Pontin’s owner plans Disney-style appeal

THE new owner of the Pontin’s holiday parks business had promised to add a touch of Disney-style magic to the traditional British seaside resort.

Pontin’s five holiday centres, including that at Pakefield near Lowestoft, are in line for a �25million makeover following their acquisition last week by the Britannia Hotel Group.

Britannia purchased the Pontin’s business, for a reported �20m, from administrators appointed last November following a disappointing year for bookings.

Besides the Pakefield site, Pontin’s also operates holiday parks at Brean Sands in Somerset, Camber Sands in Suxxes, Southport in Merseyside and Prestatyn in North Wales.

In an interview with The Observer newspaper, Britannia’s owner, Alex Langsam, described the sites as “wonderful” locations but said he wanted to reinvent the parks as themed seaside destinations for families with pre-teen children.

His plans included the introduction of staff in Disney-style cartoon costumes, alongside the famous Pontin’s “bluecoat” entertainers, which he plans to retain.

He told the newspaper: “The most important thing for me is getting some of the kiddie generation in, getting the kind of stuff kiddies like into parks on a large scale.

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“The bluecoats will stay, because if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. But there will be people dressed up in all sorts of different ways, too.”

Mr Langsam said he would try to emulate some of the things done so well at Walt Disney World in Florida.

He added: “If I go to the Disney site in Florida, I’m back to being a child. It’s the adults that enjoy it as much as the kids.”

No details of plans for the individual Pontin’s sites have been revealed but in 2009 the former owners obtained planning permission from Waveney council for a �10m expansion at Pakefield.

The plans included 400 new holiday apartments, with the aim of more than doubling annual visitor numbers to 125,000, together with major refurbishment of the existing ballroom, extra shops, a new pitch and putt course and an outdoor children’s activity centre.

Pontin’s was started when Fred Pontin opened the park in Brean Sands in 1946 and at one point the company’s operations involved 30 parks.

Despite the closure of many of its sites as more Britons opted to holiday abroad, the company’s collapse of Pontin’s came as a surprise with UK tourism in general having benefited in recent years from the “staycation” phenomenon, with more people choosing to holiday at home as a result of the recession and unfavourable exchange rates.

The Britannia Hotel Group, which owns the famous Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, began in 1976 with the acquisition of the Country House Hotel, in south Manchester.

It now has 36 hotels across the UK, with a total of more than 7,000 bedrooms, with other properties including the Grand in Scarborough.

Britannia’s acquisition of the Pontin’s business has secured around 850 jobs.

No staff were made redundant during the administration, with the administrators from accountancy firm KPMG appointing Bridge Leisure to operate all five sites normally while a buyer for the business was sought.