Early-bird pricing ends March 31 for the first Spring Seminar Series sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The event is scheduled for May 16-17 at the Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center in Denver, Colo.
All sessions support the Outdoor Hospitality Education Program (OHEP) and CPO program, according to an email blast sent out this week to ARVC members.
Seminar fees are as follows:
• Early Bird – $169 ends March 31.
• Regular – $199 ends April 30.
• Late – $229 after April 30.
• Regular – $399 ends April 30.
• Late – $499 after April 30.
Fees include entrance to all seminar sessions, seminar materials, breakfast and lunch each of the two days and an evening reception.
When Ray Aljets built the campground that later became the Sioux Falls, S.D., Jellystone Park Camp-Resort 23 years ago, most of his business was east-west traffic, particularly families from Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis who traveled westward to visit the Black Hills.
Today, however, 65% to 70% of the Jellystone Park’s business is families who live within 100 miles of the park, according to a press release.
“We still get the east-west traffic,” said Aljets’ son, Bruce, who now runs the park with his wife, Donna, and their children, Ray and Christina. “But now most of our business is local.”
Business is strong, too. Last year, for example, the park surpassed its 2010 revenues by 11%, and this year looks to be just as strong as last year, if not stronger, Bruce Aljets said, adding that his park opens for the camping season on April 1.
But the dynamics are different. Fuel costs are higher than they used to be, which encourages people to visit campgrounds that are closer to home. Today’s families also have a harder time getting away for extended periods of time.
The good news, Bruce Aljets said, is that camping is as popular as ever, with one caveat. “People don’t want to rough it,” he said. “They want the comforts of home when they camp. Even tent campers want Wi-Fi so they can watch Netflix movies.”
As a result, Aljets provides his guests with cabins with house-like amenities, including cable TV and Wi-Fi service and hot showers. The campground also has a jumping pillow, pedal cart rentals, a heated swimming pool and spa, an indoor theatre and a miniature golf course. And for those who don’t have a tent or RV, the park provides a dozen rental cabins.
Aljets’ Jellystone Park also has an activities director and provides organized family activities from May through the end of October that are designed to appeal to all ages, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekend events; Mardi Gras and Christmas in July celebrations; and Bruce’s favorite, the “Messy Weekend” July 27-30, which includes a chocolate pudding Slip N Slide, bobbing for worms and other messy activities. Late summer and fall activities include a corn maze and Halloween-themed weekend events, including costume and campsite decorating contests.
The Woodall’s/AAA Official Campground Guides are now available, according to a press release.
“The new series combines the expertise of Woodall’s in RVing and family camping with expanded listings and travel content,” said Bill Wood, executive editor, AAA Publishing. “This series reinforces our commitment to providing AAA members with accurate, valuable travel information for all their travel planning needs.”
Seven co-branded regional guides are now available to members exclusively through AAA/CAA offices. The guides have a cover price of $10.95 each, but AAA members receive discounted pricing.
The Woodall’s/AAA guides list more than 14,000 private and public facilities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Listings contain details needed to select the right campground or RV park, including location information, rates, Woodall’s campground ratings, hookup availability, handicap accessibility, pet policies, Internet access and the availability of AAA member discounts. To assist with trip planning, the guides also offer state and province travel information including climate, time zones, local events, attractions and shopping.
For each privately owned campground/RV park listing, Woodall’s assigns two ratings — one for recreation and the other for facilities — both on a scale of one to five “W’s.” In general, a greater number of W’s indicates more extensive offerings and development. Other features include Woodall’s point-to-point “One Tank Trips,” green-friendly park listings and Extended Stay listings for places to park RVs for a month or season.
Campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across Texas are anticipating a busy spring break this year, with occupancies at several parks exceeding last year’s figures, according to a news release.
“Many of our parks are reporting strong reservations and a good mix of visitors, ranging from Winter Texans and families to college kids,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), which represents nearly 400 private parks across the Lone Star State.
“If the weather can hold, we are looking for a banner year as we are basically sold out through March 24,” said Don Temple, managing partner of Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine is also anticipating a busy Spring Break period.
“We never have to worry about low occupancy,” said Adrienne Nicodemus, activities director for the park, which has increased its spring break activities offering to include kayak lessons, bird focused crafts and hikes, an environmental stewardship seminar as well as yoga classes for both adults and children. The park is also planning a St. Patrick’s Day bike parade and an outdoor movie night.
Meanwhile, Horizon RV Resorts anticipates strong business levels at several of the parks it manages in Texas, including Hatch RV Park in Corpus Christi.
“Reservations are showing an uptick in the number of guests staying with us during this year’s Spring Break compared to last year,” said Scott Foos, Horizon’s vice president of business development, adding, “We’re fortunate to have a great group of returning guests who often return with several new friends or family members every year.”
And while Horizon RV Resorts does see college kids at some of its locations, the company’s Leisure Resort property in Fentress caters to families. “Our specialty is providing a fun family atmosphere that almost every type of guest can appreciate,” Foos said. “Additionally, the San Marcos River flows along the banks of the resort. It’s spring-fed just 20 miles away, and maintains a comfortable cruising speed and consistently warm temperatures.”
Foos said he also anticipates a bump in occupancy’s at Almost Heaven RV Resort in Manvel during the Spring Break period.
Editor’s Note: Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), today (March 1) issued the following “Call to Action” for all ARVC members.
ARVC, in conjunction with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), is requesting its members to contact the Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, and their Congressional offices to urge they weigh in on the issue of seeking restoration of common sense interpretation of pool and spa entry requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The industry message to the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress is:
• Extend the March 15 Compliance deadline which will leave many operators in technical violation of Federal law and thus open to litigation and fines.
• DOJ needs to approve portable lifts that will allow operators to quickly provide access to pools for travelers with disabilities while safeguarding children and costly lift equipment.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an overly burdensome interpretation of the pool entry requirements, forcing many operators to scramble to meet the March 15 implementation deadline for pool lifts. DOJ noted that all pools and most spas will need an affixed lift to be made available any hours the pool is open to the public. Operators who have purchased a portable lift under an earlier understanding of the 2010 ADA Standards will need to replace these lifts or find a method of affixing them to the pool deck.
ARVC provided a recommended template letter for contacting Perez, which can be e-mailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This same template can be used to send a similar letter to members of Congress.
A strong tornado that caused heavy damage to the famous Branson Strip entertainment district in Missouri appears to have affected only the downtown area of the famous resort community.
According to a press release, the Branson KOA Campground only reported a few downed tree limbs. No other damage was reported to the campground.
Branson KOA owner Ralph Newell said that the power was out and there was no telephone service at the campground Wednesday (Feb. 29) morning, but he expected both to be restored to the park later in the day. He added that no recreational vehicles were damaged and there were no injuries at the campground.
“We are still open for business,” Newell said. “The severe damage seems to be very localized to the Walmart Store and a few of the theaters along the Branson Strip.”
A generational change is under way in the nation’s snowbird population. According to a press release, sounds of the “Big Bands” are increasingly being replaced by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Foreigner.
And while Sunbelt RV resorts still have plenty of bridge tables, today’s health conscious snowbirds are more likely to engaged in water aerobics or water volleyball, playing tennis or bocce ball or riding their bicycles or hiking on nature trails.
“The Baby Boomers have arrived,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the Denver-based trade association that represents the outdoor hospitality industry. “And RV parks and resorts are responding by providing a greater variety of activities and entertainment. Some have even established health and wellness centers.”
Art Martin, activities director for the Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort in Niland, Calif., has seen the generational change unfold before his own eyes. “When I took over as activities director 15 years ago,” he said, “we had 20 activities a week. Now we have 86 activities a week.”
This winter, Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, Calif., is offering more than 200 different activities, plus a greater variety of activities and entertainment than most small towns, including dances, dinner shows and every flavor of musical entertainment
“We are getting a lot of new RVers because of the concerts and events,” said resort manager Michael Carle. “They definitely want to be active.”
Some RV resorts are also offering on-site spa and wellness center services.
Consider the Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, Calif. Three winters ago, the resort opened a wellness center led by Anna Morris, a holistic health practitioner and expert in Ayurvedic massage who trained with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Vasant Lad, two of the nation’s premier experts in holistic health medicine. Morris is joined by Amy Baay, a licensed massage practitioner, and Betty Patterson, a licensed acupuncturist who also does herbal medicine and teaches classes in Qi Gong, an energy building exercise with slow body movements.
The growth in activities and entertainment is helping many RV resorts to increase their occupancies this winter season.
Tim Deputy, general manager of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, said his business is way up from last year’s figures, with a 20% increase in RV site rentals and a 27% increase in park model rentals. He said the park is “fully booked” for February and March.
He attributed the increase in part to the resort’s new indoor pool and wellness center, which was completed in time for the winter season. “It’s just insane,” Deputy said. “I’ve never seen so many people working out in the resort.”
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has again made the list of Top 50 franchises in North America, according to Franchise Business Review’s 2012 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards.
Each year, Franchise Business Review surveys more than 22,000 franchisees representing more than 300 franchise brands in a wide variety of industries. This year, KOA ranked 30th among the top 50 franchises in the Large Systems category, according to a KOA news release.
This is the fourth year in a row that KOA has ranked in the Top 50 franchises on Franchise Business Review’s annual list.
“For the past 50 years, we’ve dedicated our efforts to building trust and confidence among our franchisees,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “Our campers are very faithful to the KOA brand, and we find the same is true among our franchisees. We have continually added support systems and mechanisms for our franchisees that allow them to spend more time with their guests, and they recognize that spending time working directly with guests to meet their needs is the secret to success.”
Franchise Business Review President Michelle Rowan agrees with Rogers.
“We’re seeing more of a focus from franchisors on unit profitability,” Rowan said. “Franchisees are rating support from franchisors better than they were a few years ago. Everyone is more optimistic going into 2012.”
Franchise Business Review annually recognizes franchisors with the highest overall franchisee satisfaction based on its survey of franchisees. The survey includes 33 benchmark questions, relating to the franchisee’s experience and satisfaction as well as market area, training, support, system quality issues, business lifestyle and overall satisfaction. Franchise Business Review contacts each franchisee individually with an average franchisee participation rate of 70 percent.
KOA also uses its own additional mechanisms to track how franchisees feel about the company and their individual businesses. KOA conducts its own internal Franchisee Satisfaction Survey each year, and holds an annual convention where franchisees are encouraged to voice their successes and concerns. Additionally, KOA has franchisee advisory groups that meet regularly with KOA leadership to help shape future strategies.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a Forbes Magazine Q&A with KOA Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers. To view the entire article click here.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has been hosting campers since 1962, and in the five decades since, they think they’ve figured out what Americans are looking for in an outdoors experience. KOA is the world’s largest system of privately held campgrounds with 488 locations across the U.S. and Canada, with over 15 million camper visits per year.
FORBES: How did you get started with Kampgrounds of America?
ROGERS: I spent 26 years in the casino hotel business. I was with Harrah’s forever. I was the finance guy, I was the marketing guy and I ran Harrah’s Reno for nine years. My first job out of college was KOA and I was gone about 30 years and they called me 12 years ago and asked me to come back. Part of this whole process is to try to bring some of the sophistication of the casino business; The casino business is so cutting-edge and the camping industry is so “back of the woods,” so it’s really been a fun assignment to come back into KOA. It’s a great brand with a great reputation; a great business and to pull a few of the things I learned in the casino hotel business with Harrah’s to see if we could make a difference.
FORBES: Is there one nugget that you pulled out of Harrah’s that you’re applying at KOA?
ROGERS: We learned, and it seems so obvious, we learned the customer was what we called the “recognition driven gambler.” The same is true in most hospitality experiences. We really segmented the population in our casino and we found that our best customers or gamblers were those that we could recognize that we could know what their preferences were.
I think we were trying to bring that into camping as well especially on a system that has 500 locations. You are checking in with a 26-foot Winnebago with a Labrador and two kids and you are moving on to another location tomorrow night it would be nice if you could pull into that next location and we would know who you are and what your interests are.
City plans for a campground in picturesque Bradley Park in Tomahawk, Wis., have some residents in uproar, and some on the defensive.
Talk of a campground in part of Bradley Park began in the last few years. Today, it has some residents of Tomahawk divided, WJFW-TV, Rhinelander, reported.
“It’s come to our attention that this parks committee is proposing a seven-acre, KOA-style campground,” says Bill Paulson, from Tomahawk.
“None of that’s been passed, approved. It’s just an idea,” says Don Nelson, chairman of the Tomahawk Parks and Recreation Department.
The idea upsets those who think the park’s majestic white and red pine trees are too valuable to the park to part with.
“When you start destroying part of the park, these campers are going to start scavenging firewood, cutting trees down; there’s going to be garbage,” says Paulson.
Nelson says they don’t intend to make it a clear cut campground and would minimize tree removal. He also says they won’t force the idea on the city.
“We’re not going to move ahead on something the majority of the townspeople don’t want,” says Nelson.
There’s also differing opinion, as to what exactly the city wants.
“The people of this city tell me one thing, and only one thing: leave this park alone,” says Ray Zindrick, from Tomahawk.
“We had lots of interest in creating a campground in Bradley Park,” says Nelson.
But there is one thing they agree on.
“It’s a cathedral, it’s a chapel, it’s an experience that’s humbling because you know you’re walking through something…. this is what Tomahawk used to be like,” says Zindrick.
“Yeah, this is a crown jewel for Tomahawk. How many communities would die to have a park like this?” sasy Nelson.
It’s clear everyone involved, regardless of how they feel about a campground, is passionate about the park. They just have different aspects of it they’re committed to.
Campers from throughout North America are making their reservations for Kampgrounds of America’s 9th Annual “Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend” event on May 11-12.
According to a press release, campers who stay as paying guests on May 11 will receive a free night of camping on Saturday at any of the 400-plus participating KOA campgrounds throughout the North American KOA system.
The event, which attracted more than 25,000 camping families in 2011, also serves as a fundraiser to support KOA Care Camps for children with cancer. KOA Care Camps is a network of 44 specialized summer campers throughout North America that provide a safe summer camping experience for children undergoing or recovering treatment for cancer.
“Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend has become a mainstay in our efforts to support this very worthy charity,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “It is so great that we have found a wonderful way to invite out campers to begin enjoying their summer camping season and also allow them to help us support camps for children with cancer.”
Last year, more than $500,000 was raised through camper donations by the KOA Care Camps Trust and distributed to the various KOA Care Camps. The funds are used to provide the summer camps to children with cancer at absolutely no charge to their families.
Participating KOAs are already planning fun events to make the weekend of May 11-12 special. For a complete list of participating KOAs, go to http://koa.com/come-camp-with-us/
The Tuolumne County Supervisors in Sonora, Calif., will take up a proposal on Feb. 7 to expand the county’s 10% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) that is currently placed on hotels to include campgrounds, houseboats and RV parks.
“This would not be an increase in the rate that the voters approved in 2010, but the expansion of the application of the TOT,” said Criag Pedro, county administrator. “The primary folks that would pay this are those that visit our community, and this is a great way that they can help offset some of the costs that we incur providing services to the visitors.”
The county estimates that the expanded TOT would bring in around $350,000 annually, mymotherlode.com reported.
The TOT was first approved in 1983. It was increased by voters in 2010 from 8% to 10%.
The new revenue could keep both Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and the Mother Lode Fairgrounds open. Railtown is one of 70 state parks set for closure on July 1st. The state is also cutting off subsidies to county fairs.
Railtown currently needs around $200,000 a year to maintain modified year round operation, and the Fairgrounds require an additional $125,000 a year.
The state would continue to operate Railtown as part of the plan, and the county would look to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding regarding various matters.
Woodall’s Publications has released its 2012 Woodall’s North American Campground Directory. According to a press release, the 2012 directory contains information for more than 8,000 privately owned and 6,000 public parks across North America.
The directory features 310,003 changes and updates from the 2011 edition, including over 14,000 detailed listings of campgrounds, RV dealers and service centers and attractions, GPS coordinates, physical addresses and detailed campground information. It also features full-color state and provincial maps, at-a-glance charts showing parks that welcome big rigs, have internet access (including Wi-Fi), welcome pets, and parks and campgrounds that are considered “green-friendly,” based upon the criteria of the National Association of Campgrounds and RV Parks (ARVC) in conjunction with “Leave No Trace.”
Included in the 2012 edition is exclusive new editorial on “One Tank Trips,” which guides readers to amazing trips using only a tank of gas. Also new is the use of QR codes allowing RVers and campers to connect with the campgrounds, RV parks and resorts found in the directory. Located throughout the directory, these QR codes can be scanned by smart phones and will connect users to exclusive content.
Woodall’s also redesigned its Travel Section for 2012, and filled it with tons of tips and recommendations about each local cities and attractions within each specific state. Another added benefit to the directory are Camping World coupons, placed within its pages, which are good at any Camping World SuperCenter nationwide, providing savings to Woodall’s readers.
In conjunction with the release of the new 2012 directory, Woodall’s Publications is also releasing its list of top-rated privately owned RV parks and campgrounds in North America through its 5W/5W rating system. Of the 8,000 privately-owned parks listed in its 2012 North American Campground Directory, 363 parks earned the highest and most coveted designation in the Woodall’s rating system.
“Privately owned campgrounds and RV parks covet the 5W Woodall’s rating, valuing it as the industry’s long running standard and most respected rating system,” said Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher. “We are very proud of the 363 campgrounds that have achieved a 5W rating for 2012.”
Co-authors Ken and Ellie Hamill have released their 2012 Big Rigs Best Bets Campground Directory as well as the online version that offers the same content as the 482-page spiral bound book.
According to a press release, this user-friendly guide has over 1200 detailed park listings, 548 acceptable fuel stops and 252 restaurant tips, all of which have been personally visited by the Hamills.
“There is a constellation of RV parks out there and the jackpot question for the vast majority of RVers we serve is ‘Where am I going to park my rig and will I feel comfortable there?’ Our customer base is the 40-and-over crowd who seem to appreciate a reliable source that points them in the right direction and this is indicative of our continued success,” said Ken Hamill.
He added, “Our online version continues to gain acceptance in the market-place because it allows the RVers to link directly to the park websites along with the PilotflyingJ.com and GasBuddy.com links in the fuel stop section. In addition, we will be sending out more frequent e-mail updates to keep our online members current throughout the course of the year.
For more information visit www.big-rigs-rv.com or call 830-792-9170.
Frederic Lepitre and wife Chantal Theriault rented a condo when taking their first family vacation in Florida several years ago.
According to a report from the Fort Myers News-Press, it was comfortable, but not the ideal environment for the couple’s four active offspring, he said.
This week, the family from Quebec is ensconced in a 12-foot-by-33-foot park model trailer at the Naples/Marco KOA. It rents for $145 a night this time of year, and boasts a flat-screen TV, full kitchen, bunk beds — and separate master bedroom.
“Nobody wants to do primitive anymore,” said Ted Mangels, manager of the KOA off State Road 951, east of Marco Island.
The campground setting, with its swimming pool, shuffleboard and bicycle rentals makes it easier for Lepitre’s children, ages 13 to 17, to play outside.
“We don’t want to pull an RV here all the way from Canada,” Lepitre said. “That’s a 27- to 28-hour drive. And, it’s really good to have a cabin with a full bathroom.”
Like Lepitre and family, more people are spending weekends holidays and vacations in campgrounds. And, because not all guests own RVs or care to rough it in a tent, many commercial campgrounds are responding by purchasing and installing cabins and cottages with all the comforts of home.
More than one-third of the nation’s privately owned campgrounds offer upscale rental accommodations, according to Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
The trend includes independently owned campgrounds and some of the biggest chains in the country, including the Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America.
In south Lee County, the San Carlos RV Park stretching along Hurricane Bay has eight one- to three-bedroom manufactured homes available for rent. It used to have 19, “but we traded them out for big-rig sites,” said Carolyn Morrissette, who owns the park with her brother, Dave Kline. Those big rigs mainly are 40- to 45-foot-long motor homes that campers bring in for their stays.
For campgrounds in Florida, park model cabins are a win-win, according to Garpow: First, they attract snowbirds and vacationers during camping’s high season from December through mid-April.
And, when the weather gets hotter and more rainy, these cabins “extend the camping season into the summer, when Florida families go on weekend getaways,” said Garpow, a former Tampa resident who now lives in Georgia.
A growing number of seasonal Florida residents also are buying park model trailers to install on property they rent or purchase from an RV resort or campground.
Retail prices range from about $25,000 to $60,000, with an average in the mid-$40,000s, Garpow said.
A recreational park trailer with wheels is considered an RV if its area is less than 400 square feet. However, in Florida, bigger models are permissible in campgrounds if they are built to current hurricane wind codes, said Joe Follman, Ocala-based sales manager for Chariot Eagle Inc., a maker of park model homes.
Said Follman: “We’re seeing growth all over the state.”