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camping uk

Glamping and the staycation: how austerity is changing the British holiday park

It's all about offering value to cash-strapped customers, says Victoria Brannen of Maya Asset Management.

Interview with...

Victorian Brannen, co-founder of Maya Asset Management, 

Topics covered:

Rise of eco-holidays and short breaks; how austerity means holiday parks are recalibrating their approach

Expertise:

Primarily in strategic planning and marketing strategy integrationLocation: Hertfordshire 

CV:

10 years working with global brands such as Toyota and Copthorne Hotels in financial services, automotive and hotel sectors at a senior level.

What are the important trends in this market?

VB: There's an eco-trend, where you have the rise in tipis, yurts, pods... the whole 'glamping' experience. You have the mainstay holidaymakers who like to go to static caravan parks, and then your diehard campers who want to pitch up their tent.

All of them want good value, good customer service, good amenities and to be able to book easily. 

There's been a rise in short breaks, unlike in the 50s when everyone went away for two weeks. Those people still exist, but to dispel the stigma that has surrounded UK holidays you need to be more in tune with today's customer, who maybe wants something a bit more upmarket or even completely different.

'Wild' camping, for example. There's nothing high end about it, but it's a very different experience, not what you'd usually associate with conventional UK holiday parks. And that's what we've got to try and achieve: a different experience.

In what ways has the economic turmoil since 2007 affected the sector?

VB: I think it's having a big effect. Everyone needs value for money now. 

You read the papers and it's not like it's really bad now but it's going to get better in six months' time - they're actually saying next year could be worse. With no light at the end of the tunnel and so much uncertainty, people are thinking hard about how they're spending. 

However, some areas are less affected and the UK holiday option does seem more attractive. People are looking at Europe less because of the exchange rate. 

But that said, they don't want to necessarily want to pay full rate; the want a discounted holiday. The market is all about the number of bodies on the park to make the economics work. 

There's a culture of booking last minute to get the best deals. We're attuned to that, but the issue then is how much disposable income they have once on your site. 

It's OK to give it away with one hand so long as you take something back with the other. The challenge now is knowing which promotions to run to attract people with money to spend when they arrive. 

The Havens and Bourne Leisures of the world that year on year have invested millions are distorting. And we're not talking about swimming pools - we're talking about 'Waterworlds'. 

Their repeat customer base is probably really strong, which probably puts them in a far stronger position. They can discount heavily because they're in a mass volume game. 

In the mid tier you don't quite have the numbers to be able to afford to give things away if you can't be certain of capturing the spend elsewhere.

Next year could be more difficult, so your customer service has to excellent and you've got to give value for money so people come back again. It's almost like defending the business's position rather than rapidly growing it.

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Adam Bannister

About the author

Adam Bannister writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including BusinessesForSale.com, FranchiseSales.com and PropertySales.com as well as other industry publications.

@Be_TheBoss

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