When a group of investors acquired Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton, Calif., seven years ago, they initially planned to demolish the property and replace it with single family homes.
But, according to a press release, market conditions quickly changed and the investors realized they might be better off simply improving the resort, which is less than five minutes away from the Danish-themed village of Solvang, Calif.
“Their strategy paid off,” said Daniel Bauman, general manager of Flying Flags, which has increased its gross revenues by nearly 7% each year since 2005 when the investor group acquired the resort.
The investors have spent about $1.5 million on improvements under the management of Horizon RV Resorts, a Westlake Village, Calif.-based company with expertise in improving the profitability of RV parks and resorts. The improvements include new landscaping with attractive trees, shrubs and flowers and new big-rig friendly pull-through sites throughout the park, all of which are equipped with 50 amp electrical service.
The investors also purchased five 400-square foot park model cottages, which have become so popular they book up months in advance.
“We use them to accommodate travelers who don’t have tents or RVs as well as Santa Ynez Valley residents who need overflow space for visiting family and friends,” Bauman said.
Flying Flags has also developed an activities program that includes Friday night Tri-Tip barbecues, Saturday night ice cream socials, dive-in movies under the stars, which guests can watch while enjoying the park’s swimming pool and Jacuzzi, as well as Sunday breakfast in bed delivery service. Golf and wine tasting packages are also available. The park also offers wine tasting events, featuring local wineries that come to the RV resort on weekends.
“The wine tasting events are particularly popular with families because it enables the parents to sample local wines while their children enjoy our swimming pool or other park activities,” Bauman said.
Randall Hendrickson, president and CEO of Horizon RV Resorts, said the investments in Flying Flags’ improvements, cottages and activities have also changed the demographics of the resort.
“Before we took over management of this park it was primarily frequented by retirees.” Hendrickson said, “Today, however, families account for about 80% of our guests.”
The economy may be mired in recession, but that hasn’t stopped private campground owners in California – the nation’s leading market for RVs and camping – from investing in new campsites, cabins and other upgrades for the upcoming camping season, according to a report from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
“Campground and RV park operators know that the recession is temporary that it behooves them to continue making improvements to their parks so that they can compete with other travel and tourism options,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC).
As a result, she said, many private park operators are investing in new facilities and amenities this year, which include everything from new campsites and cabins to hot tubs and swimming pools. For example:
- Auburn Gold Country RV Park, Auburn: This property, which includes 66 RV sites, 20 tent sites and two cabins is getting a $300,000 facelift, which will include upgrading many of its campsites with 50-amp electrical and Wi-Fi service.
- Bakersfield Palms RV Park, Bakersfield: This park recently completed a $1 million expansion and plans to open a new 20-site section for overnight travelers in May. The new section has premium campsites that are 25 feet wide and 70 feet long. The new sites have 50-amp electrical pedestals as well as telephone, cable TV and Wi-Fi service. The existing section of the park has 112 sites.
- Campland on the Bay, San Diego: This RV resort is spending up to $50,000 this year on a skate park, which is expected to open before Memorial Day weekend. The park is also spending $100,000 on other infrastructure improvements, including a leash-free dog park.
- Far Horizons 49’er Village RV Resort, Plymouth: This 329-site park, which also has 13 park model rentals, is planning to spend about $200,000 in improvements this year, mostly involving the park’s swimming pool complex.
- Flying Flags RV Resort, Buellton: This RV resort, located near the Dutch-themed town of Solvang, has budgeted $550,000 for improvements this year, including three recreational-park trailer cabin rental units, a fitness center, electrical and sewer service upgrades, renovation of campsites, cable television system upgrades and new landscaping.
- Frandy Park Campground, Kernville: This park, which has 18 campsites on the Kern River and 60 sites off the river, just installed new asphalt at the entrance to the park. The park is also making landscaping improvements and is installing a new dump tank. The total investment in improvements is expected to be close to $70,000.
- Kamp Klamath RV Park and Campground, Klamath: This 33-acre park, which is located in Big Foot country with one quarter mile of frontage along the Klamath River, plans to spend more than $30,000 in improvements this year, which will include construction of 26 new tent sites and three more RV sites.
- Pismo Coast Village RV Resort, Pismo Beach: This park is investing more than $700,000 in improvements this year, including the renovation of 51 campsites, which will be upgraded to 50-amp electrical service; the renovation of the swimming and wading pools, road paving and other electrical upgrades. The park is also planning to continue its improvement effort next year and develop another 20-acre site for RV storage.
- Premier RV Resorts, Redding: This park, which has 84 RV sites, 12 tent sites and two yurts, is planning to do a 21-site expansion this year. Other improvements include a new hot tub and a fenced dog-run area. These improvements are expected to cost about $500,000.
- Rancho Los Coches RV Park, Lakeside: This park has invested more than $30,000 in a variety of improvements this year, including renovations to its swimming pool and hot tub and new pool furniture. The park has also built a fitness room and made landscaping improvements with new flowers, shade trees and palm trees, including two Taiwanese King Kong Palms.
- San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA: This park is investing about $200,000 in improvements this year, which include finishing up a 4,000-square-foot dog park and remodeling the camp store. The park has also expanded its lodging with the purchase of six park model cabins last year. The park has 312 sites, including 34 cabins and a total of 10 park models.
- SunLand RV Resorts: This La Jolla-based chain, which has six parks in Riverside and San Diego counties, is upgrading its Wi-Fi system capabilities this year. SunLand’s parks include Golden Village Palms in Hemet, San Diego RV Resort in La Mesa, Escondido RV Resort in Escondido as well as three parks in El Cajon, including Oak Creek RV Resort, Circle RV Resort and Vacationer RV Resort