Center Parcs


Center Parcs

Center Parcs [The spelling "Center Parcs", the official name, is incorrect in every language. In British English, spelling rules prescribe "Centre Parks", in American English "Center Parks" (see spelling differences), and in French "Centre Parcs".] is a European network of holiday villages incorporating a UK based company which runs holiday villages in Britain and a sister enterprise that operates in numerous locations in continental Europe.

Background

A Dutch entrepreneur of Jewish descent, Piet Derksen started a sporting goods store in 1953 at the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam. The name of the outfit was 'Sporthuis Centrum', literally 'House of Sports - Centre'. The concept was successful, and Derksen expanded into 17 outfits all over the Netherlands. Derksen also decided to add camping articles to the existing range of sporting goods.

In 1968, Piet Derkensem purchased a plot of woodland near Reuver, to allow staff and customers to relax in small tents. The park, named De Lommerbergen was successful, with the tents quickly being replaced by bungalows.

Over the years, the concept expanded greatly, and now has 20 resorts in The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany and England.

Accommodation in "Center Parcs" is provided in the form of villas or bungalows. These are compact buildings, clustered together in a park and being surrounded by trees and bushes. An exception to this is Park Zandvoort, being set amongst sand dunes. Certain resorts also provide hotel rooms.

The facilities available at "Center Parcs" vary depending on resort. All locations offer a Subtropical Swimming Pool. A range of sporting activities is available for guests, along with various restaurants. Other activities include spas, saunas, massages and other facilities.

Facilities

Most Center Parcs are based around a large pool, usually known as the Subtropical Swimming Paradise - in some Parcs this features an outdoor pool, river rapids, a "slow river", slides and flumes, a children's pool area, as well as a poolside food venue.

Each centre has several eateries, restaurants and bars, as well as many other sports facilities often in the same building as the main pool. Boating and water sports are available on the lakes usually found alongside the centre and 'holiday village'.

UK ownership

In 2001 during a move to concentrate on their core brewing business, Scottish and Newcastle sold the UK side of "Center Parcs" to venture capitalists. It was announced on 4 December 2003 that the then owners, Mid Ocean, would sell the UK resorts to Arbor for £285 million. Arbor was a company set up specifically to purchase "Center Parcs", and float it on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market.

In May 2006 Center Parcs UK Group PLC was sold to The Blackstone Group, an American private investment company. Subsequently Center Parcs was delisted as a PLC and re-registered as a private company, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group.

During the sale, future growth of "Center Parcs" was hinted at by the Chief Executive, Martin Dalby. He said that the company might add a fifth village at some time in the future, but was also looking towards organic growth through investment in new facilities at the existing villages. Late in 2004 it was announced that the fifth village would be built near Woburn in Bedfordshire. Planning permission was initially turned down, however Center Parcs won permission at appeal. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/6981314.stm BBC article from September 2007 detailing the granting of planning permission] ] Following the sale to The Blackstone Group, focus was shifted from growth, to investment in the existing villages.

Corporate ownership

CenterParcs Europe is owned by a French company called Pierre et Vacances [http://www.pierre-et-vacances.co.uk/] . Centerparcs Europe [http://www.centerparcs.com] and Centerparcs UK only share history, name and logo.

In 2003 Scottish & Newcastle sold the European branch of CenterParcs to a joint venture of Pierre et Vacances (P&V) and DBCP, a German investment group. This joint venture was given the name: CenterParcs Europe (CPE). P&V at that time already owned Europe's largest (in terms of bed-count) bungalow-vacation-supplier; Gran Dorado Resorts, a Dutch-based former joint venture of Vendex [http://www.maxeda.com] , Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds, GAK and Philips Rentefonds. P&V brought in Gran Dorado in the joint venture thus creating a company of monstrous proportions. The following problem arises: CPE is seated in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and the Dutch and European Commercial Competition Authority [http://europa.eu] do not approve of combining Gran Dorado and CenterParcs. This company would almost control the entire European market. To ensure that the merging could take place, the authority demanded a lower bed-count. This resulted in the sale of all but six Gran Dorado Resorts to Dutch Landal GreenParks [http://www.landal.nl] . The remaining six parcs are added to the CenterParcs portfolio. These parcs are: Loohorst (NL), Port Zelande (NL), Zandvoort (NL), Weerterbergen (NL), Hochsauerland (D) and Heilbachsee (D).

After the sale, the Gran Dorado flag still waved at all Gran Dorado Resorts. This remained so until January 1, 2003. By this date, all sold parks were rebranded "Landal" and five of the six remaining parks were rebranded "Sea Spirit from Center Parcs" or "Free Life from Center Parcs." All original Center Parcs resorts in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany were sub-branded "CP Original". The "Weerterbergen"-Resort was sold to "Roompot" [http://www.roompot.nl] in 2002 somewhat at the last moment, because the costs of bringing up this Resort to the new Center Parcs standards would be higher than CPE was willing to invest. Per January 1, 2003, Gran Dorado Resorts-Brand was no longer used. Surveys showed that the general public thought Center Parcs was a stronger brand than Gran Dorado. CPE wanted to use only one brand for all parks eventually. Seen in this light, choosing for the sub-brands "Original", "Free Life" and "Sea Spirit" was somewhat strange.

In 2003, Deutsche Bank Capital Partners (DBCP) was bought out of the joint venture by its partner, Pierre & Vacances. The French are now the sole owners of Center Parcs Europe.

The strange sub-branding ended again in 2006 with yet another rebranding. From the 2006 season on, all resorts are branded "Center Parcs". Differences between resorts are now shown in "birds" (similar to the bird in the logo). The more birds, the more facilities guests can expect. Three birds for small resorts, five for large and full-options resorts. At the start of the 2007 season, another amendment was made. The "Bird scale" now only consisted of 4 or 5 birds. Needless to say: this change in rating did not affect any resort facility. Three bird resorts were simply called 4 bird resorts from 2007 on.The strange urge to sub-brand shows its ugly head again: Resorts are now divided in four categories: Active, Premium, Family and EasyGo.

New UK site

In December 2004, Center Parcs announced that it had identified a location for a fifth UK site, at Warren Wood near Woburn, Bedfordshire. It would be seeking planning permission and had already completed the signing of a lease on the land from its owner, the Duke of Bedford. The project was expected to cost approximately £160 million, including the construction of accommodation, indoor and outdoor facilities, sub-tropical swimming complex, restaurants and a spa. It is anticipated that, given planning permission, the project would take between three and four years to complete.

Planning permission was granted on 5 September 2007 for this new village to be built although the predicted price has risen to £230 million. Construction is due to commence in early 2009 and the village scheduled to open by the end of 2010.

All resorts

Center Parcs consists of the following 21 resorts.

* In case of the former Gran Dorado Resorts, the 2002 "Added to portfolio"-date stands for the year these resorts were brought into the joint venture. These resorts were not branded Center Parcs until 2003.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.centerparcs.co.uk/ Center Parcs UK official website]
* [http://www.centerparcs.com/ Center Parcs Europe official website]
* [http://www.aquasana.co.uk/ Aqua Sana] , the self-contained spa at Center Parcs


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