In planning for the 2011 Coast to Coast Membership Camping Conference to be held in New Orleans, organizer Bruce Hoster, Coast to Coast Resorts president, wanted to give attendees some new angles to ponder during the three-day convention.
So, when conferees gather Feb. 21-23 at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino, they’ll find not only some familiar themes in marketing membership camping but also some new wrinkles, such as a virtual sales tour, a trade show and a presentation on off-site sales centers. A half-day has been added to the conference, giving attendees two full days of presentations, on top of the opening night reception.
The theme for the conference is “Driving Profits in Private Membership Camping.”
“We’re still working against our objective we outlined last year: to share best practices in sales and marketing in the membership campground business. That’s the secret sauce that makes our industry tick,” said Hoster.
There will be some of the same topics, such as “Turning Tours into Sales,” “Successful Marketing Strategies” and “Developing A Winning Sales Team,” he said “But there are some new things we’re introducing. I don’t want to have the same meeting every year.”
“We are pulling our speakers from our most successful resorts and the most successful sales and marketing folks,” Hoster said. “Most of our sessions are panels with two to three industry experts and time for questions and answers. All sessions are back to back. No concurrent sessions. If somebody wants to attend all the sessions, they will be able to do that.”
The private membership camping business faces many of the same operational issues faced by other privately owned campgrounds, so there is great value for owners to attend regional or national association meetings and join 20 Groups, Hoster said.
But there are some unique sales and marketing challenges and opportunities facing private membership campground operators that aren’t being addressed by conventional means, thus the need for the Coast conference, he said.
Virtual Park Tour
That being said, Hoster has taken a page out of the playbook of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and created a Virtual Campground Tour for the Coast conference.
“We would love to take all the conferees to four or five resorts and walk them through a sales presentation, but we physically can’t do that,” Hoster said. “So, we’re doing the next best thing, taking everyone on Virtual Sales Tours. We visited our top sellers with Outdoor Adventures, Travel Resorts of America, Midwest Outdoor Resorts and East Coast Resorts this year, took photos and, working with the sales people there, followed them on a typical sales tour. We’ll take the audience from the start when a couple walks in to the front desk, to a tour of the park, and back to the office to try to close the sale. We examine what people see and say during each step. We think it will be a tremendous value to people attending the conference.”
Another new wrinkle at next year’s conference will be what Hoster calls a “What’s New in the Industry” discussion.
“One of the new and exciting things in the industry is off-site sales centers. We’ll look at how they do it,” he said. “It’s done well in the time share business and some of our developers have done it right in our industry.”
Instead of expecting potential clients to visit their parks, some developers are taking their programs to major population centers and pitching their sales presentation via videos, brochures and posters, he said.
For example, one park owner is successfully promoting park model rentals for non-RVers (the other 90% of the population) via a display in the parking lot at a nearby Camping World store, he said.
The first-time trade show will be a small but highly visible part of the conference, said Hoster, who is soliciting vendors to participate. The show will be held in the same room and concurrent with breakfast and breaks both days.
Another new twist to the upcoming conference will be a presentation by Woodall Publications on its unique rating system used in Woodall’s North American Campground Directory. To be eligible for Coast to Coast affiliation, campgrounds must maintain at least a 3W rating.
“We will have a session to talk about Woodall’s rating, how to go from a 3 to a 4 or a 4 to a 5. We’re lucky to have several resorts with perfect 5/5 ratings,” he said.
As at the first conference, conferees will have plenty of time to network with their colleagues over meals, between sessions and after hours, Hoster noted.
The membership campground part of the industry was a lot bigger in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it has shrunk,” Hoster acknowledged. “However, we see a lot of renewed interest in it. We see a product that is very right for the times. It’s affordable, a product that is easy to use, especially if the resort is located within a couple of hours of your house. I think membership camping in particular is due for a renaissance.
“For Coast to grow, we have to invest in this industry and have to do what we can to help this industry grow. It will pay back many times over for us. Membership camping has suffered due to a lack of awareness and lack of enough people promoting and selling it. We see a lot of good things on the horizon for the industry. Even this year, there are a lot of new parks. From where I sit, I believe we will see this industry grow in the next year or two. I think it will be a lot of long-term growth. There are a lot of underlying factors in travel and tourism that favor this industry.”
Not to be overlooked is the conference’s setting: New Orleans. “It’s always a great venue, great food and great music,” he said.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is parent company of Coast to Coast, Woodall Publications and RVBUSINESS.com.
For more information on the Coast conference, visit www.coastconference.com or call (800) 833-9183, ext. 429.
The 2011 Coast to Coast Conference, Feb. 21-23, in New Orleans, will educate registrants about that right camping-related product. And, according to Bruce Hoster, president of Denver-based Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc., the time is now and that product is membership camping.
“It’s a product whose time is right and is due for a renaissance because so many people are putting a high value on leisure time,” he says.
Building on 2010’s conference in February in Las Vegas – a first-time event that generated a good crowd and a flurry of activity – planners for the upcoming 2011 conference were challenged to add new ways to share best practices in sales and marketing.
Now, they think they’ve come up with the right solution. “We thought it would be great to take a virtual sales tour of some of our successful membership parks,” says Hoster.
Consequently, attendees — without leaving the comfort of their conference seats — will see first-hand what happens at check in, during a park tour, in the sales process. Four of Coast to Coast’s leading resorts will be featured: Outdoor Adventure Resorts in Michigan, Travel Resorts of America in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, East Coast Resorts in New York and Midwest Outdoor Resorts in South Dakota.
“That’s going to be worth the price of admission,” says Hoster.
Abe Libitz of Liberty County, Texas, got his money’s worth when he attended the 2010 Coast to Coast Conference. He and partner Judy Miller were pondering how to best utilize a campground property they’d purchased. “It was probably the No. 1 reason we went to the conference,” he says. “It was an eye opener of what it would take from a business standpoint for us to convert to a membership campground.”
“At a conference like this, you also get to talk to other developers and get a pretty good idea about what you’re about to bite and chew,” he adds. “If you understand that on every element, it helps you decide how to run your business better, plus you have the backing of Coast to Coast.”
Since the 2010 conference, their property, the Liberty Lakes Resort, is now a Coast to Coast Resort and the partners are already reaping the financial benefits.
“We have people coming to us who want to convert to a membership park, so we started Project Renaissance,” says Hoster. “Fabian Russell from East Coast Resorts put together a six-step process to take them from where they are today and walk them through the steps.”
For more information about creating a renaissance at one’s own park, Hoster suggests attending a session called “Resurrecting the Resort and Project Renaissance.”
Conference attendees, who are likely to draw inspiration from the can-do attitude of the people in the New Orleans region, will also rub shoulders with park owners and developers who are already working successfully within the Coast to Coast network.
“Pooling our individual efforts is a powerful force, which can be fun and informative,” says Hoster. “In another session, we’ll break into teams with a set of questions about how we can work together nationwide to promote awareness of and grow the membership camping industry.”
To register and get more information about the various sessions, visit www.coastconference.com.