Holiday Park Industry Update 2023

Facing up to some of the scrutiny surrounding holiday parks
Pritchard Leisure five-star experiences

We’re confident nobody needs much reminding, of how we arrived at this point in time. The past few years have certainly shaken up our lives and changed the way we think.

There’s no denying that our horizon still remains clouded in uncertainty, but to avoid another doom & gloom bulletin, we’ll simply try to provide an honest review of the current situation, and some suggestions for how to navigate what we believe lies ahead.

So, whether you’re considering purchasing a holiday static caravan or lodge or you already own one, we hope you find the following article useful.

Madryn Castle Five-Star Holiday Park on the Llŷn Peninsula

 

Over the past few years many independently-owned parks have been swallowed up by the big park-groups that now dominate the UK Holiday Park landscape. This ‘franchising’ has lead to many holiday parks losing their unique charm and personable customer service.

Some of you may enjoy the potential benefits of group-branded holiday parks, such as consistent and familiar branding, developments and improvements to facilities, or the appearance of a more professional operation.

But particularly over the past few years, it is these same big-brand groups that have attracted much of the negativity surrounding our industry.  

Questioned on popular media channels by reporters such as BBC & Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine & Martin Lewis the ‘Money Saving Expert’, angry customers have taken to airing their concerns on unfair contract terms, unethical pitch fee increases, poor customer service, and questionable sales tactics that focus on short term gains, over building long term relationships with customers.

Many of these issues stem from customers feeling insignificant and undervalued, as a result of being taken over by large corporate brands with many thousands of customers, who simply do not have time for the individual, and prioritise profits over people, quantity over quality.

Many loyal customers who’ve holidayed on parks for multiple generations, have lost the familiarity for the place they once called their home from home, and no longer have relationship with the people who manage it.

The quintessential British Holiday Park has changed, and British holidaymakers and holiday home owners are being forced to change too.

 

We live in a world of convenience, where supermarkets and giant online retailers like Amazon have stripped the livelihoods of our traditional butchers, bakers, cobblers and candlestick makers. But many promising campaigns have sought to redistribute purchasing parity, and raise awareness for shopping local and supporting small and independent businesses. 

Whilst we won’t deny that in many ways the behaviour of large group-owned parks has damaged our business, compounded further by the bullyish and short-sighted behaviour of large lodge & caravan manufacturers (read this article), we’re not here to tell our sob story.

We simply want to stand our ground and reassure holiday home owners that honest & responsible holiday parks who put their customers first do exist.

Sarnfaen Holiday Park, our Five-star Coastal Escape in Talybont, Barmouth

At recent trade shows, we’ve met many wonderful small and independent holiday park owners in similar positions to ours, who feel overshadowed by the negativity surrounding our industry.

One potential advantage for these small family-owned and operated business, is that we’re able to invest our time in getting to know each and every one of our holiday home owners by name, building strong relationships, sharing stories and memories over many years.

We also aren’t affected by large staff turnovers that result in poor customer service, instead we treat our loyal employees as an extension of our family, and support them to adopt our same values and ethos.

Colin Munnery (second from right) receiving long service award and recognition for 30 years employment at Madryn Castle. Photographed with wife Jill (far left) and park owner Caroline Gallimore (second from left) and Park Manager Samantha Gallimore (far right) at Madryn Castle’s Summer Party August 2023

We will often apply compassionate consideration and work together with owners who face adversity in their lives, helping them overcome hardships and continue use of their holiday homes without unnecessary hitches.

As we don’t have to adhere to stringent corporate targets, we’re able to better reward customer loyalty and leverage their satisfaction over longer-term periods, rather than pursue short term profit and gains.

For example, during the covid-19 lockdown periods we chose to compensate all our owners with partial refunds, and extended all benefits and tax reductions that were granted to us via governmental business support schemes, despite our own business losses and ongoing costs.

 

Recently, annual pitch fee reviews have come under scrutiny, with some holiday parks raising their annual fees disproportionately higher than inflation and the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

We’ve taken what we believe to be a long-term and sustainable approach to our pitch fee increases, benchmarking our increases against the CPI and using government VAT rebates to keep our fees low.

Despite experiencing significant operational cost increases, often far above the CPI, we feel we have some responsibility to share the financial challenges facing our customers and reward their loyalty during these periods of difficulty and recession.

 

Using the example of Madryn Castle, our award-winning Holiday Park on the Llŷn Peninsula – In the past five years we’ve increased our pitch fees by less than 10% cumulatively, from £3,632.40 in 2020 to £3971.08 for the upcoming 2024 season (prices include VAT at prevailing rates).

This is also despite significant investments and park improvements, such as a brand new children’s play park (2021), remodelling and resurfacing our multi-sports court (2021), increasing our sewage treatment capacity using the latest bio-tech innovation (2022), installing a dedicated high-speed fibre optic line (2021 – 2022), retarmacking large areas of our site (2022 – 2023), improving our entrance and access around our park (2023), adding brand new park signage (2021 – 2023), and redesigning our website and rebranding on social media (2022).

In comparison, some holiday parks have increased their pitch fees by 10% each of those 5 years, resulting in an almost 50% compound increase.

Outdoor children’s play area at Madryn Castle

 

We should note at this point that this article is a generalization – not all large group-owned parks will warrant these criticisms, and some smaller independent parks are just as bad.

As customers, you should conduct your own research and ask the important questions that will help you determine the values and ethos of any holiday parks you are vetting.

A holiday home is not a short-term commitment, so don’t just focus on short-term impacts such as the initial price tag.

Try to think about every aspect of your purchase as a long term investment. Ask holiday parks to provide you with their fees over longer-term periods (at least 3 – 5 years) to gauge average annual increases and determine whether you’ll still be able to afford their fees in 5 years’ time.

Ask them for justification where price increase have been significant and question whether you think that is fair, and whether you yourself would be prepared to pay such increases again in the future. 

During times such as these, of crises and hardships, businesses have an opportunity to demonstrate their true values and ethos. Before parting with your hard-earned cash, you should consider whether your own values align with those of the business you choose to support.

Don’t just assume that well-known and popular brands will guarantee a better experience and more credibility.

A simple Google search will provide enough evidence of the issues arising on holiday parks belonging to some of the biggest and most well-known brands in the country.

Smaller family-run parks can often provide a much more compassionate and dedicated experience.

If you’d like to discuss holiday home ownership at either of our family-owned and operated holiday parks, please get in touch. We are more than happy to chat through options and there are no obligations to purchase anything from us.

We don’t use pushy sales tactics for short-terms gains, and ultimately we are only looking to sell holiday homes to customers who will love their experience and enjoy use of their holiday home for many years to come.

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