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Discovery Parks CEO Grant Wilckens takes home the National Service Sector 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award

November 5, 2018 Accolades No Comments Email Email

A passion for camping holidays and an infectious never-say-die attitude have propelled Adelaide-based Discovery Parks CEO Grant Wilckens to win the National Services Sector EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Wilckens took out the award which recognizes entrepreneurial excellence with a compelling story about his vision to transform the affordable accommodation sector, using best-in-class technology to improve customers’ holiday park experience.

“I’m so thrilled about the EY award, which recognizes the hard work we’ve done to become a sophisticated digital business but there’s certainly no ambition to cruise,” he said.

From a career in corporate finance, Wilckens has followed his passion for caravanning and camping to build what is set to become a $1 billion business by 2020.

Wilckens, who is also chair of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, said the business had a clear vision to make camping cool again, adding a touch of glamour to parks and a seamless customer journey.

“We are reinventing the authentic Aussie holiday to meet the demands of modern customers who want comfort and some luxury with their experience in nature.

“We’re particularly excited about developing glamping precincts with fully appointed safari tents and lagoon pools, like our new eco-tourism joint venture in Rottnest Island,” he said.

“Beyond that though, we are investing in best-in-class technology, such as machine learning and the internet-of-things, to improve the customer experience.”

The company has recently invested nearly $10 million in technology to better target messaging to customers, in new booking engines and dynamic pricing.

2018 marks 15 years since Wilckens (with a blue-chip background in corporate finance) and two co-investors began their quest to bring corporate systems to the holiday park sector before hitting hard times in the credit squeeze.

While the partners exited the business, Wilckens, backed by Sunsuper and a committed board, set about disrupting the holiday park sector with digital technology.

Following a difficult period during the GFC, the business has grown steadily through best in class operating systems driving profitability and it now employs 1200 people nationwide.

“We look like a holiday parks business, but we are really a tech business delivering fabulous holiday experiences, Wilckens said”

In 2018, the company established a licensing subsidiary to provide corporate services such as marketing and procurement to independently owned and operated Top Parks.

“The licensed parks network gives us scale – we’re now Australia’s largest holiday park network and our G’DAY Rewards Program gives our customers access to rewards across the network of 250 parks,” Wilckens said.

Discovery Parks is now held by G’DAY Group Holdings as part of a suite of brands with the licensed Top Parks network and G’DAY Rewards.

“We have a clear vision for the future – both for our business and our customers because we believe that the authentic Aussie holiday park experience is more important than ever for people’s well-being. It’s fantastic to be acknowledged but really, we’ve just touched the surface,” he said.

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