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campground association

4 Reasons You Should Join a Campground Association

Knowing how to stand out and find success in a $2.56 billion industry is certainly a challenge. Throw in a global pandemic, and ever-changing legislation, and it can feel overwhelming.

But did you know that there are campground associations that exist to support you?

Whether it’s lobbying for RV parks, providing marketing assistance, or connecting you with other owners in your region, campground associations have one sole purpose: serve campground owners.

When asked about the benefits of joining an RV park association, Horizon Outdoor Hospitality President, Scott Foos summed it up with “advocacy, music, and movie licensing, marketing services, legal hotline, member discounts, and watchful eye over everything affecting the outdoor hospitality industry”.

No matter where you need assistance with your campground, the campground association is looking out for you. Whether you’ve been running your park for years, or are just getting started in the industry, joining an association is a great resource for any park owner.

Here are four reasons why you should join a campground association, plus a list of 40 associations in Canada and the United States.

campground association

1. Advocacy for campground owners.

Last year more than 30 states closed campgrounds or delayed their openings to correspond with new guidelines on social gatherings.

Especially in this on-going pandemic, legislative changes have affected business owners substantially. And when your local legislature enacts travel restrictions, or a 21-day order to close campgrounds, who goes to bat for you?

Campground associations do.

Organizations like TACO or CampCalNow communicate recommendations between lobbyists and campground owners as well as make donations to campaigns for candidates and legislators reflecting the interests of association members.

Whether it’s supporting a local bill to limit increases in commercial property taxes or urging national legislators to deem campgrounds as an essential business in the midst of heightened restrictions, association leaders take the initiative on connecting with elected officials in order to effect change that’s directly based on the feedback of park owners.

So, should you join a local association, a national association, or both? Well, many of our campgrounds are connected with both because, especially in a pandemic, there are unique challenges at either level. National organizations like ARVC and CCRVC have more resources and work directly at the federal level to advocate for campgrounds as an industry (i.e. deeming them essential businesses), whereas state and provincial associations have more focus on individual campgrounds and play a bigger hand in local policy (i.e. property taxes).

At the end of the day, it’s important that you start somewhere to give your campground a louder voice. Even if it’s just in your own backyard.

2. Industry expertise and discounts.

From hosting annual conferences and trade shows, regular training and webinars, or providing scholarships for campgrounds, associations focus on setting their members up for success. Some organizations will even provide training for aspiring campground managers and owners.

Myrtle Beach Travel Park operator, Tim Deputy, says “As a business operator, the learning opportunities are phenomenal. You’re actually meeting a lot of the leaders in the industry, so the knowledge that you gain is so invaluable. It’s like hiring a consultant without paying a consultant.”

There’s also often an incentive to join associations just for the perk of discounted rates from industry vendors and partners. In some cases, like with ARVC, they can literally calculate how much money a membership can save your campground. And while yearly dues vary between campground associations, larger organizations like ARVC charge around $150 a year and offer between 10 – 45 percent discounts on propane, commercial licensing (music and movies), campground supplies, and property insurance.

As you can imagine the savings add up quickly. Or as Bert Davis of Dells Camping Resort puts it, “by taking advantage of ARVC’s [Loyalty Program], we have saved more than $3,200, which when we look at it, adds up to 11 years of ARVC membership dues paid for.”

3. Marketing for your campground.

Another benefit for members, and quite possibly the biggest impact on increasing your reservations, is what campground associations do for marketing your park.

From listings in local publications, articles featuring campgrounds, or strategic partnerships with organizations like GoRVing Canada, associations are constantly working to keep their parks front-of-mind for campers.

Some organizations bring in an additional 80,000 reservations for all of their campgrounds through these strategic partnerships.

Not to mention some campground associations have partnerships that drive more traffic to your campground’s website. Our campgrounds receive an additional two million visitors thanks to partnerships with associations like the CCRVC and Travel BC.

4. Support from other campgrounds.

With yearly meetups and digital forums, state and provincial campground associations provide opportunities for you to connect with other campground owners and managers for industry support.

According to Johan Feddema of Riverbend Campground in Alberta, “Being a Member of the Canadian Camping and RV Council provides my Campground with the opportunity to connect with my peers in an Association with a sole purpose to make my business more efficient and profitable.”

And on the off chance friction with another campground arises, association leaders like, Joss Penny of Travel BC, have shared with us how they are quick to jump in and mediate an amicable resolution between campgrounds.

Joining a campground association means more support and less conflict.

A louder, collective voice.

Having a campground association in your corner means you have an advocate, a marketer, and a wide network of park owners on your side.

Whether you need help bringing in more reservations, navigating legislative changes, or keeping up with where the outdoor industry is going, joining an association is an easy place to start. And if you’re ready to join an association, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of 40 associations in the US and Canada to get you started.

American campground associations to join:

National

  • National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC)
  • The Northeast Campground Association (NCA)

Statewide

Canadian campground associations to join:

National

  • Canadian Camping and RV Council (CCRVC)

Provincial

managing a campground

Looking to move your reservations online?

In addition to joining an association, are you looking to take more reservations this year? Good Sam Campground Solutions can help. Request a demo today!

glamping

16 Unique Options for Adding Glamping to Your Campground

There’s no getting around it: glamping is more popular than ever.

A couple of years ago, the US market for glamping was projected to reach $4.8 billion in revenue by 2025.

Furthermore, a 2019 study from the KOA found that 67 percent of campers are booking glamping sites for the sake of creating a unique experience. These are guests who want to camp but want to keep a few of the comforts of home while they do it.

So, exactly what accommodations are parks using to attract glampers?

Here’s a list of 16 potential glamping options for campground owners looking to create a unique experience for their guests.

Glamping options.

1. Canvas tents

Canvas tents are some of the more malleable options a campground can offer, considering almost everything is optional (electricity, furniture, A/C, etc.). Plus, they’re incredibly durable, lasting 20 to 30 years, and can scale up or down to match the level of elegance you’re going for.

If you’re looking for an economical way to add value to your campground’s accommodations, they can start as low as $350 and range up to $1,000 or so.

2. Vintage campers

Vintage campers are a huge draw for guests seeking both novelty and nostalgia. Also, they’re profitable: flipping a used camper could earn you $6,000 on average.

glamping

That said, you’ll have the overhead of renovating a vintage camper.

Renovating an old Airstream will run you between $10,000 to $70,000, and restoring a vintage RV of any kind will cost between $1,000 and $10,000.

If you do decide to go the route of converting an older RV, be sure to consider the following:

  • Electrical systems (i.e., interior and exterior lights, signals, tail lights, etc.)
  • Plumbing systems (i.e., drains and traps, kitchen sink, toilet, shower, water)
  • Exterior (i.e., locks, doors, hardware and seals, windows, vents, dents)
  • Interior (i.e., cabinets, latches, counters, upholstery, floors)
  • Kitchen appliances (i.e., water heater, furnace, oven, refrigerator)
  • LP System (i.e., gas lines, regulators, hoses, pressure adjustment)

Here’s how one couple converted an ’87 Airstream motorhome into a luxury experience for guests.

3. Yurts

More and more campers seek out yurt accommodations to break away from the cookie-cutter hotel room experience.

While yurts aren’t exactly cheap (somewhere between $11,500 and $44,000), they are still profitable. According to Pacific Yurts Inc., you can make $1,500 a month from just yurt reservations alone. So your investment should pay for itself in a couple of years.

4. Cabins

Cabins and cottages can rent for $1,000 to $2,000 a week and attract a broad audience.

The demand for cabins and tents is expected to grow 2.5 times over the next five years. It’s certainly worth investing in at least a few units for your park. However, building a cabin would require a permit because it is a permanent structure.

5. A-frames

An architectural design with a quaint interior, A-frames are a modern and imaginative approach to traditional cabins.

But even beyond aesthetics, A-frames are affordable, simple to design, and better at snow management due to their steep-roofed design. They also allow for more natural light, making for an enjoyable stay.

6. Park model RVs

Park models are similar to traditional RVs in that they are mobile and need to be hooked up to sewer, water, and electricity. However, they are distinctly larger and more “homey” in design. Park models come in various design aesthetics, making it easy to find a park model to fit your park brand.

You can expect to pay between $20,000 and $200,000 per unit.

7. Treehouses

Treehouses are certainly one of the more exotic and upscale options for lodging, and they’re not terribly expensive. The average 12′ by 12′ build for a treehouse will cost between $9,000 and $17,000. Treehouses are most commonly built around trees but can refer to any camping accommodation at tree height as well.

For further context, check out these incredible glamping treehouses

8. Tipis

Costing between $130 and $1,000, tipis are one of the cheapest and simplest glamping accommodations on this list.

Tipis are weather-resistant, easy to assemble, and have optimal temperature regulation. That said, they aren’t as spacious as other glamping options and might not be as easily accessible to everyone.

To see examples of campgrounds implementing tipis, check out the top 25 tipis from around the world.

9. Motels

LOGE finds closed down or abandoned motels near interesting towns or trails and refurbishes them to cater towards a more outdoor-focused experience, often adding camping options to the property.

Not to be confused with traditional motel updates, new owners are taking the bones of existing lodgings and transforming them into upscale campgrounds. You can even sleep in a hammock in your motel room:

10. Covered wagons

If you’re looking to add novelty to your campground, covered wagons are a playful and often climate-controlled option. They’re glorified tents with a western motif and create great photo ops.

11. Domes.

Unconventional yet environmentally conscious, geodesic domes are more than just aesthetic. Their spherical structure makes them one of the most efficient interior atmospheres for lodging because “air and energy are allowed to circulate without obstruction.” You can even place them in exotic locations with extreme wind turbulence, as the architectural design lessens any winds contributing to heat loss.

Furthermore, they install quickly–1 to 3 days–and cost only $9 to $15 per square foot.

12. Glamping pods

Glamping pods are eco-friendly and stylish. While usually built from recycled material, they’re energy-efficient and retain heat, effectively protecting guests from the elements.

Essentially, they function as a tiny house with a modern design, making them one of the more expensive (upwards of $10,000) and more glamorous options on this list.

Check out some of these great examples

13. Caboose

Easily one of the most unique forms of accommodation, converted cabooses and boxcars provide a very “Americana” experience for guests looking for something different.

Here’s a list of campgrounds offering trains for lodgings for inspiration.

14. Floating homes

Still connected to water and sewer, a floating home is like having a condo on the water. Unlike a houseboat, floating homes are stationary and generally more expensive.

Also, you’ll need a diver to inspect the home properly from top to bottom.

15. Tiny homes

Smaller than a cabin and moveable by a trailer, tiny homes have become an affordable option for Millenials and Baby Boomers alike.

The tiny home market is projected to be worth more than $5.8 billion in a few years. That same study indicated 63 percent of Millenials are interested in buying a tiny home, and 40 percent of tiny homeowners are Baby Boomers—ensuring that renting a tiny house at your campground will appeal to all clientele.

16. Container homes

Container homes are durable, recyclable, quick to build, and mobile. They also have a resale value of upwards of 100 percent, making them a reasonably affordable and safe investment.

Smaller and more basic homes will cost between $10,000 and $35,000, while larger homes will run between $100,000 and $175,000.

Homesteading has a list of 17 container homes that show just how creative you can get with accommodations.

Glamping Campgrounds

Many of our campgrounds have found success bringing in more business to their park by adding a few glamping options. If you’re looking for a few easy and affordable ways to start implementing glamping options, consider adding:

  • Luxury canvas tents or yurts.
  • Cabins, tiny homes, or glamping pods.
  • Converting vintage campers.

Get more glamping reservations.

Taking online reservations is an easy way to help you grow your glamping audience. Request a demo of Good Sam Campground Solutions!

12 Creative Ways to Make Extra Money at Your Campground

With over 40 million people RVing regularly, campgrounds can be incredibly profitable.

The best way to increase revenue is by boosting occupancy. But what are some alternative ways to make money at your campground?

We connected with several campgrounds and found twelve creative ways to diversify your income and make more money at your RV park.

Earn a little extra money at your RV park

1. Vending Machines

On average, a single vending machine earns $76 a week, or over $300 a month. With that, a vending machine is about a $2,000 investment, so it pays for itself within a year.

It’s a reasonably easy income stream to add to your park, especially if strategically placed–-near a pool, for example. 

2. Laundry

One campground owner reported he profited more on laundry than he did from his campsites! He was the only laundromat nearby and offered multiple machines for guests and local residents to use.

After multiple calls to repairmen, he learned how to fix the units himself, making even more profit from this expected RV park amenity.

Creating a pleasant experience around laundry could be a small but simple way to add value to a guests’ experience. Consider adding another set of machines or offering a small table or countertop for folding clothes. Since most campgrounds charge between $1 to $2.50 per load, you’ll earn back your investment relatively quickly.

3. Pool pass

creative ways to make money

Have a pool? Consider offsetting some of your property costs by opening it up to the local community or friends visiting campers. For example, Jackson Lake Lodge lets guests swim for free and sells community passes for $5 a day–or $50 a season.

Earn a little more money at your RV park

4. Restaurants and food trucks

Restaurants or concession stands add local flair to your park. Not only can they be an added element of hospitality for guests, but they could be an additional marketing tool for your park when opened to the community. 

More and more parks are adopting new options when it comes to dining. Foodtruckoperator.com says that even the federal government “is looking to modernize campgrounds at national parks, and is considering allowing the private sector to run the parks to free up park staff for other tasks.”

Remember, though, that running a restaurant in conjunction with your campground is extra work. If you’re looking for a more straightforward starting point, food trucks have relatively simple permits and can be an easy way to partner with a local vendor to split profits.

5. A good camp store

Retired camping and outdoor industry expert Gary Forster says, “There are many reasons to have a [camp] store. The first is that people expect it.”

Keeping a few essentials on hand goes a long way, whether it’s a quick bite, laundry detergent, firewood, or even RV parts like water or sewer hoses.

We’ve also received feedback from RV parks claiming a fair amount of success selling branded materials and products from local artists or businesses that reflect the local community. Specifically, T-shirts and camping mugs are a couple of the top sellers. You may even offer produce, pictured above, as part of a small farmer’s market.

6. Events

Campgrounds can still offer plenty of low-cost and profitable events for campers. 

Consider:

  • Grilling or cook-off competitions (where people pay to enter and taste the food)
  • Outdoor movie nights (with proper licensing, which you can find help with by joining a campground association)
  • Fall festival complete with a carnival and hayrides
  • Tournaments for youth sports
  • Crafts (especially for kids)
  • A trail of lights during the holiday season

Plenty of potential guests unfamiliar with camping might be willing to try it out if you provide the right incentives to connect with your park. 

For more ideas, RVShare has a list of over 80 activities campgrounds can offer.

7. Wi-Fi

If you’re looking to add immediate value to your campground, start with quality wireless internet. Even if guests want to unplug and experience nature, many will still expect access to Wi-Fi.

Millennials are 73 percent more likely to find themselves taking a trip and, subsequently, working from an RV this year.

While providing decent Wi-Fi is a must, offering a high-speed connection could be a source of profit. A 2018 poll revealed 66 percent of guests would be willing to pay a daily rate for faster internet. And, likely, this number will only go up as more millennials become full-time RVers. Paying extra for premium service will be expected.

Make passive and profitable returns at your RV park

8. Rentals

While rentals generally come with high startup costs, they can also bring high margins. Consider implementing any of these items:

  • Jeeps
  • Dune buggies
  • Four-wheelers
  • Snowmobiles
  • Mountain bikes
  • Kayaks/canoes
  • Grills
  • Pool items (floaties, toys, life jackets, etc.)

The most significant considerations with rentals are your insurance policy and repairs, which can add to your park’s expenses.

9. Experiences

Campgrounds can offer more than just camping.

Here are a few creative ways campgrounds have used their space:

Campgrounds that succeed in repurposing their space take advantage of features unique to their property: lakes and rivers, scenic overlooks, flat or hilly landscapes. What does yours offer? 

10. Partner with local tourism companies and restaurants

Partnering with local businesses is a great way to make commissions and passive income for your campground. See if any local tourist attractions will give your campers discounts for visiting or if they will give you a referral credit for sending campers their way.

11. Event rentals

Especially during shoulder seasons, find imaginative ways to take advantage of potential event space. Consider renting out your clubhouse, pavilions, etc. for:

  • Reunions and get-togethers
  • Corporate retreats
  • Weddings
  • Kids camps and field trips
  • Conventions and conference
  • Concerts

12. Yield management

One of the resources that Good Sam Campground Solutions provides its parks is yield management (or dynamic pricing).

This allows campgrounds to accommodate guests during both peak and shoulder seasons. A camper can go online, get a quote, and make a reservation without you having to get involved.

Yield management allows you to charge more or less based on demand, like charging $70/night on holiday weekends and $50/night in the shoulder season.

On average, our campgrounds have saved 300 hours of administrative work annually through dynamic pricing and online reservations.

Putting it together

Finding creative ways to make money at your RV park doesn’t have to be an overwhelming effort. Consider your campground and what you could realistically implement without draining your resources.

Then, 

  1. Make a little money by adding vending machines, laundry services, and pool passes.
  2. Make a little more money by offering restaurants or food trucks, a well-stocked camp store, interactive events, and quality Wi-Fi.
  3. Make passive and profitable income by offering rentals, unique experiences (weddings, wildlife, breweries, etc.), partnering with local businesses, event rentals, and yield management.

The simplest way to increase revenue

Online reservations are one of the easiest ways to bring income to your campground. Good Sam Campground Solutions brings RV parks a 25 percent annual increase in reservation volume. Request a demo today!

campground photo

Better Campground Photos = More Reservations (+4 Tips for Getting Great Photos)

campground photo

Having quality photos will bring more business to your campground.

Websites and articles with relevant and quality photos garner 94 percent more views than those without. In fact, some campgrounds have doubled their yearly reservations just by adding better pictures.

Now, while you would think more parks would invest in quality photos, only 39 percent of online businesses have photos that don’t disappoint customers.

So why are quality campground photos so important? And why are customers more responsive to high-resolution images?

1. Campground photos create trust.

A picture is worth a thousand-word review.

When it comes to making a reservation online, 78 percent of people make their decision based on photos alone. They also found that online customers trusted photos even more than other customer reviews.

The main reason guests trust photos? It humanizes their online experience.

Sixty percent of consumers who use online search say they prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image, because they know there’s a real person on the other side.

2. Campground photos make your park stand out.

Are your campground’s photos helping or hurting you?

Overall, at least 50 percent of consumers prefer visual information over text. It’s easier for campers to quickly see photos than to read a few paragraphs describing your park.

Out of focus, pixelated, or unattractive photos will deter campers. Twenty-two percent of returns or cancellations happen when a product (or campsite) looks different in person.

What images are campers seeing when they search?

Do a quick Google search of your park and click on “Images.” Review what’s pulling up. Does it give guests an accurate idea of what they can expect when they visit? Is your park standing out or getting lost in the shuffle?

3. Campground photos tell your story.

Create a Better Booking Experience

Campgrounds are a common gathering place. Which means guests want to know the people running an RV park. They want to know you.

Fifty-one percent of customers respond better to images of actual people because they’re more authentic and trustworthy than brand-owned creative. 

Campers also want to be able to see themselves staying at your park before they actually stay at your park.

Is your park catered toward families? Retirees? Use photos of people enjoying your park to attract more campers like them.

4. Campground photos lead to more reservations.

Quality campground photos could double your reservations.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said travel images posted by a real person are the most influential endorsement,” and that almost half of the survey respondents reported purchasing a product after interacting with an image or watching a brand video.

Asking campers to leave a review or creating experiences that prompt campers to take a photo at their campsite can increase your photos on review sites, establishing your online reputation and encouraging future campers to book.

4 tips for taking better campground photos. 

Elevating the quality of images might feel like an expensive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to. Without having to break the bank or sink too much time into creating more content, here are a few things to consider:

1. Hire a professional.

Bringing in a professional photographer is the easiest way to get images of your campground that you can use for years to come. Typically it’ll run between $100 to $250 an hour for the shoot itself.

Many campgrounds will barter photography services for a free week-long stay or hire workampers with photography skills to avoid the expense of hiring.

2. Take higher quality photos on your own.

On a budget? No problem. You can still take great photos on your phone. iPhone photos can still go a long way and are way better than not having photos at all.

To take the best photos on your phone, go out at golden hour—the hour before sunset or after sunrise—so your campground is in the best light. Take photos on a sunny day and if possible, when the campground is semi-full so you can get plenty of lifestyle photos of campers enjoying your property.

3. Curate quality social content.

Everyone travels with a camera in their pocket these days, which means it’s easy for campers to take and share photos of their camping trip.

Consider using a specific hashtag or creating an Instagram account for your campground. Ask guests to tag you so you can easily find and share their photos.

Basecamp 550 in Colorado encourages campers to tag #basecamp550. These are some of their social photos taken by guests.

You can also find a list of ways to leverage social media for more reservations from Inspired Camping.

4. Incentivize campers to take photos.

Perhaps the easiest and most practical way to capture what camping at your park is like is to have guests capture it themselves. Consider offering discounted nights in exchange for quality photos taken from campers or run a photo competition and giveaway to the winning photo.

Improve Your Campgrounds Photos

Campgrounds can double their online bookings by simply adding high-quality photos. Review your websites and reviews today and make a checklist for getting your campground photos updated before camping season kicks off.

More photos and more reservations.

In addition to increasing reservations online, Good Sam Campground Solutions has helped parks improve their branding and curate better photos. If you’re in the market for growing your online reach, request a demo today!

How to Respond to Bad Campground Reviews

How to Respond to Bad Campground Reviews

Even good campgrounds can receive negative reviews.

It doesn’t matter how consistently you deliver a quality guest experience or go above and beyond, missteps will still happen.

As frustrating as it is, you need to respond to bad campground reviews. While they may not be representative of your campground, if you ignore them, they can still come back to haunt you.

Imagine your RV park gets flooded with rain over a holiday weekend. If half of your guests complain about muddy sites in online reviews, that can severely tank your park’s reputation—and it wasn’t even your fault!

Knowing how to respond to bad campground reviews is critical.

bad review

Bad reviews can destroy your campground’s business.

Last year, the Montrose Press reported a story about how RV influencer and YouTuber, Jason Epperson (RV Miles) and his family were evicted from an RV park after receiving a FedEx package, violating the park’s policy by using their address to receive mail.

Epperson was frustrated. The policy stated long term guests couldn’t accept mail, not overnight guests, yet he was escorted off the property by the sheriff for a simple FedEx package. He aired his grievance on his YouTube channel to over 100,000 views.

In response to his video, RVers immediately took to the campground’s page on Yelp, and posted negative review after negative review, dropping the park’s rating to 1 star out of 5.

The Montrose Press also quoted research from Womply, stating that campgrounds or businesses with 1 to 1.5 stars receive 19% less total revenue on average.

(The RV park in question has sold to new owners since the incident.)

Adding to that point, Vendasta found that “92% of consumers now read online reviews.” So for every 10 people looking at your campground, 9 of them will make their decision to stay there based on other people’s experiences.

Reviews matter. Even the bad ones.

How to get rid of and respond to bad campground reviews 

As intimidating as negative reviews can be, they’re easier to get rid of than you might think, but it does take a thoughtful and tactful approach. Here are 5 steps for how to respond to bad campground reviews, and creating better camper experiences.

bad campground review

1. Evaluate the situation.

When you get a poor review, no matter how unfair it might be, the first thing you need to do is take a beat and assess what’s going on. Yes, you should respond promptly, but don’t rush it and escalate a negative situation.

And definitely don’t respond emotionally.

HubSpot quoted marketer Geoff Toff saying “if [a guest is] angry enough (however unfairly) and cares enough about getting the reaction they want from you (however petty that might be), they can spread negativity all over your reputation online, and people will probably believe it until they see a reason to think otherwise.”

Calmly and logically evaluate the situation and come up with a plan to solve the problem.

2. Respond to the negative review.

Respond publicly first.

More often than not, the customer simply wants to know that you hear them. And even if the complaint feels unreasonable, other customers reading the reviews also want to know that you hear them.

By responding publicly, you show everyone that you pay attention to detail, and work to fix problems as they pop up.

Black Canyon receives mostly positive reviews (as evidenced by a 4.9 rating), but they do a good job of responding to every review.

Move to a 1-on-1 conversation.

If an issue can’t be easily resolved with a public comment, take the conversation private.

The point here is not to “silence” the frustrated customer, or remove them from the public eye, so much as it is to guarantee a more focused guest experience.

Moving the conversation to a direct message or email exchange can allow the guest to feel more important and heard. It also helps enable the guest to see that there is another human being responding to their complaint, which allows them to lower their guard and be a little more patient.

3. Fix the problem quickly and transparently.

According to Vendasta, when campgrounds resolve issues quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy guests will return.

Which means simply reply to bad reviews can be a boost for business.

Be honest about mistakes.

Nobody expects a campground to be perfect, but they do expect you to be trustworthy. The way you handle bad reviews as a campground can be an opportunity for more reservations.

Accept responsibility.

Some negative reviews won’t be your fault.

Another guest’s dog was barking too loudly. Another guest’s kids were running around their campsite. It rained all weekend. A bigger rig blocked their view.

Even when negative reviews don’t reflect on your actions as a campground operator, accept responsibility and fault for the issue.

With Black Canyon in Wimberley, they didn’t reply and say “I’m sorry the wifi is slow, we are in the country! Of course it’s slow!”

Instead they detailed how they were stepping up and addressing the issue.

empathizing with guests

Ask questions and empathize.

The easiest way to make a guest feel heard is to ask thoughtful questions. It’s important that you establish that you’re on their side, and trying to make sure they feel understood and taken care of.

Don’t assume the intent of the guest, and don’t belittle their issue. Try and parrot back their problem in your own words to let them know you’re listening, and relate to how frustrating that problem would be if you were in their shoes.

Provide solutions and incentives.

At Chick-fil-A, they have a philosophy of customer service called Second-Mile Service.

As one employee puts it, “Second Mile Service is about going the extra mile—when someone expects a certain level of service, you work to go beyond that and take them the whole second mile.”

If a customer has a problem, every employee from the top-down has been empowered up to $10 per situation to do whatever it takes to make things right.

For example, if someone orders grilled nuggets, but receives fried nuggets, they’ll eat the cost and tell the customer to keep the nuggets they have, while they quickly work to bring out the correct order. No questions asked.

What does this look like at a campground?

Think through ways your campground can provide a quality customer experience. Do you comp one night of a stay? Do you give complimentary firewood? Upgrade them to a nicer campsite? Think of what ways you can realistically provide solutions without hurting your bottom line.

Will people take advantage of this? Some might, but overall you will increase the number of loyal customers tenfold (especially among those that initially submitted a negative review).

Follow up with the guest.

Once you’ve corrected the situation, if you find that the guest is pleased with your response, ask them to update their old review.

Guests with previously negative experiences will often feel endeared by the level of initiative and effort campgrounds show them, and make for great evangelists.

how to respond of bad reviews

There are few testimonials as powerful as a previously disgruntled camper becoming an advocate of your park.

4. Remove fake or inappropriate reviews.

If you suspect a review is fraudulent, or not reflective of the actual quality of service your campground provides, you don’t have to blindly allow it. Here are some quick tips for handling fake reviews.

Politely respond.

While it may feel weird, it’s important to thoughtfully respond to every review, whether they’re real or not.

Blue Corona says that “even if you know the bad review was fake, you need to respond,” because “you’re not only pacifying the reviewer, you’re showing prospects how you respond to customer dissatisfaction.”

Report or flag the review.

After you respond, make sure you place the fake review on the radar of the review site, so that they can better monitor and police fraudulent activity.

reporting fake reviewsHow to report a fake review on Google.

Here are links on how to flag fake or inappropriate reviews for other review sites:

Call support and follow up on the reported review.

Another alternative (or additional option) is to directly connect with support for the review site. In some cases, this might lead to a quicker response from the review site and therefore get the negative review down faster.

Consult a legal professional.

This is obviously a last resort, but should a review be slanderous, you may have grounds for litigation. That being said, be sure to consult a legal representative before pursuing this option.

Here you’ll find Google’s request form for legal removal.

Remember to only follow these steps if you’re sure a review is fake or fraudulent, not bad reviews from guests.

5. Focus on getting more positive reviews.

Borden Bridge Campground in Langham, Saskatchewan.

The best defense is a good offense.

HelpScout reported that “positive reviews make potential customers almost 70% more likely to trust a local business,” and as a result, stay at your park.

Additionally, every 50 positive reviews your campground receives averages a 4.6% increase in reservations (Vendasta). So make it a habit to collect customer reviews. Offer discounts or coupons in exchange for leaving a review.

Wondering which review sites you should be reading? Here are the top 7 review sites for campground owners to watch.

how to respond to bad reviews

Respond to positive reviews.

In a TechRepublic interview with Nimble, Inc. community engagement manager, Michaela Prouzova, said “We make sure that our team responds to every single review—positive or negative,” because it “builds trust and humanizes our brand.”

Furthering that point, Business.com says it’s important to “let the world know you care about every [guest], not just the ones that complain.”

Responding to positive reviews shows that, again, there’s a human being on the other side, and makes guests feel even more validated in their decision to stay at your campground.

good campground reviews

Turning bad reviews into good reviews.

Unfortunately, bad reviews are unavoidable, even for the best campgrounds. But they don’t have to stay on your record. When negative reviews come up:

  • Evaluate and calmly approach the situation.
  • Respond publicly and tactfully.
  • Empathize and fix the problem quickly and honestly.
  • Report fake or fraudulent reviews.
  • Focus on getting and responding to positive reviews.

If you do all of these things, you will create loyal guests and increase reservations more than ever before. 

Ready to improve your reviews and grow your campground?

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 consulting on how to improve a guest experience at your park. If you’re ready to get started we can help! 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!

managing a campground

7 Tips for Managing a Campground

Whether it’s hiring the right staff, managing guests’ expectations, or using the right tools to handle reservations, there are a lot of moving pieces to managing a campground.

How do you find good talent? How do you create a great experience for customers? What reservation system should you use?

For park owners looking to make life a little easier, here are 7 tips for managing a campground.

1. Build the right team.

It’s easy for owners to fall into the trap of thinking they have to do everything. The reality is you just need to put the right people around you. Take time to invest and hire a staff that will care about your campground and guests as much as you do.

  • Start with an on-site manager.
  • Factor in seasonal employees or work-campers to help with peak seasons.
  • Automate the tasks that can be automated (see Tip #4 for more on this).

The friendly staff at Ponderosa Pines in Lower Cape, NB.

Beyond that, take care of your staff and incentivize their success in creating a quality guest experience. When you take care of employees, they take care of your business.

If you’re in the market for good talent, here are 6 tips for hiring the right employee.

managing a campground

2. Manage guest expectations.

Most negative reviews stem from unmet expectations. When a guest can’t find information or photos of your park, they’ll likely imagine something other than what your campground offers.

Here are a few tips to avoid ambiguity and make sure you’re meeting campers’ expectations.

Market to the right audience.

Half of the battle in setting expectations is just knowing whose expectations you’re trying to set. By no means does this mean you need to reinvent your campground. Just identify the audience you have or the audience you’re trying to reach.

A few questions to consider:

  • Does your campground cater to seasonal, long-term, or overnight stays?
  • Is your campground designed for families, retirees, or remote workers?
  • Are you a glampground or luxury campground?
  • Are you part of a campground association?
  • Is your park close to a major city or attraction?

Talladega Pit Stop in Lincoln, Alabama is just minutes away from Talladega Superspeedway and they do a great job of marketing to racing fans.

Having a clear picture of who you’re trying to accommodate will help you better manage your park and how you market it.

Design a “trustworthy” website.

A few years ago a study revealed that, when it comes to trustworthy companies and organizations, nothing beats word of mouth. However, researchers found that 70 percent of those they surveyed said they trusted branded (or well-designed) websites.

Furthering that point, an additional study in 2019 found that 148.3 million travel reservations (across multiple industries) were made entirely online, accounting for a nearly $600 billion industry.

Your park’s online presence matters and is essential in keeping your campground competitive.

Fortunately, designing a website has never been easier. However, if you’d rather pay someone else to come in and do the heavy lifting, The RV Geeks and CIPR Communications are both great resources.

Take quality photos.

Seventy-five percent of guests rely on online photos before making a purchase (or reservation), and 22 percent of returns or cancellations occur when the advertised product looks different in person.

Hiring a professional photographer can go a long way in adding credibility to your campground, and it’s certainly worth budgeting for. You can typically expect to be charged $100 to $250 an hour for the shoot itself, and $25 to $100 per final image.

Even if you’re on a budget, having photos is still better than having no photos, and you can still take decent pictures on your phone. The important thing is that you’re showing guests what they can expect upon arrival.

Feature desired amenities.

Do you know what amenities your guests are looking for?

We’ve heard a lot of stories from our campgrounds about how they’ll invest money and time into a new pool or fitness center, and it will go largely unused.

We’ve heard stories from campers about how they’ll rule out parks in the future if they didn’t have decent WiFi or trees.

Knowing what amenities your campers are looking for is a great way to hedge your bets and keep them coming back. Make it a priority to get feedback from your guests to see what they value, and how you can better facilitate their experience.

For some more tips and ideas, we recently surveyed over 600 campers and ranked the 10 amenities they value most in a campground.

3. Establish a solid foundation.

There’s only so much that you can do with poor infrastructure at your campground. Especially for new owners, it’s imperative that you invest in the foundation of your park. Know the costs of building or restoring a campground to give yourself an appropriate budget and set your park up for success.

Whether you’re purchasing a new campground or restoring an existing one, be sure to prioritize basics like electricity, water, and septic.

4. Use an online reservation system.

Less work for more reservations.

Using an online reservation system like Good Sam has been proven to bring parks 25 percent more bookings and save as much as 300 hours in administrative work annually. Last year, Klahanie and Borden Bridge took 97 percent of their reservations completely online and cut down their busy work almost completely overnight.

Not to mention, online reservations are a better experience for guests, allowing them to find exactly what they’re looking for.

Channel partners.

Additionally, parks that use Campground Booking also have access to our channel partners, including GoRVing Canada, Travel BC, and the CCRVC.

This alone means that our parks are also bookable on any of our partner websites. On average, this brings campgrounds an additional 2 million views annually.

Channel partners like GoRVing Canada feature our campgrounds and bring in more reservations.

Automate day-to-day tasks.

Managing a campground involved lots of day-to-day tasks. Using software to manage your campground can automate repetitive tasks and allow you to easily view and update reservations.

You can also get email alerts for new reservations, reports for your business, dynamic rates for pricing on weekends and holidays, and an integration with Quickbooks to manage taxes and financials.

5. Routinely walk the park.

Depending on the size of your park it might not be feasible to walk the entire perimeter each day. That being said, it’s worth investing in the time (or golf carts) to regularly survey the property. At least twice a week (before and after a weekend), take a look around the campground and see what needs to be touched up or addressed.

Plus, this is a great way to connect with seasonal guests and build rapport as you walk around the park.

6. Interact with campers.

Even with an online system or automatic check-ins, owning a campground is an interpersonal business, and it’s still important to take time to interact with guests. Make it a priority to connect with campers during their stay.

  • Ask them what they liked about their stay, or how you could improve their experience.
  • Get an idea of what amenities they value.
  • Ask them to leave a review as they leave.

If you’re an offsite owner, you can still follow up through email or social media. Extra effort to connect with guests will always be noticed and goes a long way to add value to your campground.

7. Check-in guests.

Tying in directly with Tip #6, make checking-in your guests a personable experience. This gives campers a face and humanizes their experience. Start off on a positive note and have a thoughtful process in place for when guests arrive.

  • Who checks in your guests at arrival?
  • Who leads them to their campsite?
  • Can you help them park?
  • Can you throw in any courtesy add-ons like firewood or WiFi as a thank you?

Little touches go a long way. How can you improve their stay and ensure that they return?

Putting it all together.

Even though there’s a lot that goes into running a campground, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take the right steps to manage your park by:

  1. Building the right team.
  2. Managing guest expectations.
  3. Establishing a solid foundation.
  4. Using an online reservation software.
  5. Routinely walking around the park.
  6. Interacting with campers.
  7. Checking-in guests in person.

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.

How Much Does a Campground Cost

How Much Does a Campground Cost to Purchase? (And How To Buy One)

It’s a good time to buy a campground.

Well, there are about 16,000 campgrounds in the US and 40 million Americans RVing regularly. This means that even if every RVer camped for one night at a rate of $30, and we were to distribute them evenly amongst every park, campgrounds would still make $75,000 a year.

So, it’s definitely a favorable market for park operators.

But how much does a campground cost? Should you buy an existing park or build one from scratch? Where can you find parks for sale?

To get an accurate idea of what an RV park will cost, we put together a list of considerations and resources for prospective operators looking to make a purchase.

Buying an existing RV park.

In terms of upfront expenses and labor, buying an established campground will likely be an easier option, especially for first-time park owners. If you’re green to the market, here are a few things that will be helpful to understand.

Initial costs.

An established park, with infrastructure already built, costs between $100,000 to $2 million. It’s also safe to assume that some level of repairs and TLC will be required.

If you’re buying an RV park that’s already built, “the upfront costs might be higher, but your revenue might be higher as well.” Not including the cost of the property, a “campground business can cost around $10,000 to $50,000.”

Additionally, the cost of land ranges from $1,000 an acre to upwards of $10,000 for more desirable lots.

Cap rates.

A cap rate is a formula that shows you how long it will take for your campground to break even from your initial investment.

To find the cap rate, calculate the net operating income (NOI) and divide it by the property value. So, if your property is worth $2 million, and you have an NOI of $150,000, your cap rate would be 7.5 percent.

Cap rates in the campground market can range from 5 percent to 15 percent – with most parks falling between 8 percent to 11 percent.

Hospitality expert and campground owner, Heath Padgett, says that many campground owners “aren’t valuing their property based on capitalization rates,” meaning that you’ll have a decent return on investment if you can even slightly improve the process.

It’s worth noting that cap rates depend on location. For example, an 8 cap rate for a park outside of Seattle will mean something very different than an 8 percent cap rate in North Dakota. When comparing cap rates, look at parks in your area or similar regions.

Insurance.

“The average campground in America spends between $450-$1,500 per year for $1 million in general liability coverage.”

You can also find plenty of insurance resources through your local campground association.

Renovations.

Depending on the current state of the park renovation costs will certainly vary; however, it’s safe to estimate $10,000 to $50,000. That number can certainly escalate depending on whether you need to bring electricity up to code or fix any major systems within the park.

To cover your bases, make a point of hiring an inspector or contractor to examine your campground before purchasing.

Building an RV park from scratch.

While inheriting or fixing up an existing campground will likely be a less expensive way to go, you might find that existing parks don’t match your vision, and it’s still worth your while to build something from scratch.

If you’re breaking ground on a new build, make it a point to think through each of the following.

Land.

Obviously, the cost of land depends on what part of the country you’re in, however, the national average is about $3,000 an acre.

Licensing and permits.

While renewals and specific requirements vary from state to state, you’ll quickly find that with any new build comes the need for permits and licensing.

Whether it’s zoning, or support from others who have been in the weeds of constructing a park, joining a local campground association can save you from a number of headaches.

Cost per site.

We surveyed a few of our campgrounds, and on average it costs around $15,000 per site for full-hookups, gravel roads, and pads.

Slips can “range anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 per site depending upon the amenities you plan to install.”

Electric.

Most of our campgrounds provide 15-amp, 30-amp, and 50-amp options along with outlets for 110/120 volts (which costs around $1,500 and $2,500 per site).

Water.

Drilling a 150-foot well can cost between $5,000 and $12,000 (not including the cost of piping), while city water hookups can cost around $1,200 per site.

Septic system.

You can generally expect that a site-by-site septic system requiring a tank and leach field plus piping to campsites will cost upwards of $40,000 altogether.

That being said, installing a dump station for guests will cut down your costs by 75 percent. However, you’ll be able to charge more per night if you provide full hookups.

Site development.

In addition to building out your sites, you’ll want to invest in asphalt, concrete, or gravel for leveling and paving out your roads as another big-ticket item for your park.

Number of sites.

Ten sites per acre is a general rule of thumb – not counting 5th wheels and other larger motorhomes. With that, it will cost about $15,000 per site to develop; so to get an idea of how much it will cost to build out your park, multiply your total acres by 10, and then by $15,000.

Buildings and infrastructure.

The reality is that if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to factor in more than just a few campsites with hookups. As you design and build out your park, think through office space, restrooms, cabins, and other permanent fixtures your guests will benefit from.

Restrooms.

Our survey results have found that a clean restroom with good water pressure is among the 10 most sought-after amenities a park could offer (according to guests), and will run you about $20,000.

If you’re looking to improve your restrooms, check out this helpful PDF with designs and materials for camp bathrooms.

Office.

Offices can range between $15,000 and $80,000, or $100 to $550 per square foot and will require a strong internet connection to manage reservations.

Also worth note, about 42 percent of professionals currently work remotely, meaning there could be an opportunity to double your office as a co-working space to attract more long-term guests.

High-speed internet.

Quality WiFi is easily one of the most worthwhile investments you could make, considering that 71 percent of RVers consider it to be an “essential” amenity.

If you’re looking at setting up WiFi at your campground, you can usually find a high-speed provider with a decent download speed for around $250 a month. Even if your campground is more rural, you shouldn’t have to pay more than $500 at the most, with an initial setup (routers, ethernet, wifi repeaters) around $3,000.

Websites for buying campgrounds.

Once you have an idea of what type of park you’re looking to invest in, make sure you go through the right channels with companies that understand the industry.

Here are four sites that can help find a park that’s right for you.

1. The Campground Connection

Based out of Grandville, Michigan, Campground Connection is a full-service, voice-to-voice consulting and marketing company based in Grandville, Michigan. 

They exclusively work with campgrounds and RV parks, providing coaching and resources, along with the largest online marketplace for prospective owners.

2. RVParkStore.com

A resource for investors, owners, and travelers alike, RVParkStore also has a large list of RV parks and marinas, as well as plenty of industry insight to assist in your search.

3. Parksandplaces.com

With over 50 years of experience, the team at Parks and Places has been able to sell over 100 parks for owners and is another great option for those looking to buy.

4. Campgroundsforsale.com

Campgrounds for Sale has sold over 300 parks while providing workshops, blogs, and connections within the industry.

Procuring funding.

While campgrounds are a big investment, once you’ve found the right spot, there are plenty of ways to reasonably finance your park.

Seller financing.

This is where the seller of the RV park directly issues a loan to the buyer. The new owner will then make regular payments to the previous owner until the campground is paid off. The repayment terms and interest rates tend to be agreed-upon terms, and are recognized as a deed or mortgage.

Mortgage-backed securities and collateralized mortgage obligations.

Similar to bonds, mortgage-backed securities (MBS) allow a lender to issue a loan to multiple parties and bundle the loans together to sell to a larger bank. That bank will then sell the MBS to investors, who will then receive payments periodically.

Along the same lines, a collateralized mortgage obligation (CMO) is a variation of an MBS, where mortgages are assessed and bundled by risk and maturity dates. Investors will then fund those specific mortgages based on their level of risk-aversion.

Investors gravitate towards MBS and CMOs because it allows them to benefit financially without buying or selling a loan. Usually, MBS and CMOs are financed by banks, issuers, and hedge funds.

Conventional loan.

One of the more straightforward options, a conventional loan (or uninsured loan) can be obtained through a private lender and paid back by the new park owner. That being said, it also comes with fewer guarantees.

Credit union.

Albeit a more limited offering, credit unions offer lower interest mortgages with more personable service. Not to mention, it’s generally easier to get approved through a credit union.

Local banks.

While community banks provide a wider variety of loans, they’ll come at a steeper interest rate. Local banks, however, tend to offer more assistance and better customer service for prospective owners in the area.

Nonbank lenders.

If you’re uncomfortable going through a bank, you can also find a list of non-bank lenders with plenty of experience working with campgrounds.

Additionally, RVParkStore also provides its own mixed list of lenders.

SBA loans.

In general, SBA loans are flexible options.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) was designed to provide assistance for small businesses (including campgrounds), and offers loans with generous term lengths and capped interest rates.

You can also receive financing up to 90 percent of the park’s cost, as well as smaller options for down payments.

Helpful steps along the way.

Any park owner will tell you that no matter how simple of a process it is to buy a campground, things still come out of the woodwork. To ensure the smoothest possible process, take a few extra precautions along the way.

Review profit and loss statements for the campground.

A profit and loss (P&L) statement will show you the revenue and costs to give you an idea of how the park has performed over a fiscal year.

It’s probably in your best interest to go back through the P&Ls of the last few years to get a sense of what to expect. From there you’ll be better armed to think through how you can elevate the financial performance of the campground.

Get a land survey.

While it may not be required, it’s in your best interest to get the land surveyed.

You might find hazardous areas, restrictions, various legal elements, or levels of elevation that have gone unnoticed. Usually, a survey will last 5 to 10 years, so chances are the property could use it anyways.

Make a note to check for previous records (which should be available at the local courthouse or assessor’s office) and hire an experienced surveyor to make sure everything is copacetic.

Shadow the previous operators. 

No matter how savvy you are, it’s just a good idea to understand how your predecessors ran the business. More likely than not, they’d probably be willing to show you around and give you an honest idea of what to expect.

Ask questions and consider how they managed reservations, what their obstacles are, or even just how the campground functions over a weekend. The more insight you have the better you’ll set yourself up for success.

Understand your guests.

Knowing your customers and how to best serve them will go a long way.

Take time to check reviews online and get a feel for what guests appreciate most about the park. Chat with the current owners or send out a survey to identify what demographics your park caters to. Do you have long-term guests? Do you have families? Do your guests want new amenities?

Start your relationships out on the best foot possible.

Negotiate the asking price.

Between closing costs, closings dates, and sales price, you’ll probably find there’s room for negotiation. It helps to have a real estate agent or broker involved with the process, but here are a few things to consider:

  • Sellers are more likely to work with you if you can get a mortgage in principle.
  • Research the actual market value of the campground on your own.
  • Market yourself as the ideal buyer (a real estate agent helps here).
  • Imply that you’re also looking at other campgrounds.
  • Start with a lower offer than what you’re willing to pay.
  • If they’re unwilling to budge on price, add in extra requests and see what they’re willing to match.

A campground is a great investment.

The reality is that buying a campground will serve you well.

How Much Does a Campground Cost

To get an accurate estimate of how much you can expect to invest, add up the cost of the property, each and every additional site, buildings, and setup fees.

From there, evaluate your options financially and go through a website that specializes in campgrounds, while bringing in the right team to give your park a good foundation from the start.

With the right resources and financial backing, your campground is bound to thrive.

Ready to buy a campground?

If you’re in the market for a campground, Good Sam provides a number of campground services to give owners the tools they need to get their business off the ground. 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.

Zoning an RV Park

Best Practices for Zoning an RV Park

From designing the park, setting up the internet, and all of the costs associated, park operators have plenty going on. The last thing an owner wants to deal with are zoning regulations slowing down your park’s build.

So, how do you go about properly zoning an RV park? What resources are there for zoning a campground?  How do you get approval for your campground?

To get a better idea, we sat down with a few RV park owners and regional association members in order to put together a helpful list of best practices for zoning an RV park.

How to know if you have zoning laws.

There’s a chance your property could fall outside of any zoning laws, but it’s still best to be sure as there are many cases where businesses operating out of a physical location are required to have a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) confirming any building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations.

Here are a couple of ways to know what’s required for zoning an RV park in your area.

1. Join a campground association.

In general, it’s a good first step for new RV park owners to join their local campground association.

There are over 40 campground associations in the US and Canada, offering park owners:

  • Advocacy at local and national levels.
  • Industry expertise and discounts.
  • Marketing tools and resources.
  • Networking and support from other park owners.

Your local association has a good idea of what’s required for making sure your park is properly zoned.

2. Call your city or county office.

Laws for zoning a campground will vary from city to city. Calling the city zoning office is the simplest way to check on what’s required.

It’s also worth noting that coastal cities like San Francisco and San Diego have stringent laws. Midwestern and southern states will likely offer more flexibility.

Pulaski County in Kentucky, for example, has no zoning laws. A citizen can apply for a variance through the local planning commission to build outside the existing codes, though the IRC and local zoning regulations are in place.

If there’s a zoning commissioner in your county, they will know if there are any environmental concerns, land restrictions, or what municipal services are available. Not to mention, they’re going to get involved in your project regardless, so it’s a good idea to consult them early on and gain them as an advocate.

How to get approval for zoning verification.

More often than not, zoning an RV park is a pretty straight forward process. One of our campground owners shared that it was as “simple as submitting an online form.”

In most cases requiring verification, you can submit a request to a building inspector or zoning board, and they’ll approve or deny based on whether or not your property meets local requirements. Also, conducting a land survey and inspections on your own is a good way to hedge your bets on getting approved.

Should you be denied, you can still appeal the decision with your local zoning board. This will serve as a court of sorts, and they will deliberate as to whether or not the zoning laws are too stringent in your particular situation. In this case, neighbors and local businesses will often be asked to weigh in and help give the board a better understanding as to whether or not this will benefit the local environment and economic climate.

For more granular examples, take a look at specific zoning requirements for states including:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Texas

How to change zoning.

In some cases, park owners can change zoning for a campground.

Zoning an RV Park

Changes can be approved if you can show substantial proof that your land has physiological, environmental, or geological conditions that qualify for zoning classification (assuming it benefits the local city or county).

In this situation, you would likely need to pay for an application, as well as be able to show a deed, plot plan, tax information, and proof of a land survey. From here, your request would go before a zoning board (similar to an appeal), and they would likely call upon neighbors and local businesses.

You can see a similar process for reference from Logan County, in Colorado.

Zoning your campground.

While regulations differ across state and city lines, zoning doesn’t have to be a complicated process. To make zoning your RV park easier, make sure that you:

  1. Join a local campground association.
  2. Connect with your local city or county office.
  3. Conducted surveys and inspections.
  4. Submit an approval request with a local zoning board early on.
  5. Keep all necessary documents handy (taxes, plot plan, deed, etc).

Following these steps will save you headaches and countless hours, and allow you to get back to focusing on building out your RV park.

All zoned and ready for the next step?

Need help getting your RV park off the ground or taking reservations? Good Sam Campground Solutions has you covered. Request a demo today!