During the winter months, Susan Novotny keeps pretty busy working 60 to 72 hours a week as an emergency room nurse, while her husband, Kyle, works in maintenance at a local factory.
The Novotnys work long hours not only to support themselves, but to continue making improvements to South Haven Family Campground, the family business they started four years ago.
“We built it from the ground up,” Susan Novotny said. “We started with 26 sites. We now have 37, including five Amish-built cabins with six-inch solid logs.”
The Novotnys have also built a loyal following of campers from Michigan and surrounding states.
In fact, their park has won all-around “A” ratings from consumers in GuestRated.com surveys in each of the past four years, a feat that only a dozen private campgrounds across the country have achieved.
More than 30,000 camping and RV enthusiasts participated in GuestRated.com’s online surveys this year, which evaluated guest experiences at campgrounds, RV parks and resorts that are affiliated with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The Novotnys learned that they had won another “A” rating from GuestRated.com two weeks ago, while they were attending a campground industry conference in Savannah, Ga. Their park was one of only 44 across the country to receive all around “A” ratings from GuestRated.com this year.
“Consistently earning an overall ‘A’ grade from guests is difficult, and our 44 winners this year represent less than 2% of all of the nation’s campgrounds,” said Bob MacKinnon, president and CEO of GuestRated.com, the Murrieta, Calif.-based company that conducted the online survey.
The Novotnys attribute their success in part to their emphasis on providing great customer service, but also to their focus on fun family activities that bring people back to their park year after year.
“The activities the kids like most is our chocolate slip ‘n slide and chocolate pudding wrestling,” Susan Novotny said, adding, “Once in a while we get a parent involved. The kids really love to get their parents gooey. There’s lots of picture taking. It just brings everybody together.”
Other activities include three consecutive weekends with Halloween themed activities. “One of our activities is a mummy wrap,” Novotny said. “We’ll set up teams of guests with toilet paper and give them a time limit to wrap up their team-member with toilet paper. Whoever has the most coverage after eight minutes wins.”
The park also has pumpkin carving and scarecrow-decorating contests. “We provide a stick built frame with two-by-fours and give them straw and the guests come up with their own design. It could be anything from a football player to Sponge Bob. One year, we had a man who dressed himself as a scarecrow and then attached himself to the post.”
South Haven even hosts its own haunted house using an onsite barn. “We have a drama club from a local high school come and the kids will scare our guests. It’s a lot of fun.”
More information on South Haven Family Campground is available at www.southhavenfamilycg.com.
The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) has added the GuestRated review function to Camp-California.com, which gives consumers the ability to rate their camping experience, according to a news release.
“Consumers can now rate private campgrounds and RV parks throughout California using a survey tool that coverts their responses to letter grades,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the Auburn-based CalARVC, which manages Camp-California.com.
Private parks can be rated on their service quality, property condition, campsites and restrooms. “Overall grades are assigned to each park that has been surveyed,” Sipe said, adding that the number of surveys completed for each park is also displayed.
Sipe said the rating system, developed by Murrieta, Calif.-based GuestRated.com, was added to Camp-California.com this summer in response to consumer demand for an independent rating system for private parks throughout the Golden State.
“The letter grade system is a powerful marketing tool for parks with high scores since Camp-California also offers consumers the ability to sort parks by their ratings,” Sipe said. “Of course, it also provides an incentive for parks with lower grades to address areas of consumer concern if they want to remain competitive with their peers in the industry.”
Consumers can review campgrounds and RV parks they have visited by clicking on the “reviews” tab, which appears at the top of the screen after they click to see detailed information about the private park of interest to them. The rating form provided by GuestRated.com will then appear on the screen.
Sipe said more than 3,200 surveys have been completed for roughly half of the campgrounds and RV parks listed on Camp-California.com and those numbers will increase significantly as word spreads about the new ratings function.
The ratings capability was one of several upgrades made to Camp-California.com this summer by Orange, Calif.-based Friend Communications Inc., which manages and hosts for CalARVC.
Other improvements include the creation of subdomains on the site, which make it possible for consumers to bookmark park listings for future reference. The computer coding in URLs throughout the site has also been replaced with recognizable keywords to make it easier for consumers to find parks listed on Camp-California.com when they conduct Google searches or searches with other Internet search engines.
Parks listed on Camp-California.com can also be sorted by location and by the amenities or recreational activities they provide. They can also be listed alphabetically or by their ratings.
“We are continually fine tuning Camp-California.com to make it more user friendly and to give consumers the information they need as quickly as possible,” Sipe said.
For additional commentary, statistics and sources on the latest camping trends in campgrounds, RV parks and resorts in California or for leads on parks in your news coverage area, contact Sipe at (530) 885-1624 or (530) 906-4592 (cell).