Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article appearing in Woodall’s Campground Management tracking the growth of RVC Outdoor Destinations. For the full story, authored by Jeff Crider, pick up the February issue.
Private park operators often know what they need to do to improve their operations and expand their customer base, particularly if they attend educational seminars organized by state and national campground industry associations.
The challenge is often money.
Many private park operators simply cannot generate enough net income to implement the improvements they need to make or they have difficulties finding commercial lenders who understand their businesses well enough to provide them with the amount of capital they need.
Many park operators also lack expertise in certain areas. They may be terrific at running the front desk or maintaining their park’s facilities, but may have difficulty marketing their park successfully through every medium from social media to traditional print, radio and television. Some may do well with RV and tent sites, but find themselves challenged when it comes to properly managing their rental accommodations.
Andy Cates understands these dilemmas.
As CEO and general partner of Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations. Cates oversees a network of 10 private parks in eight states that the company has developed into “Marriott-” or “Hilton-level” resorts. These include resorts that RVC has overhauled with millions of dollars worth of upgrades as well as RV Resorts and Outdoor Destinations that RVC has expanded or built from the ground up.
In most cases, RVC owns its resorts outright. But in some cases, RVC is a business partner with existing park owners who need the financial backing and operational support that Cates and his team can provide.
“We’re like angel investors with operational expertise in the campground and outdoor hospitality business,” Cates said, adding that RVC is actively looking for operators of high-quality properties who need the investment capital and operational support that RVC can provide or simply want to be a part of something larger.
Of course, Cates is not looking to partner with just any park. He’s looking for parks that have the potential to become the Hiltons and Marriotts of the campground industry.
“We’re spending time with existing owners of high-quality properties who want to align with a bigger group that brings more resources,” Cates said. “A lot of existing, very-high-quality outdoor-hospitality properties are seeking resources and help and more capacity, capital and marketing support. They want partners, but they don’t necessarily want to be a franchise. These are parks that do not fit easily into a Yogi, KOA or ELS model. The reality is there is not a Hilton or a Marriott option in the campground business. But we’re not a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, either. We’re Hilton or Marriott. Although we offer a high-quality product, it is reachable to most consumers.”
Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, provider of high-quality outdoor resort properties in the United States, announced in a press release that it reflagged Lake Raystown Resort as an RVC Outdoor Destination.
The Entriken, Pa., property was developed by Jules Patt in 1984 and is currently markingits 30th anniversary. The resort’s new website has been completed to provide guests with a superior online experience as they research the resort’s features and lodging options.
Josh Patt and Samantha Patt Kozak purchased their father’s interest in Lake Raystown Resort in 2013 and continue to operate the 400-plus-acre property that includes a 52-room lodge, 79 cabins and villas, 221 RV sites, a 650-slip marina, the Wild River Water Park and a 22,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art conference center.
Various improvements and upgrades, including new signage, are under way and will be completed when the property opens for the 2014 Season on Friday, April 11.
Josh Patt said, “We have long believed there was a need for change in outdoor hospitality and found that RVC was leading the charge in redefining camping. Lake Raystown Resort fits RVC’s Outdoor Destination model, and we are pleased to be a part of the RVC family.” He added, “Samantha and I and the Resort’s staff are excited to kick off the 2014 season. We have so many reasons to be excited; it’s our first year as an RVC Outdoor Destination, it is Lake Raystown Resort’s 30th anniversary, and it is the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Raystown dam.”
Kozak added, “This year is going to be full of activities and celebrations. We encourage everyone to visit our beautiful new website and stay tuned for upcoming events and the latest resort news.”
In addition to Lake Raystown Resort, RVC currently operates outdoor destinations and RV Resorts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
For more information, visit www.rvcoutdoors.com.
RVC Outdoor Destinations announced it has completed renovations and additions to Koyote Ranch Resort located in Medina, Texas and the property is now Medina Highpoint Resort.
According to a press release, the 95-acre Texas Hill Country property sits at one of the highest points in the region and provides guests with spectacular views, two ponds, an infinity pool, restaurant, retail store, fueling station, meeting pavilion and hiking trails. Existing lodging options include 33 cottages, 46 RV sites, three luxury suites in the ranch estate and 11 new cabins in a new section now known as “The View.”
The property was developed as an outdoor destination and opened in 2003. The original ranch house was converted into a luxury ranch estate surrounded by mature Pecan trees and a modern pool area. It’s location near Kerrville, between Austin and San Antonio, providing access to a large population of travelers seeking a first-class outdoor retreat.
“We’re so pleased that the best parts of the existing property have been further improved while we were able to add beautiful new cabins,” said Medina General Manager, Pete Cook, adding, “guests are already excited about the improvements and we are all so excited to be part of a family of similar properties throughout the country.”
“Medina Highpoint Resort is setting the standard for high-quality outdoor hospitality in the Texas Hill Country,” said Andy Cates, RVC President. “In addition to improving the overall presentation of the property, including adding news beds to existing cottages, we are excited about the completion of eleven new cottages that give guests stunning views of the surrounding natural beauty.”
Along with Medina Highpoint Resort, RVC currently operates Outdoor Destinations and RV Resorts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
RVC Outdoor Destinations announced today (July 23) that Lake Raystown Resort in Entriken, Pa., will be re-flagged as an RVC Outdoor Destination in March 2014.
The property was developed by Jules Patt in 1984 and is one of the finest outdoor destinations in the country, according to an RVC news release. Lake Raystown Resort’s addition into the Memphis-based RVC’s portfolio of outdoor hospitality properties will coincide with its 30th anniversary.
Brother and sister duo, Josh Patt and Samantha Patt Kozak, recently purchased their father’s interest in Lake Raystown Resort and continue to operate the over 400-acre property that includes a 52-room Lodge, 79 cabins and villas, 221 RV sites, a 650-slip marina, the Wild River Water Park and a 22,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Conference Center.
Lake Raystown Resort is the second separately owned property to be flagged an RVC Outdoor Destination. In addition to providing long-term asset management and branding, RVC will provide capital for improvements and expansion.
“We are very excited to have Samantha and Josh joining the RVC movement and honored that they are adding their wonderful Lake Raystown Resort to RVC’s collection of upscale outdoor recreational properties,” said Andy Cates, RVC president. “They are great operators who add a lot to what we do, and their property is already one of the best outdoor destinations in the country. RVC is redefining outdoor recreation and camping by providing unique environments that provide a consistently high-quality guest experience.”
“Our family has been committed to high quality outdoor hospitality for three decades,” said Josh Patt. “RVC is the first company and brand that reflects what we have developed at Lake Raystown Resort. Also, they bring collaborative resources and support that will allow Lake Raystown Resort to grow and improve.”
Kozak added, “Ever since I first read about what RVC was doing, I was excited because their efforts were so similar to what we have been doing here for many years. We have always searched for a way to expand our market reach and to be a part of something larger, and after spending over a year getting to know the RVC team and seeing some of their resorts, we are very pleased to be a part of the RVC family.”
RVC Outdoor Destinations, a leading provider of high-quality outdoor resort properties, announced today (May 2) that it has acquired Koyote Ranch Resort located in Medina, Texas, within the heart of the Texas Hill Country.
The property will be renamed and reflagged as an RVC Outdoor Destination later this year, according to a news release.
The 95-acre Texas Hill Country property sits at one of the highest points in the region and provides guests with spectacular views, two lakes, an infinity pool, a restaurant, a retail store, a fueling station, a meeting pavilion and hiking trails. Existing lodging options include 33 cottages, 46 RV sites, and four luxury suites in the Ranch Estate. RVC will add 11 cottages within the next two months.
The property was developed as an outdoor destination and opened in 2003. The original ranch house was converted into a spectacular luxury ranch estate surrounded by mature pecan trees and a modern pool area. Its location near Kerrville, between Austin and San Antonio, provides access to a large population of travelers seeking a first-class outdoor retreat.
“We are excited about adding such a fine property to our collection. It is already an outdoor destination that meets our leading quality standards and we are looking forward to expanding and re-flagging it,” said Andy Cates, RVC’s president. “RVC is continuing to expand by adding properties that fit our high quality standards. After a few years of continuously looking for the right Hill Country property to add to our network, we are pleased we’ve found it.”
In addition to Koyote Ranch Resort, RVC currently operates Outdoor Destinations and RV Resorts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
RVC Outdoor Destinations, a leading provider of U.S. outdoor resort properties, announced today (April 17) that it has completed the renovation of Garden of the Gods Campground in Colorado Springs.
Now operating as Garden of the Gods RV Resort, the facility offers 173 RV sites, including six new executive pull-through sites, and 29 upgraded lodging units. In addition to renovating all of the buildings, various improvements and amenity additions include a new lobby, the Midland Trail gateway, a bark park and a fully remodeled Garden Studios & Suites. Other upgrades are a new pool deck, new fencing, road and landscape upgrades, upgraded Wi-Fi, a new business center and new picnic tables. Also, a new base camp area has been created that includes upgraded bunkhouses and family suites that surround a community campfire and grill.
After purchasing the property in 2012 and investing over $800,000 in improvements over the last year, Garden of the Gods RV Resort is one of the “most attractive outdoor hospitality properties in the region,” said RVC. The property’s logo, website, social media presence and signage have also been updated to better reflect the improvements.
“There is a lot of excitement about this renovation and I’m looking forward to all of the smiles the improvements will bring to our guests,” said Ian Horgan, General Manager of Garden of the Gods. RVC President Andy Cates added that “Garden of the Gods RV Resort is one of the strongest properties in the western United States. RVC is upgrading it from an already attractive and well located campground to an RV Resort by adding the right amenities and improvements.”
In addition to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, RVC currently operates outdoor destinations and RV resorts in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
The following is a Q&A conducted by Woodall’s Campground Management with Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations (RVC) CEO Andy Cates. RVC is an emerging provider of “high-quality U.S., outdoor vacation properties,” that was founded in 2006 with an eye toward redefining North America’s camping experience through an outdoor destination concept involving upgraded RV and marine resort properties offering travelers the benefit of camping “on their own terms” in RVs, tents, yurts, cottages or cabins.
RVC, offering affordable lodging options as well as upscale accommodations and hotel-like amenities like concierge services, is intent on developing, owning and operating vacation properties in naturally attractive environments in close proximity to local attractions and activities. Those amenities run the gamut from community lodges to coffee and wine bars, convenience stores, free cable and Wi-Fi, game rooms, fitness centers, modern swimming pools and pet facilities plus scooter, bike and golf cart rentals.
Driven by outspoken Cates, RVC is focused on expansion throughout the U.S. beyond its current seven resorts, including 400-acre, 120-site Catherine’s Landing in Hot Springs, Ark.; Carrabelle Beach and Carrabelle Boat Club, both in Carrabelle, Fla.; Live Oak Landing, Freeport, Fla.; Pine Mountain, Pine Mountain, Ga.; Mountain Springs Cabins, Ashville, N.C.; and recently acquired 200-site Garden of the Gods, a facility located within sight of Pikes Peak and walking distance of Manitou Springs now being renovated in Colorado Springs. Colo.
And Cates, a Memphis native, University of Texas grad and real estate developer by trade, says he and his associates are just getting started as “capital partners,” operators and, more often than not, active participants in the facilities they choose to acquire across the U.S. “You will see us grow in three ways,” says Cates. “We will purchase properties where we can buy them intelligently. We will joint venture existing properties that we reflag as RVC properties and then, in extraordinarily select opportunities, you’ll see us buy land and build new properties.” Here are some edited highlights of a conversation between Cates and Woodall’s Campground Management Publisher Sherman Goldenberg.
WCM: What, in your words, is the central mission of RVC – the thing that sets it apart from all the other park operations that claim a high level of amenities and great locations?
Cates: We are trying to redefine camping and lead a specific niche in outdoor hospitality. To put it simply, we want to be the Hilton of the campground world and believe we are leading that market. We think that the outdoor hospitality world and especially, the RV world hasn’t seen significant change in five decades. But we think that change is inevitable and that it’s happening now. We are extraordinarily motivated to help accelerate that inevitable evolution in segmentation where there is an understanding of the different quality products among these outdoor hospitality properties.
At RVC, we don’t do RV parks. We do RV resorts and outdoor destinations. We are not saying that to criticize or diminish other properties or other property owners. We are saying that just like you would whether you are going to stay at a Best Western or Hilton Hotel. There’s nothing wrong with a Best Western, but you might prefer better lodging. And right now, in our opinion – and we’re putting our money where our mouth is – that has never been clear in the RV world.
WCM: What is it that hasn’t been clear in the RV arena?
Cates: The quality and segment differential is extraordinarily uncertain to the guests. We talk a lot about rating systems, which we find often inconsistent. But in reality, the average guest, and especially the new guest who is either a new RVer or who rented an RV or is looking for a cottage experience, to me those folks don’t even know what the existing rating systems are.
It’s very difficult for that guest to go to a single property portfolio company and get any true consistency of experience. Our goal, on the other hand, is to provide that on a national basis, and we’re doing that. Now, granted we are starting small and we’re focused on quality and consistency in getting our brand right, versus just growing for the sake of growth. But we think this is happening and that we will accelerate what will inevitably happen nationally.
WCM: How did all this come about?
Cates: We did a lot of research, spent a lot of time traveling and RVing, before we started up six years ago. We’ve got over 100 years of RVing experience in our company, collectively. We don’t do this lightly or arrogantly. But we’re excited and enthused because we are seeing our guests confirm our thesis. Again, we are putting our money where our mouths are. We spent a lot of time and money building this foundation, and we are excited about where we’re going. This is the least passive investment on the planet.
To read the entire article click here.
Live Oak Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination vacation property near Freeport, Fla., today (June 20) announced the completion of numerous improvements to the resort. The property added more than three dozen modern RV sites and several new amenities designed to “enhance each guest’s stay,” according to a news release.
A screen-enclosed saline swimming pool with connected observation deck and lounge area, large playground area and air conditioning in the resort’s pavilion are among the new additions to RVC’s Live Oak Landing.
Handicap-accessible boat tours are another new feature highlighted at the outdoor destination. These charters – called “Pondtoon” boats – allow individuals with disabilities to navigate the water on vessels specially manufactured to accommodate wheelchairs. Additionally, RVC increased the number of RV sites on the property, nearly tripling the number of space available for RV travelers.
“When we opened the property in November 2010, it was important to us to first define our core audience and add amenities as our guests requested them,” said Neil Sorrell, general manager at Live Oak Landing. “So, after talking to our guests, we pinpointed additions that will give them exactly what they’re looking for in a memorable outdoor travel experience.”
At Live Oak Landing, guests have access to Florida’s Emerald Coast beaches and a wide range of onsite activities, including fishing charters, scooter, bicycle and boat rentals, and activities pavilion with a flat screen TV. The outdoor vacation property also features unique amenities in line with other RVC Outdoor Destination properties such as concierge service, coffee, beer and wine bars, a dog park and a variety of lodging options from RV sites to cottages.
Live Oak Landing is the only provider of overnight accommodations in the city of Freeport and is one of seven RVC Outdoor Destination locations in the United States.
“What we’re providing at RVC Outdoor Destinations is an upgraded version of what generally comes to mind when people think of camping,” said Andy Cates, president of RVC Outdoor Destinations. “We’re redefining the outdoor vacation experience by combining guests’ favorite hotel amenities with their favorite outdoor activities, and it’s really gaining popularity with both avid and novice campers alike.”
For more information, visit www.liveoaklanding.rvcoutdoors.com.
Long before Andy Cates established RVC Outdoor Destinations in 2007, he solidified his commercial real estate background at Trammel Crow Co.
The experience has helped Cates grow his Memphis-based operation of upscale, resort-like campgrounds for the last five years. For Cates, outdoor hospitality and commercial real estate have plenty of business parallels, The Daily News, Memphis, reported.
“Ultimately, the land valuations, land development and property management absolutely directly carries over,” he said. “That commercial real estate skill set is clearly helpful and required in this.”
RVC claims to have created the “outdoor destination” hospitality model – providing a variety of lodging options such as RV sites, cottages and yurts, all set within unique natural environments.
“We really weren’t and haven’t been banging the drums on telling our story until really the last year,” Cates said. “We’ve spent that timeframe building our culture and our operating platform, and obviously developing properties. Now, we are aggressively spreading the word about what we’re doing and seeking to expand as we redefine an industry that really hasn’t changed significantly in decades.”
For example, RVC recently announced its acquisition of the Garden of the Gods Campground in Colorado Springs, Colo., marking the company’s seventh location. The 200-site property has been the top RV and outdoor lodging destination in the region – with views of Pikes Peak, the most visited mountain in North America – but has been under bank ownership since 2010.
RVC paid all cash, closed quickly and is investing a significant amount of money into the property – an initial $200,000, as well as that much more and then some during the “reflagging process.”
“It was as much of a renovation analysis as understanding what that property already does in the market,” Cates said. “The fact that it had a large database and a strong, very loyal customer base, was both attractive and also a challenge in that we need to communicate quickly with that group of customers that the property is being revitalized.”
That process also entails bringing Garden of the Gods up to RVC standards. RVC currently operates six properties in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. Amenities offered in those communities include concierge service, a “bark park” off-leash area for dogs, modern swimming pools, boating and fishing rentals, coffee, beer and wine bars, free Wi-Fi and cable, and a gift shop.
In many ways, Cates said, RVC is attempting to create another product class within commercial real estate. His goal is similar to what was done with self-storage some 20 years ago, when the concept itself grew dramatically and scaled, or when Kemmons Wilson launched Holiday Inn in Memphis in the early 1950s.
“It effectively created full-service hotels as a specific segment of the commercial real estate world,” Cates said. “You had the Holiday Inns and the Hiltons and the Marriotts and those brands take what had been a mom-and-pop lodging business and create consistency and high standards and strong marketing to drive traffic. And that’s not happened in outdoor hospitality.”
Cates said RVC would like to eventually have an outdoor destination property in Memphis, but as with commercial real estate, the economics and the timing have to make sense.
“I think that it’s our backyard and our home and I think there’s a high likelihood that we’ll have a presence here, but it’s got to be the right fit for everybody,” Cates said. “We’re hopeful we’ll have something to talk about here in the next year or so.”
Because with fluctuating fuel prices, RVC doesn’t see as much reduction in travel or planned vacations as it does with the scope of vacations and the distance to that location.
“A lot folks are focused on what’s within three to four hours of the specific vacation market,” Cates said. “And there’s absolutely a more demanding value proposition by the consumer – everybody in the United States is demanding more for their dollar than they ever have. We welcome that because we feel passionately that we can provide a phenomenally good experience for a very reasonable amount of money.”
RVC Outdoor Destinations announced today (May 1) its expansion west with the acquisition of the Garden of the Gods Campground in Colorado Springs, Colo.
According to a news release, the roughly 200-site property is located near the entrance of the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center, with views of Pikes Peak, the most visited mountain in North America. The property has been the top RV and outdoor lodging destination in the region but has been under bank ownership since 2010.
RVC has begun stabilizing operations and will start renovating the property immediately. Renovations will include an overall upgrade of the property and its amenities, including enhancing tent sites and incorporating them into current on-property cabins for a unique camping experience, resurfacing pools, improving existing RV sites and adding eight new concrete RV sites.
In the coming weeks, RVC will rebrand the property from Garden of the Gods Campground to Garden of the Gods RV Resort, and will reflag it as an RVC Outdoor Destination by the start of 2013.
“The Garden of the Gods acquisition is a terrific addition to our portfolio of upscale outdoor vacation properties,” said Andy Cates, president of RVC Outdoor Destinations. “The upgraded camping experience we offer is resonating with guests. It fits with what a lot of people are looking for in a vacation these days because it is unique, affordable and allows guests to enjoy some of America’s most beautiful natural landscapes with amenities that truly make it a destination experience.”
In addition to its newly acquired Colorado property, RVC currently operates Outdoor Destinations and RV resorts in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.