Bright outlook for summer after busy Easter holiday bookings

Visitors packed onto Woolacombe Beach yesterday afternoon (Tues). Visitors packed onto Woolacombe Beach yesterday afternoon (Tues).

Monday, April 28, 2014
7:30 AM

Holiday parks across North Devon reported a slow start to the season but a sudden surge in bookings over Easter weekend.

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HOLIDAY parks in North Devon have reported a bright outlook for the summer season with some saying they have had the ‘best Easter ever’.

The warm weather, the later Easter date and a more positive economic outlook were just some of the reasons for the influx of bookings, according to local parks.

Kevin Darvill, sales and marketing director at Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks, said bookings had been up 12 per cent on last year and it was the best Easter yet.

“The rest of the season is looking generally pretty good,” he said.

“May half term has seen its rate of sale drop a little over the past few weeks, which is concerning because it is quite close now, but this is an effect of the later Easter bank holiday, perhaps with some guests bringing their holiday plans forward to Easter and some not thinking about May half term until after Easter has finished.

“June is currently 18 per cent up and the main summer school holidays are 28 per cent up on this time last year, although we were completely filled in summer last year so we’re just looking like we’ll sell out earlier.”

Europa Park in Woolacombe also had a rise in visitors – with 40 per cent more bookings over Easter than last year.

Emma Wallace, duty manager at Europa: “Our advance bookings are also looking good for this coming summer with us reporting over a 30 per cent increase on last year.

“We have also recognised a trend of more money being spent per person whilst at the park this weekend compared to previous years.”

The park was featured on a BBC3 series earlier this year and Emma said bookings, especially over weekends, had picked up since.

“It’s hard to know if this is because of the recent good weather which has coincided with the programme,” she added.

North Devon + reported a 20 per cent rise in traffic to northdevon.com in the week running up to the Bank Holiday.

However, it said bookings up to Easter were 23 per cent down across the county due to the weather coverage, ‘costing Devon around £31million’.

Holiday park owner John Fowler said bookings for the Easter season had initially been slow, but picked up at the last minute.

“The television kept showing scenes of the railway line devastation in Dawlish and people thought we were completely cut off,” he said.

“But that was only the railway. As soon as the television reported it was repaired, bookings rose straight away.”

Meanwhile, The Big Sheep and Atlantis Adventure Park in Bideford saw record visitor numbers over the Easter break, with a 28 per cent increase on footfall from previous years.

Director Rick Turner said: “Easter is the first barometer for the tourism year and this one has been an excellent one all round.

“With numbers beating last year’s record, if we can get some warmer and sunnier weather then there is no reason why we should not expect an increase in numbers during the summer.”

And McDonald’s stores in Barnstaple reported a seven per cent rise in sales compared to last year and will be recruiting 30 new staff for the summer.

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