ‘shake up the industry,’ Away Resorts was in business.
“We wanted to take the best bits of the great British holiday park, throw out the worst aspects, then add in some amazing contemporary touches, creating holiday parks for the next generation,” says Carl. And that’s exactly what they have done. Today, Away Resorts operates 27 holiday parks across the UK set in beautiful locations throughout Scotland, Lincolnshire, Isle of Wight, North Wales, Hampshire, Dorset, Cornwall, Hayling Island and Essex.
Each park in the portfolio is unique and has its own individual appeal, whether it be festival inspired entertainment and Instagrammable themed accommodation, or retro-style talent shows and low-key camping under the stars. At the heart of every park is the same desire to inspire their guests to make memories.
“Whether customers want coastal or country locations, full-on fun or a relaxing time with loved ones, each resort is alive with character and atmosphere, and specifically crafted to suit customer needs,” explains Laura Miller, who joined Away Resorts as Head of Marketing in 2017.
“We want to ensure that our customers feel inspired and leave with ‘remember when we did that?’ moments that will last a lifetime. We want our guests to remember their holidays forever.” With an accommodation portfolio that includes over 500 Lodges (250 with Hot Tubs), 1,800 caravans, three hotels and over 200 chalets, that’s more than 120,000 holiday bookers in any one season.
Not forgetting the additional 4,000 holiday home owners across 20 parks. With investment in holiday homes growing across the UK, owners are an increasingly important part of the Away Resorts family. “Our owners tell us they enjoy their time with us again and again: unlimited holidays led by our teams on park - true Holiday Heroes,” says Laura.
Away Resorts have 172 ‘Holiday Heroes’ supporting guests at the central office in Hemel Hempstead. During peak season, the total number of employees is just shy of 2,400. Employees share a common goal: to ‘deliver delight’ to customers. “Ultimately, our vision is to inspire everyone to holiday in the UK, driven by a mission to ‘strive for extraordinary’.
At the heart of all this are our people, led by three core values: Attentive, Amazing, Lovers,” explains Laura. Building a team that aims to be the ‘best in the industry’ has not been without issue in recent times. “The pandemic was obviously a huge challenge for all businesses, and some of these challenges have continued, most notably in hospitality and seeing a return of this skillset in particular destinations,” says Carl Castledine, CEO.
“During the pandemic, our fantastic team responded well to the crisis, continually putting each other and our customers first. For now, we look to attract talent with some of our fantastic benefits, training and coaching opportunities. We have such an amazing sector to work in and it’s about attracting new, young talent.” Latterly, the war in Ukraine has also put pressure on the business.
“The impact of both energy and non-energy commodities continues to be challenging,” says Carl. “We have had to work smarter through this difficult period, whilst not compromising our great offering for guests and owners.” There’s clearly no slowing down on delivering on expectations at Away Resorts. Excellence in service and a commitment to innovation are the hallmarks of their continued success, and there’s a constant flow of new and exciting ideas to fuel development.
With over £14.5 million invested in the last 5 years, Tattershall Lakes in Lincolnshire is now the biggest resort in Away Resorts’ portfolio. With a guest profile split equally between young families, families with teenagers, couples and groups, Tattershall Lakes really does offer something for everyone. Water-based activities are a major draw at this eight-lake site (three offering watersports) including water and jet skis, stand-up-paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking, as well as more laid back pedaloes.
There’s also an inflatable Aqua Park, outdoor lakeside Lido, outdoor splash pad, sandy man-made beach, as well as an indoor swimming pool complex with an aqua play splash zone. An extensive variety of accommodation offers the widest appeal from classic caravans to lakeside lodges, to the ultimate in ways to stay with Away Resorts new range: the Esme, the Rockstar and the TriBeCa.
With enormous flatscreen TVs, private hot-tubs and stylish, contemporary furnishings, as well as quirky individualised design touches (think foliage and Union Flag feature walls and neon light décor), these exclusive holiday homes are ideal for a new generation of UK holidaymakers. And when they want to head out after dark, how about a trip to the Giggling Goose, a stylish over 18s gin and cocktail bar with an expert mixologist and secret rooftop garden.
With a multi-million-pound private equity investment taking place in 2021, Away Resorts were primed for further expansion with the acquisition of St Ives Bay Beach Resort. This beautiful location with access to 3 miles of prime Cornish beach has seen £3.7m investment in new accommodation over the past two years. The new Thalassa and Stargazer holiday homes are the ultimate in indulgence with the latter offering roll top baths, hot tubs, and a glass window in the bedroom for exploring the evening stars.
More innovation is apparent at Sandy Balls Holiday Park, one of Away Resorts most popular destinations. This holiday village offers forest-themed accommodation, exceptional family leisure activities including walks with resident alpacas, and an annual Forest Festival, all with the outstanding natural beauty of the New Forest as its backdrop.
With future-proofing a top priority, it’s no surprise that sustainability and ‘giving back’ are also high on the agenda. All new developments are built using the latest energy-saving technology and the team work closely with caravan and lodge manufacturers to keep pushing boundaries.
“In our recent new development at Mill Rythe Coastal Village in Hampshire, we’re installing a brand-new natural airflow system instead of electric-powered air handling units,” explains Carl. “This natural airflow system is PV (solar) powered.” Projects to end single plastic use and increase recycling including uniforms are well underway. Charitable giving is also significant.
Working with Creating Tomorrow’s Forest, Away Resorts plant a tree for every holiday home sold to a new owner. There’s also a partnership with Surfers Against Sewage with many locations doing regular beach cleans. A commitment to protect the Great British Holiday and our Planet… it seems Away Resorts are well on the way to their ambition ‘to make the future amazing for everyone!’