Center Parcs is a European network of holiday villages incorporating a UK-based company, Center Parcs UK, which runs holiday villages in the United Kingdom and a sister enterprise, Center Parcs Europe, that operates in numerous locations in continental Europe. In 2009 Center Parcs Europe divided its parks into two brands: "Center Parcs", which includes the 5 star parks, and "Sunparks", which includes the 3 or 4 star parks. At the beginning of 2011 the company decided to rename most Sunparks as Center Parcs.
A Dutch entrepreneur, Piet Derksen, started a sporting goods shop in 1953 at the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam. Its name was 'Sporthuis Centrum', 'Sport House Centre'. It succeeded and Derksen expanded into 17 outfits across the Netherlands. He added camping articles to his range.
There are now 26 resorts in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany and the UK.
Accommodation in Center Parcs is in villas or bungalows. These are clustered in a park and surrounded by trees and bushes. An exception is Park Zandvoort, set among sand dunes. Certain resorts also provide hotel rooms.
The facilities available at Center Parcs vary. All offer a swimming pool, named Subtropical Swimming Paradise in UK resorts and Aqua Mundo in European resorts. A range of sporting activities is available, with restaurants, spas, saunas, and massage.
No two villages are identical, however most share features that are common, the first village had features that have stayed popular like the swimming pool, shops and restaurants. The dome arrived in 1980. Gradually the facilities have changed as time progresses.
In 2001, Scottish and Newcastle sold the UK side of Center Parcs to venture capitalists. It was announced on 4 December 2003 that the owners, Mid Ocean, would sell the UK resorts to Arbor for £285 million. Arbor was set up 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 Blackstone Group, an American private investment company. Subsequently Center Parcs was re-registered as a private company, a subsidiary of Blackstone Group. The chief executive, Martin Dalby, said that the company might add a fifth village. Late in 2004 it was announced it would be built in Woburn in Bedfordshire. Planning permission was initially turned down but Center Parcs won on appeal.
Whinfell Forest was originally built and operated by the Rank Organisation, as the sole competition to Center Parcs in the UK, however, after a short period of a few years, Oasis, as Rank had named it, was sold to Center Parcs. Whinfell Forest is not of the same build type as the traditional Center Parcs. Whinfell Forest lodges are mainly two storey and many are set in clusters, rather than off-set terraces. This means guests in a cluster have direct view of adjacent lodges, with less privacy. Center Parcs have updated many Whinfell Forest lodges and continue to add new lodges of an identical style to new lodges at their other UK parks, so now there are also many villas at Whinfell Forest the same style as in Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest or Longleat Forest.
All activities, at all parks, except swimming and playgrounds, are charged, per use, ranging from <£5 to £80+ per person.
Centerparcs Europe and Centerparcs UK share only history, name and logo.
In 2003 Scottish & Newcastle sold the European branch to a joint venture of Pierre et Vacances (P&V) and DBCP, a German investment group. This was given the name CenterParcs Europe (CPE). P&V owned Europe's largest (in terms of bed-count) bungalow-vacation-supplier, Gran Dorado Resorts, a Dutch former joint venture of Vendex, Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds, GAK and Philips Rentefonds. P&V brought Gran Dorado in the joint venture. CPE was based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and the Dutch and European Commercial Competition Authority did not approve of combining Gran Dorado and CenterParcs. They would almost control the European market. The authority demanded fewer beds. This resulted in sale of all but six Gran Dorado Resorts to Dutch Landal GreenParks. The remaining six parks were added to the CenterParcs. These were Loohorst (NL), Port Zelande (NL), Zandvoort (NL), Weerterbergen (NL), Hochsauerland (D) and Heilbachsee (D).
After the sale, the Gran Dorado flag flew at Gran Dorado Resorts 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 in 2002 because of the cost of bringing it to standard be. From 1 January 2003, Gran Dorado Resorts-Brand was no longer used.
In 2003, Deutsche Bank Capital Partners (DBCP) was bought out of the joint venture by Pierre & Vacances. The French are now sole owners of Center Parcs Europe.
The sub-branding ended in 2006 with another rebranding. From 2006 season, all resorts were branded Center Parcs. In January 2009, Sunparks launched alongside Center Parcs in Europe.The sites improved and had the Sunparks brand applied. Sunparks is a low-cost version. A number of the former Gran Dorado resorts are now under this umbrella.
New UK site
In December 2004, Center Parcs UK identified a fifth UK site, at Warren Wood near Flitwick, Bedfordshire. It had signed a lease from its owner, the Duke of Bedford. The project was expected to cost £160 million, including construction of accommodation, indoor and outdoor facilities, swimming complex, restaurants and a spa. It is expected to take three to four years to complete. Planning permission was granted on 5 September 2007 although the price has risen to £230 million. Construction started in 2012 and the village is scheduled to open in spring 2014.
Center Parcs UK and Center Parcs Europe consist of 26 resorts: 18 Center Parcs parks and 8 Sunparks parks. Also, there are four parks in development, and one park will be taken over from Landal Greenparks.
- In case of the former Gran Dorado Resorts, the 2002 "Added to portfolio"-date refers to the year these resorts were brought into the joint venture, although they were not re-branded as Center Parcs until 2003.
Three former Center Parcs sites were sold because they could not be expanded. They are now part of the Landal greenparks operation; they still continue to be used and have had some refurbishment:
|Country||Resort||City / Village||Region/County||Year opened||Year Sold|
|Netherlands||Het Vennenbos||Hapert||North Brabant||1970||1994|
|UK Resorts||European Resorts|
|Subtropical Swimming Paradise||Aqua Mundo|
|Jardin Des Sports/Sports Plaza||Sports Hall|
|Plaza/Piazza/Village Square||Market Dome|
|Wild Water Rapids||Wild River|
|Flumes and Slides||Tobbogans|
|Lakeview Hotel (Elveden Forest)||Hotel du Lac (Les Bois-Francs)|
|Aqua Sana||The Spa|
|The Pancake House||Pancake Shop|
- Other large European indoor sub-tropical leisure village: Tropical Islands Resort
- The spelling Center Parcs, the official name, is incorrect in every language. In British English it would be Centre Parks, in American English Center Parks (see spelling differences), and in French Centre Parcs.
- BBC article from September 2007 detailing the granting of planning permission
- Center Parcs UK official website
- Center Parcs Europe official website
- Aqua Sana, the self-contained spa at Center Parcs