Gloucester Point Family Campground has become the fifth campground in Virginia to join the Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts chain.
“We’re in the conversion process right now,” Eileen Gedicke, park owner, stated in a news release, adding that Jellystone’s name recognition, marketing and reputation for fun family activities will help increase revenues and occupancies at the 230-site park, which is located less than a half-hour from Williamsburg.
“We’re putting in a splashpark for the 2011 season,” Gedicke said. “It’s going to have two slides that come off of a 12-foot high platform as well as six water features and a zero-entry swimming pool.”
The park, which is located on the Severn River, a tributary to Chesapeake Bay, is also a popular destination for kayaking and boating enthusiasts. “From our docks they can get out into open water,” Gedicke said.
The campground is also upgrading some its rental accommodations, replacing several travel trailers with new park model cabins that include full size bathrooms and kitchens.
Jellystone Parks are widely known for having unique activities and special themed weekends, which is something Gloucester Point Family Campground has offered for years. This year’s events will include a carnival, numerous competitive games, parades, Karaoke and game nights and a “Chocolate Extravaganza” as well as Halloween themed events. Of course, all these activities will have an extra element of fun with Yogi Bear participating. Yogi will be on site daily to greet campers, pose for photo ops and take part in events.
Launched in 1969, the Jellystone Park system is the second largest chain of campgrounds in the United States, boasting 75 campgrounds with more than 15,000 campsites in 28 states and Canada. Its Camp-Resorts are among the best campgrounds in the industry with a quality reputation for being fun, friendly, clean and service-oriented parks. Additionally, each Jellystone Park is themed with Yogi Bear elements providing instant recognition and consumer appeal. It is truly a place “Where You Camp With Friends.”
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts are franchised through Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Park River Corp., Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit www.campjellystone.com.
These, of course, are not regular times. These are post-recessionary times — emphasis on recessionary — when the U.S. is digging out of a tough situation. And, as you know, we’re still digging, more so in some areas of the country than others.
Yet, as sister publications RVBusiness’s and Woodall’s Campground Management’s small staff sat down to review the year that was, we couldn’t help but marvel at the top-ranked story in our list below — the fact that the industry had indeed outperformed many other American business sectors for the second year in a row.
Without looking a gift horse in the mouth, it’s hard to figure in times like these.
But maybe that’s the point: Maybe times like these in some cases bring out the best of those lucky enough to enjoy them. Maybe we’ll just chalk it up to North America’s drive — lust might be a better word — for affordable recreation, a habit that the average family has retained throughout the global recession.
We’ve seen it at the tollgates in large public parks like Yellowstone and at the registration desks of hundreds of private campgrounds and resorts enough to know that it’s real. Having said that, here’s a quick look at our Top Ten campground news stories for 2010:
(1): RV park and campground business again bucks recessionary pressure to post gains in 2010. “Our members are generally reporting a better year than 2009, with the exception of the Gulf Coast areas,” Linda Profaizer, retiring president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), noted in her President’s Message.
“It appears that snowbirds are returning in bigger numbers than last year as well,” she added. “Most parks report an increase in rental accommodations and tenting is still a major part of the picture.”
Indeed, in his remarks during ARVC’s annual meeting, ARVC Chairman David L. Berg said the economic downturn has actually created new business opportunities for private parks as families and other travelers look for more affordable ways to enjoy weekend getaways and vacation time.
It’s not just an isolated trend. Industry leader Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) reported year-over-year gains in each of the first 10 months of 2010 with total revenues up 8.5 % over 2009. For the summer camping season, same store revenues were up 6% and camper nights up 4.5%.
Leisure Systems Inc. ((LSI), franchisors of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, reported same park revenue up 5% in 2010. While site revenue was down 4%, rental income was up 15%, store revenues grew 15% and miscellaneous revenue was up 19%. And LSI looks for more of the same in 2011, thanks in part to the release in late 2010 of a new “Yogi Bear” Warner Brothers movie starring the voices of Dan Akroyd and Justin Timberlake.
(2) The RV Centennial, the focus of which was in June when the ARVC Business Forum ventured to Elkhart, Ind., along with much of the recreational vehicle industry for Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) joint Annual Meeting and Committee Week proceedings and a party at the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
RVIA determined that 2010 was the centennial year for the industry, and what a year it was. The Go RVing Coalition promoted events throughout the year in conjunction with the centennial. The Coalition’s “Ambassadors of Affordability” cartoon characters appeared in Go RVing TV spots, and “Centennial Charlie,” a stuffed bear, made a PR tour across the country. The highlight of the year came in early June with a big bash in Elkhart, but other events were held across the nation at campgrounds, RV dealerships and elsewhere. It was, by most accounts, a public relations extravaganza.
(3) Gulf Coast RV parks share with other commercial segments in negative oil spill spillover. An explosion on April 20 at a Deep Water Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 men working on the rig and set off a massive oil leak that would ultimately send more than 250 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and threaten hundreds of miles of ocean frontage.
The oil fouled beaches from Florida to Louisiana, stifling tourism for months. Business was down significantly at campgrounds across the region, even where the beaches were never involved. It was a major PR problem for the tourism industry, which was still gradually recovering at year’s end.
(4) Flash flood kills 20 campers in June at Arkansas campground. Heavy rains the night of June 11 sent a wall of water in the “Loop D” area of secluded publicly operated Albert Pike Campground nearly Langley in western Arkansas. In all, 20 campers at the 54-site park were killed in the disaster,
The Caddo and Little Missouri rivers — two normally gentle waterways — rose by 20 feet overnight, engulfing the hikers and campers who were spending the night in tents along the rivers in the isolated Ouachita Mountains. “Within ten minutes the water had rose and campers were floating down,” a survivor told ABC News. “If they didn’t get out of their camper within five, ten minutes, they weren’t getting out.”
(5) Succession at ARVC — Linda Profaizer retiring and Paul Bambei succeeding her. Profaizer announced in the spring that she would be retiring after 10 years at ARVC’s helm and 40 years in the industry — a tenure that included her time as president of then Chicago-based Woodall Publications Corp.
ARVC looked both inside and outside the RV park and campground sector for her successor and recently hired Comcast Corp. veteran Paul Bambei. He never owned a campground, but he’s an avid RVer and was touted as an expert marketing executive. He was introduced at ARVC’s InSites Convention in December.
(6) Succession at KOA — Pat Hittmeier named president of KOA in February, succeeding Shane Ott. A 29-year veteran of the Billings, Mont.-based franchisor’s front office, Hittmeier was named president on Feb. 28 after Shane Ott stepped down. Hittmeier held several positions at KOA before taking on the presidency of the 475-member campground chain, and so far, from all we can gather, his relatively quiet demeanor and astute business instincts are serving him well.
(7) Virtual Campground Expo breaks ground on new era of trade shows. Campground vendor Art Lieberman earned praise in 2010 for introducing the industry’s first virtual online trade show, a “Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo” that kicked off in early November and continues today for those choosing to pay the site a visit.
While some argue that these online expos are the way of the future, Lieberman gets an “A” for effort, but a “C” for the site’s actual performance due to software issues that soured some on this landmark event. Lieberman, owner of MCPS for Campgrounds, was up front about the problems and pledged to try again, if not in 2011, then in 2012.
(8) Best Parks in America expands membership to 71 by year’s end. Best Parks in America, launched in 2004 by industry consultant and entrepreneur David Gorin as a marketing network, must be somewhere close to reaching critical mass by now, as the 71-park organization held its annual meeting and a slate of seminars Dec. 1-2 at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the brink of the ARVC InSites convention.
Now, having made some serious changes over the past year, Gorin says Best Parks is getting ready to grow to the next level as an organization that will provide more business tools yet remain “a system of independent unique parks.”
(9) CalARVC takes lead on holding tank chemical ban in California, despite legislative headwinds. Based on the premise that formaldehyde-containing products used in RV holding tank waste treatments have troubled RV park and campground septic systems for years, the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) decided earlier this year that it was time for a change.
So, CalARVC lobbied extensively to ban six specific chemicals from all holding tank treatment solutions utilized in the Golden State, and the California State Assembly passed landmark legislation in late summer. However, outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill to ban the chemicals and referred the matter to a state agency for remediation while CalARVC Executive Director Debbie Sipe has vowed to march on with an education program.
(10) ARVC’s ongoing headquarter saga. The national trade association announced in late spring its decision to move from Larkspur, Colo., a rural location to which it had moved in 2009 from Washington D.C.’s suburban Virginia, to more urban Castle Rock in the Denver area on the premise that it would be a better place in which to do business.
Then, in December, after some internal debate a few weeks ago, the ARVC board voted unanimously not to move to Castle Rock and instead authorized new CEO Paul Bambei to look elsewhere for suitable space in the greater Denver area.
Leisure Systems Inc. chose a Hollywood movie premiere and theme “Lights! Camera! Action!” for the backdrop of this year’s Symposium & Trade Show, set for Nov. 7-11 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center and Embassy Suites Hotel in Covington, Ky.
This year’s theme really was a “no-brainer” for the LSI staff, what with the much-awaited release of the all-new “Yogi Bear” movie scheduled for Dec. 17 in theaters across the country,” the Milford, Ohio-based company reports. The movie is expected to introduce the iconic cartoon character from the 1960s to an entirely new generation, many of whom may be drawn to further the Yogi Bear mystique at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts across the U.S. and Canada.
This year’s event could be the franchisor’s biggest in years with 250 individuals from most of the 76-member camp-resorts expected to attend, said Dean Crawford, LSI vice president.
LSI, in its 41st year of operation, is undergoing a growth spurt of sorts with four new parks joining in the spring and one over the summer, said Crawford. “We’re hoping to hit 80 parks for next year,” he said. “Right now, the sales team has five or six prospects which will probably be coming to our convention.”
Franchisees should generally be in a good mood heading into this year’s symposium, Crawford surmised, because LSI saw its systemwide occupancies increase by 4% through the end of August, while revenues were up 3%. Anecdotal evidence points to a successful year at many parks.
“We had a Yogi Advisory Council meeting last week (middle of September) and from what I hear, only one out of 10 parks did not exceed last year’s revenues,” Crawford said.
LSI COO Rob Schutter Jr. will give franchisees an update on the state of the franchise the afternoon of Nov. 8.
Franchisees also will get their first look at Yogi Bear merchandise the afternoon of Nov. 9 and be able to order items for the coming season.
Symposiums Seminars: The educational component at LSI’s Symposium is always strong and this year is no exception, starting with an all-day Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance Seminar at the Embassy Suites on Nov. 7. The Yogi Advisory Council will be meeting that afternoon.
Keynote speaker Buddy Rice will present the “Customer Focus Program” on Tuesday morning (Nov. 9). Rice will take his audience through a series of exercises that will help them and their teams identify major touch points that they have with their customers. The goal is to create loyalty – customers who come back and talk about their campground experience to their friends and associates.
Vendor Show on Nov. 10-11: A crosssection of vendors serving the RV park and campground industry will be displaying their products and services at the trade show, scheduled for Nov. 10 and 11. The soft economy may keep the number of vendors down from previous years, Crawford said, but LSI franchisees historically come to this event in a buying mood and vendors say they are happy with the show, Crawford noted.
Awards Banquet on Nov. 11: The movie theme will be most apparent at the awards banquet, set for the night of Nov. 11 at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Trailers for the Yogi Bear movie will be shown, and the banquet room will be decked out with movie posters and other paraphernalia.
LSI tried to bring in one of the stars from the Yogi Bear movie, Crawford revealed, but the talent fee was beyond the budget. Still, Crawford said, franchisees will be pleased with the evening’s atmosphere. Copies of the new Yogi Bear book, “Life’s A Picnic,” also will be available for distribution at the banquet.
Are You Ready for Some Football? By coincidence, the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals will be hosting archrival Pittsburgh Steelers in a Monday Night Football game just across the Ohio River from the convention site the night of Nov. 8. Crawford said convention activities have been curtailed for that evening so franchisees, if they so choose, may attend the game or watch it on TV.
2010 Symposium Agenda
Sun. – Nov. 7
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ADA Compliance All Day Seminar (Including Lunch)
9 a.m. – noon Yogi Advisory Council Meeting
noon – 1 p.m. Lunch
1 – 5 p.m. Yogi Advisory Council Meeting/LSI
1 – 5 p.m. Registration
5:30 p.m. Opening Reception
Monday – Nov. 8
8 a.m. – noon Registration
10 a.m. – noon Welcome/Travel Log
noon – 1 p.m. Opening Luncheon
1 – 3:45 p.m. LSI Updates with Rob Schutter
Club Yogi Rewards Update – Marketing Strategists
4 – 5 p.m. YAC/CARE elections and YAC General Session
Tuesday – Nov. 9
9 a.m. – noon The Customer Focus- Buddy Rice
noon – 1 p.m. Lunch
1 – 2:15 p.m. Increasing your Shoulder Season with Youth/School Groups with Carrie Cirrito
1 – 2:15 p.m. Motivating Employees through Rewards Programs with Cheri Lenhertz
2:30 – 4 p.m. Putting the Fun back into FUNdraising with Holli Rapp & Rachael Stine
2:30 p.m., to 6 p.m. View Yogi Merchandise – sales orders in by 5 p.m.
Wednesday – Nov. 10
8:30 – 10 a.m. So Help Me…Customer Service Program-Jayne Cohen
8:30 – 10 a.m. Marketing through Facebook with Chris Treadaway
10:30 a.m. – noon Theme Weekend Planning Workshop with Bridget Bender
6 – 8:30 p.m. Social/Auction/CARE Raffle
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tradeshow
Thursday – Nov. 11
8:30 – 9:30 a.m. Sure Vista/Customer Satisfaction Survey with Blake Ashdown
8:30 – 9:30 a.m. Going Mobile/ITI Marketing with Chris O’Flaherty
4 – 5 p.m. Pictures – Captain’s View
5:30 – 7 p.m. Awards Presentations
7 – 8 p.m. Awards Dinner
8 – 10 p.m. Entertainment
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tradeshow
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch during Tradeshow
2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Vendor break down and move out
Year-to-date occupancies and revenues at campgrounds, RV parks and resorts through Labor Day weekend were generally consistent with last year’s figures, according to a news release from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
“Private park operators are generally pleased with their performance this year,” said Linda Profaizer, ARVC president and CEO.
She added that parks that have invested in rental accommodations, such as park model cabins and cottages, have done particularly well.
The biggest exception, however, were parks along the Gulf Coast, many of which lost considerable summer business as a result of the BP oil spill and related media coverage.
Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), the nation’s largest campground chain with roughly 475 parks, said its year-to-date occupancies through Labor Day weekend were down 0.7%, while revenues rose 2.7%, according to Mike Gast, KOA’s vice president of communications.
The slight occupancy decline was largely due to weaker business levels last winter, while summer occupancies actually outpaced last summer’s figures by 2.5%, Gast said. He added that revenues for the company’s park model cabins and cottages, which KOA markets as “Kamping Lodges,” were up 27% over last year’s figures, which reflects both rising consumer demand for rental accommodations in campgrounds as well as a larger rental inventory.
Indeed, KOA and other campground chains have increasingly invested in park model cabins and other rental accommodations in recent years.
Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), which franchises Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, saw its year-to-date occupancies through August increase by 4%, while revenues grew by 3%, said company Vice President Dean Crawford. Demand for cabins and park models, however, grew by 13%, also reflecting increased demand and an increased inventory of units, he said.
Meanwhile, Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), a Chicago-based Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) whose holdings include RV parks and resorts, said occupancies and revenues for its core RV properties were up 2.3% and 3.1%, respectively, through July, according to Ellen Kelleher, ELS’s executive vice president of property management.
Kelleher added that while occupancies for transient or traveling RVers fell by 3.3% during the period, revenues were up 3.3%. ELS also reported gains in seasonal and annual customers, up 15.3% and 2.1%, respectively, while revenues increased by 3.9% and 4.9%. The annual figures include occupancies and revenues from consumers who own park models at ELS parks, Kelleher said.
ELS also reported an 8.5% decline in park model rental occupancies through July, but this was because the company wound up selling many of its units to consumers who wanted to stay for extended periods of time at ELS resorts.
Across the country, several park operators and industry officials reported an exceptional summer camping season.
“We are showing an increase of 6% in business for 2010. This is our actual increase in site nights after subtracting for our annual rate increases,” said David L. Berg, who owns Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, in addition to serving as ARVC chairman.
Berg, whose park is affiliated with the Best Parks in America network, attributed much of the increase at his park to an unusually hot and dry summer in Maine. Berg also said many campers are taking more frequent trips, but for shorter periods of time. “I find folks making reservations at the last minute, or trying to get in when we often are sold out. Also they are not staying for week-long stays, but rather doing three- and four-day mini vacations and are getting away more often.”
Berg also said he has seen a large influx of tent campers this year, which he attributes to the economy. “I feel this is a win-win situation for all,” Berg said. “Customers get a reasonable priced vacation and we as an industry get new customers, who if they get the experience they are looking for, they will upgrade in time to a popup or RV of some sort down the road. This is an example of finding the silver lining in the tough times we are all in economically.”
But tent camping is also influenced by weather patterns.
KOA, for example, saw tent camping decline by 1.3% at its parks nationwide, Gast said. “Weather nationwide is probably the primary driver of that,” he said. “Inventory (tent sites) has been relatively stable for years.”
Other parks also saw significant business gains this year, including Misty River Cabins & RV Resort LLC, a Best Parks in America affiliate in Walland, Tenn., which saw its year-to-date business grow by 17%, according to park owner Jimmy Felton.
Castaways RV Resort and Campground in Berlin, Md. also saw double-digit growth during the summer season, with a 4% increase in business year-to-date, according to Kathleen Morris, the park’s general manager. Morris attributed the increased business in part to the warm dry summer on the East Coast.
Meanwhile, Crossroads RV Park in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, saw a 19% increase in year-to-date occupancies, said park owner Jeff Krug, who also serves as president of the Iowa Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. Krug attributed the increase in part to the relative newness of his three-year-old overnight park, which more and more campers are discovering.
In California, Ron and Sheryl Culp of Green Acres RV Park in Redding said their year-to-date business was down 2.7% from last year, although their summer business was up 4.3% from a year ago.
Instead of pitching a tent or roaming the great outdoors in a recreational vehicle, travelers increasingly are interested in staying in plusher accommodations in campgrounds — we are talking private bathrooms, kitchens, air conditioning and even flat-screen television sets, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Rental units — sometimes small cabins and sometimes prefabricated transportable units made to look like small cabins — are gaining traction with travelers and campground owners across the U.S.
“They do extremely well,” says John Croce, a managing member of a collective that owns and operates nine campgrounds in the western U.S. At Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging in Groveland, Calif., his group has installed about six new rental units every year for the past several years. These now occupy 30 of the campground’s 200 RV sites, he says. But those rental units account for about 39% of the campground’s revenue, says Croce. Rates for the campground’s rental units range from about $80 to $200 per night. Depending on their size, the units can sleep four to eight people. By comparison, a basic tent site costs about $25 a night, depending on the season.
Campground owners and franchisers say the rental units are attracting a new kind of camper — one interested in the great outdoors, but happy to sleep in a bed and have access to a private bathroom or other amenities. “You are sleeping on a pillow-top mattress and you have a flat-screen TV,” says Mike Atkinson, director of lodging at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), which owns and franchises 475 campground locations. “But you can still go outside and have s’mores.”
Most popular with campground owners are the pre-fab transportable rental units, known in the industry as “park models.” That’s because those units are officially considered RVs, and therefore don’t require building permits or other regulatory fillings to install, reducing their capital cost. The cost for a park model ranges from about $30,000 to $50,000, depending on amenities, furnishings and transportation costs. To keep up with demand, KOA campgrounds installed about 371 park model units this year, up from some 225 in 2009, and about 190 in 2008, says Atkinson.
While camping overall has proved resilient in a down economy, revenue from the rental units is particularly strong. Last year, the number of occupied nights in rental units rose 8% at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts campgrounds, while traditional camp site nights rose only about 1%, says Rob Schutter, chief operating officer of Cincinatti-based Leisure Systems Inc, which franchises 76 of the campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada. Leisure Systems is a subsidiary of Park River Corp.
The campground business has been the most resilient sector of the travel and tourism business throughout the recession. But it’s not just because campgrounds offer the most affordable vacation option, according to The Daily Exchange, Waterloo, Ontario.
“Campgrounds increasingly offer rental accommodations, so they’re no longer solely dependent on tent campers and RV owners,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), adding that roughly a third of America’s campgrounds now offer park model rental accommodations.
But most campgrounds aren’t building their own rental accommodations from scratch. In most cases, they are ordering factory-built cabins and cottages, which are being delivered to their parks just in time for the camping season.
Many of them look like miniature log or cedar-sided cabins. But these 400-square-foot units are actually recreational park trailers or “park models,” and are technically classified as recreational vehicles.
“They’re completely turnkey,” said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), which represents park model manufacturers. “All the campground owner has to do is hook each unit up to the utilities and they’re ready to rent.”
And, perhaps best of all, since “park models” are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they do not require building permits in most jurisdictions, so campgrounds can literally order them over the phone and have them delivered to their parks within a matter of weeks.
“Manufacturers construct these units in factories to conform with approximately 500 safety requirements contained in the National Safety Standard for recreational park trailers,” Garpow said.
Industry insiders see the campground industry’s increasing investments in park models and other rental accommodations as a shrewd business move, particularly given rising fuel costs and the dramatic decline in towable and motorized RV sales in recent years as a result of the recession.
“To a certain extent, the campground industry has insulated itself from the economic downturn by installing rental units,” Profaizer said.
Indeed, by providing rental accommodations, campgrounds are drawing not only tenters and RVers, but anyone who would normally stay in a hotel or motel while they travel.
“With park model cabin rentals, we can appeal to families who don’t have to worry about going out and purchasing an RV or having a tow vehicle or whatever the case may be. They can just get in their car and come to one of our parks,” said Rob Schutter, COO of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.
Campgrounds have been gradually investing in park model cabins and other rental accommodations for many years. But the focus on rentals has intensified in recent years.
In fact, the competition for campground business has become so fierce that park model manufacturers are facing increasing competition from RV manufacturers, who are now marketing some of their own products as rental accommodations for campgrounds.
For more than 13 years, in fact, the Breckenridge Division of Damon Corp. in Nappanee, Ind., was the only Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary that produced rental accommodations for campgrounds. Now there are four Thor subsidiaries vying for a piece of the campground rental business, with Topeka, Ind.-based CrossRoads RV, Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. and Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream Inc. each competing for a piece of the campground accommodations business along with Breckenridge.
Some of the major campground chains, for their part, are busy working out exclusive arrangements with leading park model manufacturers, which are building custom-designed rental units for their parks.
Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc., for example, is building units for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), while CrossRoads RV recently landed an agreement to build custom designed park models for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. Another RV resort developer, Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, is working with Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas, to furnish its resorts with park models.
But while some see the growing demand for rental units in campgrounds as a result of rising fuel costs and declining RV sales, it also reflects significant sociological changes taking place across the United States, Profaizer said.
“Families are increasingly time deprived and the dynamics of the summer vacation have changed,” she said. “People are camping closer to home because they don’t have as much time off to take extended trips across the country. Oftentimes, both parents are working and their kids are often involved in extracurricular activities, which limit their ability to travel.”
In addition, she said, many families are finding that it’s easier and more convenient to rent a cabin for a weekend getaway than to spend their limited free time packing, setting up and taking down tent camping equipment. For others, she said, having a cabin rental gives them an opportunity to experience camping in the great outdoors even if they don’t have an RV.
Schutter of Leisure Systems said campgrounds are also finding that park model rentals are particularly appealing to women, especially mothers. “In our particular system,” he said, “one of the major decision makers is Mom. And Mom finds all the comforts of home in these units. That’s a big selling point.”
Thomas Heneghan, CEO of Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., also said park model accommodations have wide market appeal. “In today’s economy,” he said, “the park model extends the outstanding value and experience of the outdoor lifestyle to families who are either unfamiliar with tent camping or RVing or who prefer the conveniences offered by staying in a park model.” He added that park models “allow one to have all of the comforts and conveniences of home with the ability to have a change of scenery and reconnect with family.”
Park model manufacturers, for their part, find it behooves them to pay attention to campgrounds and their growing accommodations needs.
“Many of our manufacturers are literally racing to get these units in place in time for the summer camping season,” said Garpow of RPTIA, adding that the pre-summer rush can be a nail-biter for campgrounds, many of which have already booked the park models they have ordered for this summer.
Such is the case at West Glacier KOA in Glacier, Mont., which just received six park model cabins in late April. “We’re hooking them up to septic and electric utilities right now,” said park co-owner Theresa McClure, adding that five of the six units are already booked May 14, when the park opens for the summer camping season.
“It’s just crazy,” McClure said of consumer demand for park model cabins, which KOA markets as Kamping Lodges. “We could probably put in 12 and they’d all be booked.”
The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) is launching a major advertising effort to heighten business awareness and support for the GoCampingAmerica website, according to a news release.
“We’re going to be targeting REI and other big retailers and telling them why they need to be partnering with ARVC on GoCampingAmerica.com,” said Marc Cramer, a Florida-based advertising consultant who has signed a two-year contract with ARVC to set up and manage a national website sales operation for the association.
While Cramer’s initial campground industry experience involved designing and developing advertising support for CampGulf.com, the website for Camping on the Gulf in Destin, Fla., he has worked on advertising campaigns for prominent clients, including Microsoft Corp. and Major League Baseball and has designed more than 600 websites along with the associated advertising programs to support the websites for virtually every industry during the past 12 years.
Cramer’s contract was approved by ARVC’s Executive Committee during a series of meetings in late March.
ARVC President and CEO Linda Profaizer said Cramer’s work is the first major advertising effort involving the GoCampingAmerica.com since its redesign was completed last year.
“With the addition of Marc Cramer as our national sales director on an independent contractor basis, I am looking forward to building the traffic to GoCampingAmerica.com for our members and increasing the advertising sales income to the association to help offset costs of running the website,” Profaizer said. “Marc brings a wealth of capabilities and experience to aid and increase our efforts.”
In addition to helping consumers locate campgrounds by state and by city, GoCampingAmerica.com has an advanced search function that allows consumers to search for parks that offer nearly 40 different types of activities and outdoor recreation, from biking and bird watching to hunting and fishing, golfing and kayaking. Links to information about outdoor recreation, festivals and special events in each of the 50 states are also provided on the site along with helpful information for first time campers, such as “What to Pack” lists and recipes. Links to the state affiliates of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds are also provided.
Consumers can also use GoCampingAmerica.com to quickly find parks that are affiliated with major campground chains, such as Equity LifeStyle Properties, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, as well as the many parks that offer AAA, AARP, FMCA, Good Sam and other popular discounts.
GoCampingAmerica.com has had more than 616,000 unique visitors and 3.2 million page views since it went live last fall.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts has joined a partnership with CrossRoads RV to design and build park models specifically for their franchised campgrounds.
“Jellystone Parks are instantly recognized by most families and the brand has been synonymous with the outdoor lifestyle. We are excited to provide purpose-built, rental cabins to their resorts,” Mark Lucas, president of CrossRoads RV, stated in a news release.
The LIL’-Cabin features a low-maintenance vinyl cedar shake exterior and a tongue and groove pine plank lumber interior. All units will feature both 32-inch and 19-inch LCD TVs, a kitchenette with 14-cubic-foot refrigerator and full residential bathroom. Jellystone Park in Lake Monroe, Ind., is taking delivery of two cabin models this week.
“One of the major factors in choosing CrossRoads as a partner is their quality and strong financial position,” said Rob Schutter, president and COO of Leisure Systems Inc., franchisor of Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. “It is because of this strength Midwest Leasing is offering our franchisees a financing package for all LIL’-Cabin rental unit purchases. Current rates are competitive with the market and terms of up to 5 years are available.
“We at Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts couldn’t be happier to have CrossRoads’ highly skilled team building the LIL’- Cabin. Their long-standing reputation of uncompromising quality mirrors our reputation for the best quality in the campground industry. This partnership will allow our large network to benefit from preferred pricing, consistency for customers and an aggressive co-marketing campaign. Our management team has had multiple meetings at the CrossRoads campus to help develop this product including relaying valuable input from our franchisees. As an extra bonus, we have set in place a co-donating program to help support our adopted charity, Camp Sunshine.”
Lucas added, “We’ve developed a complete lineup of floorplans engineered to provide durability and longevity in mind. In contrast to the design and development of this product, other manufacturers simply re-badge or re-brand mass-produced consumer park models for the rental market, using lower grade materials intended for occasional use.”
As with all CrossRoads RV’s park models, the LIL’-Cabin meets all manufacturing standards of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and complies with all American National Standards Institute standards that includes about 500 safety requirements.
Headquartered in Topeka, Ind., CrossRoads manufactures a wide variety of travel trailers, fifth-wheels and park models at five plant locations. Its products are distributed by dealers throughout the United States, Canada, France, Japan and Australia. CrossRoads is a division of Thor Industries Inc. More information on the company and its full products line can be obtained online at www.crossroadsrv.com or by calling (888)226-7496.
Launched in 1969, Jellystone Park system is the second largest chain of campgrounds in the United States, boasting 75 campgrounds with more than 15,000 campsites in 28 states and Canada. Its camp-resorts, which focus on the family market, are among the best campgrounds in the industry with a quality reputation for being fun, friendly, clean and service-oriented parks. Additionally, each Jellystone Park is themed with Yogi Bear elements providing instant recognition and consumer appeal.
Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts are franchised through Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Park River Corp, Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit www.campjellystone.com.
Leisure Systems Inc.’s Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts mark their 40th anniversary this year — nearly 50 years after it namesake cartoon character debuted in a syndicated TV show. And a good argument could be made that LSI’s 75 campgrounds — and the souvenirs they sell carrying Yogi’s moniker — have gone a long way toward keeping the Yogi Bear name in the public’s eye.
“I don’t think we could have done it without Yogi,” said Robert E. “Rob” Schutter, president of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), which franchises Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts in 27 states and Canada.
“From a generational standpoint, as we go into our fifth decade, we get comments from people remembering that they came to a Yogi Bear campground when they were a child and they want to share that with their children and grandchildren.
LSI, based in the Cincinnati suburb of Milford, Ohio, is marking its anniversary in part by conducting its annual franchisee “Symposium” in conjunction with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) InSites 2009 Convention and Outdoor Hospitality Expo Nov. 9-12 at the Rosen Centre Hotel and Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
The symposium, usually held in Cincinnati, continues for participating franchisees with a cruise of the Western Caribbean aboard a ship sailing from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. “The idea was that we wanted to do something a little bit different for our franchisees,” Schutter said. “We will hold a couple of meetings on the ship and have an awards session and reception.”
More than 65 of LSI’s franchisees are expected to attend. ”A couple of them have been with us the entire 40 years,” Schutter said.
The average size of an independently owned Yogi Bear camp-resort is 230 sites with campground stores ranging in size up to 1,500 square feet and amenities including finished indoor or outdoor pavilions, swimming pools, play areas for children and activity areas for adults.
“Our major growth has been in water amenities,” Schutter noted. “Some campgrounds have installed waterslides, splash pads or spray grounds and indoor pools and seen increases of 25% in reservations. In this day and age, the consumer is looking for our value. In our system, it’s up to us to begin looking at attractions that can be easily added to the operational mix of the park.”
Campers also will find characters — Yogi, Boo Boo Bear, Cindy Bear and Ranger Smith — in costume participating in evening hayrides, storytelling time and other events.
Looking ahead, LSI will ramp up training over the next five years by strategically acquiring four to five parks in different regions of the country to use as training centers, according to Schutter.
All parks, in turn, participate in LSI’s telephone reservations system, and 55 parks take reservations on LSI’s online system.
With the nation in the midst of a recession, reservations have held steady this season compared to 2008, although revenue throughout the system will be up 4% to 5% based on fee increases. “Occupancy has been relatively flat compared to last year, which I take as a positive, given what’s been going on with the economy,” Schutter said. “Typically, families are watching what they spending, but they are spending what they have allocated.”
Gaining popularity at LSI’s parks these days are cabins, as has been the case across the RV park and campgrounds sector. Schutter says the top end of the cabin rental market — LSI has more than 1,700 cabins in the Yogi Bear system — has softened somewhat, but the drop off has been made up by less expensive rentals. “And there has been a large increase in tent camping,” he added. “That market had been 10% to 15% of our occupancy. It looks like it will be about 18% this year, which is interesting. But whether the trend continues will depend on the economy from here on out.”
With 75 campgrounds consisting of approximately 16,000 campsites in the fold, Schutter said that the maximum number of campgrounds in the system likely won’t ever exceed 100. That’s just not what LSI is all about. “That’s because of the type of amenity package that we are looking for and because we are family-style campgrounds,” Schutter explained. “That part of the market is a lot smaller than the empty-nester segment. For campgrounds themselves, we’ve just whetted our appetite for exposing our industry to people who have not been campers. For the longest time, people thought you needed an RV to go camping. With the emergence of rental units at every level, that is changing.”