The results of holiday park and campsite survey Pitching the Value were published earlier this year. Here, editor Victoria Galligan takes a look at the highlights of the survey and ask park operators Away Resorts about their views on current trends in the leisure & tourism sector…
Pitching the Value was commissioned by the UK Caravan and Camping Alliance (UKCCA) to find out the economic benefits of camping and caravan sites. It was carried out by Frontline in conjunction with the UK trade body the NCC, the Camping & Caravanning Club, the Caravan & Motorhome Club and the British Holiday and Home Parks Association.
The survey found that The UK holiday park and campsite sector makes a huge contribution to the UK tourism economy, generating a massive £9.3bn in visitor expenditure (equivalent to £5.3bn gross added value) and supporting 171,448 full-time jobs.
It also found that the UK holiday park and campsite sector accounted for 8% of the tourism sector’s gross added value.
Another of the standout figures from Pitching the Value was that visitors to UK holiday parks and campsites stayed up to 74% longer and spent up to 60% more than the national tourism average – compared for example to hotel or B&B stays. This is something which park operators are keen to accommodate and is in no small part thanks to the high quality onsite facilities available at many parks.
Strengths and weaknesses
Through workshops and interviews with senior stakeholders in the industry and members of the UKCCA, the report highlighted the strengths and weaknesses in the industry to allow park operators to recognise the successful implementation of investment and focus on where to make improvements in the future.
The findings were:
• resilience and adaptability
• attractive natural environment across the UK – great outdoors, freedom
• multi-generational, family-oriented nature of the offering
• quality and variation of offering – on-site and off-site facilities
• welcoming and trusted – loyal customer base, family and pet friendly
• good value for money
• demographics – public perception, ageing tourism cohort
• towing ability – electric vehicles and driver licence restrictions
• digital connectivity variation
• variation in quality of accommodation
• difficulties in accessing finance/ lack of investment
• planning issues – reducing ability to expand to align to growth in visitor numbers
• innovation – electric cars, co-operative branding, short breaks, experience holidays
• wellbeing tourism – meeting people, connecting to outdoors, mental and physical benefits
• attracting younger generation through product offering e.g. glamping and quality accommodation
• working collaboratively with local communities
• Brexit and uncertainty around this
• tourers – lack of product development
• connectivity and lack of broadband infrastructure
• restrictive legislation
• competitor sectors growing e.g. Airbnb and hotels
• weather and impact of seasonality
An encouraging future for holiday park industry
The findings of the survey are encouraging and also detailed the number of holiday parks and campsite in the UK that are UKCCA members – as of summer 2018 this number was 6,243.
And more good news is that park operators are staying in business – the report said: “The majority of holiday park/campsite operators have owned/operated their parks for over 10 years and many have done so for over 25 years. Park occupancy rates vary from an average of 70% in high season (August) and 54% in mid season (September).”
The success of holiday parks is encouraging and, with parks spending an estimated £600m on their operation, it’s clear that the economic benefit of the camping and caravanning industry is a significant one.
To read the full report, see www.ukcca.org.uk
A park operator’s view
We spoke to the team at Away Resorts, a private equity-backed UK holiday park operator which was founded in 2008 by third-generation holiday park entrepreneur Carl Castledine. Carl’s grandfather opened the first holiday camp in Britain, at Caister in Norfolk, in 1905. Away Resorts now owns six parks across England.
Visitors stay longer in holiday parks than on other breaks (eg B&Bs). How do parks increase staying time?
Creating accommodation that is like a home-from-home for guests is key to encouraging guests to stay longer at parks, which we at Away Resorts have been leading on for the last 10 years with extensive investment across all of our parks in luxury and unique holiday homes.
Also investing in facilities – indoor and outdoor pools, spas, bars, restaurants, outdoor cinemas and indoor play areas – and activities that are all-year-round and that engage guests of all ages is key. During the peak holiday season, we have programmes of activities at all of our parks that appeal to families, such as arts and crafts, zorbing, archery, combat, paddle-boarding, cable wakeboarding wildlife encounters, water parks. But in the shoulders seasons, we target our activities at the adults-only market, with programmes that focus on health and wellbeing, yoga, meditation, wildlife walks, bike rides and cheese and wine tasting evenings.
The environmental and health & wellbeing aspects of holiday parks are important – what are the most popular facilities of this type, in your opinion?
Our spas at Tattershall Lakes (pictured) and Sandy Balls are extremely in demand, and our programme of outdoor activities at Sandy Balls, which includes walks with alpacas, horse-riding, archery, forest caching, pond dipping; woodland survival; alpaca walks and forest walks are very popular. At Tattershall Lakes, our guests have the opportunity to try paddleboarding, cable wakeboarding, waterskiing and jetskiing as well as navigating their way around our water park. All of these outdoor activities are increasingly popular as parents look to encourage their children to cut down on their screen time.
What improvements are planned in your business for 2019 and beyond?
We are constantly innovating, investing in accommodation and new activities at our parks. The biggest investments this year are facilities and a brand-new development at Sandy Balls. Last year, we agreed a deal with the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to show live outdoor opera and ballet broadcasts at our parks, and it proved so popular with our guests, we are doing it again this year.
How has the Brexit debate affected your business?
We have found that the uncertainty around Brexit does seem to have led to Britons deciding to stay UK this year, and we are indeed seeing this reflected in bookings.