Recently-widowed Skegness woman turned away from caravan park for being ‘single’

Annette Gration was made to "feel sick inside" following Searles' initial refusal to allow her to stay.
Annette Gration was made to "feel sick inside" following Searles' initial refusal to allow her to stay.

A caravan park has been accused of “discrimination” after banning a recently-widowed motorhomer because she was ‘single’.

Annette Gration, from Skegness, was turned away from Searles Leisure Resort in Hunstanton, Norfolk, after she visited the park with friends to help her come to terms with the loss of her husband of 40 years to cancer, just four months earlier.

Best friends Sue and John Gill had booked two pitches in advance for themselves and Mrs Gration, who had visited the popular, family-run park with her late husband on previous occasions.

But when they arrived Mr Gill was told by a park representative at check-in that because Mrs Gration was ‘single’ she was no longer entitled to stay at the park, despite being advised that she had only recently lost her husband.

Reluctant to upset their friend, the Gills advised Searles’ staff that Mrs Gration’s son would also be arriving later in the day to stay in her motorhome with her, at which point she was allowed to stay.

Mrs Gill said: “Annette had never driven a motorhome whist her husband was alive, so driving and looking after her motorhome alone is still a very new and slightly daunting experience for her. She was trying hard to be brave and I knew that if I announced to her that she could not stay at Searles it would be deeply upsetting and was not something I felt she could have handled.”

She continued: “Sadly, the check-in drama has left a very nasty taste in our mouths and I cannot understand why any single person who is using their own caravan or motorhome is viewed so negatively by Searles.”

Mrs Gration, 58, who had nursed her husband for the last 18 months of his life, spoke to the Caravan Times about her experience at the hands of Searles and upset of being told she could not stay at the site.

She said: “I felt like I was being treated like some sort of criminal or threat to society. It played on my mind all the time I was there. On arriving home, I kept thinking of this whole new world I was now in because I was a widow.

“After fighting cancer with my husband who was only 59 when he passed away, I felt sick inside that I was now being treated like such an oddity. I definitely feel this is discrimination.”

A spokesman from Searles said: “In keeping with many other parks, including major holiday park groups, Searles Leisure Resort includes in its terms and conditions a general restriction on single person bookings. The reason is that our park and its facilities are structured to cater for families, and it is couples and family groups who naturally feel most comfortable in such an environment.

“When the two motorhomes arrived at Searles Leisure Resort, our receptionist could find no trace of a prior booking having been made. On learning that one of these motorhomes was to be occupied by a single person, the receptionist behaved perfectly correctly in pointing out the park rules did not permit such a booking.

“When the receptionist was advised that the single person was to be joined by her son later that day, she was happy to let the two-night booking go ahead. We are pleased to note that the party later took the decision to extend their stay by another night, and we hope this reflects on the satisfaction they experienced during the stay.

“The vast majority of bookings at Searles Leisure Resort are from either repeat visitors, or those coming as a result of a personal recommendation. Many of the comments we receive on social media make it clear that the friendliness and quality of welcome provided by our staff are major factors influencing their decisions.

“We always try to be as accommodating as possible, and are perfectly prepared to exercise discretion with regard to our terms and conditions, including single person bookings, if we feel it appropriate. For that reason, we suggest that in a situation where a booking might cause any difficulties, the person calls us in advance to discuss the matter with a member of our staff team.

“Searles is always mindful of comments made by its customers, and we listen especially to the many people who we welcome to the park on a regular basis. To assist with this, we provide all customers with a questionnaire which enables them to provide feedback across a wide range of subjects with a view to ensuring their needs and expectations are being met.

“All this information is kept in mind during our regular reviews of company policy, including those relating to booking conditions – and the question of single occupancy on touring pitches will indeed be addressed during our next review of customer feedback.

“At the end of the day, we simply want to ensure the highest levels of satisfaction among all of our visitors, and to continue providing the high standards of hospitality for which Searles is renowned.”