Center Parcs got €8.6m in State aid as pandemic slashed revenues

Longford holiday village is now trading strongly and finalising plans for €85m expansion

The €240 million Center Parcs holiday village near Ballymahon in Co Longford says bookings have recovered this year after the pandemic cut its annual revenues by more than two-thirds and drove its finances deep into the red.

Center Parcs Ireland, which owns the 400-acre Longford Forest facility employing 1,000 staff, relied on €13.7 million in fresh funding from its owner, Canadian fund manager Brookfield Property Partners, as well as €8.6 million in State wage subsidies to see it through the 12 months to April 22nd last year.

Accounts filed recently show revenues fell €10.8 million in the period as anti-virus restrictions forced it to remain closed for almost nine months, bar a stint during a virus lull over summer 2020 and a week at Christmas.

It revenues the previous year had been €33.6 million, though this only included eight months of trading from its start up in July 2019 until the pandemic first caused it to close in March 2020.

The company, which is part of a UK group with five similar facilities in Britain, recorded a loss of €18.2 million last year. This compared to a loss of €15.3 million over the previous 12-month period, when it had to pay out significant start-up costs.

The Irish unit has accrued losses of €41.6 million after its first two years, according to the latest financial statements. However, Brookfield had said it will continue to financially back Longford Forest, while the wider Center Parcs group has access to a €40 million Covid funding package. The Irish unit has also renegotiated terms on its €165 million in bank loans.

Despite its bumpy start in Ireland due to the pandemic, Center Parcs has performed extremely strongly when it has been open, the company said. The group is already planning an €85 million extension, with plans due to be submitted to the local authority in Longford this summer.

Center Parcs said on Wednesday that Longford Forest, which reopened last June and has stayed open since, is now trading “exceptionally well”.

According to reports in the UK, Brookfield may look to sell the wider group, which it bought from Blackstone in 2015. Barclays reportedly has been appointed to advise on the group's future.