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‘Texas Parks on Tour’ Examines Industry Trends

November 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A panel of park operators participating in the annual Texas Parks on Tour offered a host of observations and recommendations, including that park model units are becoming a key component for improving profits and diversifying clientele at RV parks and campgrounds. According to a press release, the tour was organized by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

The Oct. 20 – 21 event, which took place at Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, also included a roundtable discussion of legal and legislative issues, while seminars covered a variety of topics, including rental cabins and cottages, guest retention, how to organize successful activities and the importance of frequently raising rates. Park operators also toured four parks, including Thousand Trails Lake Conroe, the Lake Conroe KOA, Rayford Crossing and Forest Retreat RV Resort.

The park model panel discussion included Joe Moore of The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine and Bryan Kastleman of Hill Country RV Resort & Cottage Rentals in New Braunfels.

“If you don’t have park model cabins, you need to get some,” said Moore, who has added 13 of the rental units to his facility in recent years. Moore said the units have been so popular that he plans to purchase two more in the coming weeks.

“Personally, my observation is that (park model cabins) are the next dimension of the campground industry,” Moore said, adding that both public and private parks are seeing growing demand for the units, which enable parks to accommodate people who don’t have a tent or RV.

But Moore also noted that park operators need more than park models to be successful. “A good product by itself is not enough,” he said. “You need good facilities, great customer service and robust marketing campaign.”

It also helps to market park model accommodations through more channels than the park’s website, Moore said, adding that vacation rental websites such as HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, a vacation rental by owner website, are useful marketing platforms that can attract park model renters who don’t know that campgrounds often have rental accommodations.

Kastleman encouraged park operators to invest in the units now while interest rates are low and credit is available. Kastleman has more than 50 park models at Hill Country RV Resort and Cottage Rentals and he plans to purchase another 15 to 20 units within the next six months.

But while park models can be moneymakers for parks, it’s important to purchase units that are appropriate for your market. “If you cater to Winter Texans,” Kastleman said, “buy a model they like. If you cater to families, get a unit with a loft,” he said, adding that parks that cater to couples on romantic getaways may also need park models with different floorplans.

Kastleman also said it’s important to purchase park models that are easy to clean and maintain. “I don’t put carpet in mine,” he said.

Gwen Craig, who co-owns Rayford Crossing RV Resort with her husband, Billy, provided attendees with information on ways to attract and retain guests.

Craig also noted that her park constantly reinvests its profits in improvements that are visible to guests each year. The park has a young, high-energy staff that provides concierge-level services for guests rather than simply checking them in and out of the park. She also has developed an extensive activities program and sends out monthly emails to update guests on upcoming activities and special events. The idea, she said, is to keep people thinking about the park without burdening them with too many messages.

Several park operators attending the Parks on Tour event reported improvements in their business levels this year compared to last year. Forest Retreat attributes their growth to the fact that they are a Good Sam rated 10/10/10 park.

Moore said revenues were up about 10 percent at The Vineyards Campground & Cabins while park model cabin occupancies were up 5%. He added that revenues for October of this year exceeded revenues from October of last year, which is a good sign heading into the winter season.

Terry Munoz of Thousand Trails Lake Conroe said his park revenue was also up this year, while park model cabin usage was up about 20%.

 

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TACO Gives Ad Space to Rebuilding Texas City

September 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is providing the city of West, Texas, with a free quarter-page display ad in the association’s 2014 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas.

According to a press release, West incurred more than $35 million in damage during a fertilizer plant explosion last spring. The city is quickly rebuilding as more than 130 building permits have been approved since the explosion, said City Councilman Al Vanek.

“The exposure in the RV Travel & Camping Guide could translate into more people stopping here,” Vanek said. “ Just getting the word out is the main thing; just getting people to stop.”

Interstate 35, the main north-south corridor that brings tourists into the city, is being widened, which will make it easier for travelers to get on and off the highway.

Vanek said as many as 80,000 people pass through West on Interstate 35 each day and the quarter page ad in the RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas is certain to encourage many of them to visit the city for a taste of Czech history and culture.

“We wanted to do something to help the city of West as they try to rebuild,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO.
 The April 17 blast killed 15 and injured 200, while also damaging local water and sewer systems. Gov. Rick Perry has said the city sustained more than $35 million in damage. The city of West had been under a mandatory water-boil until mid-July.

TACO produces 250,000 copies of the RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas each year. The free, four-color glossy magazine lists more than 350 campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas and surrounding states.

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TACO Aids City Hit by Fertilizer Plant Explosion

August 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is providing the city of West, Texas, with a free quarter page display ad in the association’s 2014 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas.

“We wanted to do something to help the city of West as they try to rebuild from the devastating fertilizer plant explosion that took place last spring,” Brian Schaeffer, TACO executive director and CEO, stated in a news release.

The April 17 blast killed 15 and injured 200, while also damaging local water and sewer systems. Gov. Rick Perry has said the city sustained more than $35 million in damage. The city of West had been under a boil water order until mid-July.

Schaeffer said the free exposure on the 2014 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas will help West as it tries to rebuild. TACO produces 250,000 copies of the free, four-color glossy magazine each year. The guide lists more than 350 campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas and surrounding states. An interactive version of the state guide is available at http://texascampgrounds.com/freeguide/interactiveguide1.

The directory is broken up into seven sections, each representing a distinct region of Texas. Locator maps are provided at the beginning of each section, with numbered listings of the campgrounds for each region. Campgrounds are also alpha-indexed by city and park name.

Each campground listing includes a grid that lists the park’s facilities, services and amenities as well as driving directions, a miniature locator map and many parks have panoramic photos showing off what campers can experience. The directory also features a Texas Saver Card, which provides a 10% discount at participating parks.

The directory also includes a separate section listing campgrounds with cabin and cottage rentals as well as a listing of park model manufacturers. Schaeffer said almost 25% of Texas campgrounds have cabin or cottage rentals. Many of the parks that offer cabin and cottage rentals also have sites for lease or for sale to park model owners. To get more rental information visit www.TexasCabinRentals.net.

For more information about the directory or camping in Texas call Brian Schaeffer at (817) 307-0129 or visit www.TexasCampgrounds.com.

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Flooded Texas RV Park Eyes Reopening in Fall

July 8, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Hidden Valley RV Park has been owned by the Coleman family and operated by family members Teri and Mark Blaschke for 40 years.

But, according to a press release, the family business was almost completely destroyed May 25 when a flood swelled the Medio Creek into a raging river that buried the 25-site park under 12 feet of water.

“The flood waters completely uprooted the electrical utilities, including the poles that were set in the ground four feet deep,” Teri Blaschke said. “It filled the sewer lines and septic tanks with silt from the creek and gravel from the roads. Our water faucets were all cut off at the ground. Even our camping pads with gravel and other types of materials were destroyed.”

To make matters worse, the Blaschkes insurance was of no benefit.

“When you have a body of water on your property, getting flood insurance is close to impossible to obtain,” Blaschke said. “I thought we might at least have insurance coverage on the RVs we rent out, but our insurance company wouldn’t even cover that because of the flood.”

But despite the obvious financial hardship, the Blaschkes are rebuilding and hope to have Hidden Valley RV Park back in operation by the time the Winter Texans return to Hill Country in the fall.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Blaschke said, adding that construction will be under way as soon as they obtain the necessary building permits.

Blaschke said the flood may have been a blessing in disguise for the park, which was founded by her father, Jack Coleman, in 1973. “When he built the park, RVs were a lot smaller,” she said. “Now, they are much larger and we need bigger campsites.”

When the park reopens, it will have larger sites that are big enough for today’s RVs, an improvement that will make the park more competitive and better able to accommodate RVers with vehicles of any size.

Help is also on the way from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), which is donating the company’s Silver marketing package to help them step up their promotional efforts as they rebuild.

The package, valued at nearly $3,500, includes 3,000 rack cards; 3,000 cooperative promotional placements in RV shows and other venues; a free link to their website at www.hiddenvalleyrv.net from TexasCampground.com; a free month on blogging on their behalf; plus 1,000 custom coupons and 1,000 car tags.

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TACO: Campgrounds Grow Park Model Rentals

May 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Camping used to be synonymous with staying in a tent or RV.

But campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the Lone Star State are finding they can accommodate bigger groups and introduce more people to camping by making park model rental accommodations available to them, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), in a news release.

“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of parks that offer rental accommodations,” said Schaeffer, whose organization launched a separate website called www.TexasCabinRentals.net to help people find campgrounds with park model rental accommodations.

Park models are 400-square-foot, factory built units that are built on a chassis, like a trailer, but look like cabins or cottages. They come fully furnished with beds and kitchen appliances. Some even have lofts for the kids.

“We’re adding a dozen of them to our park this year,” said Steve Stafford, manager of the North Texas Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Burleson, Texas, outside of Dallas.

Hill Country RV Resort & Cabins in New Braunfels is also adding 11 more park models this year, according to Bryan Kastleman, the park’s managing partner.

Meanwhile, La Hacienda RV Resort & Cottages in Austin is adding seven more park model cabins this month, and will likely add more in the future as demand for rental accommodations in RV resorts continues to grow.

“The park model cabin business has truly been a pleasant experience for us,” said park developer Ken Butschek. “I am experiencing about 15% annual growth on RV site rentals, but 30% on my park model rentals. I’m probably going to need 10 more next year.”

The 400-square-foot units, designed and built by Champion/Athens Park Homes, are sought after by families and Winter Texans as well as people on temporary work assignments in the Austin area who don’t want to commit to a six-month lease in an apartment.

“The park models give these people much more flexibility,” Butschek said, adding that Winter Texans who do not have motorhomes or towable RVs also rent them out during the winter season. “This past winter, of my 30 park model cabins, I think I had 15 of them rented out for one to three months by Winter Texans,” he said.

Major campground chains like Jellystone Parks and Kampgrounds of America (KOA) have joined independently owned and operated campgrounds across the country in adding park model RVs as rental accommodations for their guests. Government run campgrounds are also investing in park model RVs, including The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine.

The 93-site campground, which also has 13 park model cabins, occupies 52 acres of an 850-acre mostly wooded scenic area encircling Grapevine Lake. But while the park has undergone significant upgrades in recent years, including a $2.25 million expansion that included construction of 23 new campsites and the installation of seven new park model cabins, park General Manager Joe Moore.

Park model suppliers, such as Champion/Athens, have seen their business continue to grow in recent years. “We have sold to 49 different campgrounds and resorts here in Texas,” said Dick Grymonprez, director of national park model sales for Champion/Athens, adding, “We do a lot of business with campground owners and a lot of them continue to buy from us each year.”

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Bentsen Palm Named TACO’s Park of the Year

May 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, which won national recognition last year for its customer service, activities and operational excellence, has earned three more awards from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

The awards include “Park of the Year” in recognition of Bentsen Palm Village’s operational excellence; customer service; guest reviews; directory ratings; employee training techniques; community service; and association involvement, according to a news release.

“We have these awards every year and Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort was selected as the best in the large park category, which involves parks that have more than 151 campsites,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO.

Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, Texas, received the Park of the Year Award in the medium size park category, which involves parks with 51 to 150 sites, while no awards were given this year in the small park category.

Bentsen Palm Village also received both of TACO’s newest awards, including its Best Event Award and its Best Welcome Package Award.

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TACO Honoring Champion/Athens Park Homes

May 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Champion/Athens Park Homes was named Supplier of the Year by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

“Champion/Athens Park Homes is a preferred provider of TACO because they provide a quality product and they do what they say they’re going to do,” Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO stated in a news release. “Several members nominated them for this prestigious award, which is to their credit.”

Champion/Athens reported it has seen its business continue to grow in recent years. “We have sold to 49 different campgrounds and resorts here in Texas,” said Dick Grymonprez, director of national park model sales for Champion/Athens. “We do a lot of business with TACO members and a lot of them continue to buy from us each year.”

Grymonprez added that the majority of the park models produced by Champion/Athens Park Homes are being used by campgrounds, RV parks and resorts as rental accommodations.

Champion Home Builders Inc. acquired Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas last August in a move that significantly expanded the company’s ability to produce and deliver park models at competitive prices. Troy, Mich.-based Champion is a leader in factory-built housing, which it manufactures in 29 facilities across North America and United Kingdom.

Eight of Champion’s park model manufacturing facilities are located at strategic locations across the United States: Texas; Chandler, Ariz.; Lake City, Fla.; Lillington, N.C.; Sangerfield, N.Y.; Weiser, Idaho; and York, Neb.

Athens Park Homes was founded in late 2004 by a group of investors led by Phil Surles, the former COO of Champion Homes. For more information on Champion/Athens, visit the company’s park model website at www.AthensParkHomes.com.

 

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TACO Lobbies to Protect Texas Campgrounds

April 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has testified on behalf of Senate Bill 1268, which would prevent water utilities from arbitrarily assessing fees on RV parks on a site-by-site basis.

The proposed legislation would also make wording changes in Texas laws that would enhance RV parks’ ability to implement evictions.

“This is a very important bill for TACO members,” said TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer, who joined Jim Rowley of Pecan Park Campground in San Marcos in testifying on behalf of the bill before the Senate Subcommittee on Business and Finance.

The proposed bill would make several critical wording changes in Texas laws. Among them:

• Establishing within the Water Code an updated policy that states that RV parks cannot be singled out for arbitrary per-site administrative fees. “In other words,” Schaeffer said, “RV parks would pay for utilities provided through their master meter just like any other business.”

• Amending several existing states that define an RV park to more accurately reflect transient guests occupying recreational vehicles; and for which fees are paid at intervals of one day or longer. “This modification makes the definition more current for modern RV parks and eliminates the impression of ‘trailer parks,’” Schaeffer said.

• Removing the words “recreational vehicle” and “recreational vehicle park” from Texas Property Code Section 94, which deals with manufactured home communities. This is a concern to RV parks because Property Code Section 94 has undermined RV parks’ ability to implement evictions on the basis of “Theft of Service” or trespassing legislation that TACO has implemented through previous legislative sessions. “Local law enforcement typically handles ‘Theft of Service’ or trespassing complaints as a civil issue and refers RV park operators to civil courts, rather than enforcing the law in the field,” Schaeffer said. “The reason they do this is because of Property Code Section 94, since it references recreational vehicles and recreational vehicle parks. This Senate Bill would remove these impediments so that evictions could be expedited.”

• Enabling park operators to disconnect the utilities of non-paying guests.

SB 1268 is expected to move through legislative committees in the coming weeks and eventually face a full up or down vote of the Legislature.

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TACO Intervenes to Protect Texas Park Owners

April 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Brian Schaeffer (L) and Ron Hinkle

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has intervened in the state Legislature to protect campground owners from unfair taxes and fees, according to a press release.

TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer recently testified in favor of House Bill 2152 by Rep. Bill Callegari, which prevents local utilities from applying administrative fees to RV parks unless they are applied equally to all businesses.

“We don’t mind paying what other businesses pay,” Schaeffer said. “Unfortunately, some utilities are charging parks an administrative fee for each campsite. At this rate, a fee of $10 per site for a 100-site RV park is $1,000 a month. That’s double the typical water bill for a park of that size. So this legislation should hopefully put a stop to this unfair targeting of RV park and campground owners.”

TACO also recently intervened to protect campground operators near the San Marcos River from being assessed a new tax.

Senate Bill 280 originally proposed taxing campgrounds to pay for additional policing and trash control efforts along the San Marcos River. But TACO argued that park owners should not be assessed the tax because many of their guests are snowbirds or Winter Texans who do not use the river.

“Our legislative consultant, Ron Hinkle, set a meeting with the office of state representatives and founding TACO member Jim Rowley of Pecan Park Campground, located on the San Marcos River. During the meeting we requested relief on the camping fees portion of the bill,” Schaeffer said. “Sen. Judith Zaffirini introduced substitute language at the hearing that exempted RV parks regarding camping fees.”

Once the language of SB 280 was changed, Schaeffer testified in favor of the bill and memorialized the fact that RV parks and camping fees would be exempt from the new tax should it be implement.

“Fighting for our members at the state capitol to protect their businesses and rights is the number one TACO member benefit,” Schaeffer said. “I am proud to represent TACO members on these important matters.”

Both HB 2152 and SB 280 are expected to move through legislative committees in the coming weeks and eventually face a full up or down vote of the Legislature.

 

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Texas Parks Prepare for Spring Break Campers

February 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is anticipating an influx of campers to the state during the upcoming spring break, according to a press release.

“Some of our parks are already filling up for spring break,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO for TACO.

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, The Vineyards Campground & Cabins on Grapevine Lake is gearing up for big crowds. “We are ramping up our golf carts inventory to handle the crowds,” said campground manager Joe Moore. “We also have an endless supply of firewood and s’mores ingredients and we’ve made our list of ice creams to have on board. We even have a new t-shirt design to roll out.”

Moore said The Vineyards will have planned activities throughout spring break period. “March is when the fish really start biting out on the lake,” he said, adding that the park has kayak, paddle boat and bicycle rentals.

Further south, Hill Country RV Resort in New Braunfels is planning several activities in the spring break period, including nightly Disney movies, marshmallow roasts, donut socials, kids crafts and Karaoke events, according to park manager Bryan Kastleman. The park’s amenities include an indoor heated pool and a jumping pillow, said .

Some parks anticipate a busy March because spring break schedules vary by school district.

“Our spring break will be most busy from March 7 to 17,” said Larry Jones, who owns the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Canyon Lake which has both RV sites and rental accommodations. But the park also expects to be busy from March 18 to 24 because some schools in Texas and Oklahoma have their spring break at that time.

 

While campgrounds, RV parks and resorts expect to be full for spring break, several parks still had some sites and rental accommodations available as of last week.

 

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