‘Filthy and run down’ – Why Pontins has been rated the worst holiday park in the UK

‘Filthy and run down’ – Why Pontins has been rated the worst holiday park in the UK

Holiday park brand Pontins has been rated the worst in the UK, with smaller and independent brands outperforming well-known names like Butlin’s and Center Parcs, according to new research.

Consumer group Which? surveyed more than 1,700 people to assess the popular tourist spots over 11 criteria, including quality of accommodation, customer service, cleanliness, facilities, activities, and value for money.

Pontins, established in 1946 by Fred Pontin, scored a dismal 56 per cent in overall customer satisfaction, earning the lowest position in the survey. The brand, which was taken over by Britannia in 2011, has faced a series of challenges, including multiple site closures in the past year.

Currently, only two Pontins sites remain operational: Pakefield in Suffolk and Sand Bay in Somerset.

Survey respondents gave Pontins low marks across the board, with two-star ratings for customer service, accommodation quality, cleanliness, facilities, activities, food and drink, and value for money. The highest rating it received was three stars for communication and entertainment. One visitor described their stay as “dirty and dated,” while another found the facilities “filthy and run down.”

Pontins shut their Camber Sands outpost with with immediate effect at the end of 2023 (PA)

The Independent has approached Pontins for a response to the Which? survey.

Other big-name holiday parks also struggled to meet expectations. Butlin’s, another long-standing British institution, ranked among the bottom five with a customer score of 67 per cent. While it received praise for its children’s activities and entertainment, earning four stars in these categories, it was criticised for poor customer service and subpar food and drink options. One respondent noted the meals were “basic and not good quality”.

A spokesperson for Butlins said “it’s brilliant to see that we’re scoring highly when it comes to activities and entertainment” after investing over £50 million across their resorts, but it’s ”disappointing” to see lower scores in some areas.

“[We] would like to reassure guests that we’re investing in these areas to offer a better holiday experience,” they added.

Haven Holiday Parks and Center Parcs tied with a customer score of 69 per cent, placing them just above Butlin’s. Center Parcs, although well-regarded for its customer service, accommodation quality, and activities, was deemed poor value for money, with guests reporting an average spend of £76 per person per night. Many respondents felt that the cost did not justify the limited free facilities and activities.

In May, The Independent reported how swapping Center Parcs in the UK for a stay at their namesake resorts in Europe could see holidaymakers more than half the cost of accommodation.

Responding to the Which? research, Centers Parcs pointed out that more than two million people stay at their locations each year, and said they were at least 97 per cent full at all times, adding: “We are proud of our consistently high guest satisfaction scores and over 60 per cent of guests will go on to make another booking with us.

“Our guests demand a high-quality experience and each year we invest tens of millions of pounds improving our villages to ensure we meet their expectations.”

Haven received mixed reviews, with three-star ratings for customer service, accommodation quality, and value for money.

This survey highlighted a shifting landscape in the UK holiday park industry, where smaller and independent operators are increasingly setting the standard for quality and customer satisfaction.

Those surveyed rated the British holiday parks on everything from value for money to quality of food and drink and the entertainment on offer (Alamy/PA)

In stark contrast, Potters Resorts topped the table with an impressive 87 per cent customer score. Potters, which operates two all-inclusive resorts in Essex and Norfolk, received five stars for the variety and quality of its free facilities, activities, entertainment, and communication.

Forest Holidays came second with a score of 80 per cent. With 13 locations across England, Wales and Scotland, Forest Holidays offers woodland stays in cabins and treehouses, earning high marks for accommodation quality, cleanliness, customer service, and activities.

Tied for third place with a score of 77 per cent is Bluestone Wales and John Fowler Holiday Parks. Bluestone Wales, located in Pembrokeshire, was praised for its “amazing” resort and accommodating staff, receiving four stars in several key categories. John Fowler Holiday Parks also impressed, contributing to the strong performance of smaller and independent brands in the survey.

Other notable high scorers included Hoburne Holidays (75 per cent) and Waterside Holiday Group (74 per cent).

Naomi Leach, deputy editor of Which? Travel, said: “Holiday parks have been a mainstay of British holidays for decades, but with so many options to choose from, it isn’t always easy to know which will be the right fit for your family.

“Our latest survey shows that it’s worth looking beyond the best-known names, with smaller and independent resorts offering excellent value for money, great customer service, and plenty of onsite entertainment. Whether you’re after an all-inclusive break, a luxury treehouse with a hot tub, or a more budget-friendly option, our ‘Which? Recommended Providers’ are a great place to start your research.”

Source: independent.co.uk