By Peter Moore, OBE, NPD Chairman of Leisure
When Gavin Woodhouse and I first met, we could both see clear evidence and obvious demand for an exciting, active lifestyle experience which served up an exhilarating, adrenaline-flowing menu of activities all in one location.
Having discussed the potential we felt that, between us, we had the range of experience in the right leisure sectors and the mix of business disciplines required to take it further.
As chairman of NPD, Gavin has a proven track record of delivering a successful hotel organisation which employs over 250 staff across the UK. Crucially, he also has the experience of raising the necessary capital required to fund such an operation, through an extremely effective financial model that is both attractive to funders and is robust and affordable for projects – and equitable to both investor and developer.
I had launched and developed the Center Parcs concept throughout the UK, which provided an extremely similar template that we could use to modify and refine to our purposes.
I also had operational experience and marketing success with that organisation, Alton Towers and the Chill Factore Ski Village.
Between us, I think it is fair to say we covered all the bases and it was a quick and easy decision for us to get our heads together and try to turn our deliberations into reality.
Initially we needed to identify the right activities for our target audiences; assemble them into an attractive resort layout; identify a suitable site and location; put together a robust business plan that would effectively raise the capital required for a large-scale project and assemble a team of consultants to work the project through to achieving planning consent.
The menu of activities for each zone, each offering their own ‘theme’ of Alpine, Forest, Extreme and Trails experiences, all woven into the landscape to test and thrill body and mind, was then a key consideration.
Each has been selected and designed both to test the stamina and endurance of the fittest but also allow different levels of age, skill and strength, to enjoy the sheer delight of experiencing the thrill of the zipwire, the ski slope, indoor skydiving, scuba diving, canoeing, canyoning, surfing or off-road quad biking and much more – all tailored to different abilities.
When it came to finding a suitable venue to accommodate all the different activities we found an outstanding site in the hills and valleys of South Wales, whose dramatic topography was simply perfect for the purpose and its location and ease of access from the major conurbations was also ideal.
Having finalised the activity zones, refined their content and location on site, we set about creating a spectacular Central Plaza zone which would deliver a wealth of shops, restaurants and bars and be the perfect meeting point for relaxation and socialisation at the end of the day.
Accommodation was then a key consideration and by introducing 450 bespoke lodges which would sit in each of the activity zones, alongside a 100-bedroom hotel and spa, we had the initial template for the entire resort laid out.
Attentions then turned to compiling the biggest operators from the world of leisure to bring the resort to life.
Due to the nature of the project and the huge interest it has created throughout the industry, we were soon attracting some of the world’s leading names as partners and in March we were delighted to announce the arrival of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy who will be making the resort the HQ for their Bear Grylls’ Instructors’ Academy.
Since then, specialist teams including Newman Aqua; Snowflex and ZipWorld have arrived on board to ensure the ultimate adventure for guests.
In terms of overseeing the whole process, an outstanding team of experienced consultants has been assembled to take this innovative and exciting project through to planning, with design now in final stage of preparation for planning submission.
Reaction to the project has been just what we had hoped.
With more than a thousand permanent jobs to be created and several hundred more indirectly, through support services and suppliers, the economic benefits to the region will clearly be significant.
However, for a Leisure and Tourism Resort of such national and international significance, which will not only deliver significant economic and social benefits but help further raise awareness of Wales as a major Tourism destination, support from all quarters is vital and crucial support for the project from both the Economic Development and Tourism Departments of the Welsh Government, at all levels, has been strong and much welcomed.
The reaction from local residents and businesses too, with whom consultation has begun, has been both encouraging and helpful and we feel it has been an extremely useful, and appreciated, exercise in explaining an intriguing and complex resort concept.
It is fair to say the Afan Valley Adventure Resort is certainly an eagerly anticipated project, which Gavin and I believe will deliver one of the most spectacular tourism injections to Wales, introducing to the nation a totally new dimension of resort experience, one the market is clearly ready for.
Exhilaration, relaxation and socialising, in the one breath taking adventure resort.
We look forward to bringing you the next chapter.