Bentsen Palm Village in Mission, Texas, has received the campground industry’s highest honor, the “Park of the Year Award” from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The 250-site campground won the award in the medium size park category, which is based on several criteria, including customer service, employee training, operational excellence, national directory ratings and community service, according to a news release.
Bentsen Palm Village General Managers Guy and Juanita Carvajal received the award during a Nov. 30 ceremony at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which was hosted by ARVC.
Built 10 years ago by developer/builder Mike Rhodes and his wife, Lori, Bentsen Palm Village is located next to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and has a lot of visitors who come to enjoy the resort’s native plants, which host butterflies and birds.
“Our guests love to come bird watching and butterfly watching,” Juanita Carvajal said, adding that the park also has two miles of frontage along the Rio Grande River.
“We have pontoon boats that take people on the river for bird watching and nature tours,” she said.
Although Bentsen Palm Village was built from scratch, the owners planted native trees and shrubs, which are becoming more beautiful each year as they mature, Carvajal said. The park was designated by Texas Parks & Wildlife as a certified wildscape and is the largest of its kind in Texas.
Texas Wildscapes is a habitat conservation plan for rural and urban area. It enables Texans to contribute to wildlife conservation by developing wildlife habitats where they live, work and play.
But while Bentsen Palms has a scenic setting, Carvajal said it’s the park’s exemplary customer service that results in high ratings.
“The majority of our business comes from referrals,” she said. “I get a lot of calls from people and the first thing they say is, ‘We have some friends and they recommended your park.’”
One of the most game-changing exhibits on hand for the 550 attendees at the recent National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (ARVC) annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo was that of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, where Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher of the all-new Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory, was working to spread the word on the rollout of Good Sam’s first consolidated campground directory.
Some 425,000 copies of the new print directory, a merging of two respected titles, Woodall’s North American Campground Directory and the Trailer Life Directory of RV Parks & Campgrounds, were to be released in December. And the fact that they’ve been combined is big news in the accommodations sector, as the two were often referred to as the “Bibles” of the campground arena for millions of traveling RV enthusiasts over the years.
The two publications had been co-published since the mid-1900’s by Good Sam Enterprises LLC and its predecessor, Affinity Group Inc.
The consolidation was announced earlier this year.
“I wasn’t sure what park owners were going to think when we went from two directories to one because Woodall’s is a strong brand, as is the Trailer Life Directory,” said Emerson. “But, overwhelmingly, park owners have said ‘yes.’ They have one set of directory rep teams to work with, one marketing plan and one marketing investment and rating system to understand.”
Emerson, at the same time, is spearheading the announced expansion of the Good Sam RV Park & Resort Network from her Ventura, Calif., offices in what amounts to another new twist for Chicago-based Good Sam as it seeks to extend the reach of its discount camping network to a host of new North American park operators. Emerson says things are going well with that as well.
“We started in 2012 with 1,667 Good Sam Parks in the network,” Emerson told Woodall’s Campground Management, now an independent publication based out of Elkhart, Ind. “We are ending the year with 2,133 Good Sam parks in the network. We’ve had explosive growth. The great part about that is you still have to maintain a certain rating before you can be invited to the network. We didn’t lower the quality of parks.”
So, Good Sam has been getting the word out on both fronts at the ARVC Conference and elsewhere. “We’re talking about the Good Sam brand and how the power of one investment in our directory gets you exposure to our Good Sam members, which is 1.3 million members,” said Emerson. “We also have our AAA relationship intact, the hallmark of the non-Good Sam RVer. Through a contract, AAA buys hundreds of thousands of our print directories and gives them to their AAA clubs throughout the country, and those clubs either give them to their members free or for a small charge.
“And we still have our circulation through our bookstores, obviously through Camping World, which is a big circulation channel for us as well. There are 100 Camping World (RV rolling stock and parts and accessory sales) locations.”
On the digital side, Emerson reports, the Trailer Life and Woodall’s websites are also being merged as Good Sam parks retain aggressive web exposure on the Good Sam Club site. “We have mobile apps in the digital market as well,” says Emerson. “What we do is walk into a park operator and say there’s one investment that they need. And they need to do it through Good Sam. And we work really hard to also promote our non-Good Sam parks. You can be in our directory without being a Good Sam Park.
“We obviously work really hard taking care of our Good Sam-member parks as well. Our rep teams are walking into parks and telling them we have one story to tell,” she added. “When you are with Good Sam, you are reaching this entire market, print and online.
Scooter and Gail Reaser knew a great opportunity when they saw it.
The Reasers, longtime recreational boating enthusiasts on Coleto Creek Lake in Texas, noticed that the very basic camping facilities offered at the Coleto Creek Reservoir just weren’t meeting the needs of campers.
So, they decided to convert the 60-acre pasture that they owned near the reservoir into a top-notch campground, according to a news release.
In the current economy, newly constructed campgrounds are a rarity. But trying something a bit different didn’t scare Scooter or Gail.
In October, they opened Phase 1 of the new Victoria/Coleto Creek, Texas KOA Campground, which included 124 campsites, each with free cable television and Wi-Fi, a patio with barbecue, a 10,000-square-foot Kamp K-9 pet playground and a nature trail that meanders through acres of undeveloped land.
Coming soon will be Phase 2 and Phase 3, which include a large pavilion and additional recreational activities including bicycle and watercraft rentals and an additional 200 campsites.
“Those plans will be far easier to complete, now that we have the infrastructure in place,” said Vernon (Scooter) Reaser. “The initial challenges of getting the permits, the electricity and sewer, and engineering are now done. Basically, it’s been like building a small city – far from existing services – from the ground up.”
The Reasers are dedicated to making everything on their KOA top notch. Guests entering the campground will see a palm-tree-lined, double-lane boulevard with the U.S, Texas and Kampgrounds of America flags flying high on a circular island.
“The state flag of each guest’s home state will be flown throughout their stay here,” said Gail. “You can drive up and see your own state flat and know that someone from your state is here, too. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody with their campfires and barbecues going, having fun, enjoying the park and the outdoors.”
While the campground has it’s own catfish pond, as well as hiking trails and swimming, the KOA entrance is just 100 yards from the Coleto Creek Lake Reservoir entrance, so boaters and watersports enthusiasts can stay as busy as they like.
The 2012 Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE) sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) formally kicks off today (Nov. 28) at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
Billed as the premier event for the RV park and campground industry, the conference and expo will bring together owners and operators as well as suppliers and vendors from across the U.S. for three days packed with 40 educational seminars, cracker barrel discussions, various state and national association meetings and more than 100 vendors demonstrating the latest products and services that can assist in park operations.
Among the groups meeting are the ARVC board, ARVC Council of Delegates, state association presidents, Campground Association Management Professionals (CAMP), the Joint 20 Groups, the ARVC Business Forum, the ARVC Foundation and several state associations.
Becky Winkler, principal of Green Peak Partners, is this year’s keynote speaker. Her address at the Opening Luncheon today will focus on how to add value to your business through the people you hire and the sense of community you build. Winkler is recognized as “a leading expert at helping companies pick the right people” and has coached numerous leaders to achieve peak performance.
One of the conference’s pre-events was the annual Successful Park Operators Tour of area campgrounds held on Monday and Tuesday. Led by Bob MacKinnon, MacKinnon Campground Consulting, in partnership with ARVC’s education department, participants were scheduled to visit:
- Arizona Charlie’s RV Park, Las Vegas, Nev.
- Silver View RV Resort, Bullhead City, Ariz.
- Islander RV Resort, Lake Havasu, Ariz.
- Havasu Falls RV Resort, Lake Havasu, Ariz.
- Pirate Cove Resort, Needles, Calif.
- The Palms River Resort, Needles, Calif.
ARVC Board Elections
This election cycle, seats are available in Voting Areas 2, 3, 4 and 6 and voting caucuses will take place today. There is one contested race, in Voting Area 3, at this year’s conference.
Nominees for all voting areas are as follows:
- Voting Area 2: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia; Truman Hartshorn, Lebanon Reservoir Campground, Hamilton, N.Y.
- Voting Area 3: Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin; Gilbert “Chip” Hanawalt, Autumn Lakes Family Campground, Sunbury, Ohio, and Tim Wilcox, Gateway Park Campground, Hillsdale, Mich.
- Voting Area 4: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee; Tim Deputy, Sun-N-Fun RV Resort, Sarasota, Fla.
- Voting Area 6: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; Daniel Wright, The Springs at Borrego RV Resort, Borrego Springs, Calif.
The event concludes with the annual ARVC Awards of Excellence Gala on Friday evening.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) recognized members for longevity during last weekend’s International Convention at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla., which marked KOA’s 50th year of operation.
According to a press release, Duane Spader, owner/operator of the Sioux Falls, S.D., KOA Campground, was honored for 40 years of service with KOA.
“Duane got involved in our industry because he moved his recreational vehicle dealership from Brookings, S.D., to Sioux Falls to a location that had a campground next to it,” recalled KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “At the time, the campground belonged to a franchise called Teepee Town Inc., but Duane soon converted the park to be a KOA.”
Hittmeier said Spader was instrumental in leading the KOA system to adopt a “20-group” system that encouraged franchisees to share operational best practices and advanced many programs quickly throughout the KOA system.
“Today, Spader 20 Groups are involved in 10 different industries,” Hittmeier said. “Duane was also a leader in making improvements. He basically worked with KOA in the 1970s to modify more than two-thirds of the park, bringing in more than 30,000 cubic feet of dirt to get it right.”
KOA also recognized the Scialdo Family, owners of the Herkimer Diamond KOA in N.Y., for 30 years of service.
“Our 30-year partnership award to the Scialdo family is a long overdue recognition for a wonderful family and a great KOA partner,” said Hittmeier. “Many years ago my family and I were invited to spend a number of days on the Herkimer KOA, and I can tell you that it is still one of the highlights from when my kids were young and I still remember the warm welcome and hospitality, the great connection this family has with each other and with their guest, the enthusiasm they have for their many businesses the fun exciting way they approach their lives each day.
On hand to receive the award were Rudy and Rena Scialdo, as well as Dr. Renee Scialdo Shevat and husband Sam Shevat, current owners and operators of the campground and Herkimer Diamond Mine.
Eight KOA franchisees were honored for 20 years of service, including:
• Jay and Carol Coates, Durango, Colo., KOA
• Paul and Cam Friesen, Watkins Glen, N.Y., KOA
• The Bruice and Gilkeyson Families, Asheville East, N.C., KOA
• Ken and Kathryn Harris, Medford/Gold Hill, Ore., KOA
• Recreation Adventures Company, Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside, Ore., KOA
• The Bergeron Family, Gettysburg Battlefield, Pa., KOA
• Lynne Joannette and Christian Renaud, Montreal West, Quebec KOA
John and Cindy Simoneau, Placerville, Calif., KOA
KOA also recognized 20 franchises for 10 years of service, including:
• Bruce and Andrea Bryant, Milton/Gulf Pines, Fla., KOA
• David and Linda Waszak, LaSalle/Peru, Ill., KOA
• John and Carole Downing, Rock Island/Quad City, Ill., KOA
• Hope Perkins and Nick Harrison, Elkhart Co./Middlebury, Ind., KOA
• Larry and Nancy Babyak, Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine KOA
• Frank and Melinda Christianson, Jackson, Minn., KOA
• Leigh Ashley and Frances Prior, Niagara Falls N/Lewiston, N.Y., KOA
• Victor and Kathleen Arsenault, Canandaigua/Rochester, N.Y. KOA
• Garry and Vicki Cole, Shelby/Mansfield, Ohio KOA
• Jerry and Barbara Dale, Manchester, Tenn., KOA
• The Moldenhauer Family, Bear Lake/Garden City, Utah, KOA
• John and Brenda Kelley, Holbrook/Petrified Forest, Ariz., KOA
• Thomas and Sarah Martin, Buena Vista, Colo., KOA
• Gene and Michelle Rowland, Renfro Valley, Ky., KOA
• Donald Cloutier and Elizabeth McCann, Skowhegan/Canaan, Maine KOA
• Denzil and Deborah Matthews, Las Vegas N.M., KOA
• David and Valencia Fetterolf,, Elk City/Clinton, Okla., KOA
• Martin and Ellen Henion, Mercer/Grove City, Pa., KOA
• Thomas and Kevin Lumsden, Dallas NE/Caddo Mills, Texas KOA
• Kevin and Kathy Wright, Brigham City/Perry South, Utah KOA
Russell Baehre hopes the campground real estate market will pick after this month’s presidential election. “I think after the election there will be a lot of people actively pursuing properties,” he said.
Woodall’s Campground Management reported that Baehre, who has worked as a Kerrville, Texas-based campground real estate broker for over 25 years, said sales always slow down before a presidential election.
And while the recession and tightening credit have slowed the pace of campground sales in recent years, campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are generating interest from investors because of their profitability.
“Our returns are better than other investments,” Baehre said, adding that cash buyers of $1 million parks could see returns of 10% or more on their investment each year, which is much higher than they could get from banks, CDs and other investment vehicles given today’s low interest rates.
“That’s $100,000 in income versus maybe $10,000 on CDs,” Baehre said.
Baehre added that campground occupancies are growing in many areas, fueled not only by travelers, but also by people who live and work in their RVs full time, including oil industry workers, doctors, nurses, accountants and other consultants.
The challenge, however, is convincing banks to lend money on campgrounds, RV parks and resorts.
John Grant, president of Park Brokerage Inc. in San Diego, said most of his transactions involve seller financing.
“Unless the seller is in a position to carry the financing, the property often cannot be sold,” Grant said. “You have people who want to sell and people who want to buy. But it’s hard to find transactions that will work.”
To read the entire article click here.
The way Rob Schutter Jr. sees it, the transition period for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) from the prior administration of Linda Profaizer to CEO Paul Bambei’s tenure two years ago is officially over, and it’s now full speed ahead on a number of initiatives that are already building value for the Centennial, Colo.-based national trade association’s 3,000 members.
Schutter, president and COO of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), the Cincinnati, Ohio-based franchisor of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, made this and other points during a recent interview with Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) Editor Steve Bibler as he wrapped up his first year as ARVC chairman on the eve of the association’s annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo, Nov. 26-30 at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Schutter will speak to members as part of the chairman’s annual address at a Nov. 29 breakfast meeting and during the “Awards of Excellence Gala” on Nov. 30. Schutter’s message will likely focus on the association’s efforts to concentrate on its core mission and solidify its member base to bridge the gap with non-members and unaffiliated states after experiencing some “growing pains and a learning process” over the past couple years.
“After a period of upheaval, I’m sure some members were curious if bringing in a person from outside (the industry) to run ARVC was right,” he said. “There was the transition from the Washington, D.C., area to two different locales in the Denver area. A lot of things were unsettled. You are now seeing some permanency in place. Members are very pleased things have settled down and the focus is once again on offering value to members.
To read the entire article click here.
For the second straight year, campgrounds in the Northeast have faced the fury of a major tropical storm.
This time around, “Superstorm” Sandy struck right before Halloween – when many parks were already closed for the season – instead of right before Labor Day as Hurricane Irene did in 2011, wiping out the weekend in many areas and ending the season in others.
Still, the damage from Sandy along a 1,000-mile swath stretching from Florida north to Maine and westward as far as Lake Michigan is immense. The Associated Press estimated damage from the storm in 17 states could top $20 billion, making it one of the most costly in U.S. history. The death toll has reached 55.
Sandy is taking on other dubious superlatives:
• Evacuation zone: Included communities in more than 400 miles of coastline from Ocean City, Md., to Dartmouth, Mass.
• Highest storm surge: 13.88 feet, at New York City.
• Power outages at peak: More than 8.5 million.
• Most rainfall: 12.55 inches, at Easton, Md.
• Most snow: 29 inches, at Redhouse, Md.
The impact on the campground industry is uncertain because communications to many areas remain cut off.
To read the full report compiled by Woodall’s Campground Management click here.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) is expecting a record crowd of park operators, vendors, staff and industry friends when it convenes Nov. 15-18 for the Billings, Mont.-based, campground franchisor’s annual KOA Convention.
The event, slated for the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., will mark the KOA system’s 50th year as a leader in the RV park and campground business.
In fact, things couldn’t have been looking much better for 488-park KOA’s November birthday bash, themed “Celebrate 50 Years of Fun – 1962-2012,” when Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) touched bases on Sunday (Oct. 28) with Mike Gast, vice president of communications.
“Yes, we’re going to have record attendance,” said Gast. ”We have a grand total of 717 attendees representing 272 campgrounds. We can now officially say we have a record number of both people and campgrounds attending. This time last year we had 230 campgrounds registered.
“We sold out the Expo with more booths than we’ve ever had before. There’s about 140 vendors now, including prominent displays from the cabin manufacturers like preferred vendors Breckenridge (the Nappanee, Ind.-based Thor division) and Cavco (Cavco Industries Inc., Phoenix, Ariz.).”
Cabins have been a real point of emphasis for KOA, says Gast, adding that KOA’s system is up 25% this year in cabin rentals.
The highlights of the convention include the main social event – the 50th anniversary party and KOA Owners Association’s annual charity auction for the KOA Care Camps for kids with cancer on the last night of the event.
“Of course, Orlando’s a great location and people make their family vacations out of it, which really helps attendance,” adds Gast. “But it’s really only the second time in the history of KOA that Oscar Tang, the owner, is going to be there and speak at a general assembly meeting on Friday. The last time he spoke at a KOA convention was at our 40th anniversary in Nashville 10 years ago.”
Also on hand for the first time will be the entire KOA Holdings Inc. board, a group that includes KOA President and CEO Jim Rogers.
“And we’ve got some major things to talk to the franchisees about that will be announced there – organizational things about where we go in the next 50 years,” adds Gast. “That’s really a pretty major directional change. I can’t say that much about it now, but everyone will find out when they get there.”
Editor’s Note: The following story, authored by Steve Bibler, appears in the latest issue of Woodall’s Campground Management profiling Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) as the company marks its 50th anniversary. To view the entire article click here.
The 50th year of operation for industry leader Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), headquartered in Billings, Mont., reaches a crescendo during the company’s golden anniversary convention, scheduled for Nov. 15-18 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention center in Orlando, Fla.
“I look forward to the largest gathering of ‘KOA Nation’ in history,” President Pat Hittmeier told Woodall’s Campground Management. “Our (advance registration) numbers look like that could happen, which I think is exciting for a 50-year-old company to get that much interest by its participating members to gather.”
The 488-member family, the world’s largest chain of campgrounds, has completed another successful summer season with same-campground revenues through August up 4.5 percent over a year ago, Hittmeier reported. Numbers were up for KOA’s Care Camp Weekend in May, Father’s Day in June, July Fourth holiday weekends and Labor Day weekend.
“I suppose you can say we’re hitting on all cylinders. It’s all working well together this year, it’s hitting its stride,” Hittmeier continued. “It’s been a great summer in every aspect.”
KOA again sponsored a major RV promotion with Keystone RV Co. this year, with a $40,000 Vantage RV going to the grand prize winner, as well as daily and weekly free camping promotions all year long via its social media outlets.
Meanwhile, KOA announced that the more than 350,000 members of KOA’s Value Kard Rewards program earned the opportunity to camp for free Sept. 15at participating KOAs throughout North America. KOA Value Kard Rewards members who stayed as paying guests at a participating campground Sept. 14 received a free night of camping the following night.
And the positive developments are far from over, with a major announcement expected during the convention.
“We have some exciting news to present to them that will get a lot of attention. I am looking forward to that reaction. It will get a lot of attention,” Hittmeier said, without tipping his hand.
KOA’s overall performance underscores what Hittmeier calls the willingness of the American camping public to patronize the best known brand in the RV park and campground industry.
The desire to associate with KOA is apparent as the company continues to work with prospective new franchisees. Several new prospects were in the pipeline as the final quarter of 2012 approached. “It’s touch and go whether we’ll hit 500 by the end of this year,” Hittmeier said. “It would be nice to do that on our 50th anniversary but I don’t know. We’ll see.”
To read the entire article click here.