It’s safe to say that 2020 is turning into a unique year. The travel industry has been hugely affected across the globe, with the UK’s tourism sector facing an £11 billion black hole due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Caravan parks and campsites in the UK would have been re-opening prior to the Easter break while the Bank Holiday weekend would have been a hugely popular time of year for visitors. However, with orders to remain closed by the government, some sites have resorted to offering their derelict accommodation to NHS workers who need to isolate from their families.
Recent years’ statistics have shown a surge in the ‘staycation’. Between 2014 and 2019, there was a 6.9 per cent growth in the campsite and caravan site industry, and there is likely to be a further rise in holidays in the UK once restrictions have been lifted. With almost 3,000 businesses holding a market share of £5 billion prior to the pandemic, preparing your park for re-opening has never been more crucial.
So, what should you be doing to make sure your site is in the best condition possible to be ready for the new season and to impress your customers and most importantly, to keep them safe?
Fuel and energy
Is your energy supply efficient? Switching your energy supply to LPG can provide you with a cost-effective and reliable source across your site. It is a cleaner alternative to solid fuels and oil with potential cost savings, and the option of offsetting your carbon emissions. It’s also perfect for heating and real flame gas cooking, so on-park residents and guests to your site will be able to enjoy all the benefits of mains gas off the grid.
There are two options you can choose from — LPG cylinders or bulk LPG. Cylinders are ideal for those sites which are limited on space, while bulk can be placed above or below ground level. You can also make connections for a metered supply to each van. That way, your guests and residents can benefit from a metered service (each with their own smart gas meter) in a similar way to being on the mains gas network.
Ensure you also check your site’s water tanks. This includes both your communal areas and static homes. The likelihood is that you would have drained them prior to shutting for winter . Begin by making sure that your water system is connected properly. If you discover that a pipe is broken or your tank is leaking, replace them before you refill the tanks. Also be sure you have sterilised your tanks prior to refilling and flush your tanks with clean water.
In 2019, there were 45,009 people employed in short-term accommodation for guests in campsites, caravan sites, and static caravan parks industry. While it’s unknown what the figure will be when the restrictions are lifted, it’s clear that all your staff must be fully trained. Are all the health and safety records up to date?
The Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 means that anyone in control of a caravan site must look after their staff’s and residents’ health, safety, and welfare. Make sure your Safety Policy is up to date and correct, while carrying out a thorough Risk Assessment. During your assessment, identify hazards — those such as chemicals and electricity which can cause harm, as well as potential risks — the chances of a hazard causing harm to someone. This PDF offers a thorough description of how to conduct your Risk Assessment.
The NCC academy also offers a range of training courses for your staff. This includes, but is not limited to:
- How to avoid the mis-use of a holiday home.
- Skills and knowledge to commission, inspect, and test electrics for caravan holiday homes.
- ACS gas training for parks engineers.
- Safe use of pesticides for parks.
Online training courses include, but are not limited to:
- Park management qualification.
- The essentials of GDPR.
- NCC Gambling Act 2005.
- NCC Alcohol Licensing.
While all courses may not be suitable for completion prior to opening, you must ensure that any qualifications, such as first aid certificates, are up to date at all times.
Individual caravans for rent
While owners will be responsible for checking their own properties, you need to make sure that any property you’re intending to let is up to standard. This includes checking for damp, checking their taps, and making sure there is no outside damage caused by high winds, snow, or any other natural elements. You also need to test any safety features, such as carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms.
While carrying out your spring clean to get everything in a suitable condition, check for mould or residue. The UK’s caravans are prone to mould due to our frequent changes in weather conditions. The bathroom facilities, windows, and doors are most likely to have black mould spots, which is usually caused by poor ventilation or leaks.
Ensure you have a full calendar for entertainment if your facilities allow for this. Having an entertainment team and schedule can really help boost your reputation and lead to reoccurring bookings. Do you offer kids club? Is there a bingo or disco night? Do you have events for your owners?
Having a schedule which is up-to-date and interesting for your residents and guests can help make or break their stay. Use your downtime to strategically plan your events and to carry out research on what it is you can be providing for your guests.
Are your facilities all in working order? Fix any broken streetlamps and barriers and tidy up your surrounding areas. While maintenance is always important, first impressions are crucial. Tidy any communal areas, grass, fencing, or waste areas.
Remember, due to customers’ holidays being cancelled during the pandemic, this could be their first trip for a long time, so they are looking to have the ‘perfect’ vacation. Review your site’s negative TripAdvisor comments. Have you fixed all issues? If not, focus on these areas and ensure that the public’s comments don’t go to waste. Review sites are a great way to find out what people really think and to give you the chance to fix them for future customers.
Elsewhere, while potholes can appear at any time of the year, winter can have a detrimental effect on your paths and roadways. Winter’s fluctuation in temperatures causes asphalt to expand and contract. If you have had smaller holes or cracks which have not previously been filled, this is more likely to form potholes. Fix this prior to your site opening so you have a more aesthetically pleasing site and to avoid any potential claims due to injury.
Preparation is key at all times. Use your time wisely and you’ll provide a service to your customers and residents to be proud of.