Former Butlin’s and Warner Leisure holidays boss Richard Bates is joining UK holiday parks firm Park Leisure as chief executive.

Bates, who also spent 16 years at Haven Holidays, replaces Mark Harper at the firm which operates 11 sites.

His appointment follows a “challenging start” to the year due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

However, a bounce back in staycations has seen a 74% increase in short break holidaymaker bookings as well as a 47% increase in the sale of caravans and lodges, for people looking for a permanent all year-round holiday home.

Company chairman Andrew Bracey said: “I am delighted that we have been able to attract a CEO of Richard’s calibre to Park Leisure. He has a wealth of experience in the sector and I look forward to working with him as we take Park Leisure to the next stage of its development.”

Bates added: “The business has a unique five-star business model and is recovering well following the restrictions, offering families a true sense of safety and security in uncertain times for travel.

“I look forward to working with the team to complete this recovery and further develop the huge potential in the business, to the benefit of all our stakeholders.”

Park Leisure’s year-round sites are heading towards full capacity in September. October to December bookings are also filling quickly, with families looking for half-term and Christmas getaways, according to the company.