Profaizer on Point: On-Site Accommodations Growing
Linda Profaizer, a Colorado resident and immediate past president of ARVC, can be contacted at email@example.com. Having stepped away from her ARVC position at the end of 2010, she welcomes input on topics of importance to campground owners for upcoming columns. Her latest column follows.
The June issue of Woodall's Campground Management features recreational park trailers, which, along with cabins and other forms of onsite accommodations, should do well this year considering the instability of gas prices. And, according to AAA’s recent Memorial Day holiday report, people are looking for more affordable vacations and are staying closer to home.
The AAA report showed people making their plans later for their vacations (a trend that is continuing from last year) and making later departures for their trips. They are also projecting that people are going to be spending about 14% less on their holiday weekend which also might be a trend for this summer with people spending less in your stores on souvenir items.
Another positive indication of consumers utilizing onsite accommodations in RV parks and campgrounds was KOA’s Easter weekend report that showed a 90% increase in lodging camping nights (full bathrooms and kitchens in the units) and a 30% increase in cabin nights compared to the same period last year. Now over half of KOA’s 475 franchisees have lodging or roofed accommodations at their parks. And KOA has encouraged their franchisees to add lodging to their parks by waiving royalty fees on park model income for those units purchased this year for one year, which shows how important they believe lodging is to the mix of sites.
The public may finally be waking up to the existence of onsite accommodations in our nation’s RV parks and campgrounds thanks to continued industry promotions and press releases. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, this trend has not been overlooked by our nation’s public parks. I receive news feeds daily that talk about the cabins, park trailers and yurts that are being placed at state, national and county parks. Why is this happening? Because the demand is there! The public sector has done some feasibility studies indicating that onsite rentals are important to their customers and would fill a revenue-generating void. And they are not adding bare bones accommodations.
Recent headlines read “More Deluxe Cabins at Oregon State Parks” with bathrooms including a shower, living room with a futon, bedroom, dining table and chairs plus an entertainment cabinet with a TV and DVD. Industry PR consultant Jeff Crider reports that several county parks in California are adding park models to their camping mix. “We did a feasibility study and a master plan, and one of the features that was called out was cabins for folks who want to get outdoors and have a nice recreational experience, but don’t have a camping unit themselves,” said Scott Bangle, general manager of Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space Park District.
Even national parks are beefing up their park model presence with 25 park model cabins being delivered to Lassen National Park.
Statistics from the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) showed that only about 33% of their membership currently has some form of onsite rental – whether recreational park trailer (park models), teepees, yurts, tents or trailers.
Why not add a few park trailers or some other type of onsite rental accommodation to the mix of sites in your park?
- You can recognize potentially more income per site for an onsite rental vs. a transient site. KOA estimates that park model rental income is three times that of a typical site rental.
- The opportunity to expand your market to non-RV owner families. Onsite rentals can provide a cost-efficient vacation, and that’s one thing the traveling public is looking for. With the instability of gas prices, people are going to look to staying closer to home – have something to offer to that market.
- Areas not suitable for RVs in your park may better accommodate one of a variety of onsite rentals.
- I mentioned adding onsite rentals to the mix of sites in your park. This enables you to not be solely dependent on RV owners or tenters. Even some RV owners might consider leaving their RVs at home with the higher gas prices and choose to drive and stay in an onsite rental for a change.
- Having a mix of accommodations in your park can also add variety and interest. I have visited parks that have some unusual onsite accommodations like tree houses, an English double decker bus, a caboose, etc., which makes their park stand out. Lake-In-Wood Campground in Narvon, Pa., offers at least 19 “unique rentals” as they are referred to including a tree house, the double decker bus, and a shipwreck. All very unusual and add to the uniqueness of Klass Bakker’s park.
I’ve also seen some beautiful recreational park trailers that really add to a park’s ambiance. And, I’ve had the experience of spending a few nights in a yurt, which exceeded many of the hotel rooms I’ve had to stay in. The yurts were recently added to the mix of accommodations at Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort in Foxboro, Mass., owned by the Daniels family. They have a great kitchen, separate bedroom, bathroom, air-conditioning, huge surround deck with grill, table and chairs and a flat screen TV.
Payback on park models or other rental accommodations is usually two to three years, though some park owners are recognizing positive income in less time.
By the way, just adding some rentals to your mix of sites isn’t enough. You still have to promote that you have these rentals. Many state associations now have websites that promote your rentals as does ARVC, Woodall’s and Trailer Life. On-site rentals continue to be a growing profit area for RV parks and campgrounds. It will still take a while for the non-camping public to realize the great vacation opportunities available to them in our parks, but there is increased interest. And as more non-campers give the parks a try, the word will spread.
Linda Profaizer, a Colorado resident and immediate past-president of ARVC, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Having stepped away from her ARVC duties at the end of 2010, she welcomes input on topics of importance to campground owners for upcoming columns.