Holiday Trails RV Resorts: Biggest in Canada
Editor's Note: The following story by Kristopher Bunker appears in the July issue of Woodall's Campground Management and is a companion story to the overview of the current state of membership camping in the U.S. and Canada.
Seven resorts. Nearly 600 affiliate parks. Approximately 2,300 members. Not too bad for an organization started by an RCMP Mountie who purchased a single campground just outside of Vancouver back in 1978.
Ask around the Great White North – or stateside, for that matter – for a reputable campground membership park that offers great service, top-notch amenities and great locations, and Holiday Trails RV Resorts (HTR) will likely come up in the conversation. That’s because the Rosedale, British Columbia-based group’s recipe for success has always hinged on personal relationships with members and non-members alike. “We are continually told that the level of service people get at our parks — how friendly it is, how well the campers are treated — is why people come back time and time again,” says President/owner Kevin Demers.
Two years after he took the plunge into campground ownership, Demers found he was on to something. “I realized this was a business I really liked. Campers are people that are there to have fun and enjoy themselves. So, we bought a 25-acre piece of property about 90 minutes east of Vancouver in 1980. We then built and opened Camperland RV Resort.”
A short time later Demers was approached by the president of Holiday Trails Resort, and agreed to purchase 25% of the membership-campground company. In the ensuing years, Demers eventually bought out the remaining investors until he owned 100% of the company. 30 years and 1,500 sites later, Holiday Trails is still going strong. “We are the largest campground in Canada by far, both with the number of parks we own and the number of sites we have,” says Demers. “In 2013, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary for Holiday Trails, but it’s really been 35 years that we’ve been in this business.”
Much of that success can be attributed to the sales tactics employed by HTR. Rather than pounce on prospective members, The HTR staff takes a far more laid-back approach than is generally associated with membership camping. “Up here, we do not have any pressure,” says Demers. “Our sales people are trained to have a very soft, friendly sell.” In fact, HTR offers those interested in purchasing a membership up to a three-day “trial run” for only $39.95, plus tax. Those campers are asked to spend a 45-minute session with a membership consultant with no obligation to buy. “I only want members to join that really and truly want to be a member. If [our program] isn’t something that’s for them this year, we want them to leave the park feeling good, that they’ve been treated well and that they have plenty of info about membership camping,” says Demers.
HTR members enjoy a number of benefits, beginning with the scenic locations in British Columbia, Alberta and Washington. Plus, the campgrounds feature a variety of popular amenities. “At some of our parks we have private members’ clubhouses, private members’ lounges, private members’ washrooms,” says Demers. “There are also member specials like Internet and other perks. All of our parks have swimming pools, clubhouses, activities and of course Wi-Fi.”
HTR also offers a membership that is fully transferrable, to anybody, so long as the membership fees are paid. To become a member, customers pay a one-time up-front fee of between $6,000-$9,000 (which includes the immediate family), depending on the membership tier, plus annual dues of $600. That gets members full use of any of Holiday Trails’ RV parks all year, for up to 14 consecutive nights per park. After the 14 nights, members are free to stay at another park in the system for up to another 14 consecutive nights, and on and on. “In essence, you can camp in our system without any camping fees whatsoever,” says Demers. Plus, with reciprocal deals with many U.S. parks including Coast to Coast, Resort Parks International and Outdoor Adventures Resorts, members can camp at any of those locations for a nominal fee of about $10-$12 per night.
Another benefit of membership is the ability to connect with ownership to voice your concerns over the direction, condition and overall experience of HTR parks. Every year, HTR holds a member appreciation weekend for each park, and Demers doesn’t exactly mail it in. “For each weekend, we get about 100-150 members to attend. It always starts out with a meeting that, for 30 years, I have conducted myself. Nobody else has ever done it.”
It’s that kind of dedication that has helped HTR thrive for 30 years. In fact, Demers often drops by the resorts to make sure things are running smoothly. “When I visit other parks, I tour them extensively. I want to see what the park looks like, I want to see that the managers and the staff are maintaining the park the way I want it to be. Most importantly, I want to be seen, and I want to be available for questions.”
“The joy that I get out of this is that people come up to me and say, ‘We’ve travelled all over the place for the last 15-20 years, we’ve stayed at hundreds of campgrounds, and this park right here ranks up in the top 3,’” says Demers. But HTR isn’t satisfied yet. “We won’t rest on our laurels; we want to keep on staying ahead of the wave with new things,” says Demers.
Perhaps the biggest testament to Demers’ commitment to HTR is the fact that he lives on site at the original park, Camperland. If you’re ever in the Rosedale area, stop by, and look for the red golf cart.
Holiday Trails RV Resorts, (604) 794-7876, www.holidaytrailsresorts.com.