Published on Monday, May 13, 2013

Center Parcs holiday village aims to become leading sustainable tourist destination

A new Center Parcs £250 million holiday village in Woburn Forest set to be an a iconic example of a sustainable tourism destination. Writes Elis Joudalova

Center Parcs originated and revolutionised the holiday market in Holland more than four decades ago. After 25 years of successful operation in the UK, Center Parcs, now owned by the Blackstone Group, has become the leader in the UK domestic short break holiday market that can boast exceptional annual occupancy rates of over 95%.

So far Center Parcs have opened four villages in Britain, including Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire. Each village is set in the 400 acres of natural woodland and offers high quality accommodation and facilities.

Center Parcs has gained its popularity by providing an unforgettable short break experience in forest locations. A healthy natural environment is an essential element of a Center Parcs visitor experience and a key part of its famous business concept which is to provide a wide range of high quality leisure facilities, set amidst the surrounding forest environment which is both enhanced and protected.

Enhancing and protecting natural environment is a major part of the Center Parcs long term strategy and its aim to become one of the leading sustainable 'Large Scale Tourism Destinations' in the UK. In order to achieve that, Center Parcs launched its ambitious Sustainability Strategy in 2011 including  environmental, social and economic aspects. The group's key sustainability commitments include reducing the impact of climate change through cutting down its carbon footprint by 20% by 2020, waste recycling, biodiversity conservation, supporting charities, creating new job opportunities, etc.

Thanks to the fact that after 25 years of operation and despite today's touch economic climate Center Parcs is still trading strongly, the new £250 million village which was given planning permission five years ago is now under construction after securing additional finances. Martin Dalby, chief executive of Center Parcs, said "I am delighted to be moving ahead with the construction of our new site at Woburn, which will bring significant benefits for both our guests and the wider economy." Woburn Forest will be the group's fifth holiday village and the jewel in the crown for the Blackstone group creating over 1,500 new job opportunities. It is due to open in Spring 2014 and will consist of over 600 forest lodges, 75 bedroom hotel, spa and spa  suites, two large leisure facilities, Subtropical Swimming Paradise, and a number of restaurants and shops.

The group believes that Woburn village will be one of Britain's best examples of a sustainable and energy efficient large scale projects. "The new village is going to be designed to the highest energy efficiency and sustainability standards," Chris Brooks, Center Parcs sustainability manager, claimed. Initially, Woburn holiday village will be home to solar panels and a biomass-powered district heating system. To save on energy costs and for further efficiency, the project might invest in wall cladding for the forest lodges and other buildings. "Woburn Forest will be an exemplary sustainable tourism destination. We are investing in energy efficiency and renewable technologies to achieve our aim of consuming 25% less energy than the average existing village," Chris Brooks added. Center Parcs commitment outlined in its Sustainability Strategy is to produce or source 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Hopefully, such an exciting 'green' large scale development will inspire other tourism destinations to follow a sustainable path in the foreseeable future.

Elis Joudalova

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