“Bright Ideas was a competition across the Villages where employees could submit ideas for new activities – and mine won.” Steve’s winning idea was Tree Trekking which, as any Center Parcs loyalist will know, forms part of the Aerial Adventure course.
From tiny acorns…
Steve says it was an easy step to take: “The concept was already out there; Go Ape, for example, started it off. We put the idea together, spoke to a supplier and contractors and started by introducing a small version to Sherwood Forest, to test it out and see how guests would take to it.”
So how was it received? A brand new activity, never seen before by Center Parcs guests. “It went through the roof…or should I say canopy!” adds Steve.
After the roaring success at Sherwood Forest, the other Villages – understandably so – wanted a piece of the action. “Just six months after Tree Trekking was installed at Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest got one too; we then built one at Whinfell Forest and Longleat Forest after that. From there we began extending the courses, such as installing zip wires over the lakes and adding extra elements to make the courses bigger into what we now recognise as Aerial Adventure.”
Of course, Center Parcs, as with any business, cannot afford to stand still, and Steve says the leisure department is constantly striving to better themselves for the benefit of guest experience. Aerial Adventure was no different and demand has exploded.
“When we first opened the course we were looking after about eight guests an hour, now we can have as many as 30 to 32 each hour. Due to the demand and the capacity, Aerial Adventure has gone from a small new activity we opened at Sherwood, to being an iconic feature of the entire company. For me, it’s fantastic to see the ideas come to life. It’s daunting because you have the responsibility to keep that activity going, but it’s a lot of fun.”
A big achievement
Steve and his team seem to be coping well with the responsibility, and numbers are truly incredible – 87,894 guests have taken part in the past year alone, meaning Aerial Adventure has edged past the firm favourite Ten Pin Bowling for two consecutive years. But what exactly makes it so successful?
Steve says it’s down to a number of reasons: “Firstly I think it’s an exciting activity. We get a lot of guests who come and do the badminton and the cycling, but want to do a marquee, adrenaline activity as a highlight to their break. Additionally, when people return each year and see we’ve developed the aerial course, for example the extended Zip Wire at Elveden Forest, they want to try the new elements so just keep on coming.”
Steve adds: “The course isn’t difficult, but by the end of it guests recognise it’s a big achievement. The best thing about Aerial Adventure is that it’s an activity everyone can do – the age range is huge. You can just get up there and have a go; we’ve even had a 70-year-old try it.
We have extended the courses at all Villages and now, with the introduction of Mini Trek at Longleat Forest, Steve says they’re targeting the next generation. “Mini Trek is aimed at children aged 2 to 7. So the entire Action Challenge family can cater for ages from 2 to 102!”
So what next for Aerial Adventure? “I am amazingly proud of what we now have and I know our guests love the experiences we have to offer. However, we can’t get complacent, you always need to add that extra little bit so that guests keep coming back. Center Parcs is always innovating, so who knows?”