Holiday park's 40 year success
THE boss of one of Norfolk's leading holiday parks is preparing to celebrate 40 years of growing success.James Biss remembers that it was four days before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon when he arrived at Great Yarmouth's Vauxhall Holiday Park on July 17, 1969.
THE boss of one of Norfolk's leading holiday parks is preparing to celebrate 40 years of growing success.
James Biss remembers that it was four days before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon when he arrived at Great Yarmouth's Vauxhall Holiday Park on July 17, 1969.
His father Stanley, who began building the park at the entrance to the resort in 1964, found gainful employment for the 17-year-old school leaver “emptying dustbins, cutting grass and sweeping roads”.
Within a year he was running the park amusement arcade - “back then it was a 20ft by 40ft shed, now its 17,000sq ft” - and he quickly went on to take charge of bingo as well.
Since 1983, 13 years after his father's retirement, Mr Biss, 56, has sat in the managing director's chair and overseen Vauxhall's transformation into one of the country's leading parks, given a prestigious five-star rating by the English Tourist Board.
But despite its growing success, now attracting 100,000 visitors annually compared to just 35,000 in 1969, Mr Biss said he is proud that the park has kept its roots as a family business.
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Brother Wayne, 37, is a fellow director, Mr Biss's son Charlie, 23, assistant amusement arcade manager, and eldest daughter Hannah, 26, part of the marketing and reception team.
He said: “At the start, I remember holidaymakers still streaming off the trains at Yarmouth station. However, the introduction of package holidays in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to the demise of a lot of British tourism. Those who did not change fell by the wayside.”
While families in the 1960s were still content with very basic facilities of “caravans with no running water, flush toilets or electric lights”, the demand for luxuries and mod-cons had steadily taken off since then.
He said: “We were one of the first parks in the country to offer caravans with running water and electric lights. In those days they were not built like that and we had to convert them ourselves over the winter. Nowadays, we design all our own caravans and they are completely exclusive to us.”
Mr Biss, who also has an 11-year-old step-daughter Charlotte, said the mantra for the tourist industry had to be: invest, invest, invest.
“We have invested millions upon millions and it is not unusual to spend more than �1m in a year,” he said.
The park's indoor water park had been a seven-figure investment 13 years ago and next winter that was due to be significantly upgraded again with outdoor flumes and slides.
Vauxhall, employing up to 220 people in high season, has since also become a popular venue for music weekends, working in tandem with such radio stations as Kiss and Heart.