When it comes to the holiday park industry, accommodation is king – if your customers aren’t happy and comfortable in their surroundings, then why would they return? Parks are constantly investing in the best and most advanced accommodation available, from luxury safari tents to huge party palaces – and here editor Victoria Galligan takes a look at what’s going to boost booking numbers in 2020…
Over the past two decades, the glamping phenomenon has taken the UK holiday industry to a whole new level. With glampsites competing to offer the most luxurious places to stay – albeit in the middle of a field, as visitors still want to experience that back-to-nature vibe! –a knock-on effect has been seen across the whole holiday industry. While there will always be a demand for budget accommodation, research has shown that the public are willing to pay more for luxury accommodation – coupled with a greater choice in locations, flexible booking options and top-notch on-site facilities. Holidays taken close to home, often for just one or two nights, are becoming increasing popular and have been labelled “bubble breaks”.
Earlier this year, the UK Camping and Caravanning Alliance report Pitching the Value identified “attracting younger generation through product offering e.g. glamping and quality accommodation” as one of the main opportunities which the holiday industry could capitalise on. It also stated that the lack of variety available in high-quality accommodation was currently one of the industry’s weaknesses.
Capitalising on the “bubble break” is vital for businesses – Sykes Cottages has done its own research on the rise in luxury breaks, reporting: “We’ve seen the popularity of luxury holiday homes go through the roof as Britons look for affordable, but indulgent, holidays closer to home – which is why we offer more than 1,000 properties with hot tubs and swimming pools across the UK. “Britons are seeking opportunities to staycation in weird and wonderful properties across the UK. We’ve got over 400 converted barns, 950 properties situated on a farm, 21 shepherd’s huts, 30 converted chapels or churches, six yurts and even one converted water tank and one converted railway carriage.” And with both spending figures and domestic trip numbers up, the staycation is proving it’s here to stay. In the first half of the year, Visit Britain reported a rise in domestic trips – up to 56.4million from January to June, a rise of 2% on the same period last year.
Creating a luxury destination
Away Resorts is one business which is leading the way in providing top-class facilities. It has completed two major refurbishment projects so far this year, at woodland retreat Sandy Balls Holiday Village, in the New Forest, and lakeside retreat Tattershall Lakes Country Park. The operator said the £10 million refurbishment at luxury forest destination Sandy Balls marked “the introduction of the most luxurious holiday lodges ever seen at a UK holiday park”. The range of new accommodation there includes the Knightwood, named after the largest oak tree in the New Forest.
Carl Castledine, CEO of Away Resorts, said: “For those who – because of this uncertainty and travel to Europe this year – are looking to stay in the UK, but are used to luxury, we wanted to create an accommodation choice for our New Forest Holiday Village that was beautifully indulgent, and that would rival the most luxurious accommodation in European holiday villages. “So, we came up with the Knightwood – named after the largest and arguably most famous, oak tree in the New Forest. “The exterior to the holiday home features a hot tub, which is yours and yours alone; a heated outdoor seating area, where the evening can carry on long after the sun has dipped; and a dog shower for the family’s furry friend who may have got a little muddy on their walk through the Forest. And don’t forget the bike racks. “The interior is inspired by its forest surroundings with all of the fixtures, fittings and furniture having a wood-like feel; effectively bringing the outside in.”
Away Resorts teamed up with holiday home manufacturer Willerby to create the Knightwood. Willerby product manager Phil Parks said: “The Knightwood really takes design and layout to the next level, this offered us the perfect opportunity to be creative and showcase what the Willerby team can do. “It is projects like this that have helped make Willerby synonymous with innovative design, stylish interiors, and above all, exceptional quality standards.” Meanwhile, Tattershall Lakes has seen the completion of a £5.25 million project. A new skyline bar, splash zone, beach and luxury accommodation were added.
Paying a premium for luxury accommodation
Luxury lodges have stepped up a gear for 2020. No longer content with a mere wooden roof over their heads, glampers want bling – and are willing to pay the premium. I caught up with LTF Pods at the Innovation Diversification event in South Wales in September and was blown away by the standards inside the pods – fitted kitchens and wet rooms are included so guests can avoid the wash-block trips and have the convenience of cooking too. Sofa beds and folding bunks provide solid sleeping arrangements and the décor inside and out makes the pods feel more like tiny cottages.
New luxury lodge brand Eco-Signature is raising the bar – by quite a distance! Founder Karen Sheflin says the idea to ramp up the style factor was a no-brainer: “When we saw that demand for luxury holiday homes and lodges has risen by 39% and properties with hot tubs earn 54% more than that (not to mention that those with open fires boosts revenue by a further 14%), it was evident that a niche in the market exists that has yet to be regulated and needs to be developed. “Our vast experience in the hospitality industry led us to develop something that is the first of its kind. A sustainable, eco-luxury lodge with integrated advanced technology that is commercially viable and has been designed with a modern twist using unique products that haven’t yet been introduced to the UK.” The eco-lodge is perfect for hotels, spas, golf clubs and attractions yet is also mindful of the environment. These luxury holiday lodges have the convenience of a five-star hotel and the privacy of a luxury villa, with open fires and private swim Jacuzzi pools as standard.”
Meanwhile, the Quantum – a mega-lodge from Tingdene – turned heads at the trade shows this year with its roof-top terrace complete with hot tub. The Tingdene team told me: “We’re celebrating our 50th birthday this year and wanted to mark this milestone with a game-changing luxury super-lodge. Whilst roof terraces on lodges have been around for years there hasn’t yet been one which uses both the full area of the roof (complete with hot tub) as well as having large internal open plan living areas. It’s a real party lodge. “The design brief was quite a challenge which every department at Tingdene got behind and championed. We all wanted it to work so it took quite a while to get it from the initial concept to being production-ready. There was a lot of technical meetings back and forward to make sure there were no compromises on design, function or safety. We launched it at the world of park and leisure homes, Stoneleigh where it was an instant success and got the industry talking and moved the boundaries of what is capable by a manufacturer again.”
Tingdene said that right from the off, quality is all-important when it comes to producing luxury accommodation. The team added: “Material choice is key, when you want to get noticed at the top end of the marketplace it’s important to pick high quality, innovative features and materials. Our design team did a great job in picking an interior that delivers the wow factor. “The interest the Quantum has generated has been incredible. We’ve already taken a number of orders and our show model is available for sale if anyone wants to get ahead of our production slots. “It’s a range-topper so if you have an exclusive development that would benefit from a lodge-like the Quantum; just speak to our sales team and they’ll be able to guide you through the pricing of this exclusive super-lodge.” The Quantum is sure to enhance the landscape of your park and encourage the high-spenders to book. It’s certainly got everyone talking and the high-end interiors have truly sparked everyone’s imagination. Tingdene added: “If you see it, there’s a good chance you’ll love it.”
‘We listen and develop – we are always improving’
Caravan Industry & Park Operator’s Lisa Ryder caught up with Willerby CEO Peter Munk at the very impressive Willerby marquee at September’s Lawns show. Lisa asked Peter about keeping up with customers’ needs and create a light and airy space in holiday homes…
How are you finding the Lawns Show?
"It has been great! Lots of new models and a great atmosphere. We are receiving great feedback!"
How do you feel about moving the show to Harrogate in 2020? "I think it will be a great change and will provide a large exhibition space with lots of possibilities"
I can see you have launched new models this year and also revived a classic – the Vogue! "Yes, the Vogue has always been an iconic part of our product range, since 1956, and we have relaunched the model with the new Vogue Classique. This is at the top of the range and has set a new standard."
When designing the new Vogue Classique, which areas have you concentrated on? "As with all of our holiday homes, we wanted to create a 'home from home' feel. This has been achieved by introducing beautiful, high-quality features such as the American fridge freezer, the six-seater dining table and chairs, plush carpet and furniture."
The Vogue Classique feels more open and light. "Yes. We wanted an 'outside-inside' feel and achieved this with the apex front roof and large front windows. The Vogue Classique is also the largest holiday home we have created and we have included options such as a Juliet balcony.
This is very impressive! How do you get the ideas for your features? "We listen to our customers. Our Owners Club provide lots of feedback, we listen and develop – we are always improving. For example, the summers in the UK are becoming warmer and the need for air conditioning is increasing – this is now an option. “We have also tried to create a relaxing sleep environment so our beds are a good size and we have included beautiful furnishings and a dressing room."
One last question... how has Brexit affected Willerby? "It hasn't really – I call it 'Flex-it' as this is how we have to be – always developing and being flexible!”
Read more about luxury accommodation in the next issue of Caravan Industry & Park Operator magazine!