Tuesday, August 13, 2013
He left the Merchant Navy with no home to go to, no job, no car and a pay-off of just a few hundred pounds lining his pocket.
But now, 60 years later, in what has been a remarkable rags to riches story, Exmouth-born businessman John Fowler has built-up a multi-million pound holiday company.
And now John Fowler Holidays’ is offering £1,000 and a free holiday to his first guest from the year 1953, as part of his company’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations.
John Fowler, the chairman and founder of the John Fowler Holidays group, is searching nationwide for the first visitor to his company when it was just a single caravan in a field.
Now a multimillion-pound chain of fourteen holiday parks spread across the South West, John Fowler Holidays began in 1953.
When John left his Merchant Navy ship for the last time he harboured aspirations for a business life ashore in Cornwall.
He had noticed visitor demand for the independence of a self-catering holiday as an alternative to traditional boarding houses or hotels, so he used his £300 pay-off to buy an old pre-war caravan for £100 and completely refurbished it.
After a round of phone calls from the village green phone kiosk, he found a neighbouring farmer with permission to site the van.
The agreed place was no more than a lonely grass field, without electricity or roads, but just a short scramble to a sandy beach, and a brief bus ride to Newquay.
A single chemical lavatory, plus an outside tap for drinking or washing water, were the only two concessions to holiday facilities.
John spent 6/6d (33p) on a small advert in a Midlands newspaper and, when cash bookings started to arrive in the post, ploughed all income straight into more caravans.
Within weeks he had the beginnings of a very small holiday business.
John Fowler says he has continued this pattern of investing all profit straight back into his business throughout his career.
His firm is now one of the UK’s biggest self-catering providers offering accommodation for up to fifteen thousand visitors nightly.
As John Fowler Holidays celebrates its diamond jubilee, the company is hunting for holiday-makers who stayed with John in the year it all began – whether they made the booking themselves or came along as a child.
The earliest guest from 1953 that can be found will receive a luxury John Fowler Holidays break, plus £1,000 in cash.
John Fowler said: “I’ve always taken real pleasure simply from providing happy family holidays.
“With their swimming pools, entertainments teams, bars and food, my parks have evolved so much since the simple days of just caravans in fields back in 1953, but the values of a John Fowler Holiday have stayed exactly the same: a warm welcome, the highest possible standards, value for money, plus great added value for money.
“That’s an ethos that I’ve passed on to my children, grandchildren and their partners – two new generations of Fowlers now working alongside me in running the business.”