Holiday 1953 and Holiday 2013....

From £300 to a multi-million pound holiday company in sixty years….
Founder offers £1000 and a free holiday to his first guest from 1953

John Fowler, the chairman and founder of the John Fowler Holidays group, is searching nationwide for the first visitor to his company when it was just a single caravan in a remote field near Newquay.

Now a multimillion-pound chain of fourteen holiday parks spread across the South West, John Fowler Holidays began when John left his Merchant Navy ship with aspirations for a business life ashore in Cornwall and his £300 pay-off in his pocket. Without a house, job or car to help him in his determination to start a business, John bought an old pre-war caravan for £100 and completely refurbished it. He had noticed visitor demand for the independence of a self-catering holiday as an alternative to traditional boarding houses or hotels.

After a round of phone calls from the village green phone kiosk he found a neighbouring farmer with permission to site the van. The agreed place was no more than a lonely grass field, without electricity or roads, but just a short scramble to a sandy beach, and a brief bus ride to Newquay. A single chemical lavatory, plus an outside tap for drinking or washing water, were the only two concessions to holiday facilities. John spent 6/6d (33p) on a small advert in a Midlands newspaper and when cash bookings started to arrive in the post ploughed all income straight into more caravans. Within weeks he had the beginnings of a very small holiday business.

John Fowler says he has continued this pattern of investing all profit straight back into his business throughout his career. His firm is now one of the UK’s biggest self-catering providers offering accommodation for up to fifteen thousand visitors nightly. As John Fowler Holidays celebrates its diamond jubilee, the company is hunting for holiday-makers who stayed with John in the year it all began – whether they made the booking themselves or came along as a child. The earliest guest from 1953 that can be found will receive a luxury John Fowler Holiday’s break, plus £1000 in cash.

There will also be cash and holiday prizes for the winners of two separate sixtieth anniversary competition weekends to be held at Ilfracombe Holiday Park in the autumn: an X-Factor style search for Britain’s best holiday entertainer, and a classic cars convention to find the most appealing car preserved from 1953.

John Fowler says:  “I’ve always taken real pleasure simply from providing happy family holidays. With their swimming pools, entertainments teams, bars and food, my parks have evolved so much since the simple days of just caravans in fields back in 1953, but the values of a John Fowler Holiday have stayed exactly the same: a warm welcome, the highest possible standards, value for money, plus great added value for money. That’s an ethos that I’ve passed on to my children, grandchildren and their partners – two new generations of Fowlers now working alongside me in running the business, giving us the company motto of “Family Run for Family Fun”.

These are just some of the differences John Fowler has noted between the holidays his customers took back in the 1950’s, and the holidays he offers today:   

Then: 1953

Now: 2013

Majority of visitors came by train

Majority of visitors come by car

Two weeks was the most popular holiday duration

A 3-4 night short break is most popular

A week caravan’s holiday cost from 3.6 Guineas out of season rising to 6 Guineas for a peak week

A week costs from £199, rising to £699 in peak season

A quality caravan would have cost John Fowler £250 to buy new

An equivalent caravan today would cost £20,000 to buy

Average cost of a loaf of bread was 5p

Average cost of a loaf of bread is £1.32[1]

Annual holiday entitlement of 16 days

Annual holiday entitlement of 28 days min.

Average weekly wage was £7.50

Average weekly wage is £500


John Fowler Holidays is the largest privately owned holiday group in the Westcountry.

In the last major survey of South West companies, John Fowler Holidays was ranked at Number 30 in a list of the 150 biggest firms operating out of Devon and Cornwall. (Source: Western Morning News, Annual Business Guide 2011) John Fowler Holidays has also been recognised in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100 list of the UK’s 100 fastest firms for profit-growth.

The fourteen John Fowler Holidays parks are situated in Penzance, St Ives, Hayle, Looe, Polperro, Perranporth, Widemouth Bay (near Bude), Brixham, Ilfracombe, Combe Martin, and Burnham-on-Sea, with some resorts hosting more than one park.

  [1] UK Retail Price Index, May 2013.

©  John Fowler Holidays - July 2013


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