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Cheshire-based Eurocamp celebrates 40 years in the holiday business

PUBLISHED: 09:47 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 09:47 23 September 2013

Steve Whitfield

Steve Whitfield

Archant

The Northwich-based boss of Eurocamp explains how much hard work goes into making a successful holiday company

While Cheshire-based Eurocamp celebrates 40 years in the holiday business, the company’s managing director Steve Whitfield is preparing to toast his own three decades with the company next year.

However, the Stockton Heath-born boss who is based at the company’s HQ at Hartford Manor, Northwich, had never considered a career in the holiday industry when he left Manchester Grammar School to study law at Birmingham University.

After graduating he joined the staff of a local law firm and soon the young trainee solicitor found his long days were filled with dealing with conveyancing and probate matters.

‘The work was as dry as a bone,’ recalled 54-year-old Steve. ‘The matrimonial cases were also quite stressful. After my first two years with the firm I realized that this was not the career for me.

‘I remember thinking “I don’t think I can do this for another 40 years”. I knew I had to do something and in the end I decided to walk away. However, I still needed to occupy myself, find a stop-gap that would allow me to clear my head, so I applied for a job as a courier with local camping holiday firm Eurocamp.

‘Back then Eurocamp was based in Knutsford where it had been founded by Alan Goulding in 1973. I was delighted to be told I’d got the job. I was just 24 or 25 then and before I knew it I was working on a camp site on the west coast of France.

‘It was the perfect antidote to seeing people go through acrimonious divorces. Yes I found myself cleaning mobile homes and chatting to the holidaymakers but I was among families who were enjoying the best two weeks of their year.’

Steve enjoyed his debut in the holiday industry but Eurocamp valued his input enough to ask him to stay on as a full-time employee. He accepted the offer and it wasn’t long before he was promoted to the position of a regional manager.

‘When I was asked about the management job I thought why not? Initially, I found myself in a sales and marketing role and had the opportunity to visit quite a few of the European sites. Those overseas trips enabled me to learn a great deal about the company and its ethos.

‘I quickly found that the culture of the organisation that I had joined was to be totally customer focused. And that is one of the reasons that Eurocamp is so successful. We see our customers face-to-face and respond to their wishes.’

Steve moved up the corporate ladder and was eventually appointed MD of Eurocamp in 2006. The organisation has since stabilized into a £100 million turnover business employing 280 staff in the UK alone. Today it is part of Holidaybreak, which was acquired by Cox & Kings in 2011. Cox and Kings is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India.

However, just two years after Steve’s appointment as MD, the economy began to slow down before developing into the longest downturn in living memory. How did Eurocamp deal with the economic challenges?

‘We were in the fortunate position to react to the challenges by reducing capacity. There is no doubt this slow-down hit the middle classes and did affect the numbers of people booking holidays in the UK.

‘Despite these challenges and with good management we continued to make a profit and move forward. Now the numbers of bookings are back on the rise and we are looking forward to a bright and profitable future.’

One of the reasons Steve is so confident about the future is that he is convinced Eurocamp has evolved into a holiday company that appeals to a much wider range of holidaymakers than those who simply crave the great outdoors.

‘Yes it is still possible to camp in the open with Eurocamp, but modern mobile homes and lodges complete with all the latest conveniences are also available on sites that boast fine restaurants, coffee shops, swimming pools and children’s play areas.

‘My wife and I have taken a lot of Eurocamp holidays over the years and the range of facilities and levels of comfort are always improving.’

Next year Steve will be celebrating his 30 year career with Eurocamp. Asked how he intends to mark the occasion the married father of three grown children replied:

‘With a Eurocamp holiday, of course!’

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