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by Stephen Roome

Center Parcs is a European network of holiday villages that offer luxurious vacation accommodations and activities in forested areas of Europe and the UK. The European holiday village network is getting the attention of the Ontario government for consideration to develop vacation villages across the province. Center Parcs is actually two separate companies sharing the same name and logo, with facilities in Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and France.  Center Parcs Europe (CPE) is operated by Pierre & Vacancies on mainland European sites and owned by Blackstone Group. Center Parcs UK runs holiday villages in the UK and Ireland is owned by Brookfield Properties Corporation. The villages are either cottages in country settings, offering many onsite outdoor activities or more urban style with activities like bowling, indoor play world or water parks and paintball fields.

The Ontario provincial government is conducting a study to determine “the financial viability and potential economic impact of a vacation village in Ontario.” The government is looking at market size, provincial demographics and analysis of current holiday behaviour, according to the tender. The successful bidder would also be asked to suggest five potential locations for the holiday villages in the province, and produce two reports: one for internal government use and another to attract potential investors. Government officials suggest that as a province bordering the USA, Ontario is a very attractive destination for the development of new world class tourism products and experiences. Apparently the government must feel that the Mom & Pop tourist resorts are not sufficiently doing the job of attracting tourists to Ontario. It’s not clear where this would leave small independent operators if this kind of strategy goes through. Cottage resort operators are already under attack by private cottage rental agencies, Air B&B type directories and the small cottage style accommodations the federal government is already implementing in it’s park system. Independent resort owners in Ontario are still reeling from the recession and post recession dive in business and many properties have still not fully recovered from the economic collapse. 

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