Editor’s Note: The following column was written by Dan Wright, president of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), and appears in the current issue of CalARVC News.
I’ve been camping my whole life, but as a campground operator and your president, I look at the subject with a whole new perspective.
Recently, my beautiful bride and I took a two-week road trip and tried to take a broad view of our industry.
Our trip involved 3,000 miles of highway travel through California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state.
Most of our trip we towed a fifth-wheel RV, but we also did some tent camping, and stayed in rental accommodations. We even spent one night at a “glamour camping “ resort, where we paid $155 per night to sleep in a luxury tent! It had a wood floor, queen size bed, electricity, and beautiful rustic furniture. The great experience we had was well worth the money.
Here’s our quick-and-dirty report on our impressions of camping today:
Occupancy: While anything but scientific, our seat-of-the-pants survey showed robust occupancy across the board. Even before and after the 4th of July weekend, parks were teeming with campers both tenting and RVing. This bodes well for our industry in a time of high unemployment.
Government Operated Parks: County, state and federally owned parks are competing harder for the business. Most now have Camp Hosts on site, and are offering more amenities such as better-attended restrooms, firewood for sale and expanded store offerings. It may seem that government-operated parks have an unfair advantage, but many of them don’t have hookups or other amenities such as Wi-Fi, pools, dog parks or hot spas.
Rental Accommodations: Private parks are offering more choices in accommodations such as travel trailers, park models, yurts, and luxury tents and cabins. This is a trend that will continue, as young families want to get outdoors, and seasonal RVers want their friends and family to join them.
Amenities: Campgrounds are offering Wi-Fi, spa services, entertainment, fitness classes, guided hikes, and more. Expanded store and restaurant offerings are becoming a significant source of revenue. One park we visited has live music every Saturday night all summer. The music was free, but most campers who attended happily paid $18 per person for a fire-grilled dinner!
Association Membership: Wherever we went, we checked to see if a park was a member of their state association. We consistently saw that member parks were cleaner, better managed and had well-trained staff and good customer service.
The Takeaway: Folks of all ages, from nearby or overseas, and all income levels want to have a great outdoor experience, and they are willing to pay for it. Customer service is your No. 1 amenity.
Wherever we went, a smile and a helpful attitude from park staff were what we remembered most, and what would bring us back.