On August 9th, the Center Parcs website updated their news section with a message stating that from September 11th for a period of approximately six weeks, the Wild Water Rapids at Longleat Forest would be closed.
Center Parcs has a policy which states that up until 10 weeks before the start date of a short stay at one of their villages, bookings can be switched to another village. The issue is that they announced that the Wild Water Rapids at Longleat Forest would be shut just over four weeks before the date that they will shut the ride for maintenance, which means that no one staying within the six week period when the Wild Water Rapids will be closed, is able to change their booking to another village. Surely that isn’t purely coincidence?
James from Kent, who has booked Center Parcs Longleat Forest for his honeymoon, has said:
“We have been looking forward to our wedding day and were equally excited about our honeymoon at Center Parcs, but are now wondering why?”
“After the last eight years of being engaged, myself and my partner have spent the last year finally planning our perfect wedding day. This is something we have both been really looking forward too, with lots of decisions to be made. One decision we both agreed on in a heart beat, was the location of our honeymoon. Longleat Center Parcs, the location of our first holiday as a couple. It shares so many fond memories for us both and we have tried to visit a Center Parcs every year since we have been dating.”
“This morning I found out that our favourite activity the rapids is going to be shut during our stay. We are both gutted. We thought we had planned the perfect wedding day and perfect honeymoon. But after speaking to such negative customer service representatives we both feel really let down by a company that my Fiancée has been visiting all of her life, and one in which we have shared so many memories, not just with my fiancée but with my family also. This is the last time I will ever be booking a Center Parcs trip.”
The Center Parcs UK website states that “You may change your booking with us for any reason provided the change is made 10 weeks or more before your start date. Each change is subject to availability and an amendment charge to cover our administration costs.”
Center Parcs may state that “you can change your booking for any reason as long as it is 10 weeks or more before your start date”, but what if the reason you want to change your booking is caused by a circumstance that you were unaware of, like the fact that the Wild Water Rapids will be shut for the duration of your stay?
Under Center Parcs’ booking terms and conditions, in regards to cancellation or changing villages, they state the following.
“If we are aware in advance that: The Subtropical Swimming Paradise will be closed for a significant period or 25% or more of the amenities on the village are not available, and as a result, there would be a material impact on your break, we will offer you the following options, subject to availability: Change the start date of your break. Change to another UK village. Continue with your break, or cancel your break with a full refund (without cancellation charge).”
The Wild Water Rapids may not equate to the whole Subtropical Swimming Paradise nor 25% of the amenities on offer, but for a lot of people who visit Center Parcs each year, they are the main attraction. There are very few other places in the UK that offer a ride like the Wild Water Rapids. So if you are visiting Center Parcs and booking your entire break around this one ride and the family fun it offers – being able to ride it all together being the main attraction – surely this ride being closed does have a ‘material impact’? Especially as, when the break was booked the affected parties were not made aware that part of the facilities they paid for would not be on offer.
Which? states that when a package holiday is booked, by law you have the right to expect the holiday that you booked and paid for. If the holiday does not match the description, under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 you may have a claim for compensation.
Does Center Parcs fall into the definition of a ‘package’? The regulations define a ‘package’ as the pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following components: transport, accommodation, other tourist services not necessary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package.”
If Center Parcs does fall into this category, then as the holiday does not match the description, due to the Wild Water Rapids being closed, that means that visitors during this period may have a claim for compensation.
“Regulation 4 states that, no travel organiser can supply consumers with misleading information. This is wider than just brochure (or website) information – none of the descriptive material should be misleading.”
As we’ve already established, there was no mention that the Wild Water Rapids would be closed for maintenance when any of the affected parties booked their break. Therefore, the information given could be seen as misleading.
Tracey from Exeter, who has booked Center Parcs Longleat Forest as a family holiday, has said:
“It’s disgusting. The fact that we have not been given any warning about this, and to make matters worse, the customer service team are not being accommodating and don’t seem to be trying to find a solution. All we want is the fantastic holiday we dreamed of.”
When booking a short break to one of the UK Center Parcs villages, you have the option of paying an additional £25 for cancellation insurance. Cancellation insurance usually acts as a ‘get out of jail free card’ – if you need to cancel your trip you can do, no questions asked. But that’s not the case with Center Parcs.
Andrew from Cornwall, who has booked a short break at Longleat Forest, has said:
“The Wild Water Rapids are one of the main reasons people go to Center Parcs. To have them taken away from your break without any sort of compensation is awful. I help run a small business, and if we behaved like this, we wouldn’t survive for long.”
If you cancel your break more than ten weeks before the start date, you receive all of your money back, apart from your deposit. More than eight weeks until the start date of your break but not more than ten, you receive 50% of the cost of your break back. More than four but not more than eight, you receive just 25% of the cost of your break back.
Four weeks or less, you receive nothing back. This is with cancellation insurance in place.
So if Center Parcs had shared the fact that ‘essential maintenance’ would be being performed on the Longleat Wild Water Rapids six weeks ago, everyone visiting within the period when the ride will be shut, would have had the opportunity to cancel their break and receive a full refund. Is it a coincidence that this isn’t an option anymore?
Many people visiting Longleat Forest Center Parcs during the six week period when the Wild Water Rapids are set to be closed have contacted Center Parcs customer service to ask to be moved to another village as they were not told about this work when they booked their break or at a time when they could cancel or be moved to another village.
However, these requests have fallen on deaf ears.
Daniel from Bury, who is set to come on a break to Center Parcs during the time when the Wild Water Rapids are closed, who contacted Center Parcs customer service team when he heard that the ride would be shut during his stay, has said:
“The head of Center Parcs contact centre advised that they class every customer as a loyal customer even if they only come once. To a family that has visited for 20+ years, those words felt like a kick in the teeth.”
The response that the Center Parcs customer service team has provided has been described as ‘disgusting’. It has also been said that they are not willing to be at all accommodating, they have shown no understanding of customer loyalty, and that there is no care that their customers are heartbroken that their holidays that they have been excited for are now, in essence, partially ruined.
Amber from Dorset, who has booked a break to Longleat Forest when the ride if shut, has said:
“I think it’s disgraceful that a company like Center Parcs can treat their customers this way. The Wild Water Rapids are the top attraction at Longleat and one of the only things that doesn’t cost extra! If feels like the company don’t care about us, and have basically just said “tough, deal with it” when people have complained. We just want the holiday that we’ve paid a lot of money for.”
It is understandable that every so often essential maintenance works have to be carried out in different areas at the Center Parcs villages. However, it would be appreciated by visitors if they were made aware in advance of these works where possible, or were offered a more accommodating approach by the Center Parcs customer service team, to ensure that every visitor is able to make the most out of their break.
With the bitter taste left in these customer’s mouths, one clear question comes forward for Center Parcs CEO Martin Dalby – whilst you’re on a six figure salary for minimal input, many of us save all year for this special holiday. How do you find that fair on loyal customers who have contributed generously to your pay cheque for many years?
If you too have been affected by the mistreatment of loyal customers by Center Parcs UK, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.