Do state park campgrounds unfairly compete with private campgrounds? A bill in last year’s Virginia General Assembly suggested the answer might be yes. A new study says no.
According to a report by the Fredericksburg.com, the Board of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees the state parks, last fall commissioned Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business to do a report on what motivates campers to choose where to camp.
The report suggests that campers make choices based on a variety of factors, but that the price of a campsite does not rank highly as a factor that drives a camper’s choice.
It also says that the more camping amenities there are in an area, the more likely it is that people will visit that area to camp.
The report has been posted on the website of the Virginia Association for Parks, an organization that covers various state parks support groups and opposed legislation in last year’s General Assembly that would have limited public parks’ offerings.
The question of competition between private and public campgrounds was first raised publicly by those bills, filed in the 2012 legislative session by Virginia senators Bryce Reeves, R–Spotsylvania, and Tom Garrett, R–Louisa, and Del. Peter Farrell, R–Henrico.
Those bills—which were later withdrawn—would have required state parks to set their fees at or above fees charged by private campgrounds in the area, and would have barred state parks from expanding new camping areas unless they could show that the nearby private campgrounds were at capacity.
The bills were spurred by Bill Small, who runs Small Country Campground in Louisa County and feels that state parks unfairly compete with private campgrounds, undercutting them with low fees and offering comparable hookups to attract large RVs, rather than just primitive camping spaces.
According to the Virginia Tech report, in October, “a private campground owner, who is an appointed member of the board, made a presentation to the board [asserting] that there is competition between public and private providers of camping and that the fees charged for camping in Virginia state parks undercut the private campgrounds.”
It doesn’t identify Small as that board member, but as a result of the presentation, the board decided to ask a third party to review the issue of competition between public and private campgrounds.
The Virginia Tech report was done by Vincent Magnini, a professor in the school’s hospitality and tourism management department. Magnini’s report says that the public prefers a variety of camping options, and that people’s decisions about where to camp may change depending on what they want from the camping experience.
“Because campers possess varying motivations in their camping experiences, particular customer segments are prone to be attracted to certain types of campgrounds that best match their motivations,” the report said. “In other words, a campground cannot be all things to all people.”
Price, the report said, is just one of many criteria—people also consider shade, proximity to water for fishing, isolation from other campsites and other factors.
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The Virginia Campground Association (VCA) spearheaded lobbying for two new pieces of legislation that will benefit the campground industry, according to a press release. The recent legislative session concluded March 14.
VCA reported that the Virginia code now specifically permits campgrounds to submeter electricity, bringing uniformity to the practice across the state. Prior to the enactment of this new provision in state law, the 11 utilities were not regulated.
In a second victory, VCA played a leading role in lobbying to defeat an effort to change Virginia law and enable school districts to start school prior to Labor Day. Current law in Virginia will remain, requiring schools to open after Labor Day. VCA members testified before legislative committees on the measure and actively lobbied in both the House of Delegates and the state senate.
On the legislative side, VCA said it is monitoring discussion and possible future legislative action in the next session that might lower camping and other fees in the state parks. During the recent session, legislators were asked to support a bill to raise fees and prohibit the state parks from expanding campsites. Those opposed to this proposed legislation were preparing bills to call for lowering camping fees in the parks. The bill to raise fees was withdrawn and action deferred until 2013.
The Virginia Campground Association government affairs activities is supported active members, the VCA board of directors, and by The Hillbridge Group, a Richmond-based lobbying firm that provides guidance and lobbying for VCA.
The Hillbridge Group, a Richmond, Va.-based government relations firm, has taken on the Virginia Campground Association (VCA) as its newest client.
VCA is a statewide trade association that represents a combination of private and public parks and campgrounds throughout the commonwealth. The VCA serves as a resource to campground owners and promotes the plethora of camping and RV opportunities in Virginia, according to a news release.
The firm will represent the association in all matters pertaining to legislative and regulatory policies. This new partnership will enable the VCA to build a strong government affairs program that will better position them in the legislative process. The Hillbridge Group will work to help pass policies that encourage and protect small businesses and defeat measures that would harm members’ ability to manage successful campgrounds and parks.
“We are eager to educate decision-makers and the public on the significant economic contributions parks and campgrounds bring to our tourism industry,” said Aimee Perron Seibert, founder and president of The Hillbridge Group. “Camping is an affordable and attractive vacation option for Virginia families and we look forward to ensuring the Commonwealth remains a small-business friendly environment for campground and park owners.
The Hillbridge Group represents a variety of clients, including membership organizations, non-profits and small businesses. They are dedicated to representing clients who contribute to Virginia’s economy and the well being of Virginia’s citizens.
The move will not alter VCA’s relationship with its executive director, David Gorin.
The Virginia Campground Association (VCA) board and members, meeting at Bethpage Camp Resort, Urbanna, Va., Oct. 24-26, acted to significantly expand its marketing of member parks by adding four new shows to its 2012 exhibit schedule, according to a news release.
The new shows added to the calendar for a VCA booth are RV shows in Montreal, Canada, Raleigh, N.C., the FMCA Rally in Indianapolis and the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa. The association will continue to exhibit at shows in Chantilly, Va. (Washington, D.C.), Richmond, Va., and Timonium, Md., and will move its participation from a show in Hampton Roads, Va. to a show in Virginia Beach, Va. The new expanded marketing program will bring the Virginia exhibit booth to a total of eight shows in 2012.
In a somewhat historic move, the association elected a number of new board members, including Virginia State Parks Director Joe Elton. Six Virginia state parks have become full members of the VCA and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and each was represented at the VCA Fall Meeting by the park manager or a designee. While there is no specific guarantee of a board seat for a state park representative, the members felt that adding Elton to the board will assure that the new partnership between VCA and the state parks will start off on solid ground.
It is expected that during the coming year, the association will work to further expand camping promotion in surrounding states and within Virginia in order to capture a larger share of the region’s camping and RVing visitors.
In addition to Elton, other new VCA Board Members include Phil Upton of the Best Holiday Travel Park/Best Parks in America, Virginia Beach; Kim Beveridge, Hidden Acres CG, Bowling Green; and Kathi Martin, Deer Trail Park, Wytheville.
Directors continuing in office for the coming year include Karl Littman, Candy Hill CG, Winchester; Kristina Krall, Bethpage Camp Resort/Best Parks in America, Urbanna; Steve Albrecht, Walnut Hills KOA, Staunton; Ray Barker, Tall Pines Harbor, Sanford; Bob Aldrich, Madison KOA/Shenandoah Hills, Madison; Scott Daniels, Cozy Acres CG, Powhatan; Ken Gedicke, Jellystone Park Gloucester Point; and Mike Johncox, Riverside Campground, Lanexa.
Karl Littman was re-elected to a new one year term as VCA President. Serving with him will be Vice President Ray Barker, Secretary Kristina Crall, Treasurer Phil Upton and Board Chairman Steve Albrecht.
Other VCA actions included:
• Membership discussed adding a Richmond-based lobbyist to assist the association in achieving some legislative and regulatory objectives, including:
• Addressing inconsistencies in state sub metering rules.
• Monitoring and containing increases in state license, permits and other fees.
• Expanding road signage rules and keeping logo sign costs under control.
• Working to increase state funding for tourism promotion targeted towards attracting RVers and campers to Virginia.
The membership also voted to establish a task force to survey all Virginia members for their opinion on engaging a lobbyist and to develop a issues agenda and then to interview candidates for the position.
Six state parks from across Virginia have joined the Virginia Campground Association (VCA), according to a press release.
This is the first time that individual state parks have become members of the association and will provide opportunities for state parks and private campgrounds to better promote all of Virginia’s camping opportunities. The award-winning state park system is managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“We have long worked with state parks to promote camping across Virginia and we welcome the first state parks as full members of the state association,” said VCA Executive Director David Gorin. “Having these individual state parks join as members participating in the industry’s association and on our board was the next logical step in strengthening our relationship to better promote all of the commonwealth’s outstanding camping opportunities.”
Claytor Lake (Pulaski County), First Landing (Virginia Beach), Holliday Lake (Appomattox County), Kiptopeke (Northampton County), Natural Tunnel (Scott County) and Westmoreland (Westmoreland County) are the six member state parks.
“Camping is part of a recession resilient outdoor recreation industry that is critical to our struggling economy,” said DCR State Park Director Joe Elton. “I personally believe it is essential that public and private campgrounds work collaboratively to promote their mutual goals and the value of camping.”
Increased promotion of all Virginia campgrounds is expected to be a result of this partnership. Joint appearances at camping and RV shows and marketing national camping events like the Great American Backyard Campout held each June are examples. State park staff will also explore taking their nature and history programming from their parks to nearby private campgrounds.
The Virginia Campground Association (VCA) announced the schedule of seminars and workshops for its Fall Convention and Trade Show, Oct. 24–26 at Bethpage Camp Resort in Urbannaa.
According to a press release, the seminar program for this year’s meeting is titled “Park Operations: The Key To Business Success.”
In a keynote speech, Jeff Sims, director of membership and government relations for the National Association of RV Park and Campgrounds (ARVC), will address park industry trends across the United States and provide insights into how parks can effectively and profitably operate during the current economic instability. He will also present a seminar based on his experiences as a veteran park owner, “Tips for Better & Smarter Operations from an Industry Veteran.”
Robert Bouse, director of operations for Travel Resorts of America and a hands-on park executive with more than 25 years experience operating parks, will present two seminars on operational excellence. Blouse is one of the nation’s recognized experts on park operations.
The convention program will also draw on the expertise of the executives who operate the meeting’s host park, Bethpage Camp Resort. Kristina Crall and Brent Crebs will discuss their experiences and share advice in the seminar “Maximizing the Use of Your Facilities & Amenities: Building Off Peak Business.”
A workshop on Wednesday will cover maximizing the benefits of a close cooperative relationship between the Virginia commercial campground industry and Virginia State Parks. Participants will discuss the unique relationship developing between the groups and how to take advantage of the strengths they offer Virginia campers. Participating will be David Gorin, VCA’s executive director, and Tom Cervanak, VSPs’ director of marketing.
A trade show featuring suppliers and vendors will be held on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. For more information contact David Gorin at (703) 448-6863 or at ToVCA@aol.com.
The board and members of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA) have voted to accept individual Virginia state parks as full members of VCA and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Meeting at the 2010 Annual Fall Convention & Trade Show at American Heritage RV Park in Williamsburg, Oct. 18-20, the members decided that the association would no longer accept advertising in the Virginia Campground Directory from non-members and therefore the state parks could join the association as regular members and be accorded all of the rights, privileges and benefits of membership including listings in the directory and advertising, according to a news release.
In recent years, the Virginia State Parks Department purchased a full page ad listing all of the state parks with campground accommodations and also had icons on the state map in the directory denoting their locations.
“The VCA board and members at the meeting felt that state parks are marketing their facilities in the same manner as the private sector and the state parks are not going away, so it’s best that the private campground industry embrace them, learn from them and benefit from having them in the industry,” said David Gorin, executive director of VCA.
The association presented the new plan to State Park Director of Marketing Tom Cervanek and while he could not speak for the State Park Department, he seemed to embrace the concept of full membership, Gorin stated.
There were 20 campgrounds in attendance and 15 exhibitors. The conference focused on the educational seminars on the topic “Park Marketing for the 21st Century” and was highlighted by three seminars by Blake Ashdown, a longtime RV park entrepreneur and President of Sure Vista Solutions, a technology-based marketing company that specializes in measuring guest satisfaction and incorporating the findings into action plans for business improvement.
A marketing panel described three of the newest marketing techniques. Carol Rust of Yogi Bear Jellystone Park, Luray, Va., described her park’s experience with Groupon, an Internet marketing tool that is designed to attract new customers through limited deep discounting and the broad reach of the internet. Alan Kobran, president of Illumenetics, described his company’s customer relations management system (CRM), a technology solution for tracking and communicating with customers. And special guest Mary Arlington of High Plains Camping in Oakley, Kan., talked about how she turned a small campground into a profitable business through focusing marketing efforts in social media.
In a moving ceremony at the convention’s Monday night dinner, VCA President Karl Littman, Candy Hill Campground, Winchester, and ARVC Board Member Steve Albrecht of Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA, Staunton, paid tribute to Linda Profaizer, retiring president and CEO of ARVC. The association presented her with a special gift in recognition of her 40 years of leadership in the campground industry with Woodalls and then with ARVC.
VCA also bid farewell to Skip and Judy Deegans of Anderson’s Brochure Distribution Service on their retirement, while welcoming Joe Tice, the new owner of Anderson’s.
The small but powerful group of members attending the meeting supported the association by purchasing over $4,000 worth of merchandise at the annual auction.
Karl Littman was elected to his fourth one-year term as VCA president. Other officers elected were Vice President Ray Barker (Tall Pines Harbor, Sanford), Treasurer Bill Rhoads (American Heritage, Williamsburg), Secretary Kristina Crall (Grey’s Point Camp, Urbanna) and Board Chairman Steve Albrecht.
The Virginia Campground Marketing Conference, sponsored by the Virginia Campground Association (VCA), will be held Oct. 18-20 at American Heritage RV Resort in Willliamsburg, Va.
The 2 1/2-day meeting will be entirely devoted to discussing marketing tools and techniques for the 21st century, according to a news release. As the park industry continues to enjoy significant growth and public interest, the industry is becoming increasingly competitive and marketing is considered the key to success for individual parks.
The major speaker at the conference will Blake Ashdown, one of the park industry’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Blake has started 15 businesses over the past 30 years, including 10 RV resorts and campgrounds. He received the “Professional of the Year Award” from the American Resort and Development Association and is a registered resort professional. Ashdown was one of the creators of the Encore brand of RV parks and was the architect of its successful marketing and branding program. His most well-known RV park project is Tropical Palms Fun Resort in Orlando.
For the past four years Ashdown has been a professor at the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University where he taught marketing and business strategy. He is a frequent speaker at industry conventions, conferences and business meetings.
He is the president of SureVista Solutions, a marketing research firm that provides new marketing tools designed to increase revenues.
“Blake has an incredible appreciation for what it takes to market an RV park in today’s rapidly changing world,” said David Gorin, VCA executive. “We’re thrilled to have him as the featured speaker at this first-ever VCA marketing conference. VCA parks have had a good 2010 camping season and parks are improving their game significantly. Staying in the game with great competitors in the Virginia market, requires a real understanding of marketing to today’s consumers. Blake will be a great inspiration and help to park owners who are ready to step up for success.”
In addition to Ashdown, special guests and speakers will include Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), who will share the lessons she’s learned about the park industry in her 40 years in the business. VCA will honor and recognize Profaizer’s long industry career as she prepares to retire at the end of the year.
Mary Arlington, owner of High Plains Camping in Kansas, will also be a special guest. Arlington has fine-tuned the use of social media to build her small campground into a powerhouse small business with national recognition. Affiliated with Best Parks in America, High Plains Camping has received a Guest Review A rating for two years running and is gaining RVer attention throughout Kansas and Middle America. She will discuss her successful social media campaign and how she’s used the cost effective outreach to grow her business.
John Rust and daughter Carol Rust, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, Luray, Va., will also speak, addressing two marketing programs they created during 2010. One program offered a camping discount through Groupon, an Internet marketing program that is sweeping the country in some metropolitan areas. In addition, the Rusts launched a weekly e-mail newsletter to potential and past guests offering specials and most importantly advising on availability for the coming weekend and future weekends. Both of these programs, Groupon and e-mailing, will be part of a panel discussion on new marketing techniques and tools.
The conference is open to park owners throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. For information on program details and registration, please email email@example.com or call David Gorin at (703) 448 6863. Camping is available at American Heritage RV Resort and hotel accommodations are available nearby.