Away and Aria Resorts merge to form £600m staycation powerhouse

UK: UK holiday park operators Away Resorts and Aria Resorts have agreed to merge to create a new staycation powerhouse, spurred on by this summer’s domestic travel boom and a frenzy of M&A activity in the space.

Sky News reported that Away, which was recently acquired by CVC Capital Partners, is buying Aria from investment firm Angelo Gordon. Away also purchased Cornish holiday park St Ives Bay Holiday Park, backed by private equity firms Freshstream and LDC, in March.

The combined company will operate 20 holiday park resorts across the UK in England, Wales and Scotland, as well as Devon-based luxury boutique hotel Gara Rock Hotel. Aria, which owns 14 sites across the UK, will come under the leadership of Away’s management team, led by chairman Rooney Anand and chief executive Carl Castledine.

The merger will allow for the creation of one of the largest holiday resort brands in the sector, distinguished by its “clear focus on guest experience, and the delivery of new and innovative products and services”.

Away Resorts CEO Carl Castledine said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the team at Aria to pursue our shared ambition of forming a leading staycation provider, that will challenge the bigger brands. I am confident our combined businesses, with their focus on customer care and top-quality facilities, will offer exceptional destinations for holidaymakers and holiday home owners seeking to relax a little closer to home.”

Aria Resorts CEO Bobby McGhee said: “We are extremely excited to be joining forces with Away Resorts. The enlarged group of parks will offer our guests even more choice and together, our parks will continue to be transformed in new and exciting ways. Our future is bright!”

Amid the staycation boom, uncertainty remains this summer over what international travel will be allowed or restricted, leading holidaymakers to pursue domestic options free from the safety measures that are enforced when venturing abroad.

This surge in demand is triggering some significant M&A activity across the industry, most notably Bourne Leisure’s sale to Blackstone earlier this year in a multi-billion pound transaction, while the likes of Awaze, Roompot and Park Holidays continue to build their portfolios. Meanwhile, holiday village company Center Parcs secured an option agreement to acquire privately owned woodland in West Sussex and build a new £400 million holiday park.

It is believed that the combined company is planning for a number of sizeable investments to transform itself into the leading holiday park operator in the UK. The group already employs more than 2000 employees to work with 4,500 holiday homeowners and 1,800 accommodation units in both coastal and country locations.