Cates: Outdoor Hospitality Industry Needs More Clarity on ‘Property Quality’
Editor’s Note: Andy Cates is the president of RVC USA Management LLC, the general partner of RVC USA LP. He founded Value Acquisition Fund, a commercial real estate acquisition and ownership company with assets throughout the Southeast and Texas in which Cates is still a partner. In 1999, Cates relocated to his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., to develop the $20 Million Soulsville Revitalization Project as its project developer and to serve as its board chairman. One of the largest inner city revitalization projects in the country, it includes the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, The Stax Music Academy and the Soulsville Charter School. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world – as well as the travel industry – has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Just as the hotel industry evolved to offer various products and segments (various types of hotels among multiple hotel brands), the outdoor hospitality industry is beginning to see a clearer definition of each type of property. This segmentation will continue to benefit both guests and owners.
Many outdoor and RV enthusiasts, especially folks who are new to our industry, are often surprised by the lack of clarity with regard to property quality and consistency.
They believe, as does RVC Outdoor Destinations, that the outdoor hospitality industry should have more clearly defined segments, and that the existing higher quality property owners are (or should be) the most motivated to capitalize on this segmentation.
Of the few terms we use to refer to a diverse range of properties within our industry, most are unclear and/or have lost any real meaning.
What, for instance, is the difference between an “RV Resort” and an “RV Park?”
If an “RV Park” has a majority of tie-down trailers and permanent residents, isn’t it more similar to a mobile home park?
Also, the term “RV Resort” has been so overused that guests no longer know what services it implies. More often than not, properties use this term to simply spruce up their marketing. Not only is this practice misleading, it damages the outdoor hospitality industry in that it fosters an atmosphere of overpromising and underdelivering.
In order to adequately distinguish themselves, upper end campgrounds are in dire need of fresher, clearer terminology.
As a whole, the industry continues to see greater interest in products like park models that extend the season, often provide higher unit returns, and can take advantage of existing infrastructure.
There’s a large number of potential customers who have great interest in renting a cottage or cabin, yet, when told that such a hospitality option is sitting within an “RV Park,” decline to pursue it further. Why aren’t we better educating both potential and existing customers and making it easier for them to appropriately select the experience they want?
RVC developed the “Outdoor Destination” concept in order to better identify properties that provide guests higher quality environments and great service – all at an attractive rate.
Although Outdoor Destinations are typically more RV site-oriented, they incorporate other products such as the RVC Resort Cottage, furnished and climate controlled yurts, handcrafted cabins and superior campground areas – all of which allow each property to appeal to a broad range of customers.
Although there are plenty of good “RV Parks,” there are many more that are really “Trailer Parks” or “Mobile Home Parks.”
It should be mentioned that there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these property types, as they all serve a specific market. However, it is a disservice to everyone involved if customers have a bad experience and/or feel misled.
Whether an RVC Outdoor Destination property or not, our industry should be proactive in defining each component and property type. This is especially important as we help grow the industry and attract new outdoor and RV enthusiasts.