Center Parcs boss celebrates opening of new holiday village in Woburn and ponders a move to Ireland

The new holiday village in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, Photo credit should read: Center Parcs/PA Wire The new holiday village in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, Photo credit should read: Center Parcs/PA Wire

Friday, June 6, 2014
12:53 PM

Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby revealed that the business has looked at the potential of opening a holiday village in Ireland after concluding there is no more room to expand in the UK following the opening of its latest venture at Woburn.

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Martin Dalby, chief executive of Center ParcsMartin Dalby, chief executive of Center Parcs

Today sees the opening of the fifth Center Parcs holiday village in the UK - in Bedfordshire - and the arrival of its first paying guests in a move likely to inject more than £20m a year into the local economy.

The new £250m Center Parcs in Woburn Forest will cater for around 350,000 guests a year.

Close to the M1 and also a major rail link to London, Mr Dalby said the aim is to appeal to travellers from London and the South East, however, the business is not looking to attract overseas visitors to the new village, but was focussing on the domestic market.

Other Center Parc sites include Elvedon in Suffolk, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.

And Mr Dalby said while the focus was on getting Woburn up and running, the business had pondered opening a sixth holiday village in Ireland.

“This is very much a domestic short break business,” he said. “We have no plans to take this product out of the UK. We think there is sufficient demand within the UK to fill all five parks.

“In terms of the future we do not believe there is a sixth [Center Parc] in the UK. We have got all of the UK covered.

“We are interested potentially in Ireland and we have looked at that market. For the time being it is all about this place.”

The new village boasts a subtropical swimming area, 625 lodges, a 75-bedroom hotel and restaurants, shops and leisure facilities.

Center Parcs’ owners, asset management firm Blackstone, has invested £100 million in the Bedfordshire village, with the rest of the money coming from four banks - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS.

He added: “After years of hard work, dedication and passion, we’re thrilled to be welcoming our first guests to Woburn Forest today and strongly believe the new village has all the ingredients for a very special family break.

“Woburn Forest, set in the undulating woodland of Bedfordshire, opens up the Center Parcs experience to more people in London and south east England.”

He went on: “It will provide a massive boost to the area, injecting approximately £20m per annum into the local and regional economy.

“In addition to the 1,200 people employed in the construction of Woburn Forest, we have recruited and trained 1,500 employees, 40% of whom are within the 16-24 age range and 90% live within 15 miles. These are local jobs for young local people.”

Last year Center Parcs welcomed 1.7 million guests to its four existing facilities. The first to open in the UK was Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire in 1987.

Elveden Forest, near Brandon in Suffolk opened in 1989, with Longleat Forest near Warminster in Wiltshire starting in 1994.

The fourth centre near Penrith in Cumbria, now known as Whinfell Forest, was taken over by Center Parcs in 2001.

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