Away Resorts buys Sandy Balls Holiday Village

Holiday park operator Away Resorts has bought Sandy Balls Holiday Village in the New Forest for an undisclosed sum.

It brings Away Resorts’ portfolio of parks to six and follows a record year for the group.

Family-owned for almost 100 years, the Sandy Balls park is the largest holiday village in the New Forest.

It joins the group’s other parks: Tattershall Lakes in Lincolnshire; Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight; Mersea Island in Essex; Barmouth Bay in Wales; and Mill Rythe on Hayling Island.

Following the acquisition, the business now has an annual turnover of £40 million and employs 650 staff across its six sites. The group is now valued at more than £100 million.

Chief executive Carl Castledine (pictured) said the acquisition, funded by private equity partner LDC, means the operator can now provide a wider variety of UK holidays, from coastal and lakeside resorts to adventure, entertainment-packed or quiet countryside breaks.

Sandy Balls, located between Godshill and Fordingbridge in the New Forest, offers luxury woodland lodges, static holiday homes, camping pods and safari tents.

Castledine said: “Sandy Balls complements our strategy of providing our existing customer base; with a range of very different types of holidays, avoiding the chain-like feel of our major competitors.

“The demand for affordable UK holidays, particularly short breaks, is strong, and growing, as our record bookings for 2016 have shown.”

He did not rule out further acquisitions in future for the group, set up in 2008.

“We still have plans to invest in the right opportunities, and are always on the lookout for new parks to acquire and to bring into the Away Resorts family,” he said.

The group has already invested heavily in improving its parks over the last few years with the financial support of LDC, he added.

After buying its first park, Whitecliff Bay, it bought Tattershall Lakes in 2009 and Mill Rythe in 2010, and Barmouth Bay in 2013.

Last year it began a £17 million refurbishment and expansion project across its sites.

Richard Whitwell, investment director at LDC, said: “Amidst a booming ‘staycation’ market in the UK, the acquisition of Sandy Balls is a real milestone moment for Away Resorts.

“The site benefits from an enviable position as the largest holiday village in the New Forest, which receives around 20 million visitors a year.

“Its close proximity to London will help the business reach a wider range of holidaymakers looking for a break closer to home.”

away-resorts.co.uk