A group led primarily by hospitality industry veterans is establishing the Cruise Inn campground network, a membership organization the goal of which is to sign up 120 campgrounds within the next three years in an effort to become ”the largest brand in the outdoor facility space.”
”We are being very conservative,” said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Cruise Inn RV Parks LLC. ”If we do all the things we expect to do, we think we will grow faster than that. Where the outdoor hospitality industry is today is where hotels were in the 1970s.”
Cruise Inn will roll out at the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) 2013 Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo Nov. 4-8 in Knoxville, Tenn., where the company has a booth and will sponsor a cracker barrel session.
Anderson, named Cruise Inn CEO in September, formerly was president of Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, and Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga., and served as managing director of games services for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and as general chairman of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistler Straights in Kohler, Wisc.
”I’m brand new to the industry,” Anderson said. ”I don’t want people to think that we think we have all the answers. I’m going to ARVC to learn more than I am going there to talk.”
Corporate logistics — accounting, technology, marketing, purchasing and group sales — will be handled by Vantage Hospitality, Coral Springs, Fla., which already has about 1,000 independent hotels as members operating under the Americas Best Value Inn and Lexington brands.
”I couldn’t have possibly gotten this thing launched as quickly without having that support and infrastructure,” said Anderson. ”The basic premise is simple; the implementation is not.”
The company is privately owned by seven investors, including Anderson; Ian Steyn, owner of Jellystone Camp-Resort in Larkspur, Colo.; Vantage Hospitality CEO Roger Bloss and COO Bernie Moyle; Alan Benjamin, CEO of Benjamin West, a furniture and equipment supplier to the hotel industry; Alan Tallis, a 30-year hotel veteran formerly with La Quinta hotels; and Adam Frisch, a retired Wall Street foreign currency specialist.
Campgrounds will bear the Cruise Inn name and be members of the organization, not franchisees, and they will be asked to pay a flat fee based on the number of their sites. ”As they grow, our fees won’t increase,” Anderson said, noting that fees will be based on a sliding scale.
Vantage also will establish a reservation system for Cruise Inn that is included in the fee.
As of late October, criteria to become a Cruise Inn member had not been finalized, but Anderson listed several general guidelines. ”Maintenance is absolutely critical,” he said. ”While a facility can be rustic in nature, it must be well maintained. And there must be some sort of water element — a pool, lake, river or ocean. Also, there must be good signage and graphics so that people will be able to find their sites at night.
”One of the things we found in talking to RV park users is they really don’t know what they are going to get when they arrive at a campground. It’s like opening a Christmas present — sometimes you’re happy and sometimes you’re disappointed. Our goal is to have the same level of consistency among our members without requiring a park to be a cookie cutter. They can have their own attributes and amenities, but they must have certain standards to be a Cruise Inn member.”
Requiring parks to be renamed Cruise Inn is critical to the success of the organization, Anderson said. ”That’s the best way to communicate to a consumer that those standards are there,” he said. ”One of the things I love about the campground industry is the independence of the parks. Changing the name will be the easy part. The concept of their being part of a group will be the most difficult. If we can prove the business proposition, I don’t think changing their name will be a hindrance.”