5 Lessons to be Learnt from the Center Parcs Model
Centre Parcs has mastered the art of self-catering en-masse for all ages, and over recent years has become the face of UK staycations.
Even though they operate to a much larger scale, we believe there are some valuable lessons which can be applied to much smaller venues, or even single properties, to encourage bookings and welcome new guests.
1. The design of your property
Centre Parcs embrace their surroundings. Set in the middle of the forest, their wooden lodges feel just at home. They even bring the outdoors into the interior with forest wallpaper and rustic accessories to match.
Wherever you are, making that your theme will create a unique experience for your guests. For example, if you’re close to the beach then create a ‘Beach House’, if you’re in the city think super-slick and contemporary, or if you’re in the countryside it’s all about cosy cottages.
Carry your theme inside your property to attract interest and make a lasting impression.
2. Plenty of things to do
The beauty of Centre Parcs is knowing that there will be plenty of activities to keep all ages entertained, come rain or shine. Whilst most smaller venues won’t have such extensive facilities on-site, you can collate a selection of local ‘things to do’ to encourage bookings. This is a case of playing to your strengths and embracing your surroundings. You know your locations well and can make really valuable recommendations to your guests of the best things to see and do. If you promote this ahead of their stay it will make their decision to book with you an even easier one.
For example, the food and drink on your doorstep is something to consider. You can save the holiday maker some valuable research time (and possibly money) if you can offer good personal recommendations of nice places to eat nearby. People love hearing about little known gems by word of mouth. If the local restaurants are good it can persuade people to stay somewhere. But if guests aren’t interested in fine dining and cuisine, local quality beer and pub grub can usually swing it.
Back at your property… if your property has a garden, providing decent patio furniture and BBQ equipment is a must. Even if it's unlikely the weather will be good, people love the idea of a BBQ! Similarly, offering outdoor garden games is a good idea and perhaps even offer bikes for hire. These could earn a reasonable amount of extra revenue.
3. Ease of transport
Centre Parcs sites are dotted around the country in central and accessible locations. For those not travelling by car they even provide shuttles from local train and bus stations making your arrival a seamless one.
For many people researching potential holiday lets, the location and ease of travel is a key factor. Do you promote this clearly enough on your website? If your venue isn’t the easiest to find why not promote local travel information on your website too, or even form partnerships with local transport businesses to provide transfers to and from your site?
4. Food and drink outlets on the doorstep
You’ll notice by now that the Centre Parcs model is structured upon ease! There’s no reason why you can reflect this in the way you promote your property.
Do you have a nearby restaurant than you can recommend, or perhaps a lovely cosy pub around the corner? How about a local café for breakfast? Even a tasty takeaway perhaps, and not forgetting a handy supermarket?
People just want to know how easy your self-catering property will be during their stay, they are on holiday after all!
5. know your audience
Understand who your audience is and clearly target to those people. Ask yourself – who will enjoy our venue the most?
Unless you’re working with a site the size of Centre Parcs then you can always be everything to everyone.
If you position yourself as a hen and stag venue then you can’t necessarily expect to appeal to families too. If you see the value in targeting an older audience demographic then promoting group birthday bookings may prove difficult.
Address the lessons above and you will be left with a defined marketing strategy; embracing your location, the local ‘things to do’ and local eateries will allow you to naturally define your audience and in turn the best way for you to sell your property will be clear.
Fewer guests on-site means less queuing, less waiting, less chaos! People want to avoid this on their holidays so make sure you really emphasise this message.
Although this isn’t guaranteed anywhere, it’s certainly less likely on smaller sites. Is a quiet, family friendly site your USP?
Or perhaps you’d like to promote that noise is welcome and attract the stag/hen/birthday parties? That’s fine too, just decide which stance you’re going to take and promote that message clearly.