Opinion Columnists

Friday 23 August 2019

Liz Kearney: 'Mass hysteria over Center Parcs opening has been a sight to behold'


Guests enjoying the launch spectacular of Center Parcs Longford Forest. Photo: Naoise Culhane Photography
Guests enjoying the launch spectacular of Center Parcs Longford Forest. Photo: Naoise Culhane Photography
Guests enjoy Center Parcs Longford Forest on its opening weekend. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Lucy Murray (10 months) enjoys the pool with her mum Denise. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Rory Best enjoying the Mini Captains’ Adventure with his son Richie (4). Photo: Naoise Culhane
Pól Ó Conghaile at Center Parcs Ireland. Photo: Leon Farrell / Photocall.
Baz Ashmawy and his children make a splash in Ireland’s newest and largest waterpark, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Inside the Subtropical Swimming Paradise at Longford Forest
One of the lodges at Center Parcs Longford Forest
Center Parcs Longford Forest
The outdoor pool at Aqua Sana Spa
The Murphy family from Drogheda, Ciara (12); and Andy; at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. Pic: Naoise Culhane
Inside the Subtropical Swimming Paradise at Center Parcs Longford Forest.
Dining at Center Parcs in Ireland
The Aqua Sana Spa
Stofra Ní Ghallchobhair (7) takes part in the activities at Center Parcs Longford Forest! Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise at Center Parcs Longford Forest. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Indicative prices at Center Parcs
An increasing amount of people are deciding not to take holidays. Stock photo
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

The mass hysteria over the opening of Center Parcs has been a sight to behold.

We're all agog at the goings-on up in Longford Forest, and hungry for every detail about pricing, activities and accommodation, while doing the mental arithmetic and wondering if we could afford the eye-watering cost for our own families sometime.

Center Parcs says a sizeable chunk of its market is actually adults without kids, a sector which presumably has to be relied on to fill up the hundreds of woodland cabins during term-time, when the youngsters are safely back in their classrooms.

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That may be true, but what really strikes me about all of this is just how much our attitude towards family holidays has changed. Today, they are all about keeping the kids happy, whatever the cost.

And that's a far cry from the approach when I was growing up in the 1980s. Back then, kids were literally the last people to be consulted on where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do when July and August rolled around. It was a case of doing as you were told, and pretending to enjoy it.

One friend spent every family holiday being dragged around various French châteaux, bored to death by turrets and endless canals. Our own family holidays were few and far between, but included such highlights as travelling to Lancashire on the ferry for a family funeral. You can be sure that there was nary a zip-line or a sub-tropical swimming paradise in sight on that particular trip.

But to be honest, you were lucky to go anywhere at all in the belt-tightened 1980s, when air travel was far more expensive and options more limited. Things are different now. With so many parents out at work, most of us spend our lives consumed by guilt and worrying nearly constantly about our children.

Are they happy? Do they miss us? Do they like their crèche/childminder/after-school? If they're upset about something, will we even notice if we don't see them between the hours of 8am and 6pm?

In that context, where parents exist in a state of semi-permanent separation anxiety, the annual family holiday has come to occupy a sacred space in the calendar, the thing we work hard all year to pay for. So fundamental has it become, that it's frequently cited as the one thing families just couldn't give up, no matter how tight their finances.

So it's no surprise that we need desperately for it to be perfect - not for ourselves, of course, but for the kids. The pay-off for parents is that, just for once, we get to witness them having fun first-hand, rather than being told about it later on by the childminder.

Slowly does it? Not for me, thanks

Forget Center Parcs, though. The future of travel is apparently in slow air cruises.

This is the imaginative prediction of BA, which has commissioned a detailed report into the future of flying and found it might all look very different a few decades from now.

BA chief executive Alex Cruz revealed that while air travel is predicted to get much faster, some passengers will still opt for leisurely, slow-flying 'cruises' to get their holidays off to a leisurely start.

These cruises will be complete with things like on-board yoga classes and wellness consultants (I think that's the cabin crew). You might even take a trip over the pyramids, complete with an in-flight guide, he said.

Come on Alex, pull the other one: no one actually enjoys spending their time hurtling through the air while trapped inside a metal tube, do they? Even if that metal tube has a yoga studio and a Michelin-starred restaurant. I'll keep my feet on terra firma, thanks.

Irish Independent

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