As the ever-changing landscape of the tourism sector evolves at pace, editor Victoria Galligan catches up with industry experts to find out what holiday parks should be doing to draw in visitors for the 2020 season…
If there was a crystal ball to predict what would be big in tourism in two or three years’ time, then I’m sure many of you would be clamouring after one so you could plan ahead and guarantee a fantastic return on investment. Pouring money into a park’s infrastructure, facilities and providing the entertainment which will prove a draw to customers both new and familiar usually pays off – but thanks to the changes in the economy, technology and standard of living which the UK has experienced over the past decade or so, parks need to be bang on trend to beat the competition in the booking stakes.
This is where market research and sharing best practice comes in. Of course, every park is different and what attracts customers to one site may put off the regulars at another. But finding out what your customers want and need could mean the difference between a mediocre season and a great one. And looking around at the competition may give you a steer – even if it’s in a completely different direction!
When it comes to the 2019 season Rod Tucker, MD of Hoburne Holidays which operates eight holiday parks across the south and south west of England, said when it comes to unit sales both ends of the market are looking healthy.
Rod said: “We are currently seeing a lot of activity at the entry level and luxury end of the caravan sales market, with plenty of interest for high quality used caravans and lodges, which we anticipate carrying on into 2020. We expect the UK ‘staycation’ holiday trend to continue in 2020, due to the uncertainty of the economic climate.”
Changing demographic of holiday park visitors
Thanks to the rise of online booking, holiday prices can be compared quickly and easily – which is having an effect on holiday prices. Rod said: “In holiday rentals, people are becoming continually more price conscious and this is reflected in pressure on holiday prices. However, the recent issues at airports and the weakness of the pound continues to support the demand for UK holidays.”
Rod said that although more and more grandparents are footing the bill for family holiday homes, the younger market is increasing too as large group breaks prove popular.
He added: “We are seeing a wider range of age groups at our holiday parks across the holiday rental and holiday home sales markets, although the main trend in caravan and lodges sales continues to be grandparents buying holiday homes to share usage with their children and grandchildren.
“There are many more younger people looking at our product than ever before and increasing demand for three and four bedroom caravans and lodges, reflecting the trend of extended families holidaying together, as well as groups of friends.”
Ready Camp, operated by The Camping and Caravanning Club, have found that since the first appearance of glamping, the industry and accommodation continues to evolve at high speed – becoming more inventive and quirky to suit a range of customer needs. This shows no signs of slowing down, as more and more glamping opportunities surface, offering unique holiday experiences. With that comes an extremely competitive online marketplace. The team there said that continuous product enhancements and exceptional service will lead the way to a successful 2020 season.
Meanwhile, Ready Camp’s coastal locations and the north of England continue to exceed on capacity. The most significant change the brand has seen is the number of units required for a single booking, with many customers now booking two or more tents at a time for friends and family.
Fun – whatever the weather
The demand for family entertainment is clearly growing and this provides the perfect opportunity for parks to offer activities which can rival other parks throughout the year. With a focus on health and wellbeing, many parks are investing in infrastructure to create long-lasting facilities such as running tracks, football pitches and tennis courts which can double up as event spaces.
Rod said: “We are investing in more varied types of entertainment such as BMX demonstrations, cinema screenings and ‘party in the park’ events, which can be held outdoors if the weather permits.“
One answer to the ever-changing Great British weather problem is to ensure your indoor provision is top-class, says Rod: “We have been looking to weatherproof our holidays with park facilities so people can holiday with us whatever the weather. We have extended our opening season to 11 months per year to accommodate off-peak business, and owners are subsequently using their units much more and getting more use out of their investment.
“Indoor swimming pools, leisure facilities, good entertainment, bars and restaurants all give holidaymakers and owners a great holiday experience all year round.”
Some don’t like it hot!
It’s not just the poor weather which is affecting park trends – Willerby has noticed a growing demand from customers for air-conditioning in its holiday homes and lodges, which is not surprising given that the UK is experiencing increasingly warmer weather throughout the year.
Willerby’s latest model, the Vogue Classique, is the perfect example of the brand’s continued commitment to innovation and listening to its customers’ needs as air-conditioning is proving a key selling point for customers.
Karolyn Charles, 49, from Stourbridge, West Mids, was the very first customer to own a Vogue Classique and said it was the air-conditioning facilities that ultimately swayed her decision. She explained that this feature would not only make a huge difference for her and her partner, but also for their 12-year-old Dalmatian who has struggled in previous heatwaves.
Not only has Willerby noticed a rise in customers requesting air conditioning, but research carried out last year for Mintel’s Camping & Caravans UK report highlighted a rise in people opting for pet-friendly holidays and sites, with 27% of people listing a site’s pet-friendliness as a deciding factor when choosing their holiday destination. Something else to consider when planning ahead – perhaps you can accommodate a dog park, dog show or doggy day care service in 2020!
Trendspotting can make you best bar none
Bridge Leisure was launched in 2008 as a company providing management support for holiday parks. Today, Bridge Leisure Parks owns nine holiday parks across the UK. CEO Andrew Howe said finding solutions to the issues which changing trends raise means visitors will keep on spending.
He explained: “More than ever before people are looking for holiday parks to provide them with better value for money and importantly with quality catering and facilities on park. We have a captive audience – however if the value and quality isn’t there, people are more inclined to use the facilities in their accommodation or simply go off park.
“More guests are spending nights cooking in their accommodation rather than spending money in the bars, restaurants and shops on park. This affects all areas of the retail business. We are having to offer varying and exciting things in beverage, catering and retail to ensure the turnover is still there.
“Bars are more varied now than ever before – the traditional pint, wine and fruit drinks for the kids are in decline. Under 30s in particular have reduced alcohol consumption dramatically. We have also seen a growth in premiumisation i.e. people paying more for drinks they perceive as quality over quantity. People will pay a bit more if they believe the product is better, the best example of this would be the explosion in gin and in particular tonics, you can get such a wide choice of both now.
“To respond to this growing trend we launched the Piskie Inn at Trevella Holiday Park in Cornwall near Newquay. The Piskie Inn is the smallest pub in Crantock and seats around 8-10 people, it’s quirky and different and guests love it.
“We serve some traditional drinks but our draft products are local, we have Offshore pilsner brewed in Cornwall, Wolf Rock Red IPA and coming soon Sharpe’s Atlantic. We stock local gins and premium tonics which have all been well received. The outdoor seating and chatty team make it a lovely place to sit and enjoy a drink. We even sell little Piskie lucky charms!”
Location, location, location…
The Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC) was created in 1901 and is the oldest organisation of its kind in the world. Club Holiday Homes was created to enable campers to continue enjoying the location they love for many years after they have left touring behind – a familiar location was one of the most significant factors owners explained when they were considering investing in a Club Holiday Home.
It’s clear the grey pound is an important consideration for parks and means your new customers today could become customers for life.
Simon McGrath, Head of Communications and External Relations at the CCC, explains: “The Lake District and Cumbria remain as favourites across our customer base with Derwentwater, Lakeside and Windermere static caravans and lodges all performing well with new sales and current owner upgrades.”
Club Holiday Homes also said an increasing interest in Scotland has been prominent, with several sales made for the current season.
What can your holiday parks offer in 2020?
These examples of changing trends beg question above: but how do you decide which direction to take?
I would recommend park operators to really take stock of their current facilities and request some genuine feedback from customers – not just the complaints and compliments which are recorded or even passed on through word of mouth, but those inner thoughts and feelings which make customers choose a holiday park.
Try an online survey emailed out on check-out day or put a stack of feedback cards in every holiday home. Offer an incentive for the return of comments (free G&T, anyone?) and find out what would make customers return or recommend to a friend. Ask as customers check out – “What could have made your stay better?” or offer an anonymous suggestions box in the bar. Nowadays the likes of Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor are fantastic for gathering real feedback – even if it’s not pretty, it could help you make improvements you would never have considered and get those extra bookings in 2020.
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