Let us entertain you

If you have never considered booking a short break at a holiday centre for your group, still remembering the ‘Hi-de-Hi!’ image of the past, it might be time to think again. Holiday centres have certainly changed in recent years, and are continually evolving, as Brenda Watkinson discovers.

The 70s Show at Potters Leisure Resort.

The 70s Show at Potters Leisure Resort.

Taking your group to an all inclusive holiday centre means that accommodation, entertainment and all or part of the catering is included in the cost of the holiday. A far cry from the holiday camps of the 1950s, huge sums have been invested upgrading accommodation, providing excellent sporting facilities and attracting allstar entertainment. There has also been a trend towards ‘adult only’ weekends and short breaks, with some centres taking this a step further and concentrating solely on the adult market.

A fun time for all

As one of the the largest operators in the UK with over 440 parks and lodges, Hoseasons is a well-known brand name. The company has developed dramatically in recent years and now also offers accommodation in cottages, city apartments and even boats, as well as traditional self catering breaks in caravans and chalets. In 2010, the company launched its ‘Go Active Breaks’ at five locations in Devon, the Isle of Wight, East Sussex, North Wales and the Northern Highlands of Scotland, which proved so popular that they have doubled the number of locations for 2011. With an emphasis on active and healthier holidays, the breaks are offered in five categories, with a wide range of activities to suit everyone from complete beginners to keen amateurs. These range from white water rafting to short mat bowls. If your group is keen on cycling, Hoseasons has teamed up with cycling specialists, CTC, to create ‘Cycle Xtra’ at five holiday parks in Devon, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, the Vale of York and Northumberland, offering a choice of cycling activities designed to suit all ages, levels of ability and experience. Launching on 2nd April, the initiative offers guided rides, bike-ability training, maintenance courses and top tips from the parks’ resident experts. For groups seeking a high standard of self-catering accommodation, Hoseasons offers the ‘Autograph Lodge’ collection with private outdoor hot tubs, pocket-sprung mattresses and luxury toiletries. For 2011, Hoseasons has increased the number of locations offering this type of accommodation from five to 13.

White water rafting with Hoseasons.

White water rafting with Hoseasons.

With 39 holiday parks situated around the UK coastline, Park Resorts offers accommodation to suit all groups and budgets. As well as holiday lodges, there are caravan holiday homes, chalet holiday through the Decades’ (with soundtracks from the 50s all the way through to the 90s). You might also consider a ‘Dance Break’ to brush up on your salsa, ballroom or line dancing. Both self catering and half board packages are available with three standards of accommodation to choose from – ‘Club’, ‘Classic’ and ‘Budget’. Activities such as KMX Karts, mountain biking, archery and trampolining are also available at selected parks. Set in picturesque rural locations, Forest Holidays offers six types of cabin accommodation, from the luxurious ‘Golden Oak’ with woodburner and hot tub to the practical and comfortable ‘Evergreen Cabin’. These can be found at seven sites across the UK; Argyll and Strathyre in Scotland, Cropton and Keldy in North Yorkshire, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and Deerpark in Cornwall. For 2011, Forest Holidays are introducing a new personalised activity booking service. Adventurous activities include quarry jumping, canoeing, gorge walking, rock climbing and even your own mini highland games. Group discounts apply. With four holiday villages set in beautiful forest locations – homes, apartments, bungalows and even two hotels, Southview Park Hotel in Lincolnshire and St. Margaret’s Bay Hotel in Kent. During 2010, Park Resorts has continued to invest heavily in all its parks with new modern and contemporary accommodation and major refurbishments of the swimming pools at Camber Sands in East Sussex and Shurland Dale in Kent. Most parks offer venue hire for groups. Discounts apply to groups booking 10 accommodations or more.

Taking aim with Haven Holidays.

Taking aim with Haven Holidays.

Over the last two years, Haven Holidays has invested more than £100 million in their 35 UK holiday parks, providing new accommodation, activities and better facilities. As well as golf courses, fishing lakes, spas, tennis courts and horse riding at selected parks, new facilities for 2011 include laser combat zones (a bit like paintballing but without the mess), climbing walls, high-ropes courses and a new ‘Bikeability’ scheme, designed to help younger visitors learn to ride in a traffic-free environment. All parks feature indoor heated leisure pools, many with slides, flumes and lazy rivers, while in the Show Bars, top evening entertainment is provided free of charge. All the accommodation is self catering with a half board option available at Craig Tara in Scotland and Hafan y Mor in North Wales. As well as caravan holiday homes, Haven also offers chalets, apartments and even yurts (at Perran Sands in Cornwall). If you are looking for something even more different for your group, safari tents will be available at Burnham on Sea, in Somerset, and Perran Sands, in Cornwall, in 2011. Group discounts are available from five units of accommodation upwards.
GTOs will also be offered discounts from Parkdean when booking a minimum of five holiday homes. With 24 holiday parks in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Norfolk, Wales and Scotland, you will find a range of accommodation on offer including caravan holiday homes, lodge holiday homes, a limited selection of cottages, apartments and chalets, and even some houses, which are ideal for larger parties. For those in search of quality evening entertainment, Parkdean offers live shows and musical tributes in a West End style at seven of their parks (Mullion and Looe Bay in Cornwall, Ruda and Torquay in Devon, Warmwell and Sandford in Dorset and Trecco Bay in Wales).

Relaxing at Center Parcs.

Relaxing at Center Parcs.

Very much in the news, Britannia Hotels has recently secured the purchase of Pontins, promising to invest significant sums to improve its facilities. Live entertainment is very much the essence of a short break at one of the company’s five holiday parks (Southport, Prestatyn Sands in Wales, Brean Sands in Somerset, Camber Sands in East Sussex and Pakefield in Suffolk), all of which are located on awardwinning beaches. Popular with groups, Pontins offers music breaks to suit all tastes including ‘Dancing through the Decades’ (with soundtracks from the 50s all the way through to the 90s). You might also consider a ‘Dance Break’ to brush up on your salsa, ballroom or line dancing. Both self catering and half board packages are available with three standards of accommodation to choose from – ‘Club’, ‘Classic’ and ‘Budget’. Activities such as KMX Karts, mountain biking, archery and trampolining are also available at selected parks.

Set in picturesque rural locations, Forest Holidays offers six types of cabin accommodation, from the luxurious ‘Golden Oak’ with woodburner and hot tub to the practical and comfortable ‘Evergreen Cabin’. These can be found at seven sites across the UK; Argyll and Strathyre in Scotland, Cropton and Keldy in North Yorkshire, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and Deerpark in Cornwall. For 2011, Forest Holidays are introducing a new personalised activity booking service. Adventurous activities include quarry jumping, canoeing, gorge walking, rock climbing and even your own mini highland games. Group discounts apply.
With four holiday villages set in beautiful forest locations – Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Longleat Forest in Wiltshire – Center Parcs offers a range of villa accommodation. For standard accommodation, the ‘Comfort Villa’ is available, while a more prestigious style of living can be assured at the new style executive lodges, which have recently been introduced at Longleat Forest. Each village features a Subtropical Swimming Paradise, Village Square with restaurants and shops, Sports Plaza and Aqua Sana Spa.

Potters Leisure Resort.

Potters Leisure Resort.

If you think bowling might be a better option for your group, Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, hosts midweek bowling and leisure breaks from September to mid-May, which are suitable for bowlers of all abilities. These all-inclusive breaks include evening entertainment and five-star accommodation, ranging from single rooms to threebedroom bungalows. Also popular with the groups market, the ‘One Night Specials’ and ‘Weekend Breaks’ feature some great names in entertainment, such as Joe McElderry and Jane McDonald. Potters Leisure Resort can also arrange tailor-made breaks to include a range of sports and leisure activities for your group. As well as excellent savings on midweek holidays, coach parties benefit from free places on selected breaks.
In the west of England near Minehead, Somerset, St Audries Bay Holiday Club is a family-run and operated park, offering both selfcatering caravan and full board chalet accommodation. Leisure facilities include an indoor heated swimming pool, tennis courts, snooker and pool tables, putting green, table tennis tables, and indoor and outdoor boules. St Audries Bay Holiday Club is known for its special interest holidays that include line dancing weekends and folk musician midweek breaks. ‘St Audries Organ Festival’ (18th – 23rd September) was introduced at the Club in 1984 and is now in its 27th year. Guests can expect a line up of well-known professional organists such as Richard Monks and Brian Sharp.

Having a laugh with the staff at TLH Leisure Resort.

Having a laugh with the staff at TLH Leisure Resort.

Also in the west country, in the heart of Torquay, TLH Leisure Resort has been owned by the Murrell family for over 60 years. It has grown significantly over the years but the Murrell family still pride themselves on their friendly, efficient service that has contributed to many groups returning on a regular basis. The resort comprises four hotels – the Derwent, Victoria, Carlton and Toorak – all offering a wide range of themed breaks and special interest holidays throughout the year. As well as their renowned bowling breaks, groups can choose from a host of leisure activities such as dancing and painting. In November and December, breaks take on a festive theme and if you are looking for a different twist to this year’s festivities, TLH are offering ‘Victorian Christmas Breaks’ that include a visit to the nearby Bygones Museum and an opportunity to do some late night Christmas shopping in the Victorian market town of Newton Abbot. TLH has a dedicated Group Sales Team to help GTOs with their booking and also offers familiarisation visits and group discounts starting at one free place for every 30 people.

Exclusively for adults

Holiday centres are popular with young families, although groups wanting a relaxing time away from kids are also well catered for with many venues offering adultonly breaks.

Entertainment at Martyn Leisure Breaks’ Sand Bay Leisure Resort.

Entertainment at Martyn Leisure Breaks’ Sand Bay Leisure Resort.

Offering inclusive short and weekend breaks exclusively to adults, Martyn Leisure Breaks has five locations in the UK including four hotels – the Russell Hotel and Hotel Prince Regent, both in Weymouth, Dorset, the Sherborne Hotel in Dorset and the Harrisons Hotel in Shepperton, Middlesex – and also Sand Bay Leisure Resort near Weston-super-Mare, each catering to a slightly different clientele. Breaks are tailored for the over 40s and include themed breaks, big band breaks, festive breaks and, new for 2011, dance breaks. Groups are offered one free place per 20 paying adults, discounts off brochure prices, single rooms with no supplements for up to 10% of the party and a dedicated sales team to help with their booking. The family-run Richardson’s Holiday Villages boasts five sites in total, three of which are adult-only – Seacroft Holiday Village and Mundesley Holiday Village, both on the Norfolk coast, and South Downs Holiday Village near Chichester on the south coast. Offering a range of accommodation including bungalows, chalets and deluxe suites (South Downs only), their emphasis is on providing plenty of entertainment, both daytime and evening. Themed breaks are offered from February to December and include ‘Star Cabarets’, ‘We’ll Meet Again’, ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ and ‘Ultimate Line Dance’ weekend packages. Group discounts are available on application.

Relaxing in the pool at Mill Rythe Holiday Resort.

Relaxing in the pool at Mill Rythe Holiday Resort.

Also with five holiday parks located at coastal resorts around the UK, Pontins offers self catering breaks at Southport, Prestatyn Sands in Wales, Brean Sands in Somerset, Camber Sands in East Sussex and half board or full board breaks at Pakefield Holiday Park in Suffolk. As well as a number of themed breaks including sports breaks, dance breaks and music breaks, Pontins also offers ‘Gold Breaks’ to the over 50s at Prestatyn Sands and Pakefield.

Just 14 miles from Chichester, in Sussex, Mill Rythe Holiday Resort also offers both weekend and midweek ‘just for adults’ short breaks. Groups can choose from a number of themes including ‘Remember When’, ‘Love Dancing’ ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Extravaganza’ and ‘Turkey & Tinsel Showbreak’. All adult exclusive midweek breaks feature a Gala Dinner followed by a celebration evening of song and dance, a theatre style floorshow and last night of the proms.