Passport America, the originator of the 50% discount camping club, continues to build its reputation through different avenues, including entering the rally scene. So far the company has held three, and the fun and success of it all means there are plans in the works for more.
Rally Master Ryan Simmons reports 667 attendees at the Passport America Rally Aug. 16-20 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind.
“We really go all out and give them a lot of food, activities and entertainment for the right price,” Ryan said. “The word is getting out, and more and more people are attending.”
Passport America members Ben and Lois Driver of Maumee, Ohio, seven-year Passport members, RV in the summer months around the Midwest.
“We enjoy the discounts provided by Passport America,” Ben said, adding that he and his wife were impressed by the Passport America rally.
“The food was great and this was the cleanest, most organized fairground we have ever been to,” Lois added.
Passport America plans for four rallies next year, at times and locations to be announced. “We are looking to do some bigger rallies in other parts of the country,” Simmons said. “Now that we are good at what we are doing, we want to keep it going.”
Passport America has grown steadily since its founding in 1992 with 100 member parks to nearly 1,800 member parks today and 110,000 club members taking advantage of discounts and locations that keep them camping. “We have strategically marketed parks not far off Interstate highways, so campers do not have to drive far off the beaten path,” Ryan noted. “And the discounts we offer help offset the cost of fuel.”
Vernon Simmons, Ryan’s father and president and CEO of Passport America, said member parks grow at a rate of 75 to 100 a year. As for camper memberships – the last four years the numbers have remained steady. “We have not seen a downturn in our business,” he said.
That is something to celebrate along with the company’s 20-year anniversary in 2012 in which the club is dreaming up new things to do for its members.
As for the competition, he said Good Sam’s Camp Club USA is the main competitor, but many of the same parks that belong to one belong to the other.
Vernon Simmons is also board president and CFO for Freedom Resorts, which was created to fill a need for a 25% off program. “Not every park is receptive to offering 50% off,” Vernon said.
Freedom Resorts not only offers discounts at campgrounds, but discounted recreational activities and special rates at other types of lodging including cabins, condos and hotels. “With Passport we are limited to RVers and Freedom Resorts has expanded our marketing capabilities nicely,” Vernon said.
Passport America has member parks in every state, Canada and Mexico, with heavy concentrations in Florida, California, Arizona and Texas. Other hot spots are in destination areas such as Branson, Mo., Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and the Florida Keys. And Passport America has all of Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc.’s Encore Parks in its system.
Despite many surprises from Mother Nature this year with flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, storms and tornadoes in the East, South and Midwest in spring and early summer, and forest fires out West that closed some parks, Ryan Simmons said campers are still camping.
“They still want to hit the road, get in their RV and travel,” he said. “We are finding they are still trying to stay active, but they are staying in one place longer and staying a little closer to home.”
Passport America itself was affected by dangerous weather when Hurricane Katrina damaged its headquarters in Longview, Miss., in 2005. Since then, the company moved its headquarters to Crestview, Fla.
Passport America membership is free to participating campgrounds, and campers pay just $44 a year to belong.
Campgrounds receive free advertising in the Passport America International Camping Directory and on its website as well as RV America, an interactive online magazine. The magazine provides members with product highlights, recipes from the road as well as updates to the current edition of the Passport America directory.
Passport America’s website also provides campers with trip routing software, making it easy to route their excursions.
Visit www.passportamerica.com for more information and to find links to the directory and magazine.