‘Texas Parks on Tour’ Examines Industry Trends
A panel of park operators participating in the annual Texas Parks on Tour offered a host of observations and recommendations, including that park model units are becoming a key component for improving profits and diversifying clientele at RV parks and campgrounds. According to a press release, the tour was organized by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The Oct. 20 – 21 event, which took place at Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, also included a roundtable discussion of legal and legislative issues, while seminars covered a variety of topics, including rental cabins and cottages, guest retention, how to organize successful activities and the importance of frequently raising rates. Park operators also toured four parks, including Thousand Trails Lake Conroe, the Lake Conroe KOA, Rayford Crossing and Forest Retreat RV Resort.
The park model panel discussion included Joe Moore of The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine and Bryan Kastleman of Hill Country RV Resort & Cottage Rentals in New Braunfels.
“If you don’t have park model cabins, you need to get some,” said Moore, who has added 13 of the rental units to his facility in recent years. Moore said the units have been so popular that he plans to purchase two more in the coming weeks.
“Personally, my observation is that (park model cabins) are the next dimension of the campground industry,” Moore said, adding that both public and private parks are seeing growing demand for the units, which enable parks to accommodate people who don’t have a tent or RV.
But Moore also noted that park operators need more than park models to be successful. “A good product by itself is not enough,” he said. “You need good facilities, great customer service and robust marketing campaign.”
It also helps to market park model accommodations through more channels than the park’s website, Moore said, adding that vacation rental websites such as HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, a vacation rental by owner website, are useful marketing platforms that can attract park model renters who don’t know that campgrounds often have rental accommodations.
Kastleman encouraged park operators to invest in the units now while interest rates are low and credit is available. Kastleman has more than 50 park models at Hill Country RV Resort and Cottage Rentals and he plans to purchase another 15 to 20 units within the next six months.
But while park models can be moneymakers for parks, it’s important to purchase units that are appropriate for your market. “If you cater to Winter Texans,” Kastleman said, “buy a model they like. If you cater to families, get a unit with a loft,” he said, adding that parks that cater to couples on romantic getaways may also need park models with different floorplans.
Kastleman also said it’s important to purchase park models that are easy to clean and maintain. “I don’t put carpet in mine,” he said.
Gwen Craig, who co-owns Rayford Crossing RV Resort with her husband, Billy, provided attendees with information on ways to attract and retain guests.
Craig also noted that her park constantly reinvests its profits in improvements that are visible to guests each year. The park has a young, high-energy staff that provides concierge-level services for guests rather than simply checking them in and out of the park. She also has developed an extensive activities program and sends out monthly emails to update guests on upcoming activities and special events. The idea, she said, is to keep people thinking about the park without burdening them with too many messages.
Several park operators attending the Parks on Tour event reported improvements in their business levels this year compared to last year. Forest Retreat attributes their growth to the fact that they are a Good Sam rated 10/10/10 park.
Moore said revenues were up about 10 percent at The Vineyards Campground & Cabins while park model cabin occupancies were up 5%. He added that revenues for October of this year exceeded revenues from October of last year, which is a good sign heading into the winter season.
Terry Munoz of Thousand Trails Lake Conroe said his park revenue was also up this year, while park model cabin usage was up about 20%.