North Norfolk caravan parks boosted by investment pledge

Kelling Heath operations manager, Mark Durrant.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Kelling Heath operations manager, Mark Durrant.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Bosses of a popular North Norfolk holiday park are embarking on a major £500,000 investment programme in a move to boost the tourism and extend the visiting season.

Blue Sky Leisure, part of a group of businesses which also includes the Zaks restaurant chain, is to install 19 new luxury caravans during a major revamp of its holiday parks.

The firm has spent £400,000 on 12 new caravans for its Kelling Heath site, near Holt, and a further seven for Woodhill Park in East Runton where the park shop and reception area have also undergone an £85,000 refurbishment.

The move is set to spark a change in the culture of the business by allowing it to employ many of its part-time staff on a full-time basis and extend its holiday season.

And it comes as one tourism expert noted a continuing trend of Norfolk holiday businesses investing in upgrading their facilities, adding that the county's dry weather was actually helping to boost trade.

Meanwhile, another holiday-park operator, Parkdean, said it had seen a 20pc surge in bookings for August at its parks across the country – including the Great Yarmouth Cherry Tree holiday park.

Blue Sky Leisure owner, Michael Timewell, said the investment comes after seeing bookings grow year-on-year at both parks.

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'We are proud of our history of continual investment in our parks, and as a result supporting Norfolk's tourism industry, and we want to continue our support into the future,' he said.

'Our ongoing investment in quality accommodation is just one of the factors in helping extend the season at the parks, particularly at Kelling Heath, which is now open from mid-February to the New Year. This has enabled us to retain many of our staff on a full-time basis, moving away from seasonal to more permanent employees.

Mark Durrant, operations manager at Kelling Heath, said: 'As a company we invest heavily in staff training, so it is pleasing that we can benefit from this investment in our people by their retention. We currently have 66 full-time equivalent roles at the two parks.'

Chris Scargill, tourism leisure partner at Larking Gowen, said: 'Last year, one in four business in the East, or 30pc, said they would spend money enhancing their business.

'And that trend will continue because the offering in Norfolk is quite strong, and we are still seeing benefits from the staycation phenomenon.

'One of the things that Blue Sky Leisure benefit from is that they have people who are willing to travel there – a number of which are only an hour, or half-an-hour, away from the North Norfolk coast.

'This 'stay-local' factor (where people holiday close to where they live) is still pretty strong at the moment.

He added: 'In North Norfolk, we benefit from drier weather compared to the rest of the country, and people are slowly realising this, which is why Norfolk is benefiting while other places are not.'

In its last published accounts, Timewell Properties – the registered name of Blue Sky Leisure – saw its turnover rise from just under £8.3m in 2011 to just over £9m last year, with directors noting that the business was 'well placed' to take advantage of strategic opportunities for growth.