Hoburne Holiday Parks, 116th on the Solent 250 list, celebrates its centenary this year.
Past meets present with pride at Highcliffe-based Hoburne Holiday Parks. Celebrating 100 years on May 7, a book is being published titled ’100 Years of Happy Holidays’, which looks at the history of Hoburne alongside that of the much-loved caravan and family holiday, enjoying a renaissance in the ’staycation’ age.
There are seven Hoburne Holiday Parks across Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset, Devon, the Cotswolds and Cornwall, enjoying excellent business prospects in the current climate, because, as chairman Rosie Kennar explained: “We’re very lucky in our industry. We are at the top end of the value market. With general economic concerns and eurozone pricing, people are turning to our sort of holiday. There is nostalgia for simple holidays and things remembered from childhood – sandcastles don’t cost.“
With an enviable 70% repeat or recommended business and scoring a 94% customer satisfaction rating, holiday bookings are up a further 11% on 2011. Income is derived from holiday lettings and the sale of holiday homes, which can be sublet to help cover running costs, plus low season activities. Managing director James Lapage said: “Five of the parks have major clubhouse operations, so winter activities ensure year-round employment, but in the peak season we employ 500-600 staff.“
This type of holiday appeals at different family life stages. Adults with young children are an obvious market – also grandparents, who enjoy the traditional experience, excellent locations and enough activities to keep even the most demanding youngsters occupied. Hoburne has worked incredibly hard to develop long-term relationships with customers, and different generations grow up and return.
If a chief obstacle to growth in 2012 could be identified, it is one that has affected many sectors – a lack of customers’ disposable income. “There’s an element of uncertainty over jobs, therefore three years ago, we saw more sales through upgrading caravans, whereas people are now delaying that decision,“ continued Kennar. Within the sector, she is optimistic, but says an increase in red tape which puts pressure on the business, while Lapage identifies a rise in utility costs, which have to be passed on to the end user at some point: “We can’t do much about it.“
“In some ways I’m quite surprised that the caravan holiday has lasted into the 21st century,“ continued Kennar, “but manufacturers have really moved on with what a caravan now is, while The Caravan Club and whole festival scene has made caravanning cool again.“
Hoburne Holiday Parks is not looking at acquisitions to add to its portfolio, because of current inflated land pricing, but is upgrading existing sites, promoting quieter periods and opening a new customer service centre. At Hoburne Naish, new lodges have been added, the most expensive hiring for £1,800 per week in peak season. With verandahs and spacious accommodation, these offer home-from-home comfort, fully-equipped kitchens, dishwashers, washing machines, Sky TV and DVD players. With no borrowings, Lapage is planning a relatively quiet winter without any major construction: “It’s a time of consolidation, because to maintain standards is a fine balance.“
Some competitors offer last-minute discounts, but Hoburne Holiday Parks discounts for loyal customers. “We have a different approach to the family holiday; it’s something old-fashioned and traditional and we work to create a long-term relationship. That goes for staff too, many have worked for us for years,“ adds Kennar.
“Working for the type of business is a way of life,“ adds Kennar, herself fourth generation. Hoburne Holiday Parks has limited sales bonuses, but offers a final salary pension scheme, by invitation only. Fresh management faces have kept the business up to speed and been involved in new initiatives. Planning is the one regulatory issue which holds back business, because of frequently conflicting regulations which do not always make sense for a business owning holiday parks.
Having never supported a central charity, but different ones across the parks, Hoburne’s centenary has all seven parks determined to raise £100,000 for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent. Lapage is undertaking a 350- mile cycle ride around all the sites, while Kennar, a marketing expert who is very much the ’face of the company’, intends to join him for the final leg.
Asked if there is a key message for the Government that would help business, Lapage said: “We’re in a business which is not really on the government’s radar. We don’t fit in with a lot of legislation, so there is much I’d like to see reviewed.“
Kennar concluded: “Please spend our money wisely. We’re very proud to be in this position, at the top of our game, in wonderful locations.”
The book ’100 Years of Happy Holidays’ is available from Hoburne Holiday Parks for £12.99. Order at www.hoburne.com or call 0844-288-2012.