Crackerbarrel: How Was the 2012 Season?
Woodall's Campground Management has begun a monthly survey of park owners and operators across the country to find out on a regular basis what you think about a given topic. We are doing it by e-mail and survey a different group of owners and operators on different topics each month.
With Labor Day in the books, a date which marks the beginning of the winding down of the summer season in many Northern parks, we are curious how your season is going. If you are in the Sunbelt, your peak season may lie ahead, but you still experienced some level of business this summer. The state of the economy has played a role on your business, which we also would like you to consider.
So the question is: How is your 2012 season evolving?
James Livers, owner, Boot Hill RV Resort LLC, Alamagordo, N.M.:
Our park has done about the same in 2011 and 2012. Slight variances but for the most part very similar. The traffic has slowed, however they seem to stay a little longer. Gas prices have an impact and the overall economy is unstable. Most folks we talk to have lost money in their retirement funds and are very cautious about spending. The rigs we see are another year older instead of upgrading.
Christine Carroll, park manager of CarrollWoods RV Park, Tabor City, N.C.:
CarrollWoods RV Park at Grapefull Sisters Vineyard has seen great changes this past year. In 2012, we had increased occupancy and were able to add additional amenities for our guests. We added the addition of glamping (glamorous camping) and due to a grant were also able to add Wi-Fi throughout our park as well as cable TV. The upcoming snowbird season looks to be profitable as our small park is already at 70 percent occupancy for the winter months. We are now in our fourth year of business and are excited about our first major expansion: the addition of a pool for the upcoming year. Though the Internet is No. 1, the No. 2 way our guests find us is by word of mouth and we have indeed made some wonderful friends this season. We are looking forward to providing them with more amenities and as always they are looking forward to our wonderful wines and unique quiet vineyard location that is so close to area beaches.
Pam and Walt Smith, managers, Sherwood Forest Campground, Gilbert, Minn.:
Tent camping is down a lot, RV is slow at best. Overall a very slow season. We are picking up a little now but after Labor Day expect a big slowdown. Aug. 29 was our last day at Sherwood Forest.
Kris Freeman, president, Grapevine7 Inc., Idaho:
We had a very interesting year in Idaho at our four parks. Two of our parks in the mountains saw greater traffic while our metro-Boise parks saw a little decline in traffic in all three categories we track: daily, weekly and monthly. It’s very difficult for us to show a trend in our parks because we have three different styles of parks ranging from campgrounds to resorts. They all carry different clientele and have different attractions around them. I can say that our decrease in our local market is partially due to two new parks opening in the surrounding areas that have increased the competition for stays. It’s our second year in ownership of one of our parks in the mountains and we feel that the combination of new ownership and marketing has increased the amount of stays at that park specifically and the other park we own has also benefited from the exposure of the other park and the convenience to each other. Overall we still see plenty of traffic and our numbers have maintained relatively consistent.
Scott Foos, vice president of business development for Horizon RV Resorts:
As a whole, 2012 has been a great year for our managed properties. Each location is outperforming 2011 in occupancy and revenue, and averaged together, we’re experiencing over 12 percent growth. The majority of our managed properties are summer-seasonal, and they’ll be winding down their seasons over the next 30 – 60 days. Even with decreased occupancy during the winter months at most of our properties, we’re expecting the same growth trend to continue into the fourth quarter. We’re very bullish on both the current and future economic viability of the Outdoor Hospitality industry and producing substantial returns for our owners, and looking forward to continued sustained growth in 2013 and beyond.
Bud Styer, owner, Smokey Hollow Campground, Lodi, Wis.:
We begin planning for each season just after Labor Day. We always plan for a better financial outlook because we have more data and we’re another year smarter!
Our season has hit all of our projections. The summer was hot and dry and with all our water stuff, campers came to cool off.
Our customers want a great family experience. Simply add to their past experiences and they will come back with their camping friend and family! "Camping for the Fun of It, It's all About the Stuff.”
Dave Napp, CEO of Carefree RV Resorts:
As far as our parks are concerned, we are having a stellar year. Our combined RV and MH revenues are up 6.7 percent year-to-date through July 2012 over the same seven-month period for 2011. We continue to aggressively manage expenses and have experienced only a 1.88 percent increase in expenses year-to-date through July 2012 over the same seven-month period for 2011. The combined increase in revenues and holding down expense increases has resulted in a 10.5 percent increase in our net operating income over last year. In the midst of a recession this is a spectacular result and is a credit to our senior management team, property managers and our entire associate staff for staying the course and keeping true to our Carefree mission.
Jim Zabrowski, owner, Nashville Country RV Resort, a Best Parks in America affiliate in Goodlettsville Tenn.:
We were up about 10 percent overall. Rental cabins were about the same. Seasonals were flat. However, I must explain we limit the seasonals and were full or the same for the last two years. We were up due to Nashville tourism getting over the flood of 2010.
Our most significant event was getting the word out that Nashville Country RV Park was the ARVC 2012 Small RV Park of the year. Also, the local Goodlettsville Little League team won the United States Little League Championship.
Kristine Daniels, marketing manager, Normandy Farms, a Best Parks in America affiliate in Foxboro, Mass.:
Campsite revenues were flat for 2012. Rentals were up about 15 percent since April 1.
We had better weather this year, particularly in the spring. Our rentals are booked on a weekly basis in the summer for $1,650 so I think this reflects that our guests are feeling more confident about spending money and also new campers that are testing out camping.
Phil Upton, owner, Holiday Travel Park, a Best Parks in America affiliate in Virginia Beach, Va.:
Our summer has been down due to the rainy weather we have had from early July through now. It is down approximately 10 percent. Our cabins were still fairly busy. I think their occupancy was even with the past few years. Due to rainfall every two to three days, and the most cloudy gray summer weather I have seen here, we are happy that our occupancies were not lower.
Our French-Canadian occupancy remained strong – those that had planned to come for a week or longer still came. Some left early but most spent time doing things other than the beach while in the area during less pleasant weather.
Maryo Poulin, owner, Du Village Bromont, a Best Parks in America affiliate in Quebec, Canada:
Summer business is up 4 percent. Seasonal business is up 2 percent. Admissions to our pool and beach were up 10 percent.