Center Parcs is not just a well marketed holiday destination, its a social experiment
A group of us from Uni try and get together every year for a weekend away catching up. This time, for reasons of geography and ease of organisation, we ended up at Center Parcs.
It’s a completely fascinating place and a bit of a Planner’s dream in terms of observation opportunities. The recipe for creating a Center Parcs seems to be:
1) Take all the rose-tinted best bits that parents will remember from family holidays as kids in the 1970s – self catering, pony rides, bicycles, swimming, boating on the lake, ice creams, feeding the ducks…and add in some adrenalin sports and reassuringly familiar branded dining opportunities.
2) Provide a wide price range of accommodation and some seriously marked up activities (thirty odd quid for a pony ride, anyone?) that allow the Range Rover drivers to push the boat out on extras and the supermini families to have a cheap break with lots of cycling and thrown-in-gratis swimming
3) Build an enormous greenhouse with a zonking great pool in and heat to 80 degrees so that everyone can pretend they’re actually on holiday at a massive hotel in the Med and indulge in the traditional sunshine activities of putting towels on sunbeds and drinking lager out of plastic cups
4) Don’t allow anything to be charged to the villas/lodges/chalets, but do track and allocate to a lodge everything spent on site in order to (I imagine) create a big-brother style CRM strategy that incorporates on-site spend into customer value models
5) Create a complex one way private road system complete with roundabouts, pedestrian crossings etc…and see it ignored by anyone on a bicycle as half of the bike riders are children and therefore not familiar with the Highway Code and the other half haven’t been on a bike in ten years and are too busy concentrating on not falling off
6) Put on a ‘disco spectacular’ type stage show that allows ample opportunities for Dad Dancing. Encourage other popular Dad Activities such as Lighting The Barbeque, Packing The Car and Reading The (Centre Parcs onsite) Map.
7) Engender a British Dunkirk Spirit type mentality among guests that results in barbequing in the snow and pedaloing in a monsoon. Ensure that the most frequently repeated word by guests is ‘lovely’.
Even though it snowed and hailed and rained, we really did have a lovely time. We even managed to track down the other twenty or so thirty-somethings there (two bunches of Hens and a Stag do) to the only bar at closing time. Honestly, if you ever want to observe the Great British Public in full pelt, get down to Center Parcs and get peddling.