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Meet two holiday parks leading progressive change in the tourism sector

Perran Sands is a haven of fun activities, including crazy golf

Two award-winning holiday parks are putting the environment at the heart of their company vision and are delivering unforgettable customer experiences.

You could be forgiven for mistaking Perran Sands and Riviere Sands Holiday Parks for bustling Cornish towns. With over a dozen types of accommodation, restaurants, bars, leisure centres, free activities and wilderness education, during high season they host nearly 8,000 visitors each week.

General manager June Donnery is proud of the improvements made during her 15 years in post, but that doesn’t mean she’s about to settle for gold. June’s leadership is about continuous improvements which benefits both  the environment and improves customer experience.

The antidote to the urban

Care for the environment takes centre stage in June’s strategy. She describes the holiday parks as an “antidote to the urban” – places where people with busy lives can just sit back and relax. Preserving the environment is therefore vital to the success of the holiday destination, but she’s also passionate about wider conservation efforts.

Perran Sands partners with local producers at their restaurants and bars

To protect the 550 acres of sand dunes, coastline and fauna, June collaborates with local wildlife charities, the Wildlife Trust, and their parent company Bourne Leisure. Together the mission is to reduce the carbon footprint of the parks and contribute to important wildlife research and education.

“What’s important to me as a manger is doing right by the environment. We love our community and are proud of our natural surroundings. We need to celebrate this and engage our guests in a positive way to encourage them to take on a behavioural change themselves.”

Examples of the role that hospitality and tourism can play in safeguarding the environment include:

  • Beach clean ups
  • Investment in environmentally conscious infrastructure
  • Purchasing from local producers and suppliers
  • Funding for local wildlife rangers
  • Signage about caring for local environment
  • Educational activities for visitors and kids

Recruiting for attitude

While June’s vision for the holiday parks is clear, the real challenge is instilling this throughout her 500-strong team.

As a seasonal business that must let go of over three quarters of its employees each autumn, maintaining a cohesive team can be challenging. However, a focus on recruiting people with the right attitudes and behaviours has led to a return of previous employees each year.

“We recruit our team based on our values. What we’re asking for are people who share in our environmental values, but also our commitment to people. In our interviews we’re looking for attitude not skill. We can offer training and coaching, but we need to be sure that the values and behaviours are already there.”

By bringing the right people on board from the beginning, June increases the likelihood that employees will share the company values and want to stick around.

Another factor reducing staff turnover at the holiday parks is the level of investment that goes in to each team member and the clear career progression. According to June, most of the team receive coaching with the idea that at some point they might move in to a leadership position.

“As a leader you need to ask yourself what do I need to change about my coaching and management to better support this person? What do they need to transition from this box to that box? I’m proud to say that this year we promoted 16 people internally.”

Creating a culture that celebrates failure

With a strong vision and team in place, June’s final task is to foster a culture that celebrates failure. The kind of failure that gets people listening and sharing.

General manager June Donnery

Through a combination of daily and weekly team meetings, and a sophisticated customer experience management platform, the team are always listening to guests and making changes based on their feedback. Customer experience is important to the entire team, and with net promoter scores (NPS) way above the industry average (65 and 59 percent), their strategy appears to be paying off.

“We allow our teams to fail and succeed. We’re creating a culture where people are not frightened to talk about what didn’t go well. We want our people to look forward to customer feedback whether it’s good or bad. Because feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

June’s story demonstrates the kind of leadership that inspires transformation and big shared goals that go beyond one business. With a crystal-clear vision and a committed team, Perran Sands and Riviere Sands are making the case for a hospitality and tourism sector that puts both the environment and customer experience front and centre.

June Donnery is the winner of the Business Leader of the Year award at the Cornwall Tourism Awards. Be the Business sponsored the Business Leader of the Year award and, in the run up to the awards on 7 November 2019, published a profile piece of each business leader. Read more from the same series here.

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