One of the largest private campground chains in the country is getting bigger, thanks in part to an increased craving for wholesome, face-to-face, family oriented activities, according to a press release.
“The dramatically increased use of hand-held electronic devices has left many families craving more face time with one another,” said Rob Schutter, chief operating officer of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts across the country.
Schutter said consumer demand for the wholesome activities that Jellystone parks provide is on the rise. Revenues and occupancies are also growing at Jellystone Parks across the country, and more independently owned and operated campgrounds are joining the Jellystone Park network.
Leisure Systems achieved an annualized revenue growth rate of about 8% in 2013, while its vacation rental occupancies increased by 8.5% and traditional sites by 3.4%, when comparing same park to same park data.
In the past three years, 14 campgrounds in 11 states have become Jellystone Parks, including campgrounds in Elberta, Ala; Gloucester Point, Va.; Harrisville, Pa.; Madison, Maine; Milford, Del.; Montrose, Colo.; Pittsfield, Ill.; Bloomington, Ind.; South Haven, Mich.; Tyler, Texas; Fredericksburg, Texas; Uniontown, Ohio; and recently added Mount Gilead and Big Prairie, also both in Ohio.
And while most Jellystone Parks are owned and operated by husband and wife teams, Jellystone Parks are also increasingly being acquired by other campground networks, which see them as valuable investments.
Several Jellystone Parks have been acquired by Chicago-based Equity Lifestyle Properties, a publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT); Texas-based Legacy RV Resorts, a private company that owns 14 campgrounds across the country; and Grandville, Mich.-based Northgate Holdings LLC, which owns and operates four campgrounds across the U.S.
“In our due diligence of numerous parks across the country, we’ve discovered that the Jellystone Parks are some of the best operated, highest grossing and most profitable RV parks,” said Northgate Holdings CEO Zachary Bossenbrock. “Furthermore, the Jellystone Park brand and franchise standards have a tremendously loyal following. Not only are Jellystone Park guests loyal to a specific Jellystone Park, which often times experiences 50% or better repeat business, but to the Jellystone system in general. We see great value in having a customer base that is loyal to the Jellystone brand.”
There are currently over 17,000 campsites in the Jellystone Park network, including 12,000 traditional campsites, 3,000 seasonal campsites and over 2,000 rental units.
Looking to the future, Schutter said he anticipates continued growth in revenues and occupancies at Jellystone Parks this year, as well as continued growth in Jellystone network as more independently owned and operated campgrounds become Jellystone Parks.
Leisure Systems Inc.’s Annual Symposium ended Thursday evening (Nov. 14) with annual awards handed out to the top Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.
The 2013 Franchise System Entrepreneur of the Year awards went to:
• Waller, Texas (large).
• Nashville, Tenn. (medium).
• Harrisville, Pa. (small).
The 2013 Franchise System Operators of the Year were:
• The Garcia family of Marion, N.C. (small).
• Steve Stafford of Burleson, Texas (large).
The 2013 Camp Resort of the Year winner was:
• Fremont, Ind.
The 2013 Facilities of the Year were:
• Pittsfield, Ill. (small).
• Burleson, Teas and Luray, Va. (tied in the large category).
Other award winners included:
• Bruce & Andrea Bryant of Bryant Management (Jim Webb Spirit Award).
• Melissa Mendrek of Toronto, Ontario (Maple Leaf Award).
• Erv Banes (Dan O’Connell Service Award).
• Don & Jan Tardy of Tyler, Texas (Owner Rookie of the Year).
• Shawn Blackwell of Lawrence, Kan. (Manager Rookie of the Year).
• Elmer, N.J. (Most Improved Inspection).
• Tabor City, N.C. (Facility Theming).
• Fremont, Ind. (Landscaping).
• Tyler, Texas (Camp Resort Store).
• Marion, N.C. (Website).
• Frankenmuth, Mich. (Brochure Design).
• Gatlinburg, Tenn. (The Carroll Award for Franchise System Inspection Leader).
• Austin, Minn., Milford, Del., Caledonia, Wisc. and Bloomington, Ind. (Camp Resort Comfort Station).
This week’s Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) Symposium in Covington, Ky., enjoyed a “great turnout,” said Dean Crawford, executive vice president for LSI, the franchise company for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.
Crawford said 74 of the existing Jellystone parks sent representatives, and a handful of prospective parks attended the Nov. 11-14 event.
Rob Schutter, LSI president, said it was a good year for Jellystone franchisees, with systemwide income up 10% over last year in existing parks and 11% including new parks. “Our occupancy was up a little over 4%,” Schutter said.
The number of cabins continued to grow across the Jellystone system, with 13.6% growth last year, Schutter said. The demand for those continues to grow, since they attract three types of users: People looking for a hotel substitute, people who are campers but don’t own recreational vehicles, and people who are just starting out in the outdoor lifestyle. “We’ve been very strong in continuing the introduction of the full-service-style cabins to the marketplace,” Schutter said, and those attract people with higher incomes who spend more in the parks.
The symposium turnout was high this year, with “meetings completely packed,” Schutter said.
In addition to sessions on in-park activities, “most of the sessions have had some kind of employment focus,” Schutter said. This year’s sessions included information on regulatory requirements, from I-9 federal forms to Obamacare to the Americans With Disabilities Act rules.
Crawford reported that 75 vendors attended the show. “That’s about average for us,” he said. “There’s a wide variety of vendors here, and it’s just right, about one per campground. Vendors love this show because people are here to buy.”
The Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council’s (IMHA-RVIC) annual Fall Campground Meeting & Tour at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp-Resort at Barton Lake in Fremont, Ind., Sept. 24 included a keynote address on best practices and ways to increase ancillary income by Kelly Jones, director of franchisee development for Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI).
LSI, headquartered in Milford, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb, markets the Jellystone name to franchised park operators.
Detailed updates and discussion on IMHA-RVIC marketing, website, social media networking and RV show opportunities were given by Mike Dukehart, the trade association’s marketing coordinator, and Matt Rose, director of recreation vehicles for RVIC.
Jeff Sims, national director of state relations and program advocacy for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), also participated in the meeting via video conference to give an update on member benefits, resources on the ARVC.org website, new educational opportunities and current legislative issues.
However, legislative issues were the hot topic of the day, as the open forum discussion led by IMHA-RVIC Executive Director Mark Bowersox consisted almost entirely of campground owners’ questions and concerns on that subject. Attendees asked about regulations they’ve been wrestling with at their parks and continued discussion on topics introduced by Sims, particularly rumblings of guidelines being developed for ADA-compliant campsites.
Bowersox acknowledged the impact of changing and increasing regulations on campground owners and the resulting confusion and sense of unease, noting that the parameters of ADA-compliant pool areas are still not entirely defined — even though the compliance deadline has already come and gone.
“The federal government has a way of telling you that you have to comply by this date, but not telling you what the rules are until much later,” Bowersox said. “That’s one of these issues where they’re still clarifying and revising things, and it’s a bit unclear exactly what you’re supposed to comply with.”
Following the discussion, attendees were given lunch and a tour of the campground by its founder and Chairman, Roger Barry, and Leon Rogers, general manager.
Diana Mendez and her husband, Miguel, live in Queens, N.Y. But every weekend they escape to the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Woodridge, N.Y., where they have rented a seasonal campsite for the past 23 summers.
Unlike typical campsites, which are rented by the night, families who rent seasonal campsites rent them for the whole season, usually at a discounted rate. And because the campsite is theirs, they can leave their RV on site and don’t have to worry about packing and unpacking every time they want to camp, according to a news release.
“It’s like a sanctuary for me,” said Diana Mendez, who works with children with disabilities. “We work hard during the week and we all look forward to coming here on weekends. It’s always a wonderful experience.”
“Across the country, growing numbers of families are renting campsites at Jellystone Parks for the entire camping season,” said Michele Wisher, a spokesperson for Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Parks across the country.
Seasonal campsites also provide an important revenue stream, accounting for 11% of Jellystone Park income in 2012, while making up about 16% of its campsites.
In addition to offering seasonal campsites, swimming pools and other amenities, Jellystone Parks are famous for providing fun family activities that include everything from crafts and games to “hey rides,” birthday parties with the bears and daily appearances by Yogi Bear.
Diana Mendez said there are many other benefits to seasonal camping at Jellystone Parks. She said her family has developed close relationships with other seasonal campers. She added that there’s nothing better than camping when it comes to strengthening family relationships.
The Mendezes raised both of their children camping at Jellystone Park. The kids are now 19 and 17, but they still enjoy camping. “I think that it brings you closer together as a family,” she said. “You’re in an RV, so you’re forced to always be together. And at nighttime, you can make campfires with your family and friends and it becomes very intimate.”
Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) is continuing to expand the Jellystone Park franchise network, adding four parks in three states in the past two years, bringing the total to 79 locations.
So far this year, the Milford, Ohio-based campground chain has added new parks in Tyler, Texas and Uniontown, Ohio, while also picking up additional parks in Fredericksburg, Texas and Elberta, Ala., last year.
But, according to LSI, even more dramatic growth has taken place in terms of park revenue.
Jellystone Parks reported total revenues of $73.7 million in 2012, a 10% jump over 2011 figures. Average 2012 revenue per park was $953,533, a 7% increase over the previous year.
“We’re obviously very pleased with the direction we’re going and with the revenue gains we’ve achieved, particularly given the relative weakness of the national economy in recent years,” said Rob Schutter, LSI president and COO.
Systemwide, LSI has 17,137 campsites, including 12,276 traditional campsites, 2,995 seasonal sites and 1,886 rental units.
But while traditional campsites make up 74% of LSI’s campsites, they only generate 36% of the Jellystone Park revenue. Other key sources of revenue growth include income from rental units, campground stores and ancillary revenue from activities.
Rental units, including park model cabins, generated 27% of LSI’s revenue in 2012 even though they only accounted for 10% of LSI campsites. The average income LSI generated per rental unit was $137.16 per night.
Meanwhile, campground store and ancillary revenue was $8.3 million and $11.2 million in 2012, up 11% and 9%, respectively, from the prior year, while generating about 26% of LSI’s revenue.
Seasonal campsites also provided an important revenue stream, accounting for 11% of LSI’s income in 2012, while making up about 16% of LSI’s campsites.
System-wide camper nights across all site types increased by 9.5 percent over the previous year. Overall occupancy rates have also continued to climb with average occupancy of 38 percent in 2012, compared to 37 percent in 2011 and 36 percent in 2010.
LSI has also beefed up its franchisee support with a new mobile website at www.campjellystone.mobi; a new Twitter account at twitter.com/campjellystone; national discount programs, as well as a free online hospitality training program designed to help franchisees train park staff. Additional training programs are also being incorporated into spring and fall meetings.
Rob Schutter Jr., president and COO of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), promised an upbeat message for LSI’s franchisees at their annual Symposium held Nov. 5-8 in Covington, Ky., and he delivered.
Woodall’s Campground Management reported that during his annual LSI Updates presentation on Nov. 6, Schutter reported to a record gathering of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort operators that LSI’s 78 franchisees outperformed the RV park and campground industry in general as well as many American businesses in 2012.
“There wasn’t one down area in occupancy or revenue numbers in our franchise system from last year; every possible scenario we studied was up. Not many people out there in our industry can say that,” he said.
• System revenue totaled $71.4 million, up 12% from 2011 and up 8% for same parks from 2011.
• Camper nights (general sites) rose 9%.
• Rental unit revenue rose 17%.
• Extended stays were up 2%.
• Online reservations rose 13%.
• Deposits increased 15%.
• Store sales were up 9%.
• Ancillary products sales up 12%.
“This is great,” Schutter said, stating that the fine performance was due in large part to franchisees’ perseverance and dedication to improving customer satisfaction.
The revenue performance was well above industry average of flat to up to 4%, he noted, and the rental unit uptick exceeded the industry figure of 15%.
Rental units are a growing phenomenon for not only LSI franchisees but the entire industry as well, Schutter continued. Rental units with full service typically attract “non-campers” who want niceties they can’t find in a tent or a travel trailer and yet want a unique camping experience. Double-digit growth has been recorded the last three years. “Some people (parks) are not really taking advantage of this. This is an area that we can exploit for many years. We have not maxed out.”
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“Rising to the Challenge” is the theme for Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) Symposium scheduled for Nov. 5-8 at the Embassy Suites and Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky.
“Every day our owners and operators rise to meet all sorts of challenges they encounter,” Kelly Jones, director of franchisee development for LSI, told Woodall’s Campground Management. “At this year’s annual symposium, we will be helping our franchisees with tools to address the new ADA challenges, employment challenges, social networking needs and the challenge of reducing costs in today’s market.”
LSI answered the challenge of keeping campground conferences relevant by modifying this year’s symposium for its 78 franchisees. The gathering has been shortened by one day, without reducing the number of educational seminars offered to its franchisees.
This year’s symposium will also feature a trade show and a first-time look at the new Yogi Bear-branded merchandise for the coming season.
On Tuesday morning, President and COO Rob Schutter Jr., will give franchisees an in-depth look at company and franchisee operations. Schutter will have a good story to share. Through August, same-park revenues were up 9% from a year ago with occupancy up around 4%, according to Woodall’s Campground Management.
“In a down economy, people are looking for more affordable, economical locations,” he explained. “Many of the Jellystones have the amenity packages that satisfy the needs of American families. Also, because of our strong development of in-park activities and special events, we have been fortunate in maintaining our customer base and revenue base.”
Rental unit revenues continue to be a driving force behind increased occupancies at LSI camp-resorts with a 12 percent increase through the end of August, he said. Most of these lodges and cabins are park models.
The resorts that offer RV rentals, typically travel trailers, reported an 80% increase over 2011.
“That typically is not the way we encourage our parks to expand their rental fleets, but there is a certain segment of our customer base that enjoys staying in an RV,” Schutter said.
In fact, this segment has shown double-digit growth each of the last three years, he continued.
“We continue to see parks convert sites into their rental pool or building additional sections to accommodate them. We have seen traditional site nights erode a little bit but made up by people deciding to be seasonals. That is one change we have seen and we’re going to take a long, hard look to stem that tide. We would like to see our destination sites stabilize more. Either way you look at it, it’s been a good year.”
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Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) is slightly modifying its traditional symposium to accommodate the changing needs and desires of its nearly 80 Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park franchisees.
Woodall’s Campground Management reported that the traditional gathering, set for Nov. 5-8 at the Embassy Suites and the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky., has been shortened by one day, without reducing the number of educational seminars offered to its franchisees.
An outside keynote speaker also has been dropped.
The modification, we’re told, comes amid an industrywide re-examination of the convention concept, which has lost traction in many locales, notably the state of California where the state association has canceled all conventions until further notice.
Leisure Systems sees the symposium as a type of season-ending thank you to its franchisees and decided to shorten it by a day to help reduce expenses for its franchisees. “Everybody is watching their expenses closely,” said Dean Crawford, executive vice president. “We opted to shorten by one day and will probably stay that way.”
The symposium will start on a Monday and end on Thursday night.
“It’s always a good gathering. Everybody works hard through the summer and I know our franchisees look forward to coming to this convention and talking with other operators. It’s kind of a reward after a busy season,” Crawford said.
Accordingly, this year’s symposium will still feature educational seminars, a trade show, an in-depth look at company and franchisee operations by President Rob Schutter on Tuesday morning and a concluding awards banquet. The symposium is also when franchisees view new Yogi Bear-branded merchandise and order this merchandise for the coming season.
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Leisure Systems Inc., franchisors of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, and its 77 franchisees registered some healthy numbers in 2011.
According to a report by Woodall’s Campground Management, in his annual presentation to franchisees during the LSI Symposium Nov. 13-17 in Covington, Ky., Chief Operating Officer Rob Schutter Jr. reported that overall revenues grew 7% in 2011 over 2010, while same-park revenues were up 5%. That’s on top of a strong 2010 when overall revenue rose 11% and same-park income was up 6% from the year before.
Occupancies were up 3% in 2011 with rental units and extended stays showing double-digit growth at 13% each. Store expenditures rose 5% and miscellaneous expenditures rose 6%, Schutter reported.
The report showed solid growth in key areas, despite the overall sluggishness of the U.S. economy during the year.
LSI welcomed six new franchise locations in 2011: Gloucester Point, Va., the Gedicke Family; Harrisville, Pa., the Quigley Family; Milford, Del., the Fannin Family; Pittsfield, Ill., Deb and Ted Festa; Madison, Maine, Alan York; and Montrose, Colo., John Bender.
New franchisees are John and Alyssa Harlan, Natural Bridge, Va., and Henk John and Mary Ann Kuipers, Kingston, Nova Scotia.
Several prospective new members attended this year’s Symposium, which drew all but seven of the system’s 77 franchisees. Attendees attended educational seminars, purchased Yogi merchandise for the coming season and enjoyed the industry camaraderie around the theme “Jellystone Park – Always A Winning Hand.”
Marketing Plans Outlined
Schutter outlined marketing initiatives in 2011 and looked ahead to 2012. In the coming year, he said, LSI will:
• Redesign www.campjellystone.com.
• Increase its PR efforts.
• Use QR codes in advertising.
• Develop a new photo archive for member parks’ marketing.
In terms of merchandise, LSI will make more offerings in toddler, youth and adult apparel to respond to park demands and trends; offer several lifestyle groups of products to help parks purchase coordinated items across product lines; and source more domestic manufacturers for its merchandise.
LSI Honors its Franchisees
LSI handed out a number of awards. Major award recipients were:
• Entrepreneur of the Year (revenues over $1 million), Waller, Texas
• Entrepreneur of the Year (revenues over $500,000), Burleson, Texas
• Entrepreneur of the Year (revenues under $500,000), Lake Monroe, Ind.
• Operator of the Year (parks under 200 sites), Phil and Analyn Asztalos, Bremen, Ga.
• Operator of the Year (parks over 200 sites), Mike Work, Ryan Work and Tracy Czambel, Mill Run, Pa.
• Franchise System Inspection Leader, “The Carroll Award,” Woodridge, N.Y.
• Jim Webb Spirit Award, Aljets Family, Sioux Falls, S.D.
• Maple Leaf Award, Woodstock, New Brunswick
• Facility of the Year (parks under 200 sites), Canyon Lake, Texas
• Facility of the Year (parks over 200 sites), Burleson, Texas
• Camp Resort of the Year, North Java, N.Y.
Special Recognition Awards went to:
• Rookie of the Year – Owner, Alan York, Madison, Maine, and Quigley Family, Harrisville, Pa.
• Rookie of the Year – Manager, Nancee Morris
• Most Improved Inspection, Larkspur, Colo.
• Facility Theming, Larkspur, Colo.
• Landscaping, Bryant Management Properties
• Camp Resort Store Design, North Java, N.Y.
• Camp Resort Comfort Station, Missoula, Mont., North Hudson, N.Y., and Frankenmuth, Mich.
• Internet Website, Knightstown, Ind.
• Brochure Design, Indian River, Mich.
Customer Service Awards went to parks in: Swansea, S.C., Harrisville, Pa., Tabor City, N.C., Grayling, Mich., North Java, N.Y., Luray, Va., Lake Monroe, Ind., Fremont, Ind., Bagley, Wis., Mears, Mich., Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada, Nashville, Tenn., Indian River, Mich., Woodridge, N.Y., Mill Run, Pa., Canyon Lake, Texas, Cave City, Ky., Austin, Minn., Natural Bridge, Va., Burleson, Texas, Milton, Pa., Estes Park, Colo., Sioux Falls, S.D., Hagerstown, Md., and Frankenmuth, Mich.
Recreation Awards went to parks in: Woodstock, New Brunswick, Swansea, S.C., Fremont, Ind., Harrisville, Pa., Luray, Va., Bagley, Wis., Natural Bridge, Va., Grayling, Mich., Indian River, Mich., Mill Run, Pa., Mears, Mich., Kingston, Nova Scotia, Canada, North Java, N.Y., Milton, Pa., Cave City, Ky., Sioux Falls, S.D., Lake Monroe, Ind., Canyon Lake, Texas, Burleson, Texas, Frankenmuth, Mich., Tabor City, N.C., Knightstown, Ind., Woodridge, N.Y., Cherokee, N.C., and Austin, Minn.