Ever since Don Temple and a group of investors purchased Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville, Texas seven years ago, they have constantly worked to improve park, investing more than $1 million in improvements.
And, according to a press release, their efforts are clearly paying off.
Last week, the riverfront resort won the “Park of the Year” award in the large park category from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) for the third year in a row. Guadalupe River RV Resort has also won top ratings from the nation’s leading campground directories, including 5W ratings from Woodall’s North American Campground Directory and 9.5/9/9 ratings from Trailer Life.
The park, which borders the Guadalupe River, has 212 RV sites, including pull-through sites with 30- and 50-amp service as well as wireless Internet and cable television service. It also has 46 park models, 17 cabins, three swimming pools, including an indoor heated pool during the winter, a hot tub, a dry heat sauna, a steam sauna, exercise room, laundry rooms and two large recreation halls, plus an attractive onsite bar with indoor and outdoor seating.
“We’re still the only RV park in Texas with a liquor license,” Temple said, adding that the onsite bar is a popular amenity for RVers who like to enjoy their drinks without having to worry about getting back on the road. Temple also has barbecues on weekends, which are always well attended.
But while the improvements and amenities and fine customer service ensure repeat business for his park, Temple said the ratings and awards help put Guadalupe River RV Resort on the map. “People pay attention to ratings,” he said.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) raised a record $48,000 Monday (May 7) night in its annual auction, which provides funding for the association’s government affairs program.
According to a press release, the auctioned items included vacations at a Texas dude ranch, major advertisements on TexasCampgrounds.com and in the 250,000-circulation Texas RV Travel and Camping Guide, and a park model cabin donated by Athens Park Homes.
The Monday night event at Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville, Texas, capped a second day of activities at TACO’s Spring Convention and Tradeshow.
The day began with a membership meeting, during which time TACO officials reported that the association is in strong financial health and the organization is making continued investments to bolster its membership and improve its online marketing efforts through TexasCampgrounds.com and TexasCabinRentals.net.
The association’s trade show was held at the neighboring Inn of the Hills, with 35 vendors in attendance, including TengoInternet, Athens Park Homes and representatives from several front desk management and online reservation systems, including Campground Automation, Leisure Interactive, Mission Management Information Systems, and RMS North America. Electrical product vendors included Eaton Corp., Peak Energy Technology and Utility Supply Group.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) launched its annual Spring Convention and Tradeshow Sunday with a keynote address by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) President and CEO Jim Rogers, who provided park owners with statistics indicating that Texas is experiencing the strongest campground business in the country.
“Texas is doing better than everybody else,” Rogers said, citing KOA statistics, which showed Texas parks experiencing a 4.7% increase in camper nights and a 1.3% increase in revenue in 2011, compared to the previous year.
According to a news release, the only other area in the country to experience overall increases in business in the KOA system last year was New England, which saw a 2.7% increase in camper nights and a 4.8% increase in revenue, Rogers said, noting that KOAs in the rest of the country experienced modest declines.
With roughly 475 parks across the United States and Canada, KOA statistics provide a powerful indicator of business trends in the campground business and are closely followed by park operators across the country.
But while Texas was clearly in the lead in terms of the overall strength of its campground business last year, Rogers said parks across the Lone Star State also mimic trends that are being observed elsewhere in the country. For example, he said, 59% of the business Texas parks receive is generated by Texas residents as opposed to people coming from other states.
That’s a trend that’s happening across the country, Rogers said. “Our traveler is changing,” Rogers said, noting that people are camping closer to home in response to rising fuel costs and increasing time constraints from work schedules and children’s sports activities.
Texas parks are also seeing rising demand for park models and other rental accommodations, Rogers said, adding that KOAs will continue to add more rental units to the KOA system because they are a great way to introduce people to camping who haven’t camped before. He added that deluxe cabins or park models in the KOA system typically pay for themselves in 3.5 years.
Rogers also told Texas park operators that the future is bright for the campground business, not only in Texas but across the country, citing a recent joint study by KOA, The Coleman Company and The Outdoor Foundation, which estimated that only 15% of Americans camp.
That statistic alone means there is tremendous opportunities for growth in the campground business, Rogers said, adding that the opportunities are even greater when one considers America’s changing demographics and the very small numbers of African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics who currently camp.
TACO’s Spring Convention and Tradeshow is being held from May 5-8 at the Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville, Texas.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) began its three-day Spring Convention and Tradeshow Sunday (May 6) with good news for the association’s members: TACO is growing, having added 24 more parks as members so far this year, and the association is continuing to strengthen its government affairs and marketing programs.
According to a press release, the convention kicked off Sunday afternoon at Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville, Texas, with 130 registered attendees representing about 60 private parks.
In his opening remarks to park operators, TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer said the association’s growth will further strengthen TACO’s ability to protect park operator interests in the halls of government because there is “strength in numbers,” particularly when TACO represents parks from multiple jurisdictions across Texas. He added that TACO faces continuing political battles to protect park operators from unfair tax practices involving everything from utilities to fire protection.
“We want to be treated like any other business,” Schaeffer said, adding that Ron Hinkle, TACO’s legislative advocate, is fighting to protect park operator interests in “the corridors of power.”
TACO, however, has considerable political clout in Texas, as evidenced by Sunday’s visit by Texas State Rep. Harvey Hildebrand, who briefed association members on the legislature’s recent efforts to balance the state budget. Hildebrand, who serves as chairman of the Texas Ways and Means Committee, said the Texas economy is improving and that revenue collections are up, with the latest projections indicating a $3 to $4 billion surplus in the state treasury.
Hildebrand also said that tourism remains an important funding priority for Texas, and noted that every dollar spent promoting tourism in Texas brings $7 in return.
On the marketing front, Schaeffer said TACO has recently completed significant improvements to the design and search capabilities of the association’s two consumer websites, TexasCampgrounds.com and TexasCabinRentals.net, both of which are increasingly used by consumers as vacation planning tools.
TACO has also developed mobile versions of both websites to accommodate the growing numbers of campers who access both websites from their cellular phones. As many as half of the visitors to both websites are using mobile phones, Schaeffer said, citing statistics from Austin-based TengoInternet.
TACO was scheduled to hold its general membership meeting this morning, which was to be followed by the association’s spring tradeshow with 35 vendors at the Inn of the Hills, a neighboring hotel and convention center in Kerrville.
William Henderson of Peak Energy Technology was also scheduled to provide a seminar titled “Recycling Energy and Saving Money.”
When the Texas KOA Owners Association invited the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) to attend their spring meeting, they got more than a briefing on TACO’s marketing and government affairs services and other member benefits for campgrounds.
According to a news release, TACO executive director and CEO Brian Schaeffer also presented the group with a donation of a free mobi site from AGS. The donation was auctioned off with proceeds donated to KOA Care Camps, the non-profit charity that provides camping trips for children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Schaeffer provided the donation on behalf of his company, Crowley-based AGS, which provides guest guides and web services for more than 600 campgrounds RV parks and resorts across the U.S. and Canada.
“It was a nice thing to do and we appreciate it,” said Marshal Gray, who serves as owner of San Angelo KOA and president of the Texas KOA Owners Association, which had its spring meeting at the San Antonio KOA on April 16.
A non-profit charity of the KOA Owners Association, KOA Care Camps provide funding that enables children with cancer to visit camps that are specially designed to accommodate children with cancer – www.koacarecamps.org.
The proposed charge for monthly base water fees charged to mobile homes and fixed RVs in San Benito, Texas, may discriminate against Winter Texans and may constitute age discrimination, the director of an organization that promotes Texas RV parks said Tuesday (April 3).
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is reviewing the city’s proposal as it considers legal action, Brian Schaeffer, the agency’s executive director, said.
The city’s utility board has proposed charging a base water fee to mobile homes and permanently tied-down RVs, the Brownsville Herald reported.
“I’m still not sure if they can single out a class of customer and implement a surcharge,” Schaeffer said. “It’s not right that you’re attacking a certain class of citizen with this fee.”
But Pete Claudio, chairman of the city’s utility board, said the proposal isn’t discriminatory because the charge applies to all year-round residents and apartment tenants.
“We’re not targeting Winter Texans,” Claudio said.
Schaeffer said the city’s proposal may constitute age discrimination and unjustly targets RV parks.
“The demographics on snowbirds is (age) 55-plus,” Schaeffer said. “I definitely think it’s discriminatory against those folks.”
A base water fee would unjustly target RV parks, Schaeffer said.
“Mobile home parks can show you books and records that (show) they’re the most conservative water users,” Schaeffer said. “That’s the craziness of this thing.”
Officials here have conducted an inventory of the number of mobile homes and fixed RVs within the city limits, but refused to release that information Tuesday after the Valley Morning Star filed a request under the Texas Public Information Act.
Campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across Texas are anticipating a busy spring break this year, with occupancies at several parks exceeding last year’s figures, according to a news release.
“Many of our parks are reporting strong reservations and a good mix of visitors, ranging from Winter Texans and families to college kids,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), which represents nearly 400 private parks across the Lone Star State.
“If the weather can hold, we are looking for a banner year as we are basically sold out through March 24,” said Don Temple, managing partner of Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine is also anticipating a busy Spring Break period.
“We never have to worry about low occupancy,” said Adrienne Nicodemus, activities director for the park, which has increased its spring break activities offering to include kayak lessons, bird focused crafts and hikes, an environmental stewardship seminar as well as yoga classes for both adults and children. The park is also planning a St. Patrick’s Day bike parade and an outdoor movie night.
Meanwhile, Horizon RV Resorts anticipates strong business levels at several of the parks it manages in Texas, including Hatch RV Park in Corpus Christi.
“Reservations are showing an uptick in the number of guests staying with us during this year’s Spring Break compared to last year,” said Scott Foos, Horizon’s vice president of business development, adding, “We’re fortunate to have a great group of returning guests who often return with several new friends or family members every year.”
And while Horizon RV Resorts does see college kids at some of its locations, the company’s Leisure Resort property in Fentress caters to families. “Our specialty is providing a fun family atmosphere that almost every type of guest can appreciate,” Foos said. “Additionally, the San Marcos River flows along the banks of the resort. It’s spring-fed just 20 miles away, and maintains a comfortable cruising speed and consistently warm temperatures.”
Foos said he also anticipates a bump in occupancy’s at Almost Heaven RV Resort in Manvel during the Spring Break period.
When a Dallas-based investment group bought Almost Heaven RV Resort two years ago, the 142-site park was in a pretty sad state of repair.
But, according to a press release, Almost Heaven’s new owners weren’t about to give up on the resort, which had previously been popular with Winter Texans. So they brought in Horizon RV Resorts, which has developed a reputation in the RV park business for rescuing faltering RV parks and making them profitable businesses again.
So far, the Dallas-based investment group is pretty happy with its decision.
“We brought the park back to life,” said Randy Hendrickson, Horizon RV Park’s president and CEO.
Occupancies are running 30% to 35% ahead of last winter’s figures, fueled largely by Winter Texans who decided to give the resort another try after Horizon implemented $45,000 worth of targeted cosmetic improvements.
Hendrickson also worked with Brian Schaeffer of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), who outlined a marketing strategy that included banner ads on TexasCampgrounds.com as well as prominent exposure in the Texas RV Camping and Travel Guide.
“The person who asks the loudest for the business generally gets it,” Hendrickson said.
Almost Heaven is also generating increased year-round business by offering discounts to cancer patients seeking treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Children’s Cancer Hospital and other Houston area facilities.
Looking back, Hendrickson said Almost Heaven’s downward spiral could have been avoided if the resort had kept up with its marketing and made ongoing improvements to the park. Unfortunately, he said, they got too comfortable and felt they could get away with not making these investments.
“When you stop spending money on marketing,” Hendrickson said, “people stop coming. And if they stop coming, you don’t have money to spend on infrastructure. So the business spirals.”
And if occupancies are not maintained, the parks don’t retain enough of a margin to reinvest in improvements.
“You have to show that you’re reinvesting in the property as a commitment to the guest,” Hendrickson said, adding that it didn’t take long for Almost Heaven’s guests to realize the previous owner had lost in interest in the property.
Charles Nunn said he will refuse to pay a new water charge because it is against the law, even though the city of San Benito, Texas, is threatening to shut off water to his RV park.
“They’ve got to be trespassing to get to my meter,” Nunn said, pointing to the master water meter at First Colony Mobile and RV Park .
According to a report in The Monitor, Nunn said his park hasn’t paid $5,300 that has been charged since October when the city passed an ordinance setting a monthly $10 base water fee to individual RV sites, whether the sites are occupied or not.
“I said, ‘I’m not paying,’” he said. “I never paid for anything I didn’t owe.”
Nunn cited a state law that he argues prohibits cities from charging water fees to unmetered sites at RV parks.
The law in question was filed in 2005 by state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, and State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, authored Senate Bill 569 and House Bill 841, respectively.
“The bill was brought to us by campground owners who were concerned about aggressive billing,” Chris Steinbach, Kolkhorst’s chief of staff, said. “So the bill was to keep the billing as accurate as possible.”
State Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, last year authored revised legislation known as House Bill 1210, which prohibits cities from charging all unmetered RV sites, whether they’re occupied or unoccupied, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The law exempts mobile homes and permanently tied-down park models from water meter charges, Schaeffer said.
Barbara North, who manages Nunn’s park, said she doesn’t want to take a chance that the city won’t refund the money if it stops charging the fee.
“They’re going to have to back off and when they back off, the city won’t refund it,” North said.
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The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has begun to distribute 250,000 copies of the 2012 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas, a free, four-color glossy magazine that lists more than 350 campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas and surrounding states.
The 2012 guide, whose cover features a painting of a modern Class A motorhome in front of the Alamo, includes detailed information on campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, as well as old western style maps and prominent advertisements from Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Trader’s Village, the largest flea market in Texas, according to a news release.
“We really have an eye-catching guide this year,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Crowley-based TACO, adding that the cover painting by Chris Snoddy of Burleson and the Western-style maps make the directory both fun and informative.
An initial batch of directories is being sent to campgrounds, RV parks, travel information centers and visitors bureaus across the state. Additional directories will be distributed at upcoming RV shows, including the All Valley RV Show, which takes place Jan. 12-14 in Mercedes; the Houston RV Show, which will be held Feb. 8-12 in Houston; and the Sept. 13-16 Southwest RV Super Show in Dallas.
The 2012 directory provides detailed descriptions of more than 350 private campgrounds and RV resorts, or roughly two thirds of the private parks in Texas. A small number of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas parks are also included in the directory. 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.
RV and camping enthusiasts can order the nearly 150-page directory online by visiting www.texascampgrounds.com. The 2012 Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide is also posted on the website in digital page-turning format.