Center Parcs

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Center Parcs Europe N.V. (CPE)
Public limited company (Naamloze vennootschap)
FounderPiet Derksen
HeadquartersRivium Boulevard 213, ,
Number of locations
22 (Center Parcs brand), 3 (Sunparks brand) (2017)
BrandsCenter Parcs, Sunparks
OwnerFreehold: Blackstone Group
Leasehold operator: Pierre & Vacances
ParentPierre & Vacances
DivisionsCenter Parcs UK (associated, co-branded)
An original Center Parcs Cottage (named 'Villas' in UK resorts), designed by the Dutch architect Jaap Bakema.
Dutch Center Parcs entrance (at De Eemhof).
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise in Elveden Forest, Suffolk, UK.
Wild water rapids at Center Parcs Het Meerdal (NL).
The former church at CP Het Vennenbos. Because Derksen was a Catholic, he decided to build small churches at his parks. There was a similar church at Sherwood Forest which has since been converted into a Starbucks.

Center Parcs is a European network of holiday villages that was founded in the Netherlands in 1968. It is operated by two separate companies: Center Parcs Europe N.V. (CPE) a Dutch company, which is operated by Pierre & Vacances on mainland European sites owned by Blackstone Group; and Center Parcs UK, which runs holiday villages in Great Britain and Ireland owned by Brookfield Properties Corporation.


Dutch entrepreneur, Piet Derksen, started a sporting goods shop in 1953 at Lijnbaan, Rotterdam. Its name was 'Sporthuis Centrum', 'Sport House Centre'. It succeeded and Derksen expanded into 17 outlets across the Netherlands, and then added camping articles to the range.

In 1968, Derksen purchased woodland near Reuver so staff and customers could relax in small tents. The park, De Lommerbergen, was successful, the tents were quickly replaced by bungalows. In 1987, Center Parcs opened its first UK resort at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. This brought the company into the sights of expanding brewer Scottish and Newcastle, which later bought the group.

Center Parcs UK[edit]

In 2001, Scottish and Newcastle sold the UK side of Center Parcs to venture capitalists Mid Ocean. In December 2003 they agreed to sell the UK resorts to Arbor for £285 million, a special vehicle set up to float Center Parcs UK on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market. However, after flotation in May 2006, Center Parcs UK Group PLC was sold to Blackstone Group, and was re-registered as a private company. 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 turned down but Center Parcs won on appeal.[1]

Whinfell Forest was 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.

Republic of Ireland[edit]

In July 2016, planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála for the first Center Parcs resort anywhere in Ireland, north or south. The 395-acre resort will be constructed in Newcastle Wood, a forest near Ballymahon, County Longford, within the Republic of Ireland. The resort will be called 'Longford Forest' and will open in 2019. Center Parcs CEO, Martin Dalby, told a Nottingham Partners event in February 2018 they were also looking for another site in the UK.

Center Parcs Europe[edit]

In 2003, Scottish & Newcastle sold the Continental European sites to a joint venture of Pierre & Vacances (P&V) and DBCP, a German investment group. This was given the name Center Parcs 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,[2] Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds, GAK and Philips Rentefonds. P&V brought Gran Dorado in the joint venture.

As CPE was based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the Dutch and European Commercial Competition Authority[3] did not approve of combining Gran Dorado and Center Parcs, as it would effectively control the European market. After agreeing to a reduction in beds owned, CPE sold all but six Gran Dorado Resorts to Dutch Landal GreenParks.[4] The remaining six parks were added to CenterParcs: Loohorst (NL), Port Zelande (NL), Zandvoort (NL), Weerterbergen (NL), Hochsauerland (D) and Heilbachsee (D).

After the sale, five of the six remaining Gran Dorado Resorts parks were rebranded Sea Spirit from Center Parcs or Free Life from Center Parcs. The Weerterbergen-Resort was sold to Roompot because of the cost of bringing it to standard.[5] All original Center Parcs resorts in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany were sub-branded CP Original. Having completed the integration and rebranding exercise, Pierre & Vacances bought DBCP out of the partnership.

In 2006, after Blackstone Group bought Center Parcs UK plc, Pierre & Vacances agreed a deal to sell all of the freeholds on the CPE sites, in returning for a recurring operational lease on the sites. This hence allowed a further rebranding exercise, with all resorts branded Center Parcs. In January 2009, Sunparks launched alongside Center Parcs in Europe, as a low-cost brand. Many of the former Gran Dorado resorts were rebranded in this exercise, but the sub brand was dropped in 2011 and the parks were rebranded to Center Parcs.

Operations and facilities[edit]

There are now 26 resorts in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany and the UK. Most villages are different, but some villages such as Bispinger Heide in Germany and Domaine Les Bois Francs in France (and many more) share the same Village Plaza design. They have the same styled Aqua Mundo and Sports Plaza. Accommodation is in villas or bungalows, 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 first village had features that have stayed popular like the swimming pool, shops and restaurants. The first dome arrived in 1980,[citation needed] 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.

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.

All resorts[edit]

Center Parcs UK and Center Parcs Europe consist of 26 resorts and Sunparks of 4. Also, there are six parks in development, and one park will be taken over from Landal Greenparks.

Country Resort City / Village Region/County Year opened Added to portfolio Details
 Netherlands Het Meerdal America Limburg 1971 -
 Netherlands De Huttenheugte Dalen Drenthe 1972 -
 Netherlands De Eemhof Zeewolde Flevoland 1980 - The first Center Parcs resort to contain a Subtropical Swimming Paradise. Closed in May 2000 due to a fire that destroyed the central plaza area and Swimming Pool. Re-opened in March 2002 with a new Mediterranean market square and Aqua Mundo after extensive re-building.
 Netherlands De Kempervennen Westerhoven North Brabant 1983 -
 Netherlands Het Heijderbos Heijen Limburg 1986 -
 Netherlands Port Zélande Ouddorp South Holland 1990 2002
 Netherlands Limburgse Peel America Limburg 1980 2002 Formerly Sunparks Limburgse Peel
 Netherlands Zandvoort Zandvoort North Holland 1989 2002 Formerly Sunparks Zandvoort aan Zee
 Netherlands Sandur Emmen Drenthe 1999 2011 Taken over from Landal Greenparks; Formerly Sunparks Sandur Drenthe
 Belgium Erperheide Peer Limburg 1981 -
 Belgium De Vossemeren Lommel Limburg 1987 -
 Germany Eifel Gunderath Rhineland-Palatinate 1979 2002 Formerly Sunparks Eifel
 Germany Nordseeküste Tossens Lower Saxony 1992 2002 Formerly Sunparks Nordseeküste
 Germany Park Hochsauerland Medebach North Rhine-Westphalia 1994 2002
 Germany Bispinger Heide Bispingen Lower Saxony 1995 -
 Germany Bostalsee Nohfelden Saarland 2013 -
 France Les Bois-Francs Verneuil-sur-Avre Upper Normandy 1988 -
 France Les Hauts de Bruyères Chaumont-sur-Tharonne Centre-Val de Loire 1993 -
 France Le Lac d'Ailette Chamouille Picardy 2007 -
 France Les Trois Forêts Hattigny Lorraine 2010 -
 France Bois aux daims Les Trois-Moutiers, Morton Nouvelle-Aquitaine 2015 -
 United Kingdom Sherwood Forest Rufford (near Mansfield) Nottinghamshire 1987 -
 United Kingdom Elveden Forest Elveden Suffolk 1989 - Closed in April 2002 after a fire destroyed the plaza area, though the subtropical swimming paradise was unharmed. Re-opened again in July 2003 after a major re-build to the village square which separates the new Plaza and Sports Plaza.
 United Kingdom Longleat Forest Warminster Wiltshire 1994 -
 United Kingdom Whinfell Forest Penrith Cumbria 1997 2002 Formerly Oasis, bought from Center Parcs UK's competitor, Rank Organisation.
 United Kingdom Woburn Forest Millbrook Bedfordshire 2014 -
Parks from the Sunparks Brand
 Belgium Sunparks Oostduinkerke Oostduinkerke West Flanders 1981 2007
 Belgium De Haan De Haan West Flanders 1989 2007
 Belgium Sunparks Ardennen Vielsalm Luxembourg 1992 2007 Formerly Sunparks Vielsalm
 Belgium Sunparks Kempense Meren Mol Antwerpen 1994 2007
Parks in development
 Germany Allgäu Leutkirch Baden Württemberg 2018 -
 France La Forêt de Chambaran Roybon Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes 2017 -
 France Forêt du Rousset Le Rousset Bourgogne-Franche-Comté 2019 -
 France Forêt de Poligny Poligny Bourgogne-Franche-Comté 2019 -
 France Domaine du Papetier Pindères, Beauziac Nouvelle Aquitaine 2019 -
 Ireland Longford Forest Ballymahon Longford 2019 -

In the 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 De Lommerbergen Reuver Limburg 1968 1996
 Netherlands Het Vennenbos Hapert North Brabant 1970 1994
 Netherlands De Berkenhorst Kootwijk Gelderland 1975 1990

Name differences[edit]

UK Resorts European Resorts
Subtropical Swimming Paradise Aqua Mundo
Jardin Des Sports/Sports Plaza Sports Hall
Plaza/Piazza/Village Square Market Dome
Lodges/Villas Cottages
Wild Water Rapids Wild River
Flumes and Slides Tobbogans
Leisure Bowl Bowling
Parc Market Daily Foodstore
Aqua Sana The Spa
The Pancake House Pancake Shop

See also[edit]


External links[edit]