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.
Membership-driven Coast to Coast Resorts and New York-based consultant Fabian L. Russell have rolled out ”Project Renaissance,” a customizable guide for campground owners interested in becoming Coast affiliates.
Coast to Coast Resorts has 60,000 commercial members who have access to 450 resorts, 250 of which are membership-only parks plus 200 other ”good neighbor” parks that charge Coast members special rates.
”We realized that a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t necessarily work because each resort, each location, each marketplace has a unique set of goals and circumstances,” said Russell, while attending November’s National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) InSites 2009 Annual Convention and Outdoor Exposition in Orlando, Fla.
Project Renaissance assesses a number of aspects associated with a campground, including the demographics of the area it’s in, local traffic patterns and tourism and creates a membership, sales and marketing plan for each location.
”It’s designed to be flexible,” said Russell, who for 23 years has operated Bass Lake Resort, a 277-site membership park in Parish, N.Y., and also is president of East Coast Resorts and the Memory Maker Travel Network, both of which market membership RV, cruise and condo vacations.
”Project Renaissance” will be featured among the presentations during the Coast Conference Feb. 16-18 at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., which is designed to provide a nuts-and-bolts overview of the operations and development of membership campgrounds.
Doug Woods, national sales manager of Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), noted that mounting an effective membership-campground marketing campaign is not inexpensive, but that resort-style campgrounds are missing out on an opportunity if they remain only available for nightly rental.
”It’s easier to rent your sites out at $40 a night than it is to get into a sales and marketing campaign,” Woods said. ” But longer term, you can make a million dollars more on your park by going to a membership camping program.”
”We’ve seen an example that it is more lucrative,” said Coast to Coast President Bruce Hoster. ”(Russell’s) park as a membership park grosses a million dollars more a year.”
Membership fees eventually pay for the operation of the park, so that sales of new memberships ”becomes an extra pool of money,” Hoster said.
”Some is profits, some is reinvested, because in membership camping, you have to have a great looking park because you are bringing people in all the time to tour them and to sell memberships to,” he said. ”It’s critical that the product look good and be good.”
Russell said that membership campgrounds tend to flourish because the member community becomes an extended family. ”There’s a club feeling, a camaraderie among members. It’s like (they are) coming home every spring when you open up.”
Russell also predicted that membership parks will become more appealing to RVers because of the trend for state parks to close or cut back their hours and for private campgrounds to be sold to developers.
”There will come a time when the RVer is going to have a hard time getting into a nice place,” Russell said. ” That’s where a membership park will give the RVer a leg up because he’s got a place to go.”
”We feel that the competition is going to get stiffer and stiffer,” Hoster said. ” There’s going to be more demand for high-quality campsites and high-quality camping experiences with the same or fewer suppliers of those kinds of sites.
”We think that membership camping, especially for a lot of the Baby Boomers coming into RVing, is the perfect solution.”
Full conference registration is available for $299 per person through Dec. 15 — $100 off the full rate of $399 for those signing up after mid-December. The price does not include hotel room, and a la carte pricing is available for networking and breakout sessions.
For more information or to register for the 2010 Coast Conference visit www.coastconference.com.
Coast to Coast’s AGI parent company also is the parent company of RVBusiness and Woodall’s Campground Management magazines.