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Center Parcs create a right royal mess

Issue: How to appropriately mark the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 

In response to the death of Her Majesty QEII, family resort operator Center Parcs attracted negative media attention and mocking for announcing they would hoof all visiting families out of their five UK sites. The operator eventually reversed course, but not before the damage was done.


Businesses across the United Kingdom are altering their services and operations to accommodate the official period of mourning and upcoming funeral of QEII. Some of these decisions are attracting ridicule. For example, the Met Office said it would be limiting its weather tweeting out of respect for the death of the Queen. But it was family resort operator Center Parcs that went viral, with the planned shutdown of its sites drawing opprobrium and waves of negative media attention.

The Center Parcs ‘line to take’

“Following the announcement of the date of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, we have made the decision to close all our UK villages on Monday 19 September at 10am as a mark of respect and to allow as many of our colleagues as possible to be part of this historic moment. Guests who were due to arrive on Monday 19 September should not travel, we will reopen on Tuesday 20 September to welcome guests. All impacted guests will receive an email from us today. Please visit our website for additional information.”

Line review

It’s easy to dunk on someone who’s so obviously ballsed up their response, but that’s not why we’re here. Here’s where and why we think Center Parcs’ response went awry:

To begin, Center Parcs forgot their primary audience. The point of corporate communications is to serve your stakeholders. This may be clients, colleagues or customers. It is not an entire nation. This isn’t to say the two can’t or mustn’t align, but if there is to be conflict between the two, you should serve your primary paying audience first.

In this case, parents pay a lot of money and plan months ahead to visit Center Parcs. To have a spanner thrown in those works at short notice was always going to generate friction. It was easily anticipated. Because if you know anything about parents, and Center Parcs should, you know they’re a shouty bunch. Cross them at your peril. 

If the Center Parcs concern was that people would delay their arrivals because of the funeral or cancel a trip, they should have let their normal business practices handle those contingencies and cancellations. And if, as stated, Center Parcs was really shutting down to allow ‘as many of our colleagues as possible to be a part of this historic moment’, where is the evidence of that desire? Were they facing mass worker desertion absent a shutdown? Could they not have organised events on site to allow people to watch, if desired, including staff? Did they really have to reach for the nuclear option? Some simple internal communications could have avoided this. 

The decision smacks of a desire to follow the herd. Center Parcs saw other businesses altering hours and operations and appear to have worried about how they would be perceived if they didn’t follow suit. But the Queen’s legacy also includes steadfastness and service, something Center Parcs should have emulated in their response. And instead of reversing course fully, Center Parcs are still trying to thread some imaginary needle, granting access to the grounds themselves but restricting access to amenities. 

Memo to Center Parcs: when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

Line rating:



Does the job


Piss poor ✅


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