Center Parcs 25 Year Anniversary
This year is the 25th Anniversary of Center Parcs UK flagship holiday village in Sherwood Forest. Erin Huckle our PR Manager caught up with Karen Henderson, General Manager, who has worked at the venue since it opened.
How did you first start out with Center Parcs?
I started my career at Center Parcs as Housekeeping Manager back in January 1987 and was the first employee recruited by the General Manager on site. At that time the village was being constructed and my initial task was to commence recruitment of key members of the Housekeeping Management team to enable us to commission the completed accommodation units on a phased basis i.e. we were involved with ensuring carpets, furnishings and other interiors were all placed in the accommodation units in a timely manner in readiness for opening in July 1987.
How are you planning on celebrating 25 years of Center Parcs?
We have created a 25 year Center Parcs logo which people will start to see around the village, in the Center Parcs brochure and on our website. The 25 year logo appeared for the first time in our TV advert in January. At Sherwood Forest we will be holding a celebration 25 year party for Sherwood Forest colleagues and we are looking at a small thank you gift. There will be local initiatives on the village taking place during the 25 year anniversary week. All colleagues with 25 year service are being generously recognised and rewarded to mark this anniversary which is a fantastic gesture by Center Parcs.
Any funny encounters with the local wildlife over the years?
Our wildlife is a big part of our breaks and our guests very often feel that they are a special part of their holiday experience. Guests love it when the ducks and swans tap on the patio windows for their breakfast! We have had a few funny encounters with the local wildlife. A swan once went swimming down our Jungle River which was quickly chased by the Lifeguards to try and catch it. Another amusing encounter was when we were organising a charity Rubber Duck Race (for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity) in our Jungle River we actually had real ducks swimming in our pool with a couple of colleagues in a kayak trying to catch the ducks. This was more hilarious for our guests than the actual charity Rubber Duck Race!
Why do you think Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest has remained so popular?
25 years ago the holiday in the forest with leisure activities, restaurants, shops and accommodation nestled in amongst the trees was (and continues to be) a unique and special experience for families. Guests can do as much or as little as they like, there is something for all the family and all ages to do at Center Parcs which makes it so popular. Being close to nature and the forest is something really special and we love welcoming guests and making sure they have an amazing break. The forest has really matured and evolved with our continued care over the years. When Center Parcs first came to Sherwood Forest, the forest was a commercial woodland, now thanks to our Rangers, it is flourishing.
Have there been any funny or strange stories you’d like to share?
Well there is never a dull moment dealing with 4,500 guests twice a week and the diversity of our business there are so many stories to tell a couple of examples: – In Lost Property we have had items left such glass eyes and we have had hamsters left behind too! We also had a strange experience where a guest was walking around the village throughout their break with suitcase which we were all perplexed with. Colleagues were wondering what he had in the suitcase, eventually we found out that he liked to carry around his collection of watches, clocks and fish.
What are your aims for Center Parcs over the next 5 years?
To remain being successful, giving our guests a memorable and enjoyable holiday experience and delivering excellent service. Of course we have just received the news regarding the building of our 5th village at Woburn which just shows how much success we have had and the plans we have for the future. From the beginning, the company has continually reinvested year after year, to ensure that we deliver the best experience possible and we will continue to do so in the future. One of my greatest pleasures is to see colleagues within my team here at Sherwood Forest blossom and develop to achieve their career goals. Center Parcs has developed lots of colleagues over the years including myself and has given some fantastic career opportunities. Center Parcs has been and continues to be a fantastic place to work and I am very proud of the Sherwood team and our achievements.
What is the most bizarre request you’ve had from a guest?
A guest was upset because there was no real snow when they came for a break during our Winter Wonderland and asked what we were going to do about it. Another guest asked if we would let a String Quartet onto the village to play to a couple in their villa as they were celebrating their 20th Wedding Anniversary. We allowed this and also gave the couple a complimentary bottle of champagne.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time working at Center Parcs?
Too many to mention! A few are as follows: –
Our 10th Anniversary and the Millennium was a special at Center Parcs. We celebrate births, marriages and many other special events on the village. Even the seasons transform the forest and bring special beauty and memories. Winter Wonderland and the festive season is always a special time, particularly for the children and their families with the addition of our family of real reindeer, the lights and the general sparkle of our village.
Aside from Center Parcs, what are your favourite destinations in Nottinghamshire and why?
My husband and myself regularly enjoy walking in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, this last year we have become members of the National Trust and regularly visit Clumber Park which has recently been developed and is a lovely area to enjoy. Other areas within Nottinghamshire Newstead Abbey, Rufford and Sherwood Forest. When the children were younger we very often visited Nottingham Castle which they thoroughly enjoyed. We also enjoy visiting the Theatre Royal in Nottingham as well as dining in many favourite Nottingham restaurants.