/ Travel & Leisure

Where’s the love for holiday parks?

Butlin's Bognor Regis resort

Are holiday parks, like Center Parcs and Butlin’s, up to scratch? Which? Travel research found holidaymakers aren’t too enamoured with them, so what is it that holiday parks are failing to deliver?

The brochures all show big smiling faces and everyone I have ever spoken to about a visit to a holiday park has raved about their trip.

Admittedly, the accommodation might generate a few grumbles, but the chance to spend time outdoors and explore Britain’s countryside, splash about in a pool and enjoy the evenings with or without entertainment, has generally made people very happy.

Low customer satisfaction

Perhaps I’ve been speaking to the wrong people, as our recent survey put the overall score for UK holiday parks at just 60%. This figure combines overall customer satisfaction with the likelihood that they’d recommend the holiday park to a friend.

Compared to the customer scores of comparable travel services, such as stays at UK hotel chains (64%) and holidays booked by travel companies (70%), this seems quite low.

Now I recognise that staying in a holiday park isn’t always cheap, especially for those who need to pay the heavily inflated school holiday prices (£1,458 for a week at Center Parcs in August, compared to £688 in September). But as this is often the case for other travel services, I still wonder why holiday parks don’t score as well. Surely everyone couldn’t have had bad weather?

In hindsight

We know from our own research that people are more likely to score a visitor attraction higher if they’ve visited it recently. Perhaps those staying at holiday parks rated their experience lower because they’d had time to reflect on their visit.

However, given the fact that we use the same methodology to survey other travel services, again, the results should be comparable. We still haven’t got to the bottom of why holiday parks have such a low customer score.

What is it about UK holiday parks that aren’t meeting the expectations of UK holidaymakers? Maybe it’s just because they’re situated in the UK…

Vicky Jennings says:
27 June 2011

I was surprised that Butlins only got a 48% satisfaction score. I took my 3 great-nephews to Butlins at Skegness for a Monday to Friday school holiday break (30/5 to 3/6) this year. It cost £665 but that included breakfast and dinner for 2 adults (one aged 15) and 2 children, a silver apartment (2 bedrooms and living and kitchen area) and insurance. The apartment was spotless and the site and beach always kept free from litter. The staff were unfailingly pleasant and helpful (they lent us a mobile phone charger free as they weren’t available at the hire shop). MY 13 and 15 year olds, watching the redcoats with young children, said ‘ They must get paid a lot for that’!

My only reservation is that I’ve never been able to go on fairground rides and the 7 year old was just under the height to go on lots of the free rides without an adult. On the one hand I appreciate that Butlins are being very careful of children, on the other I think if I had to pay for his 15 year old brother as an adult he should be treated as an adult in this respect and allowed to take his brother on rides. I ended up having to pay quite a lot for bouncy castles, etc so the 7 year old wouldn’t feel left out.

I did write to Butlins when I got home and immediately received a very nice reply but one I didn’t feel was very satisfactory. It didn’t even say what age was considered ‘adult’ in terms of someone being able to take a child on the amusements.

In spite of that reservation I am very surprised that Butlins only had a 48% satisfaction score.

Fat Sam, Glos says:
28 June 2011

My question is this: why would I want to spend £700+ for a week’s holiday in a basic chalet on a site shared with hundreds of other people when I can get a luxury gite with a private pool in rustic, rural France for £550 in the height of summer and almost certainly guaranteed sunshine, fantastic food and amazing scenery?

British holiday resorts and cottages are a total rip-off and altogether on another planet. But they can keep their crowds and Big Macs 🙂

Do you include travel costs and time with that Fat Sam?

I personally think that the kids prefer places like Butlins/Centre Parcs because there is much more for them to do than in rural France. What your post says to me is that for a holiday that you personally enjoy, you cannot beat France and I don’t disagree with that.

If you’re taking the kids to France though, everything has to be provided by yourself. At a holiday park, you can pack the kids off and go and do what you want. The kids love it and you get some peace.

Isn’t that what a holiday is for?

who mentioned anything about kids?

And Eurotunnel is free courtesy of Tesco Rewards.

and the French motorways (even with tolls) are a breeze compared to ours. It’s worth the extra effort. The first year we drove round France we hit Paris at 5am on a Sunday morning in summer. It was like we had it to ourselves. Nobody at the Eiffel Tower, nobody at Sacre Couer and I even managed a few laps of the Arc de Triomphe!

By 8 we were on the (mainly toll-free) motorway heading for Millau. Bliss.

Well the question is “Where’s the love for holiday parks?”, my response implies that holiday parks would be good for kids, whereas adults prefer something a little more….. classy?

Interesting that you mention the french motorways, don’t you have to use the english motorways to get to the french ones? And is a 7 – 10 hour (maybe more) drive at the beginning and end of your holiday really something that you would enjoy?

Personally I love a good drive, I recently did a full european road trip after a day at the Nuerburgring, but spending the majority of the week in a car, is not really my idea of a summer holiday.

Fat Sam, Glos says:
29 June 2011

That all rather depends on what kind of car you drive. The first two road trips were in a MINI – very romantic and cosy and incredible fun on the Riviera and in the Pyrennean mountain passes. This year’s will be done in a much, much larger beast. I love driving so I don’t mind.

Like I said, each to their own, but the research concludes that most of us aren’t that enamoured with UK holiday parks. There are probably a number of good reasons for that, of which I’ve probably only highlighted a few.

Ouch, my back would be ruined if I travelled that far in a Mini. Unless it was a new one of course.

We’ve come to conclusion that even though we would prefer a holiday to a villa or a hotel somewhere by the sea in France, the kids actually love going to a holiday park more than anything. We go to Welcome Family in the Dawlish Warren in Devon and when we suggested going somewhere else the kids were horrified! It has everything you could want and is a lot cheaper than Centre Parks.

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