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My wife and I go on regular caravanning trips throughout each year, every 4 weeks on average, and we mainly use Caravan Club sites in the Lake District, Yorkshire and Staffordshire.
When booking, it can be difficult to find vacancies for such sites when checking the Caravan Club's online booking system as they often appear to be booked up. However, a day or so before our proposed arrival date, if we phone the particular site warden's office, our proposed booking can frequently be accommodated despite it showing as unavailable via the online system.
The Caravan Club's new "72 Hour Rule" for cancelling site bookings appears to be trying to remedy this, but it won't work.
The rule is a punishment approach to solving the problem. The alleged offence is cancelling a booking within 72 hours of the proposed arrival; doing this 3 times in any one year will earn you the penalty of a 14 day ban from booking, together with the automatic cancellation of all your existing bookings!
I'm not sure about this "law enforcement" approach, and, as well as being somewhat counter productive to the cause of filling pitches, I don't think it will appeal much to the "punters".
If such a rule were to apply only to "no shows" - where members make no attempt to cancel their bookings - I could understand, and endorse it. Sometimes, of course, people have emergencies that make a site booking pale into insignificance. I empathise with members to whom such might happen 3 times, but think they would understand that an efficient system cannot accommodate such unusual circumstances.
But with the 72 hour rule, members who genuinely cancel their bookings before the proposed arrival date are being tarred with the same brush as the "no shows" and let down by the lack of differentiation.
Let's revisit my opening paragraphs: You look at the online booking system and a particular site is showing no vacancies. You ring the site warden's office and they say they can accommodate your booking after all.
The discrepancy appears to be at the site warden's office:
Is it not obvious that the problem of unfilled pitches, other than the "no shows" and inevitable days between bookings, is that some members telephone the site warden's office to cancel their bookings and the wardens sometimes fail to relay this to the online system? What other explanation can there be if there is a constant discrepancy between available bookings online and what site wardens have available via telephone?
I suspect that the equation is something like this: unfilled pitches = "no shows" and inevitable gaps + site telephoned cancellations that wardens haven't relayed online.
My wife and I often cancelled our site bookings within 72 hours of arrival last year using the online system. This was either because a preferred site, that had previously shown as booked up, had later become available - or that it was actually available when checking with the warden by telephone!
Here, when one pitch booking was cancelled, it was immediately re-booked at a different CC site with no loss of revenue for the club. And our old vacancy immediately became available for other members to book too. That rather sounds like a win-win situation in comparison to the 72 hour rule.
Bearing in mind the 72 hour rule, we cancelled our February booking this year because of a bad weather forecast. The forecast changed for the better within 72 hours of our proposed arrival, but we'd cancelled and, by then, had made other plans. This, surely, is just one example of where the 72 hour rule will result in less caravans on pitches, and less club revenue as a result.
Adverse weather can result in dangerous towing conditions too, of course, and sites can become inaccessible after heavy snowfalls. Who's call is it, and what are the consequenses?
I'm not apportioning blame at the site wardens here; they're busy people. And apportioning blame doesn't help anyway.
To maximise club profitability, pitches that are actually available need to show as such on the online system.
Cancelling a booking should not incur any penalty. Failing to cancel a booking perhaps should.
My suggestion is that all telephone bookings should be made and cancelled via head office, and that the phone call concludes only once head office has actually made or cancelled the booking online.
Of course, those of us who use the online system to book and cancel our caravanning trips are already maximising pitch availability and club profitability.
Thanks for reading, and I welcome your comments.
At some point after rolling out the 72 hour rule, it was ammended to allow you to cancel a booking within 72 hours of proposed arrival as long as you book within the same date range of the late cancellation at another Club site within 24 hours.
At least this shows some progress. The balance of my concerns, however, remain unaddressed at the time of this update - 30th December 2012.
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