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Shock as Pontin's goes into administration

There were fears over the future of one of Britain's most iconic holiday brands today after Pontin's was put into administration.

In a surprise move, advisory firm KPMG was appointed administrator yesterday to the holiday company, which employs 850 staff in the UK.

No redundancies have been made and all five sites - Brean Sands in Somerset, Camber Sands, Sussex, Pakefield, Suffolk, Prestatyn Sands in Wales and Southport, Merseyside - will continue to cater for customers as normal.

KPMG said it was optimistic of finding a buyer and hoped the Pontin's name would live on. The business was started in 1946 by Fred Pontin and at one point had 30 holiday parks.

A spokeswoman for KPMG said the company had run out of cash because bookings had fallen drastically in the past year.

Pontin's slide into administration has come as a surprise as many UK holiday companies have benefited in recent years from more people taking holidays in the UK rather than abroad, because of the weak pound.

The administrators plan to appoint an "experienced leisure operator" to help them run the company until a buyer can be found and have pledged to honour all reservations.

Joint administrator Jane Moriarty said: "Pontin's is an iconic British brand which forms the backdrop to thousands of treasured family holiday memories.

"It has unfortunately struggled in the current economic environment but, with some support from new management, we are optimistic that it will be part of thousands of family memories in the years to come.

"From day one, we will be actively running Pontin's to ensure that our guests' holiday expectations are met."

Pontin's was started when Fred Pontin opened the first Pontin's Holiday Park in Brean Sands in 1946.

It is best known for its "blue coats" who offer entertainment and help to holidaymakers.

It organises entertainment for its guests featuring acts such as Keith Harris and Orville, Bobby Davro and Chico.

At one point, the Pontin's empire stretched to 30 parks and in 1978 it was bought by Coral for £56 million, according to its website.

The company was bought by Ocean Parks for £46 million in 2008, who closed a site in Blackpool last year.

Its website claims: "We have been offering outstanding value for money for over 60 years.

"But there is one thing that will never change at Pontin's: our promise to offer memorable, fun-filled family holidays for outstanding value for money."

Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at TravelSupermarket.com, said he was "amazed" that Pontin's had gone into administration, describing it as "an iconic British brand and a stalwart of the British holiday industry".

Mr Atkinson said the news was surprising because the boom in "staycation" holidays since the beginning of the economic downturn had generally benefited holiday parks like Pontin's.

He said: "If Pontin's were to close down it would remove a significant number of competitively-priced short breaks from the more economic end of the market."

Mr Atkinson said it was difficult to speculate as to the cause of Pontin's entering into administration but added that competition outside of the peak season may have damaged the company.

"Holidays and breaks out of peak season have often been sold at rock bottom rates, leaving companies with little room for healthy margins."

He urged the administrators to communicate clearly with customers who had booked holidays over the Christmas period.

KPMG has set up a helpline for people who have made bookings at Pontin's: 0844 576 8481.