Tourism firms investing in facilities 'reap the rewards'

Andrew Hird at Woodland Holiday Park in Trimingham

Andrew Hird, general manager of Woodland Holiday Park in Trimingham, which is owned by the Harrison family - Credit: Steve Adams

Home-grown tourism is reaping the rewards of heavy investment even through the pandemic, says a Norfolk holiday park boss.

Andrew Hird, park general manager at Woodland Holiday Park at Trimingham, said investment at the park he runs is paying off.

Woodland – which has a workforce of 44 and a turnover of about £5m – has just invested half a million pounds in its cyber network so guests can enjoy good internet access in their luxury holiday homes on 387-unit site. It had only just completed a £1.5m investment in its leisure centre when lockdown was announced in March 2020.

“We are not alone in that. A lot of people have invested a lot of money on the understanding the bar has been raised and therefore you have got to compete. Attractions have done the same thing,” he said.

He pointed to surveys suggesting customers won during the period of heavy restrictions will return in numbers.

“I think that’s a positive endorsement and a feather in the cap of the tourism industry in the UK that’s invested heavily in  spite of the pandemic,” he said. “We are very confident it is not a temporary blip – since the recession of 2009 we have seen growth in England.

“I think that’s because the quality has now been  brought up to the highest levels and therefore people are enjoying that holiday at home.”

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The park spent a lot of time talking to customers to gauge their expectations. Featuring “very, very high” on the list was connectivity.

“I think all parks recognise we are in the middle of a staycation boom and the challenge will be how you retain that two or three years down the line,” he said.

Location is top of visitors’ lists of priorities, followed by accommodation then price, he added. 

The business continues to grow at a rate of about 7 to 10% year on year – funded partly by those wanting to buy holiday homes.

The trade in this had been “massive”, he said. With the lack of return on savings, people were looking to invest their money in other things, such as holiday homes, he said.

“Those kind of things – the lack of return on savings – is part of it,” he said.

Many in the industry had struggled, but the farming family which owned the park – directors Christopher, James and Sarah Harrison – have been “constantly investing”, he pointed out. “Credit has to go to them,” he said.

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