80 Campgrounds Strong, LSI Grows
One of the largest private campground chains in the country is getting bigger, thanks in part to an increased craving for wholesome, face-to-face, family oriented activities.
“The dramatically increased use of hand-held electronic devices has left many families craving more face time with one another,” said Rob Schutter, chief operating officer of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts across the country.
But camping is all about “togethering,” spending quality time with family and friends, LSI said in an announcement about the company’s growth.
“When you go camping,” Schutter said, “you have the opportunity to spend quality time together. You sleep together, eat together, and you have more face-to-face communication than you normally have during the course of the work week. And when you throw in increasing variety of healthy and wholesome family oriented activities that we offer at Jellystone Parks, combined with roasting s’mores by the campfire, the net result is a fun and memorable bonding experience that can’t be achieved with text messages and Facebook postings alone.”
Jellystone Parks are famous for providing fun, family activities and themed weekends that include everything from crafts and games to wagon rides, birthday parties with the bears and daily appearances by Yogi Bear.
In addition to activities with Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Cindy Bear and Ranger Smith, Jellystone Parks offer themed weekend activities, such as Death by Chocolate weekends which often include chocolate Slip ‘N Slides, chocolate pudding wrestling or chocolate eating contests; Mardi Gras-themed weekends, with parades, cookouts and dances; Christmas in July weekends, with campsite decorating contests, campsite caroling, cookie- and ornament-making activities and visits by Santa Claus; and the increasingly popular Halloween themed weekends, which include costume and campsite decorating contests and trick-or-treating activities.
The Yogi Bear themed network is also increasingly offering planned activities that encourage a greater awareness of the need to protect our environment, using curriculum developed by Leave No Trace, a Boulder, Colo.-based non-profit organization that develops educational programs to help children and adults take better care of the environment.
Leave No Trace provides Jellystone Park operators with information on how to develop their own nature education programs, which park operators can tailor to suit their guests’ interests.
Schutter said consumer demand for the wholesome activities that Jellystone Parks provide is on the rise. Revenues and occupancies are also growing at Jellystone Parks across the country, and more independently owned and operated campgrounds are joining the Jellystone Park network.
Leisure Systems achieved an annualized revenue growth rate of about 8% in 2013, while its vacation rental occupancies increased by 8.5% and traditional sites by 3.4%, when comparing same-park-to-same-park data.
In the past three years, 14 campgrounds in 11 states have become Jellystone Parks, including campgrounds in Elberta, Ala; Gloucester Point, Va.; Harrisville, Pa.; Madison, Maine; Milford, Del.; Montrose, Colo.; Pittsfield, Ill.; Bloomington, Ind.; South Haven, Mich.; Tyler, Texas; Fredericksburg, Texas; Uniontown, Ohio; and recently added Mount Gilead and Big Prairie, also both in Ohio.
And while most Jellystone Parks are owned and operated by husband-and-wife teams, Jellystone Parks are also increasingly being acquired by other campground networks, which see them as valuable investments.
Several Jellystone Parks have been acquired by Chicago-based Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS), a publicly traded real-estate investment trust; Texas-based Legacy RV Resorts, a private company that owns 14 campgrounds across the country; and Grandville, Mich.-based Northgate Holdings LLC, which owns and operates four campgrounds across the U.S.
“In our due diligence of numerous parks across the country, we’ve discovered that the Jellystone Parks are some of the best-operated, highest-grossing and most-profitable RV parks,” said Northgate Holdings CEO Zachary Bossenbrock.
“Furthermore, the Jellystone Park brand and franchise standards have a tremendously loyal following. Not only are Jellystone Park guests loyal to a specific Jellystone Park, which oftentimes experiences 50% or better repeat business, but to the Jellystone system in general. We see great value in having a customer base that is loyal to the Jellystone brand.”
There are currently more than 17,000 campsites in the Jellystone Park network, including 12,000 traditional campsites, 3,000 seasonal campsites and more than 2,000 rental units.
Schutter said he anticipates continued growth in revenues and occupancies at Jellystone Parks this year, as well as continued growth in Jellystone network as more independently owned and operated campgrounds become Jellystone Parks.