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Blackstone puts Butlin’s up for sale

Deal could include three seaside sites, which have entertained British holidaymakers for generations

Butlins Bognor Regis

Blackstone, owners of Bourne Leisure, Butlin’s parent company, is to auction off the iconic British holiday park chain next year reports Sky News.

The move comes less than a year after private equity firm bought a majority stake in Bourne Leisure, for an estimated £3 billion. Some analysts had speculated that Butlin’s would be divested, as it was perceived to be a non-core business within the group.

Bourne Leisure, which also owns Haven holiday parks and Warner Leisure Hotels, currently has three Butlin’ sites in the UK at Bognor Regis in West Sussex, Minehead in Somerset and Skegness in Lincolnshire.

Knobbly knees

Butlin's logo

Butlin’s was the self-titled creation of Billy Butlin, who was inspired after seeing holidaymakers have a less-than-pleasant experience on Wales’ Barry Island. In 1936 he bought land at Skegness, wanting to create a “place of colour and happiness”, and set about creating a new UK leisure destination for families.

At the height of British “staycations” in the 60s and 70s, the company had camps across most of the British Isles, many of which have been demolished, found alternative uses or been rebranded as other operators. One ex-Butlin’s site is still operated by Bourne Leisure as sister brand Haven.

In its heyday, Butlin’s was seen as the pinnacle of British vacationing, with an array of on-site facilities, funfair rides, and the introduction of Redcoat entertainers to ensure guests were kept busy dawn to dusk. However, the glamourous grannies and knobbliest knees competitions fell out of favour as holidaymakers ventures abroad, and Butlin’s struggled to move the perception of its brand upmarket.

Butlin’s has also seen increased competition from competitor Center Parcs following the trend for nature breaks. Center Parcs has grown from three UK sites in the 1990s to six, the latest opening in 2019 in County Longford, Ireland. Center Parcs also boasts an occupancy rate of 97%.

Staycations trend stimulates deals

Butlins has been impacted by the pandemic, last year refunding site fees to caravan owners and offering prospective guests cash refunds for cancelled breaks, according to the firm’s published accounts. However, it has benefited from the staycation trend resulting from COVID travel restrictions.

In fact, staycations have stimulated a number of deals in the sector. Park Holidays was sold to Sun Communities for £950 million this month and Parkdean Resorts are expected to be sold next year.

Blackstone has now has asked Rothschild & Co to prepare for an auction of Butlin’s camps over the coming twelve months.

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Adam Whittaker blooloop

Adam Whittaker

Adam is Marketing Manager and looks after blooloop’s communications. He studied Marketing and Advertising Management at Leeds Beckett University. You can usually find him appreciating art deco architecture, by a seaside resort, or on a theme park roller coaster.

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