Holiday camp, in Britain, generally refers to a resort with a boundary that includes accommodation, entertainment and other facilities.
As distinct from camping, accommodation typically consisted of chalets - rather like small flats/apartments arranged in blocks of three or four storeys, and terraces of ten to twenty long. In the UK large numbers (some in the many hundreds) of static caravans are termed holiday camps.
Holidaymakers would pay a fee for their accommodation and decide whether to go full board (all meals would also be included in the price), half board (only the main meal would be included) or self catering (no meals provided).
Included in the price would be entertainments provided on site. These would include all or some of the following:
There are usually extensive childcare facilities such as a crèche and various clubs to keep youngsters occupied, enabling parents to follow their own pursuits.
Cunningham's Young Men's Holiday Camp on the Isle of Man is sometimes regarded as the first holiday camp. However, it differed from the definition above - especially as accommodation was still in tents.
Billy Butlin is generally regarded as the man who created the holiday camp as defined above, stating that he was dissatisfied with the appalling quality of facilities available to British holidaymakers. However there were already a number of camps in existence before he opened his first site at Skegness in 1936.
What distinguished Butlin was the size of the camp and the range of entertainments available. His primary competitors were Pontin's (founded by Fred Pontin, first site in 1946) and Warners (founded by Harry Warner, first site in 1931). Neither could match Butlins for sheer ambition and by the 1960s and 1970s Butlins had vastly more customers than the other camps put together.
However, by the mid 1970s the market began to decline as people began to holiday abroad taking advantage of the new, cheap package holidays. The smaller size of the Pontins camps meant that they suffered less during this period of decline than did Butlins, having fewer beds to fill.
In the 1980s many camps were shut down, holiday camps seemed increasingly to represent family poverty, lack of imagination and low social standing. People wanted to be seen to be taking aspirational holidays, either in the sun or to see the cultural histories of European cities.
However in the 1990s substantial investment in the remaining camps (including Butlins original Skegness site) continued, and new entrants (such as Center Parcs) boosted the quality and popularity of the offering, especially for young families.
One yardstick of the relative cultural impact of the three companies is that the Butlins' Redcoats (a sort of hybrid of general staff, entertainer and steward) are remembered more vividly than Pontins' Bluecoats and Warners' Greencoats are hardly remembered at all. With the growth of caravan parks in the 1970's and 1980's, the entertainment teams adopted new names that didn't describe the 'stripey' style jackets they wore. Most notibly were HavenMates and TeamStars (during the day they are part of the team but in the evening they are stars!)
- Michael Barrymore
- Cliff Richard
- Jimmy Tarbuck
- Jimmy Perry - co-writer of Dad's Army and Hi-de-Hi! (a comedy set in a holiday camp)
- Dave Allen
- ButlinsBarryIsland.com : The history of the Barry Island Holiday Camp
- Butlins Memories - information and images on many British holiday camps, including Butlins, Pontins and Warners
- Bluecoats Reunion - A Bluecoat reunion website for Ex Bluecoats.
- The Guardian - Happy Campers - Comedian Johnny Vegas recalls holidays at Butlins