Just been assessing the remittance notices that incorporated the question about free wifi for next season in return for a small increase in the siterents. The result was a 55% approval for this proposal (of those who expressed a view). Although a fair number of people had no preference either way. So what this means is that this will go ahead and so there will be a small increase in the siterents in capital terms for next season, as explained before.). The service will cover multiple devices. More details in due course.
Then in the Dolphin & Seadell Bars we’re going for Virtual Reality availability. The latest stuff, just headsets that don’t need to be plugged into phones or computers. We’re trialling for the next few weeks on a “free” basis. After that we’ll have to be a bit more commercial. But a useful facility I think if you want to walk the streets of far off locations or join animal migrations on the plains of Africa for example all without leaving Hemsby! Then we’ve set up a more up to date system on the bar videos so that we’ll have regular televised features. Nothing unsuitable. Probably on a short notice basis, depending on the weather, but will be publicised (& should be able to accommodate special requests). That’s it for now.
At the Dolphin & Seadell Bars in Hemsby we’ve been requested to look into the availability of non/low alcohol beers. Understandable if having to drive later that day of course, or just stuck in the Bar watching the football and not wanting to go over the top. Low alcohol products have been about for a while of course. Bottled low alcohol lagers seem OK but not very popular because customer reaction has been that they don’t taste of much. Until now I don’t think there’s been a bitter that’s been worth drinking either. But things are changing and now Adnams (the Suffolk brewers who are our main suppliers) have produced a low alcohol version of their popular “Ghost Ship” on draught & in 500ml bottles (0.5%abv): we’ve done a survey and it’s hard to identify a taste difference from the standard product. There’s also a range of low alcohol wines (again 0.5%abv), and we’ll be stocking these from the end of March. Then a bit of breaking news. The Hemsby Kebab & Pizza (at the Seadell Bar) has been taken over by the new people and will now be called “Istanbul Delight”. They are a professional, but private firm – not a franchise. They’re just finishing a makeover ready to open towards the end of \February. I believe they will be introducing a delivery service as well, and I think the menu – while based around kebabs and pizza as before, will have a more Egyptian slant. So more details to follow about this as it happens.
The road between Long Beach Caravan Park and Hemsby Touring & Tent site (about 300 yards) needed some illumination, particularly for those walking between the two at night. This was a bit impractical in the past because it really needed streetlamps that required mains electricity, and would have had to be installed on the North side (which involved other problems). But now it’s become possible to have solar powered streetlamps which have got over the “powerful enough” problem due to improved specification of the solar collectors and their reduced power consumption of the lights – which are now LED. No mains electricity supply/trenching required of course. Rather more expensive initially but no electric bills going forward. Eco credibility as well, so that’s alright. I hope that this work will have been done by Easter, and if it operates as we hope then can be considered for installation elsewhere.
At The Grange Touring Park, on the back field (where the hardstanding are and the ducks live) we’ve removed the old path lighting (which was mains powered but led to problems as the lamp standards kept getting driven into) and replaced with “approach” solar powered lighting. They come on from dusk to dawn at a low level but go fully bright for a time when there is nearby movement. Sounds right in theory but a bit of feedback is always appreciated.
I need to spell out the rationale about the rule re the sale of static holiday /caravans on site. The general position is that private sales on site /are not allowed, although of course there is no objection to inter family transfers.
The historic reasons (and the rule about private sales has been in effect for many years) – without being exhaustive relate to:- The main concern where private sales were accepted (years ago) of a vendor was – understandably – the best price obtainable. This could result in an artificial value for a caravan when a purchaser had overpaid and then we (or another private purchaser) were involved in a subsequent sale at a later date. Caravans don’t go up in value: rather like cars they are a depreciating asset.
There is a proper value for them that is to be found in Glass’s Guide (or other trade Guides). Figures in excess of that therefor generally relate to the situation of the caravan. That is something to do with us as site owners, not to do with the caravan owner. Logically the same caravan being sold on site would have a different value depending on the pitch, its facilities and the conditions. One of our main influences here is that we don’t have an age rule on site, something I’ve always made clear. Many other caravan parks do: that is where owners can only retain their pitches if they upgrade their caravans when they get to a particular age – a policy to encourage sales of course. I’ve always been against this as I consider it unfair to our loyal long term customers – who in their advancing years may be less likely to afford to do it anyway. Another trouble with private sales was that there was little control over the identity of the purchaser, and there could be significant drawbacks with people who were unneighbourly (say noisy, letting to groups of unsupervised youngsters, having badly behaved dogs etc). With our system of sales “in house” we can control this (and I can say that we don’t sell to some applicants).
It’s also relevant to us that we know the purchasers are financially stable and able to afford the rent – our other customers rely on us to ensure that the business is operating in a viable way financially and that they are not subsidising difficult payers. What has brought all this up? A couple of awkward cases last year, but mainly that we are selling caravans now that are more expensive than in the past, so although nothing will change it’s important that everybody understands the logic behind this.
Just an update. The lovely weather is having an effect by increasing occupancy levels. Schools break up in about four weeks so let’s hope it continues.
The charity we are supporting this year Is “Blood Bikes”. Their people zoom around between medical centres on motorbikes looking worryingly like police officers carrying blood and other emergency things. However we’ll have to think about a different charity for 2018 and I wonder if anybody knows anything about the “Foxy Lodge” animal shelter which is somewhere on Beach Road Newport, said to be very deserving and name put forward.
Our feathered friends at the Dolphin, where we had installed a nest camera with screen in the Bar have fledged and left. If they go for a second brood we’ll be showing it of course. While on about the Bar, Fosters will be replacing Carlsberg before long and it’s possible that Kronenbourg will be making a welcome return. Something completely new is Iced Tea with a hint of gojiberries, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.
The long awaited new toilet/ shower block (which replaces the portaloo mobiles) on the north field at Hemsby Tent & Touring is nearly finished – probably by the end of the month, but in any event ready for the school holidays. We’ve taken on cleaning staff to concentrate on that and the other block and they strike me as efficient so that should go well.
Although its a bit late for this season we are often looking for student style people who could work during the summer. We’ve has foreign students in the past but the current EU business has started to put them off. So if anyone knows of any leads it would be appreciated.
Not much other gossip really!
This is an update from Hemsby Touring/Tent Site. Our planning problems on the north field area are sorted out at last and a new toilet/shower block to replace the mobile portaloos is in course of construction, ready for this coming 2017 season. It’s just the same as the one on the south field, which always gets such nice comments. There will be more touring/tent plugins as well.
We’re getting anxious enquiries about the need for a tv licence for a caravan. The rules changed on 1st September to spell out that viewing on “catch up” services on all sorts of devices are subject to the normal licence requirement rules. But there is no need for a licence in a caravan of course if you have one at home (provided both are not in use at the same time), and in order to reassure anybody concerned about this we certainly won’t be passing any details on to the TV Licensing people.
Then we’re often asked about providing a laundry at Beach Estate Caravan Park. There is one not too far away on Beach Road of course. It’s something that has been considered, and we do of course have such a facility at Long Beach. But this only works if there is close supervision: our usual problems are misuse (normally overloads), locking up at night when cycles are still running (customers waiting for a finish and us having commitments elsewhere), having to dispense tokens because having cash in the machines is risky, mopping floors that may have become slippery and therefore dangerous and just generally making sure that nothing is going wrong. Customers – being used to their own domestic machines at home – don’t always adapt to commercial machines. So although it’s a good idea and we would like to provide another facility it just seems impractical. But any suggestions would be appreciated.
16/9/16 We all like to have a dig at banks of course, and I want to explain a small change in our siterent tariff. Banks have always made a charge of one sort or another for payments made by card. This was either a fixed fee per item or a percentage of the amount being transferred, or a mixture of the two. And there were many differing rates depending on the card provider and whether the transactions were over the phone, the websites or through the terminal with a PIN. It was all a bit complicated, and in the past credit cards (mainly VISA) had a charge – nearly 2%, which customers have come to accept was being passed on. But just recently debit cards –which used to have a fairly nominal fixed fee – have changed to a percentage based charge as well. The people we deal with are Barclaycard, but it seems that other service providers are doing the same. What we have decided to do is add a small element to the siterents to cover the bank fees – and there will now be nothing extra on top as there was for credit cards in the past. So customers paying siterents by debit card will be marginally worse off and those paying by credit card will be slightly better off. As you know, we don’t take AMEX, but now we are discouraging BUSINESS credit and debit cards as well. They have significantly higher charges and we may have to refuse to accept them in the future. Nobody on the receiving end likes them. To find out more about all this (they don’t make it easy!) you could look at www.cardswitcher.co.uk (“Barclaycard increase merchant services rates”). Then while we’re on about the static caravan siterents, customers occasionally ask about the inflation index: this is to be found through the statistics portal on statista.com (“UK RPI forecast”). Some of the other odd factors that have affected us this year have been things like the new national living wage/pension contributions (a substantial proportion of our outgoings are employment related) and much increased waste disposal costs/taxrates. We’re feeling a bit nervous about the imminent business rate revaluation figures as well. The business rates are included in the siterent instead of Council Tax of course.
Next, about gas bottle refills. The market leader for gas is Calor. We deal however (and have done so for very many years) with Shell Flogas (“SF”). Propane cylinders have a standard (reverse thread) regulator which means that the cylinders interchangeable. Butane cylinders however have different snap top regulators. Not a problem when SF cylinders are being changed. But we don’t stock Calor which means you have to obtain it from elsewhere, which is not always possible at the drop of a hat: they always seem to run out at the most inconvenient time don’t they. Calor refuse to supply us because we deal with SF. Anyway, what I have arranged is for a free SF regulator to be supplied to anybody who may wish to change from Calor (or indeed any other type) to SF. There is no difference to speak of costwise per kg. You don’t have to do this of course, and as ever can obtain your gas from wherever you wish. But this is an option that you should be aware of.
We’ve had demand for battery charge facilities. Mainly for mobile phones. You can now top up devices FREE of charge at the Dolphin and Seadell Bars, where our new charging units accept almost all device connections.
More before long!
The Wi-Fi system has been upgraded to all locations. As with all these things it has taken a little while to bed in properly but now seems to be relatively trouble free. There have been technical advances (multiple frequency, more powerful transmitters and more of them, more broadband capacity etc.) and the contractors (Infinium / Clarity wireless) are providing an improved back up service. Their helpline number is on every code ticket and they ask that they are informed of any problem initially: then they liase with us.
We’re regularly asked why the Wi-Fi facility cannot be free. But as with any other facility, it has to be paid for somehow. The NHS as an example is trumpeted as being free, but we all pay for it don’t we? Anyway, there has been a large capital cost (tens of thousands of pounds) with the Wi-Fi and there is an on-going annual maintenance contract (just thousands of pounds) to keep things up and running. And for the record, our aim for the future is to keep the service as up to the minute as we can. I suppose we could just increase our general overall prices to cover the service (thus appearing to be “no extra charge” for the Wi-Fi) but I think that would be unfair on those who would make no use of the facility either because they are not into tech (a surprising number of people still aren’t), have other arrangements or whatever.
So the position here is that the situation will be kept under review. Naturally a bit of feedback would be welcome.
We’ve been having a go at our waste disposal contractors (Veolia) recently about recycling. We’ve not been able to make much progress because their disposal lorry does not have a separate recycling bit where that sort of stuff can go, which is a shame because its quite important. We’re looking into alternatives but as usual they come at a cost.
More trouble with Gt. Yarmouth Borough Council. They are the people who issue us with a licence under the Caravan Sites legislation. It’s to do with structures between static caravans, where there is meant to be an unobstructed area between caravans mainly for reasons of access by the emergency services. Verandas (provided not of excessive size) and steps are OK if they are non combustible but the advice is to check with the Office. However fences between caravans are frowned on. There has been grudging acceptance of fencing to keep pets such as guide dogs in, but nothing else. Temporary things like windbreaks are OK. And temporary fences to keep pets enclosed seem to be OK but they are particularly under the spotlights and can only be used when the caravan itself is being used, so must be put away when it is unoccupied. So the answer here might be to have sockets so any fence could be put up and down quickly and easily. However, it is critical that fences are actually taken down when the caravan is unoccupied. This is something that we will – unfortunately – have to monitor and do something if necessary. Like taking the structure away (but only after notification, which I think is fair).
We’re doing a bit of planning work about the wifi system. A regular suggestion over the last few years has been that onsite wifi should be free. The problem is of course that there are costs associated with it – both as regards initial capital expenses (buying the transmitters etc) and then the running costs (several broadband lines) and the maintenance contract. The next upgrade (needed in order to keep up to date with the expanding nature of the service) is quoted at some £35k, so the figures are not small.
We could make this facility appear to be “free” (in the sense that there would be no separate fee to use it) by just increasing the caravan site rents, touring/tent rents and the holiday bungalow rents by an appropriate amount. But the problems here are (1) not everybody has wifi so why should they pay? (2) there are quite a few private owners within our service area who at the moment pay like everyone else, who would then really get the service for free (we don’t send them bills and would be unaware of their use) unless they paid voluntarily.
We want to continue to invest in the system to keep it as advanced as we can (within the constraints of our local BT infrastructure) but it can’t be done for free. We don’t need to make a profit out of it, but cannot run it as a lossmaking promotion.
The whole situation is reviewed regularly of course, so if you have any blinding ideas then do let us know.
Just to let you all know that the Longbeach Stores is now open with a completely fresh look and new management.
Katie & John have taken over for this season with new products, a new look and new opening hours. They are also very competitive on price.
They are extremely keen to meet everyone and get to know you all. They welcome any ideas & suggestions and will try their best to accommodate your requests.
So please do go in and visit them – they will be pleased to see you!