Bella Terra of Gulf Shores in Alabama along with co-host resort Heritage Motor Coach Resort and Marina continue to take the lead in drawing RVers to the Gulf Coast region.
These two Class A resorts along with the support of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and the Gulf Coast Convention Visitors Bureau are hosting the first “Coast is Clear” Gulf Coast RV Rally the weekend of Oct. 29-30 in Orange Beach, Ala., according to a news release.
Along with resort activities, a cocktail reception and membership and lot rental discounts, a limited number of attendees will receive free tickets to the upcoming, sold-out Alan Jackson concert scheduled for that same weekend.
“Bella Terra of Gulf Shores along with our co-host resort Heritage Motor Coach Resort and Marina are grateful for the continued support of the FMCA along with The Gulf Coast Convention Visitors Bureau,” said Tripp Keeber, COO for Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC. “This local RV rally and the associated free Alan Jackson concert create the perfect opportunity to show the Gulf Coast region that our country’s RV community is happy to support the region’s tourism and economic needs.”
Representatives from Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC presented the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program with a check in the amount of $1,096.05 this week as part of their national effort to mobilize the RV community in support of the Gulf Coast cleanup and recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster earlier this year, according to a news release.
This cash contribution was made in addition to the hundreds of volunteers and outpouring of support along the coast over the past four months.
Since early May, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores and its resort host team have been proactively working with the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce to provide volunteer services for oil spill coastal cleanup, should they be required. The primary role of Bella Terra has been to coordinate a nationwide outreach effort bringing thousands of volunteers, specifically those in the RV community, to the region. Part of this effort involved providing discounted rates to visitors and a 10% donation from rental income from the first 45 days of this effort – which included the peak July 4 holiday.
“We are extremely grateful to Bella Terra for their generous donation to Mobile Bay NEP’s Coastal Estuary Restoration Fund (CERF),” said Sarah Shields, communications manager. “In May 2010, we set up the CERF to ensure that we could quickly accomplish on-the-ground projects that benefit our coastal habitats and wildlife in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This gift is a great step forward in achieving those goals.”
In spite of a regional downturn in tourism, Bella Terra has worked hard to attract visitors and has encouraged guests to get out and explore the great dining establishments and attractions along the Gulf Coast.
“Our resort is part of the Gulf Shores family and as a result we decided to jump in and do our part to ensure our beaches and natural attractions remain the national treasure that they are today,” said Chuck Smith, president of Bella Terra Realty Holding LLC. “Our business dropped significantly after the spill but we are starting to see signs of it coming back. Now it’s time for folks to come back to the Gulf Coast and support our beautiful region. When people call and ask me how things are going down here I simply tell them, ‘This is our coast … and the coast is clear!’”
Representatives from Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC (BTRH) announced Thursday (Aug. 26) the launch of their new corporate website, BTRHLLC.com. The site was developed to serve as the consulting and resort acquisition platform for BTRH, the parent company of Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, in Foley, Ala., the organization’s flagship property.
“Over the past two years we have been bombarded by two requests. The first, guests and owners asking where our next resort will be located and secondly, developers from coast to coast wanting to join the Bella Terra family,” Chuck Smith,BTRH president and CEO, said in a news release. “The BTRH team was put together to both actively seek out additional locations for Bella Terra resorts, as well as consult with existing and yet to be developed properties in the United States and internationally.”
The website features an extensive list of services provided by BTRH in addition to those provided by their strategic partners. These include: site acquisition and design, construction management, sales and marketing, HOA management, rental management, resort management, legal and financing.
Features that will be added in the coming months include a section for best practices, blogs, research, newsletter and key industry news links.
“BTRH has brought together a great resource for the industry,” said Tom Derzypolski, principal of BowStern, an integrated marketing firm specializing in the RV industry. “I would say the vast majority of developers contemplating or attempting to develop an RV resort have likely never owned an RV nor visited an RV resort. The resources available through this website will not only provide valuable insight to the nuances of the RV industry, but also improve the products being developed for the RV consumer. It’s a win-win for all.”
Through their flagship property, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, BTRH has developed multiple proprietary processes and advanced practices that offer projects seamless transition through design, development and launch of RV resorts.
“We have spent well over $1 million developing what is being recognized by industry leaders as one of the finest brands in the nation,” said Tripp Keber, COO of Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC. “A strong brand coupled with effective systems, offer our projects early recognition, credibility and speed to market. These are winning combinations for us and our partners.”
Editor’s Note: The following story was provided by Corey Grant, a staff writer for Woodall Publications.
One of the most historically and economically important region in America’s history, the Gulf Coast comprises the coastline of five different states — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — and possesses beautiful white beaches, lush marshlands, blue lagoons and historical monuments spanning 200 years. The American Gulf Coast is also one of the most highly productive economic regions in the country, supporting fishing, aerospace, agriculture and tourism industries.
However, the resilience of the people and businesses of the Gulf Coast has been tested within the last five years. First, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused widespread devastation and upward of $80 billion worth of damage. The recent recession put a further strain on tourism and industries working from the Gulf Coast as they were slowly rebuilding.
Now, the Deep Horizon platform that exploded on April 20, and has been leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico since then, has delivered yet another punch to coastal businesses. Yet, despite all the hardships, the RV parks, campgrounds and local attractions are continuing to not only survive, but to grow.
Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, recently addressed businesses and officials at the annual Tourism Summit, and said that the 2010 tourist season “was going to be a blockbuster summer and still can be exceptionally strong if we do a good job of getting the message out.”
This year, the Gulf Coast was to bring in $20 billion worth of tourism dollars. Unfortunately, the constant media coverage surrounding the oil spill has caused many travelers to rethink or even cancel their plans to visit the Gulf Coast, based on speculations that the spill has greater damage to area than it really has.
At Cajun RV Park, in Biloxi, Miss., business was down close to 35% in May. Jonathan Mikovich, who runs the park, fields calls from potential campers who state the oil spill has them concerned.
“I would say most of the people are mentioning it, but overall I think they are just looking for another destination to go totally because they don’t want to have it impact their only week off of vacation they get.”
Michele Richard, owner of Bay Hide Away RV & Camping Resort in Bay St. Louis, Miss., says that decrease in business is in part caused by stories about the oil spill in the news. “I would definitely say that they media coverage has hurt businesses in the area,” she said. “Locals can see that everything is still open and running, but campers from out of state don’t know how to decipher what they hear on the news about the oil spill.”
Reports still indicate that the main oil slick is still more than 50 miles offshore, and much of the Gulf Coast shoreline has been unaffected. All Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches are open, along with inshore fishing and all water activities. Of the nine Louisiana Coastal parishes, all are up and running, continuing to provide RVers and campers with great historical attractions, great Cajun food, and beautiful RV parks and campgrounds.
The coastal city of Houma, La., — known as “The Heart of America’s Wetlands”— is bracing for the impact of the oil spill in their fishing industries and marshland habitats, but is stressing to the public that the area is largely untouched by the spill and RVers can still enjoy everything the region has to offer.
“We are open for business,” says Kelly Gustafson, spokesperson for Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We ask that … readers support the Gulf Coast and continue with their travel plans.”
Some RV parks are being proactive in spreading the news that the Gulf Coast region is ready and waiting for RVers. Bella Terra of Gulf Shores in Foley, Ala., has coordinated a nationwide outreach to the RV community to support local parks and campgrounds in the area, and aid cleanup efforts in response to the oil spill. Working with the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, Bella Terra is bringing thousands of volunteers, specifically in the RV community, to the region and directing them in their clean-up training and getting them where they are most needed.
“To date there are 5,000-plus individuals who have signed up to volunteer should clean up efforts be required in our region,” says Tripp Keber, COO of Bella Terra Realty. Bella Terra is also offering rental discounts to volunteers staying at the park, and on top of that, contributing 10% of all rental income over the next few weeks to the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. “The Gulf Coast and it’s beaches are one of our country’s greatest national treasures … [and] we will do whatever we can as ‘good neighbors’ and as business owners to save these treasures,” says Keber.
Anchors Aweigh RV Resort also in Foley and Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., have joined the outreach with Bella Terra in assisting the volunteers and spreading the word about the viability of RV travel on the Gulf Coast. “The collective effort from area parks and resorts working together in unison to rally support will have a positive impact on not only the region, but the desire and ability of RVers to assist.”
The disaster of the BP oil spill, while tragic, is once again proving the resilience and tenacity of the Southern RV industry to survive, and flourish. The huge population of RVers and campers continues to grow, and they continue to support and visit parks and campgrounds around the country, and the industry shows no sign of slowing down. This is especially true in the Gulf Coast, with many parks and campgrounds in the region, reporting that even with the negative media coverage, reservations are still coming in, and the summer season is in full swing.
“Most of my guests told me that they didn’t ever worry about the oil spill hitting the coast,” says Sammie Warwick, manager of Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores. “They love the area so much, it doesn’t even matter to them.”
To join the outreach on sign up to volunteer, visit www.bellaterrarvresort.com.
For more on the Mobile bay Estuary Program, visit www.mobilebaynep.com.
Daily Oil Spill Trajectory Report with map, visit www.noaa.gov.
Visit the parks mentioned at www.woodalls.com.
Steve and Page Jones of Pensacola, Fla., bought a lot for their 40-foot recreational vehicle in Bella Terra of Gulf Shores in Alabama, both as an investment and for a fun place to visit, according to the Press-Register, Mobile, Ala.
“We’re renting it out year-round,” Jones said.
Rick and Lori Cole of La Crosse, Wis., used to drive their 41-foot motorcoach to Naples, Fla., where they rented a space, but the 50-something retirees also bought in Bella Terra, and said they enjoy it so much they’re building a cottage on the lot to accommodate guests.
“We like the people here,” Cole said, and the fact that the RV park is exclusively for Class A motorcoaches.
Luxury motorcoaches have been called upscale condominiums on wheels, and come at similar prices — ranging from $600,000 to $2 million, industry experts said. Increasingly, the resorts and parks that serve them are selling campsites, then renting them out for the site owners, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Land, design and building costs make it tough to develop a new resort park for rentals only, according to park owners.
“Our market is stronger than the condo market,” said Mike Miller, who with his son, Matt, manages Heritage Motor Coach Resort and Marina on Bayou St. John in Orange Beach, Ala., which opened last November.
Almost half of Heritage’s 79 RV lots are sold, he said. Prices range from $169,900 to $419,900.
Most buyers in the local motorcoach resorts hail from the same states that send condo buyers to the Gulf, areas including Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky. Renters include Snow Birds, according to industry experts.
“We’re getting a lot of people who used to go to Tampa and Naples,” Miller said. “It’s a shorter distance, and they like the area.”
Miller said it isn’t unusual for his owners to purchase sites in other cities, then travel from place to place.
Bella Terra, which is on the Foley Beach Express, sold eight RV lots over Mardi Gras weekend, according to Chuck Smith, a partner in the development. The 40-acre park, which opened in late now has owners for 79 of its 87 lots, and is developing another 24. There will be a total of 176 lots when the park is complete.
Prices range from $95,000 to $155,000, depending on whether the lot fronts the 10-acre lake.
“This is not a retirement community, it’s a resort,” Smith said. “A lot of motorcoach owners have kids or are newly retired. They see this as their country club, and we run it as a resort.”
Newer parks typically have amenities similar to those at Bella Terra — a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with a kitchen, flat-screen TVs, movie theater, gym and sauna. Outdoor perks include an infinity pool, Jacuzzi, putting greens and lush landscaping and gazebos around the lake.
Rentals have been good — 60% during February, with 80% occupancy during the run-up to Mardi Gras, according to Smith. The January rentals were at 55% compared to 17% in January 2009, he said.
The Coles have owned Class A coaches since 1983 and say they enjoy a lifestyle that lets them park, open their house to guests and start socializing.
“It’s a traveling cocktail party,” he said
Best Parks in America Inc. announced that Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (www.bellaterraRVresort.com), located in Gulf Shores, Ala., is the newest affiliate of Best Parks in America, a national network of highly rated, premier RV resorts and campgrounds.
Bella Terra is an exclusive Class A RV resort located on the “Emerald Coast” just minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. Situated on 40 pristine acres, the resort opened in November and is receiving the highest ratings and recognition from within the industry as well as from guests and visitors to the resort, according to a news release. The 176-site resort offers fully deeded ownership as well as a rental resort component that allows for daily, weekly and long term rental opportunities.
“We have worked tirelessly for almost three years to create what we hope to be the ‘best of breed’ in a family of RV resort communities and we’re truly excited to be recognized and in the company of the Best Parks in America,” said Tripp Keber, executive vice president of business development for Sagebrush Realty Development.
Bella Terra has been recognized with top honors from Woodall’s, Good Sam Club and Trailer Life Directory, and most recently Wheeler’s RV Resort Guide making Bella Terra one of the highest rated resorts in the country.
Bella Terra offers a long list of amenities including a Grand Clubhouse with a resort style infinity edge pool (shown above), a large heated spa and outdoor barbeque, a nine-acre centerpiece lake with gazebo, a putting green, bocce ball court and horseshoe pit as well as areas designated for pets. In addition to these popular outdoor amenities, Bella Terra sports a fully appointed fitness center, a business center with free Internet access, Wi-Fi access throughout the resort, washer/dryer facilities located in the “en-suite” bathhouses, a large catering kitchen as well as a private movie theater available to all guests and owners for public and private viewing occasions.
“The addition of Bella Terra to the Best Parks in America family of outstanding RV resorts and campgrounds is a significant milestone for BPA,” said David Gorin, president of Best Parks in America Inc. “We’re proud to add this beautiful new resort to the Best Parks network and know that RVers will be thrilled with this great place to vacation along Alabama’s Gulf coast.”
“We believe we are setting a new standard for facilities, service, and amenities that many RVers look for in a resort,” said Chuck Smith, president of Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC. “We are thrilled to set the standard for resort developers and believe we are in fine company with the other resorts that constitute Best Parks in America.”
Best Parks in America is a national organization of America’s highly rated RV parks and campgrounds. There are 28 affiliated resorts in 16 states and new parks are becoming part of the expanding network each week. A complete listing of resorts can be found at www.bestparks.com.
Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, a Class A motorhome RV resort in Foley, Ala., is preparing for a five- day grand opening celebration May 6-10.
This celebration marks the official launch of the RV resort, which had a soft opening last November. Five days of festivities are planned, including a wine and cheese kickoff reception, a traditional Gulf Coast crawfish boil (to be held poolside with live entertainment) and a bon voyage catered continental brunch in the resort’s 6,000-square-foot grand clubhouse, according to a news release.
Construction began on the 40-acre Bella Terra resort in September 2007. It offers both full ownership, as well as rentals through its resort management offering. Resort lots range in price from $89,000 to $155,000 with over 80% of Phase I lots sold to date.
Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is the first in a family of nationally branded luxury RV resorts with lots both for sale and for rent. Sagebrush Realty Development, the resort’s developer, brings to the industry over 40 years of combined experience in development and property management.
“We are excited about the grand opening celebration, as it brings our owners and guests together at our beautiful resort for fun-filled activities and camaraderie,” said Chuck Smith, president of Bella Terra RV Resort. “Like the parents of a child, we are obviously proud of Bella Terra. It is extremely satisfying to have our efforts confirmed by the perfect ratings we received from Woodall’s and Good Sam Club. It is a testament to our staff and the quality of the resort.”
The Gulf Shores location for this first Bella Terra resort was selected due to area’s amenities and high growth potential. Onsite, owners are able to enjoy a luxury lifestyle with concierge service, planned resort activities and clubhouse complete with fitness center and private movie theatre.
“Bella Terra of Gulf Shores continues to be well received throughout the industry,” said Tripp Keber, executive vice president, Sagebrush Realty Development.”Over the past 18 months, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that the resort is aligned with the appropriate partnerships. These relationships include the best of breed in high-end manufacturers, RV dealerships and coach affinity groups. We believe these relationships are symbiotic and key to our overall success.”
Demand for high-end resorts such as Bella Terra continue to remain strong despite today’s difficult economic conditions, he continued. One factor is the Baby Boomer generation and Boomers’ demand for resorts with all the amenities one would expect from a five-star resort. Keber added, “Additionally, we are confident that through these partnerships we’ll demonstrate that this resort chain is redefining luxury living for RV travelers moving across the country. It has been great receiving the validation we have received to date.”