How Center Parcs brought forest holidays to central London

On June 6, Center Parcs Woburn Forest officially opened its doors to the very first guests. The opening break was a huge success and is a weekend that will go down in the Center Parcs history books. You can read more about it here in our storybook.

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After the success of the first weekend, the next challenge was to set about raising the awareness of Center Parcs and announcing our opening to the London audience; Center Parcs is an all year-round, high quality short break for the whole family and Woburn Forest can be reached within an hour from the capital, so it’s important we communicate this.  With months of planning behind us, we turned London Waterloo station into a mini Center Parcs for a week. Well – as much as we were allowed to, as nothing beats the real thing! We used Waterloo Station’s 40ft motion screen – the largest in the UK, I believe – as well as two experiential zones made into four different areas; virtual Zip Wire, digital Archery, an Aqua Sana – our award-winning spa – information zone and a Center Parcs ambassador zone.

Virtual Archery
The aim of the game here was to get the highest score possible. Those scoring more than 75 with their first nine arrows opened up a further level. If you reached the next unlocking score, a further new level was revealed, and so on.  The virtual Archery was a huge success and saw almost 3,000 people taking part over a five-day period. There were prizes for the top three on the leaderboard, which were won with three amazing scores:

  1. Ella Stephen – 181 (£1,000 Center Parcs Vouchers)
  2. Paul Cornwell – 171 (£750 Center Parcs Vouchers)
  3. Jason Dent – 170 (£500 Center Parcs Vouchers)

The technology of the game was amazing. We had a bespoke Android application built, which re-created an Archery experience at Center Parcs, with the user able to spin 360 degrees with the bow in hand to see the Archery shooting range. There was even wildlife built into the game. Don’t worry – it was programmed to ensure nothing could be harmed!

The app was installed to a device which sat neatly into a plastic Archery bow, made and delivered directly from Canada. The user then aimed the bow at one of three large screens, before firing. The game attracted lots of people who came to watch; at one point we had more than 60 people gathered around the zones to watch our virtual archers in action. Of course, temptation got too much for most and they had to experience it for themselves.

As well as saying a huge congratulations to the three winners and a big thank you to everyone who took part, I would like to extend our thanks to Koffeecup who did such an excellent job of not only producing the app, but also being so helpful in ensuring that the experience went so well in advance and over the week.

Virtual Zip Wire

The technology that went into the Archery game was amazing, but we stepped it up a level with our virtual Zip Wire. It used Oculus Rift technology, now owned by Facebook, which has the future written all over it. Participants put a pair of goggles on as well as some headphones before being immersed in a 360° virtual world. Users were greeted by a Center Parcs instructor and hooked up by a harness to the wire, which stretched out in front of them and over the lake below. Turning your head reveals different aspects of the virtual Village.

In effect you can turn your head in any direction and see what you would if you were actually there. I have to say that I was hugely impressed when I first tested it out.

Oculus Rift is a ground breaking form of technology and is sure to revolutionise the way we all interact with films and games in the future. This was the first time Oculus Rift has been used in an out-of-home experience like this and we will certainly be looking into using it more in the future to try to represent an accurate image of different activities on our five Villages.

We all had a great time down at Waterloo and I hope it gave a little more insight to Waterloo commuters and London visitors about why so many people love Center Parcs, the huge range of relaxing and fun activities, and why we enjoy average occupancy at our forest villages, open all year round, of an amazing 97%.

From a personal point of view, I feel that one of the reasons Center Parcs is loved by so many is the amazing staff that we have on each of our villages. Being able to bring some of these staff to Waterloo really helped to give a true reflection of Center Parcs to so many, so I’d like to give a special mention to; Alison, Ben, Hannah, Jennie, Kelly, Lisa, Lucy, Nathan, Richard, Sarah, Steph and Stewart for doing such a fantastic job. If you see any of the team when on your break, keep an eye out and say hi.

The Waterloo team and I would like to thank everybody who tried our virtual Zip Wire and Archery, as well as those who entered our Center Parcs and Aqua Sana competitions. Without the willingness to take part and have a go, the event would not have been the success it was.

Thanks also goes to Chris Dowse, Walker Media, Brothers & Sisters,  Posterscope, PSLive, Koffeecup, Hyperspace, Viemr, PDQ exhibitions and JCDecaux for making it happen.

Did you get a chance to visit us at Waterloo? Did you have a go on the Archery or virtual Zip Wire? Let us know your score in the comments below.

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Simon Jarratt

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Simon Jarratt

I am the Digital Acquisition and Media Manager and have worked at Center Parcs for more than five years. I have a passion for travel in my working and personal life; because of this you’ll find me writing about the latest news in the travel industry and short break market.