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6 Ways to Get More Reservations During Shoulder Seasons

Just because it’s not peak season at your campground doesn’t mean your reservations have to suffer.

Even for parks up north, late spring and early fall can still be great opportunities to grow your park’s business. With the right online tools and strategy, we’ve seen campgrounds double their business in shoulder seasons.

So, how do you increase business during the slower months?

To answer that, we pulled from our parks’ experiences and the experiences of others in the industry. Here are six ways to get more reservations during shoulder seasons.

1. Take online bookings

Guests are making reservation decisions based on what’s available online.

Ninety-seven percent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, so campgrounds need a digital presence.

In addition to saving your campground from hundreds of hours of administrative work, reservation systems like Good Sam Campground Solutions bring our parks an additional 25 percent increase in reservation volume annually.

Taking online reservations is the easiest way to increase business in shoulder seasons.

shoulder season

2. Google AdWords

If you’re trying to get the word out about your campground, nothing beats Google.

Stretch your advertising dollar further and invest in pay-per-click advertising (PPC ads) through Google. The benefit here is that you’re only paying for ads that get clicked on. And you’re increasing the odds of being discovered by including related search terms.

Doing so will guarantee a higher ranking on related online searches and appear as a sponsored post, driving more traffic to your park’s website.

3. Unique experiences

A 2019 study discovered 63 percent of consumers, for the sake of finding “inspiration and meaning,” seek out novelty and experiences they can’t find anywhere else.

Creating unique experiences at your campground isn’t a gimmick. It’s practical. If you’re looking to add novelty to your guests’ experience, consider:

  • Investing in the right amenities.
  • Providing unique lodging and glamping opportunities.
  • Joining a local chamber of commerce to stay in the loop with local events you can support.
  • Creating memorable experiences through community activities (i.e., movie nights or sports tournaments).
  • Offering more than just camping (i.e., breweries or weddings).

4. Social media

Campgrounds can stay relevant with thoughtful and consistent social posts, even during shoulder season. And, similar to Google AdWords, boosting posts on Facebook and Instagram allow you to market your campground exactly where you want.

By spending just $15 to $20 on promoting social posts, our campgrounds have seen substantial increases in the number of potential guests reached, as well as engagement on their page.

Beyond marketing your park, a well-curated social feed can show your campground’s personality while keeping up with your audience. In addition to boosting posts, consider:

  • Contests and giveaways for guests to engage with your page or leave a review.
  • Polls and surveys to better understand your campers and how to engage with them.
  • Posting beautiful high-quality photos and videos of your campground to put your best foot forward in giving clear expectations.

For more tips, Inspired Camping has a list of ways to easily leverage social media to connect with guests.

5. Incentivize repeat business.

Retaining 2 percent of your regular campers is the equivalent of cutting your expenses by 10 percent. When guests enjoy their stay, the probability of them returning increases substantially.

Incentivize repeat business and make shoulder season more appealing by offering discounts for any of the following:

  • Booking their next stay before leaving.
  • Utilizing a loyalty program for campers to join like Good Sam.
  • Referring other campers to your park during shoulder seasons.
  • Posting an online review of your park.

6. Dynamic pricing

Good Sam Campground Solution’s dynamic pricing gives park owners more control and more business during peak and shoulder seasons.

Dynamic pricing allows campground owners to increase revenue on popular weekends or create booking minimums in peak seasons. In shoulder seasons, park operators automate attractive pricing and incentivize more reservations.

A system that can accommodate different pricing models will take a lot off your plate and lead to more reservations during slower months.

More Reservations in Shoulder Season

Shoulder seasons can still be profitable for park owners.

Even in the spring or fall, campgrounds can find a lot of success and bring in more business by:

  1. Taking online reservations to save time and reach a wider audience.
  2. Spending money on Google AdWords to market your park through relevant searches.
  3. Creating unique experiences and facilitating community programs.
  4. Utilizing and boosting social media for more engagement.
  5. Incentivizing repeat business with discounts and loyalty programs.
  6. Automating dynamic pricing to offer more competitive rates in slower months.

Ready to increase reservations during shoulder seasons?

Good Sam brings RV parks a 25 percent increase in reservation volume (even outside of peak season). Request a demo today!

Campground Management Companies

Campground Software Reviews: What Campground Solution Should You Use?

As a park operator, you already have enough on your plate without having to worry if your management software is up to snuff. There are more options than ever, and finding the right campground solution can feel like an arduous task.

How does each campground software compare? What are other customers saying about different management systems? What campground solution is best for your park?

To help you sort through the myriad of options here’s is a comparison of campground software reviews, as well as what campground solution you should use for your park.

campground solution

Campground Software Comparisons

There are a handful of reservation software solutions out there, and most of them provide online booking at a free or relatively inexpensive rate. That said, most systems are either lacking in features offered, pricing plans, or their reach of customers.

Checkfront 

Price: $39 a month

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: No

Marketing and Advertising: No

ResNexus 

Price: $3 – $16 a month (per room)

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: No

Marketing and Advertising: No

RoverPass 

Price:$2 per booking

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: Yes

Marketing and Advertising: No

Firefly 

Price:$2 per booking

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: No

Marketing and Advertising: No

Bonfire 

Price: $2 per booking (long-term) or $14.50+ (per month)

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: No

Marketing and Advertising: No

Campspot 

Price: $2 per booking

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: No

Marketing and Advertising: No

CampLife 

Price: Starts at $99 a month + $3.50 per booking

Online Booking: Yes

Web Design: No

Marketing and Advertising: No

The Best Choice: Good Sam Campground Solutions

Good Sam Campground Solutions is ahead of the pack when it comes to a complete campground software comparison. 

With an integrated marketing strategy and booking software tailor-made for park operators, Good Sam drives more customers to your park than anyone else. While other software are limited in their offerings, Campground Solutions features a comprehensive list of services to accommodate any campground.

Pricing

Good Sam Campground Solutions is FREE for members and only charges guests a $1 booking fee. For non-members, it’s still only $99 a month, with guests paying a $3 booking fee.

Marketing and Advertising

When it comes to reach, Good Sam connects with more campers than anyone else, including:

  • 2 Million+ Good Sam Members
  • 5 Million+ Active Customers
  • 180+ Retail Locations
  • 47 Million+ Social Media Engagements
  • 120 Million Unique Annual Visitors

​​

Plus, when your partner with Good Sam, you’re also partnering with Camping World, Gander, Overton’sRV.com, and Electic World–effectively expanding your campground’s presence and influence with guests.

While Good Sam boasts the most extensive network in the industry, they’re also the most pragmatic solution around. When you sign up your campground with Good Sam, you access an array of resources.

Here are a few of the services you can expect.

Social Media Campaigns

Customized ad campaigns on social media newsfeeds drive brand awareness and increase clicks to your park website.

Featured Ad on Camping World Websites

Appear on Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors dealer pages where new and experienced RV customers search for their next RV.

Google Keyword Search

Good Sam bids on relevant keywords to improve your park’s ranking on Google search results pages.

RV.com Ad Feature

Showcase your campground on RV.com, the go-to digital destination for active RV and outdoor enthusiasts with a digital package that includes RV Magazine’s eNewsletter.

Dedicated Email for Good Sam Parks

Improve your off-season. Send a dedicated email to select consumers in our database with an exclusive offer to Good Sam Members to help fill sites when you need it most.

Print Publications Actual Reach

With an annual publication reach of over 8 million, you reach Good Sam members, new RV owners, and outdoor enthusiasts looking for resorts and campgrounds to visit.

Reservation System

Having the right software solution means having the right reservation system. Fortunately, Good Sam Campground Solutions offers a top-of-the-line booking system with all the features needed to manage reservations. 

Do-It-All Dashboard

Easily manage guest reservations with the drag and drop dashboard. Check-in campers, issue refunds, print parking passes, extend reservations, and add notes onto upcoming bookings—all from one grid.

campground solution

Mobile-Responsive Booking Pages

More than 60% of guests will book a site from their mobile devices. We make sure they can easily book no matter what screen they access.

Interactive Site Map

We create an interactive site map of your campground using a satellite view of your property. When a guest books online, they’ll be able to see your entire park, photos, and amenities at each campsite.

Dynamic Pricing

Increase revenue on popular weekends or create booking minimums during peak season. Dynamic pricing maximizes the revenue of your park.

Flexible Booking Rules

Software solutions include customizable check-in and check-out times, the number of nights available online, and guest options for choosing their site.

Parking Passes

For every reservation, Good Sam creates an automatic parking pass you can print for guests checking into your park.

Create Add-Ons for Online Bookings

Make campsite items like firewood or rentals available for purchase in the online booking process.

Availability Calendar

When a guest can’t book their preferred reservation, an availability calendar allows you to offer them the next best option. This scroll-based calendar enables guests to find the next open date.

Integrated Reporting

With over 20 customizable reports for managers and real-time reports for camp hosts, Good Sam provides a deeper level of business insight.

Dedicated Business Support

Good Sam offers support across standard business hours for parks and weekend support when needed. We recognize that many campgrounds may need assistance on busy weekends, so we constantly monitor email and chat. We also are in the process of implementing dedicated phone support, which will be live in early 2022.

Good Sam Reviews and Testimonials

“Being a Good Sam park definitely helps people find us…We’ve seen more repeat visitors because of the sales of GS memberships.” – Larry J, Orangeland RV Park

“Last year, it would have taken us more than two weeks and three staff members to call back and confirm all of the reservations that came in today.” – Warren V, Athabasca County

“Since we became a Good Sam park, it has almost tripled our revenue. We have waiting lists now.” – Coral Sands Campground

Finding the Right Campground Solution

While plenty of campground software are currently available on the market, none of them come with as many features, support, or reach as Good Sam Campground Solutions. 

From full-channel marketing and advertising offerings to a user-friendly online reservation system, Good Sam helps more parks connect with more guests than anyone else.

Want to get started?

Good Sam Campground Solutions provides several services to give campground owners like yourself the tools needed to run your business on your terms. Whether it’s marketing and advertising, online reservations, or access to a network of over 2 million RVers, Good Sam makes managing a park as easy as possible. If you’re ready to get started, we can help. Request a demo today!

Create a Better Booking Experience

8 Ways to Create a Better Booking Experience for Guests

If you’re a campground operator looking to maximize your business, just fielding reservations might feel like a challenge.

How do you maximize occupancy? Where is the best place to focus your energy? How do you create a better booking experience?

If you want to elevate the online reservation experience for guests, you can take some meaningful, practical steps. Here are eight ways to create a better booking experience for guests.

1. Run ads on Google and Facebook.

First and foremost, you may find that the biggest bang for your buck will likely come from running ads on Google and Facebook.

The average cost to reach 1,000 people in magazine and newspaper ads is between $20 and $32, whereas the same reach by Google AdWords and Facebook will only run you $2.75 and $0.25, respectively.

To give this some more perspective, on average, 28.6 million U.S. citizens read a newspaper; however, there are currently over 100 million Americans on Facebook and at least 246 million unique Google users in the U.S.

Not to mention, you can target the specific audience and region for your ads.

For industry proof, here’s a helpful read about how Camping World had a very successful Facebook ad campaign last year in which they were able to achieve 84 percent more leads.

2. Take online reservations.

Nothing beats online reservations.

Create a Better Booking Experience

Before the pandemic, people made over 148.3 million travel reservations (across multiple industries) annually online. Since then, the online travel industry has grown to nearly $600 billion.

Campgrounds with online reservation systems have had a lot to do with those numbers. Parks like Golden Municipal took 100 percent of their bookings online last year and will continue to do the same in 2021.

The reason? It’s just easier.

For starters, online reservation systems can arrange reservations to maximize your campground, ensuring you don’t end up with awkward one-night openings in your calendar.

You can easily do this yourself by dragging a reservation to a different campsite, like this:

Additionally, interactive calendars, like the one below, allow guests to choose sites based on availability. With remote work allowing everyone’s travel dates to be a little more flexible, this optimizes your calendar by showing available camping dates.

Couple all of this with the fact that online systems lower staffing costs, increase revenue, provide clear reporting, and save you time, and it’s definitely the number one way to boost occupancy at your campground.

3. Have a mobile-friendly website.

Our data shows that mobile users account for 60 percent of our bookings.

Internet use has grown to nearly 300 million users, and at least 69 percent of those users are logging in via a smartphone or mobile device. Also, 75 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to search and visit a nearby business within a day.

Adding to that, 34 percent of consumers will exit a website entirely if a landing page’s content doesn’t load properly on their mobile device. As a result, campgrounds that do not have an easy-to-navigate mobile website will ultimately lose out on many reservations.

If you’re in the market for website design, Good Sam Campground Solutions can add a lot of value to your customer experience almost overnight.

4. Make your pricing clear.

Going hand-in-hand with a great website is clear pricing (or at least precise pricing estimates). Our campgrounds constantly tell us how tedious it is to field phone calls and emails from campers looking for a quote (especially after hours).

Additionally, having an online system with clear pricing and yield management (also known as dynamic pricing) allows you to accommodate peak and shoulder seasons alike. Guests can easily get a quote and make reservations while you’re sleeping.

5. Take good photos of your campground.

Websites and articles with relevant and quality photos lead to 94 percent more views than those without. In fact, 44 percent of potential guests won’t even engage with a site if the content images are grainy or don’t load.

campground photo

We recently sent a Campground Solutions affiliate to take photos of Klahanie Campground in Squamish, BC, and Ephrata RV Park in Central Washington. After the campground owners added the images to their online reservation system, they informed us that the simple addition led to a “massive” conversion of campers booking online.

Even if you’re on a budget or all you have access to is a smartphone, you can still take quality pictures that will increase online engagement. Here’s a list of tips for taking great iPhone photos from iMore.

6. Get lots of reviews.

The reality is that people choose campgrounds based on good reviews.

Ninety-seven percent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses – meaning that what people are saying online carries a lot of weight. So odds are that almost everyone booking a campsite at your park has seen your Google reviews by searching for your business online.

Paying attention to Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor for reviews is certainly worth your time. But to make a bigger splash, park owners should primarily focus on campground review sites like Campendium, Campground Reviews, and The Dyrt.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our article on the review sites campground owners need to watch.

7. Connect with guests.

If you want to create the best booking experience for guests, nothing beats connecting with them directly!

The reality is that email marketing can see a 4300% return on investment (ROI) for your campground, and every dollar spent on email marketing can bring in nearly $45.

When guests book or arrive, get their email and send them announcements for upcoming events, discounts for future stays, or periodic reminders to book their next stay with you. Just make sure you don’t spam them with emails!

8. Give the option to “Stay one more day.” 

There are a number of travelers who are willing to spend a couple of weeks in your neck of the woods under the pretense that they don’t have to hop from campground to campground.

If you have the flexibility or empty sites, why not encourage your overnight guests to stay longer? When campers arrive, let them know that they are welcome to extend their stay an extra night if they’re enjoying their time. Just check their campsite in your reservation system to make sure their same campsite is available first!

Creating a better booking experience.

If you’re a park operator looking to grow your campground, creating an easier and more thoughtful reservation experience will increase occupancy. 

Create a Better Booking Experience
  1. Try out targeted ads through Facebook and Google.
  2. Offer online reservations.
  3. Create a mobile-friendly experience.
  4. Have clearly-listed pricing.
  5. Take photos of your campground.
  6. Collect reviews.
  7. Start building an email list.
  8. Allow guests to extend their stay.

While there’s plenty of trial and error, your park will start seeing substantial growth quickly with the right resources and the right plan.

Want some help managing your campground?

Taking online reservations is the easiest way to offload day-to-day tasks, allowing you to focus on the things that make your park unique. If you’re looking for an easier solution to managing your campground, Good Sam can help. Request a demo today!

campground reservation software

Are There Any Free Campground Reservation Software Systems Available?

While owning a campground could be a very profitable endeavor (worth at least $273k a year), it can certainly come with its own share of expenses.

On average, a campground will run you between $10k and $50k (not including the cost of land); meaning that paying for an expensive booking software isn’t ideal for park owners.

But are there any free campground reservation systems? Well, the short answer is yes – there are a handful of free and relatively inexpensive reservation software solutions out there. But to give some context, here’s a list of options you can find online.

Inexpensive Campground Reservation Software

There are a handful of reservation software solutions out there, and most of them provide online booking at a free or relatively inexpensive rate.

  • Checkfront – $39 a month.
  • ResNexus – Starts at $3 – $16 a month (per room).
  • RoverPass – $2 per booking.
  • Firefly – $2 per booking.
  • Bonfire – $2 per booking (long-term) or $14.50+ (per month)
  • Campspot – $2 per booking.
  • CampLife – Starts at $99 a month + $3.50 per booking.

That being said, most systems are either lacking in features offered, pricing plans, or their reach of customers.

Good Sam Campground Solutions

If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck, Good Sam Campground Solutions offers everything park owners need to run their business in-house, at a cheaper rate with more features than anyone else.

Pricing

Pure and simple, Good Sam Campground Solutions is FREE for members and only charges guests a $1 booking fee. For non-members, it’s still only $99 a month, with guests paying a $3 booking fee.

Features Offered

Availability Calendars

When a guest can’t find their preferred reservation due to availability, we offer them the next best option. This scroll calendar allows them to easily find the next open date.

Booking Notes

Add customized notes to each camper reservation and account, easily accessible from the dashboard.

Camp Host Reports

See real-time reports that show who is currently checked into the park and who is leaving.

Cloud-Based

Accessible from anywhere, 24/7, with the ability for your guests to book and for you to earn money while you aren’t physically working.

Create Add-Ons for Online Bookings

Make campsite items like firewood or rentals available for purchase in the online booking process.

Drag-and-Drop Dashboard

Easily manage guest reservations with the drag and drop dashboard. Check-in campers, issue refunds, print parking passes, extend reservations, and add notes onto upcoming bookings—all from one grid.

Dedicated Support

Good Sam offers support across standard business hours for parks as well as weekend support when needed. We recognize that many campgrounds may need us on busy weekends so we constantly monitor email and chat. We also are in the process of implementing dedicated phone support, which will be live by September of 2021.

Dynamic Pricing

Increase revenue on popular weekends or create booking minimums during peak season. Our dynamic pricing allows you to tweak your pricing to maximize the revenue of your park.

Flexible Booking Rules

We built a platform that can handle the many nuances that define your campground. Software solutions include customizable check-in and check-out times, the number of nights that can be booked online, and guest options for choosing their site.

Interactive Site Map

You can create an interactive site map of your campground using a satellite view of your property. When a guest books online, they’ll be able to see your entire park, photos, and amenities at each campsite.

Management Reports

Over 20 customizable reports that help you track daily, weekly, and monthly revenue.

Marketing Packages

All inclusive access to our active Good Sam members assisting your Campground to reach more users more efficiently.

Mobile-responsive Booking

More than 60 percent of guests will book a site from their mobile devices. We make sure they can easily book no matter what screen they access from.

Online Reservations

Our reservation software will help you every step of the way from reservation to check-in.

Parking Passes

For every reservation, we create an automatic parking pass that you can print when your guests are checking into your park.

Point of Sale (POS)

Point of Sale (POS) system where a customer can pay for reservations online and receipts will be generated in print or electronically.

Quickbooks Integration

For campgrounds using Quickbooks Online, we have an automatic integration to sync your data in real time – making bookkeeping for your park far easier.

Web Builder

Create a professional website with our website builder. Choose a customizable template and add the features you need.

Good Sam Network

For the last 55 years, Good Sam has partnered with campground owners to grow their business through our integrated marketing strategies.

Whether it’s our circulation of 26 million annual publications, our 40 million social media engagements, or our 120 million unique online visitors, we’ll give your campground the traffic it needs to thrive.

Plus, with over 7 million active customers and Good Sam members, Campground Solutions will connect your park with more RVers than anyone else.

Finding the Right Software at the Best Price

While most online reservation systems come with decent reviews, at the end of the day, Good Sam Campground Solution is a free campground reservation system with more features and guaranteed reservations for park operators.

Want to get started?

Good Sam Campground Solutions provides several services to give campground owners like yourself the tools needed to run your business on your terms. Whether it’s marketing and advertising, online reservations, or access to a network of over 2 million RVers, Good Sam makes managing a park as easy as possible. If you’re ready to get started we can help! Request a demo today.

RV Park Reservation Software

Finding the Right RV Park Reservation Software for Your Campground

Your campground needs an online reservation software.

Over 148.3 million online travel reservations were made in 2019 alone. By the end of 2020 the online travel industry was estimated to be worth over $800 billion; and with more people camping as a result of the pandemic, this number is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

With so many people traveling, there are plenty of online reservation softwares for campground owners; but it can also be a challenge finding the right one for your business.

What features does your campground need out of a reservation software? What should you expect to pay for an online booking system? How much support will a campground software provide?

To help navigate what’s out there, here are three considerations for finding the right RV park reservation software for your campground.

Features.

Obviously, every campground is different, and not every park requires the same tools.

Maybe your campground has specific requirements for pricing around holidays and peak seasons. Maybe you need a service that can bundle your accounting and point of sale. Maybe you just need a user-friendly system without a learning curve for your employees.

Regardless of what your campground needs, here are a few features to consider.

Online reservations.

Online booking systems just make life easier, for you and your guests.

Services like Good Sam’s Campground Solutions can automate and handle all of your reservations, giving you back (literally) weeks of your year spent on fielding phone calls and emails. Not to mention, they’ll market your campground for you, bringing in even more online traffic, and guaranteeing higher occupancy.

Furthermore, online reservations allow for last-minute reservations (as in the day or week-of) which has brought in an additional 5 percent to 7 percent annually for some of our campgrounds; and in some cases, could even add up to 44 percent of a park’s business.

Drag and drop dashboard.

A drag and drop dashboard gives you the ability to easily move guests around on a reservation grid. You can check in campers, print parking passes, issue refunds, and add individualized notes to camper profiles.

A fully interactive system can cut down on the time it takes to train employees and work campers, while making it easier to navigate your reservations week to week.

Dynamic pricing.

A flexible pricing system allows you to create booking minimums during peak seasons, as well as increase revenue on popular weekends. Dynamic pricing gives you the autonomy to adjust pricing based on your park’s business model, and ensures maximum profit.

Reporting and integrations.

Ideally, a good reservation system will be a one-stop-shop for everything you need to run your business – including reporting and integrations.

Whether it’s check-ins, cancellations, inventory, or any other feature of your business, you need daily reporting to show you how your park is performing over time. Plus, life is much simpler when your system integrates directly with other tools like Quickbooks, or third party channel partners like Go RVing Canada.

Point of sale (POS).

If you have a camp store or online inventory, having a POS will make things easier on you and your customer.

A cloud-based POS system can run off of an iPad or smart tablet device, and integrates directly with your accounting and reporting, keeping all of your financials in one place.

For a decent POS, you can expect to pay between $79 and $150 a month.

Pricing.

Similar to feature offerings, campground booking softwares can offer a number of different pricing models; so it’s important to think through what makes the most sense for your business.

Do you want a free system that charges guests a convenience fee? Do you want a system that takes a commission out of your bookings? Do you want a hybrid pricing plan with both?

To give you a better idea of what to expect, here are three different pricing models you’ll come across when looking for a system for RV park reservations.

Booking-based model.

Like most online storefronts, reservation softwares generally make a large chunk of their money off of online booking (or convenience) fees. You’ll also find some negotiation in pricing between booking fees and monthly (or yearly) rates.

At the end of the day, these models tend to work in the park operator’s favor, allowing them to pocket most of the revenue. For instance, Good Sam parks can get started for free (with guests only paying $1 per reservation), and non-members can use the platform for $99 a month (with guests paying $3 per reservation).

The advantage of this model is complete autonomy and control for park owners who just want a  little help running their business.

Agency model.

Some reservation systems will, however, operate more like an online travel agency (OTA).

In this model they’ll give you their platform for next-to-nothing as a “dangling carrot,” but then they’ll outrank your campground’s listing on Google to control where the reservations are coming from.

This means that even though you could make your own bookings and claim most (if not all) of the profit, they’ll likely still bring in most of your reservations and charge a commission on anything they send your way.

Now, this can be beneficial for campgrounds looking to outsource the headache of maximizing their reservations; however, it will likely cost you 10-30 percent of your annual reservations.

Merchant model.

A merchant model is almost an agency model in reverse, where the OTA receives inventory (sites) from your campground at a discounted rate, and then books guests at a marked-up rate.

With a merchant model, the OTA will charge guests on the front end, and then give you the discounted rate, while they pocket the difference. They will also foot the bill on credit card fees, and show up on a statement (instead of your park).

Again, this offloads a lot of the heavy lifting for collecting reservations, but it will definitely cut into your profits.

Support.

A good reservation software should also come with a competent support staff that can manage any training and troubleshooting your park needs.

When you’re looking for a team to work with at your campground, be sure to ask the right questions.

  • Do they provide hands-on support?
  • Does their team work alongside yours to create maps, add sites, or walk you through your user accounts?
  • How quickly do they work to get your park setup with a launch date?
  • Can they get your park up and running in a week?
  • How long does it take them to jump on a problem to troubleshoot a bug in the system?
  • Do they provide 24/7 assistance?
  • Are they friendly and easy to work with?

Finding the right RV park reservation software.

With more people booking online, and with more reservation services than ever, there’s certainly one that will work for your campground.

RV Park Reservation Software

As you consider the best option, make it a point to think through:

  1. What features do they offer?
  2. What does their pricing model entail?
  3. How much support do they provide?

Still looking for a reservation system?

Good Sam has you covered! Providing campgrounds with marketing and advertising, online reservations, personal support, and access to a network of over 2 million RVers, Good Sam takes the heavy lifting out of managing your park. Request a demo today!

How to start a campground business

How to start a campground business (in 4 steps).

If you’ve ever found yourself toying with the idea of starting a campground, the cards are in your favor.

As of late 2020, the campground industry reached $8.73 billion, making it one of the few industries that grew in spite of the pandemic. For RV park operators, it’s shown to be a sound investment, with campgrounds like Cypress Trail RV Resort quoting returns between 15 percent and 20 percent.

However, even though it’s a lucrative industry, knowing where to start can feel daunting. How do you design a campground? How much does it cost to operate an RV park? What are the best resources for campground owners?

Fortunately, there are a lot of places to turn for aspiring park operators, and setting yourself up for success is easier than not. So to consolidate your search, here’s how to start a campground business in four steps.

1. Research and design your campground.

Whether you’re buying an established park or building one from scratch, a well-designed campground could be an investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Make sure you start off on the right foot with a clear plan and a reliable team to get your park off the ground.

Visit other parks.

Take it upon yourself to visit other parks and get a sense for what they’re doing well. Jot down a few notes, take pictures, and consider their design. Think through the layout and spacing of their sites, the location of their office, or the ratio of RV slips to tent spots.

Try and build upon what you think they’re doing well, and leave space for improvements. If nothing else, ask questions of other operators and get an idea of what to anticipate.

Find your niche.

At the risk of sounding cliche, every park is unique; and since there’s no “one size fits all” formula, it’s important to identify what type of campground you want to be, and who you want to cater towards.

Are you going to focus on seasonal business, or will you cater to weekenders? Do you want to draw in more families, or would you rather not deal with kids? Should you include glamping and tenting options, or will you only cater to full-hookups?

Knowing your market will only help in knowing your design.

Make the right hires.

From idea to execution, surround yourself with the right team of people to give your park the best chance at success.

You’ll need a vetted design group in order to provide a clear path to your vision (as well as prevent costly setbacks), a reliable contractor to serve as a project manager, and a staff that can accommodate your guests and day-to-day operations.

Consider additional variables.

No matter how detailed and thoughtful your plan is, there’s almost always something that pops up along the way. Whether it’s zoning, drainage, or environmental concerns, you’ll need to get as granular as possible and have resources you can count on.

Generally a good contractor will help navigate most hiccups, but it never hurts to have more support. For additional resources, consider joining a local campground association or developing a positive relationship with your zoning board early on in the process.

2. Anticipate costs and procure funding.

Again, owning a campground can be a great investment…so long as you’ve done your homework. Here are a few considerations to ensure the biggest bang for your buck.

Costs to consider.

The cost of running an RV park can vary depending on size, location, construction, or whether or not you’re starting from scratch. That being said, there are usually a few things you can expect.

For example, buying an established park ranges between $100,000 and $2 million, startup costs will run somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000, and cap rates will fall between 8 percent and 11 percent.

To get a ballpark of how much you can anticipate spending, add up your land costs, costs per site (factoring in the number of sites), building costs, and internet installation. From there you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’ll need, but we also have a more comprehensive list of campground expenses to consider just in case.

Understanding financials.

Michael Elliott, aka the Campground CPA, says that a lot of new owners tend to drop the ball when it comes to properly understanding the financials behind a campground business. To give your park the best shot at success, be sure to study up on the following:

  • Capital expenditure budgets – to give you accurate numbers for future developments and expenses.
  • EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) – to find the industry-standard value of your campground.
  • Owner financing – a loan between the previous owner and the buyer of the campground.
  • Biggest expenditures for campgrounds – repairs/maintenance, and wages/salaries.
  • Profit and loss statements (P&L) – to see a campground’s cost and revenue during a fiscal year.
  • Expense ratios – total percentage of funds used for staff, marketing, and other related expenses.

Check out our conversation with Michael for more financial tips for campground owners.

Reporting and accounting.

Michael also mentioned that a lot of campgrounds fail to adequately record and track how their business is performing, and that “there are a lot of parks with no finances.”

For better forecasting, make sure you invest in a service like Quickbooks as well as a software that can tell you current occupancy, future occupancy, and prepaid deposits.

3. Create a unique campground experience.

The data is out, and 63 percent of consumers seek out experiences that they can’t find anywhere else. That same study listed “inspiration” and “meaning” as two of the most sought-out qualities a business could offer.

With that, here are a few ways your campground could go the extra mile in creating experiences not easily replicable elsewhere.

Invest in WiFi and amenities that guests want.

Before you build that new pool or add a playground, take some time to research what guests want out of their experience. We recently surveyed over 700 RVers asking them to tell us what amenities were most important to them.

Overwhelmingly, WiFi was considered “essential” (with quite a few RVers saying they’ll even pass on campgrounds that don’t provide adequate internet access), while trees, fire pits, and clean showers also made the top of the list.

The good news (based on our data), is that the most desirable amenities are generally pretty cost-effective, so you shouldn’t have to shell out too much to create a memorable experience for guests.

Provide unique accommodations.

Twenty-five percent of guests factor in a campground’s atmosphere in their decision to stay or return. Adding to that, a study found that “30 percent of North American travelers have glamped in the past two years,” and “59 percent of glampers go with their children, likely because glamping gives families the fun of the outdoors without the stress and hassle of traditional camping.”

Adding to that, it’s estimated a US market for glamping worth as much as $4.8 billion by 2025. This means that yurts, tiny homes, treehouses, or restored vintage campers could all be profitable ways to add a little pizazz to your campers’ stay.

For more inspiration and ideas, check out these 16 options for adding glamping to your campground.

Offer more than just camping.

More and more, owners are finding creative ways to utilize their property beyond just offering RV slips and or tent sites.

From breweries and distilleries like Devils Backbone and Shelter Point, wedding venues like The Hitchin’ Post, to even animal rescues like Discovery Wildlife Park (complete with bears, lions, wolves, and much more), there are a lot of ways to reimagine the use of your property.

Partner with local organizations.

In addition to joining a regional campground association, make it a point to identify local organizations and businesses in your community to bring your park more visibility.

Set up a booth at a festival, partner with a local business or non-profit, attend a trade show, facilitate local Scouts groups, or host community events (like outdoor movie nights or sports leagues).

It goes without saying, but the more your campground engages with the community, the more the community will engage with your campground.

Stay in touch.

Something as simple as collecting emails and reaching out could be one of the most profitable parts of your business.

A recent study that found email marketing is worth an average return of 4,300 percent, and that every $1 spent generates a little more than $44.

Make it a habit of creating mailing lists and collecting guest contacts whenever they book. Send them a thank you for staying, announcements for upcoming events, future discounts, and notes that let you know you’re thinking about them. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and spam them.

Give them the option to stay another day.

If you have extra spots, or the flexibility to move things around, consider giving your guests the option to stay an extra day. According to ​​GuestReady.com, there are a lot of folks “who want to spend a week or two in a city and would prefer not to hop from Airbnb to Airbnb” or campground to campground. Maybe you could even make it a game and comp an extra night if they leave you a review or book in advance for next year.

Set a launch date.

Make the start of your campground a celebration! Just having a launch date can create a boost of revenue right out of the gate.

This past year, Athabasca County was able to take 150 reservations within the first hour, and more than 300 by day’s end. Their manager, Warren Vowel told us that “last year, it would have taken [them] more than 2 weeks and 3 staff members to call back and confirm all of the reservations that came in today.”

It’s not just them, as campgrounds like Lakeview Park are able to book most of their reservations for the year within the first 24 hours of making sites available.

4. Advertise your campground.

While there are a number of ways to market your park well, there are a few easy steps you can take to see results almost immediately.

Invest in quality photos.

We live in a digital age and we live in a visual age.

Websites and articles with quality and relevant photos bring in 94 percent more traffic than those without, yet somehow only 39 percent of online businesses have photos that don’t “disappoint customers.”.

The reason? Well, there’s a few. Quality photos create trust, they make your park standout, and they tell a story.

Fifty-one percent of customers respond better to images of actual people “because they’re more authentic and trustworthy than brand-owned creative.” Guests want to be able to imagine what it’s like to stay at your campground before they actually do, so adding a few eye-catching images could go a long way.

Consider hiring professional photographers, as well as sourcing photos from guests to showcase your parks’ best qualities, and then take time to share them on your website and social channels.

Take online bookings.

If you want to grow your business and audience quickly, taking reservations online is the easiest and most effective strategy.

Phone calls and emails add up but, thanks to online reservations, our campgrounds save an average of 300 hours a year in administrative tasks, while bringing in an added 25 percent in yearly bookings.

Plus, membership programs like Good Sam grant access to features like trip planners, targeted searches, and can even account for more than half of some parks annual reservations.

Run paid ads on Google and Facebook.

The reality is that most of your (potential) guests are searching for RV parks online. Forbes says that “97 percent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses.” This means that campgrounds investing in pay-per-click advertising (PPC ads) will likely have better success than campgrounds who don’t.

Specifically, our campgrounds have gotten the most bang for their buck running ads through Google and Facebook. For context, Moz’s Brian Carter, says that, on average, it costs between $20 and $32 to reach 1,000 people in print ads, Google AdWords and Facebook can do the same for about $3.

Furthermore, there are currently at least 246 million unique Google users in the States alone, and targeted ads allow you to tailor to specific audiences to ensure the highest return possible.

Respond to reviews.

For better or worse, reviews matter.

Currently, about 92 percent of consumers read online reviews and make their decisions to stay accordingly. To give this some more teeth, a study found that campgrounds with 1 to 1.5 stars bring in 19 percent less revenue than other parks.

Now, it’s certainly worth stating that even great campgrounds receive unfavorable reviews, and to some extent that’s unavoidable. However, you can still mitigate damage and turn negative comments into positive interactions by making it a point to respond and (thoughtfully) engage with disgruntled guests.

By promptly connecting, empathizing, and doing what you can to make things right, 95 percent of unhappy guests will return to your campground. Even responding to happy guests has a direct impact on the bottom line, considering parks benefit from 4.6 percent more reservations for every 50 positive reviews your campground receives.

As you grow your campground be sure to keep an eye on these review sites, and make a genuine effort to kindly connect with guests regardless of their experience.

It’s a good time to start a campground.

There’s never been a better time to operate an RV park. The outdoor industry is growing faster than ever, and people are ready to create memorable experiences.

To ensure your campground’s success, be sure to take time to:

  1. Research and design your campground.
  2. Anticipate expenses and understand your park’s finances.
  3. Create unique experiences for guests.
  4. Advertise your campground.

Looking to get started?

Taking online reservations is an easy way to offload administrative work and allow you to focus on the things that make your park unique. If you’re ready to make the jump, Good Sam Campground Solutions can help. Request a demo today!