Upgraded Holiday Parks plan for growth from staycations boom
Britain’s self-contained holiday accommodation specialists are expecting to see a surge in demand in the new era of staycations prompted by the response to Covid. Expansion and upgrade plans have been announced by a number of the big operators, building on significant growth in the sector over recent years. Some of the biggest names in the market are Center Parcs; Parkdean Resorts; Butlins, Haven and Warner (all owned by Bourne Leisure Group); Pontins (owned by Britannia Hotels); and Away Resorts.
The Government’s roadmap out of lockdown allows for the re-opening of self-contained accommodation under stage two, on Monday 12th April. This announcement has seen a boost to bookings for UK destinations in the summer months.
The revenue of the UK’s Top 25 holiday parks has increased by 65% in the past five years, validating major investment, says New Street Consulting Group in a report on their financial appeal to investors.
Even before the lockdown, warmer summers and a weaker pound are stated as factors that have contributed to the rise in popularity of staycations in the UK, increasing by 14% between 2014 and 2019. The incomes of the Top 25-holiday park groups increased from £1.61bn in 2014/15 to £2.67bn in 2019/20.
Blackstone, the private equity giant, recently acquired Bourne Leisure Group, the UK’s largest holiday parks provider, whose brands include Butlins (with three holiday centres), Haven (with 37-holiday parks) and Warner (with 14 properties including Cricket Saint Thomas and Bodelwyddan Castle). An American fund, KKR, purchased Roompot, one of Europe’s leading holiday parks providers, in June last year, whilst Away Resorts is now owned by UK based private equity house Bregal Freshstream.
New Street Consulting Group says the offer from parks has been changing too, with them having attracted a new group of higher-spending consumers who have been unable to, or opted against, going on cruise holidays or travelling internationally.
The low density of guests at holiday parks makes them particularly suitable for social distancing, with groups being able to stay in separate buildings from other holiday-goers.
“Despite its fair share of challenges and impacts on income, the UK staycation sector is booming, with the holiday park industry in particular being one of the strongest performing parts of the leisure sector during the Covid-19 crisis,” said Richard Lindsay, Director, New Street Consulting Group.
In December, Away Resorts, which already had 6-holiday parks, announced the acquisition of a new park, Boston West in Lincolnshire. The 150-acre, 24-bedroom facility is nestled in a naturally beautiful setting surrounded by wildlife and stunning scenery, and has a 9-hole golf course, driving range and restaurant.
Away Resorts have now been granted planning permission to develop 300 pitches suitable for luxury lodges on which works will commence this year.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to add Boston West to our expanding portfolio of parks across the UK and are proud to be investing more into this industry, even during these difficult economic times,” said Tim Gibson of Away Resorts, whose existing portfolio includes the Mill Rythe Holiday Village at Hayling Island in Hampshire.
The company’s improved ‘Esme’ Accommodation is new for 2021 at both Lincolnshire and Hampshire locations. The units provide room for two to four guests, with Scandinavian-style furniture, a king-size divan bed and single beds that can be pushed together in the second bedroom to make a second double.
Over the next 18 months, Mill Rythe, 2-time UK Group Travel Award winner for Best Holiday Park for Groups, is undergoing a £10 million redevelopment, in a plan to make its holiday park on the south coast at Hayling Island, Hampshire, the country’s best. Its holiday homes offer guests hot tubs, luxury accommodation, and supporting facilities including the brand new Missing Squirrel Lounge Bar.
Away Resorts is planning to open for this year as soon as the restrictions allow, though from 12th April up to 16th May, guests must stay in their accommodation, only with their household bubbles, and takeaway food & drink will be provided.
The UK’s only all-inclusive holiday resort and 3-time Group Travel Award winner, Potters Resort in Norfolk, has announced a 17th May 2021 restart date. John Potter, said they have been investing in remodelling and new technologies. Last July, Potter’s announced the opening of 50 brand new restaurant suites to provide “dining bubbles” for its all-inclusive guests. These private lounges accommodate parties of 4 or more and have bathroom facilities, a stocked fridge, and a large-screen TV that streams live entertainment from around the Resort.
All facilities at Warner Leisure Hotels resorts will remain closed until Monday 17th May. The portfolio includes properties such as Lakeside Coastal Village (Hampshire), Gunton Hall Coastal Village (East Suffolk), and Norton Grange Coastal Resort (Isle of Wight), which took home the Best Holiday Park for Groups award at the 2020 Group Travel Awards. Live performances and other entertainment will be going ahead from the 17th May and food & drink facilities will be open, with dining tables limited to the ‘rule of 6’ or 2 households.
Butlins is also planning to reopen its resorts on the 17th of May, and Center Parcs will, on 12th April, re-open its six woodland holiday locations at Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest, Longleat Forest, Whinfell Forest and Woburn Forest.
Center Parcs will initially be welcoming guests to the lodge only, as hotel rooms and apartments will be unavailable until restrictions are further eased. Only one household will be permitted per lodge and restaurants will operate a collection and delivery service.
Haven are also starting with ‘one-household’ stays, offering self-catering breaks at its English facilities from Monday 12th April until restrictions are hopefully further relaxed on 16th May.
For Scotland, the restart date is currently set for 26th April, while the majority of the Welsh parks will be available from earlier in April.
Parkdean Resorts, with 67 UK holiday parks, have likewise confirmed that their English parks will reopen on 12th April with similar restrictions to the other companies, until all the facilities will reopen from 17th May.
Booking site CoolCamping have meanwhile said February this year was the busiest on record, with bookings up 500% on last year and the busiest day, perhaps unsurprisingly, coming the day after Boris Johnson announced the roadmap for England. With Dorset named one of the top UK holiday hot spots, the campsite there, Frome Meadow in Dorchester, was quickly almost fully booked for weekends in July, says CoolCamping.
This kind of popularity looks set to continue as holiday parks strive to expand their market share by appealing to a broader customer demographic, says the new research. The parks and resorts are seeking to enhance their propositions by investing in both the accommodation and site facilities, and in technology and digital offerings to provide more sophisticated ways of communicating and engaging with the customer.
New Street Consulting Group says as part of this strategy the owners and investors are hiring external specialists to help transform the operating models of the parks to make their parks both more compelling to a broader market, more sustainable for the future, and harness digital technology for food, activities and entertainment bookings.
The parks believe their programmes of “premiumisation” in accommodation, food service and activities will help to ensure that clients gained in 2020 and 2021 are retained when the markets for cruises and other overseas holidays reopen.
“The changing demographics of those who visit holidays parks is likely to increase the speed of change in the sector,” said Richard Lindsay of New Street Consulting. “The opportunity to improve the perception of parks for the long term through major capital investment programmes is now likely to accelerate as we head towards summer 2021.”
In February, The Mirror newspaper posted a summary of the best UK holiday parks to visit this summer. The list takes into consideration the local facilities and entertainment in the area, choices of accommodation, and various budget options. Thornwick Bay in Yorkshire (Haven) tops the selection, with the nearby nature reserve at Flamborough Cliffs and a broad range of activities available at the park. The list also features Lower Hyde on the Isle of Wight (Parkdean Resorts), which offers an attractive range of accommodation options including lodges, chalets and caravans, as well as pitches for tents and non-static caravans. Also recommended are adult-only options like Beaconsfield Park in Shropshire (Hoseasons). Here is the full list of the Mirror’s twelve best holiday park options: Yorkshire: Thornwick Bay; Dorset: Warmwell Holiday Park; Lincolnshire: Butlin’s; Isle of Wight: Lower Hyde Holiday Park; Shropshire: Hoseasons; Great Yarmouth: Vauxhall Holiday Park; West Sussex: Bunn Leisure; Hampshire: Sandy Balls; Hereford: Poston Mill Park; Devon: Woodovis Park; Porthcawl: Trecco Bay Holiday Park; Hunstanton: Searles Leisure Resort