20 - February 2018 Woodall’s Campground Management Savvy campground owners understand thatthoselookingtoenjoythegreatoutdoors aren’t necessarily looking to rough it. AlthoughRVshavemadeitpossibleformany families to enjoy a camping getaway with nearly all the amenities of home, not every- one wants to — or can afford — that kind of investment. Providing alternatives to tent camping is just another way campgrounds can stay ahead of the times. While this may previously have been limited to camping cabins or park model RVs, recenttrendsintheoutdoorhospitalityindus- try also mean more variety in alternative camping lodging options. Across the country campers can find “unconventional” accom- modationsrangingfromtheuniquebutrustic to lavish retreats with all the amenities of home. Offering campers an alternative to tents andpersonalRVscanbeaprofitableventure, while also enhancing the camp- ground’s theme, natural surround- ings and unique local cultures or history. This trend has become so popular the Kampgrounds of Amer- ica (KOA) website features search parameters for tent sites, RV sites, cabins and “unique,” so campers can look specifically for campgrounds with non-traditional accommodations. TheSt.Louis/HistoricRoute66KOAisone such park that falls into this category. Josh Bell, owner and operator of six KOA camp- grounds, including the St. Louis/Historic Route 66 KOA, inherited a red caboose with a varied history. “The caboose that’s located there was builtin1954andretiredinthe1980s,”hesaid. “It was on the Burlington Northern Railway, so when it retired from the railway it made its way to Eureka, Mo. It had two lives: it was a honeymoon suite for a while from the mid-’80s through the ’90s at The Red Carpet Inn,asmallhotelonRoute66,andthenitwas set up as a place to serve ice cream. In 2001 it made its way to the St. Louis KOA and has been there for about the last 15 years.” Although the novelty of the caboose brought in business, it became even more profitable with some modifications. “When we started listening to our guests and looking at our data of who was staying there, what we found was that it was all families,”saidBell.“Wehaveverymuchtried to tailor it to families and kids. “We overhauled the caboose three years ago when we took over the property,” Bell continued. “Now it has a queen size bed, a full bath with tub and shower, an RV-style dining booth that folds down into a bed, heat, ACandTV.Weprovidelinensandtowels.The only thing that isn’t there is a kitchen, although there is a small refrigerator. One of thefunthingswedidwastakethetopcupola, the part that pops up on top, and put a single bunk bed up there. There’s a little ladder kids canscrambleup,whichisahugehit.Families are the ones most interested in staying there.” Taking the time to analyze campground dataandviewnewtrendsmightleadtomod- ifications that can have a huge payoff in the end. After the caboose was remodeled to accommodate families, Bell believes the investment paid off big time. “By just going in and setting it up to hit the family market it probably doubled the rev- enue. Our investment has definitely paid off,” he said. “The rates vary greatly throughout the year, it can be as low as $99 a night in the winter/off-season and then in the summer it goes all the way up to $199 a night.” While everyone might not have the need for a train car, or even the access to one, some campground owners have found suc- cess with other unique accommodations. Jason Olson, sales manager for the Garden City, Utah-based Conestoga Wagon Co., said that campground operators who have decided to purchase the unique canvas- wrapped wagons the company produces have seen remarkable success. “An operator’s experience will depend on theirmarket,butwehadonecampgroundthat purchased four wagons and sold more than 600nightsbetweenMarchandOctober,”said Olson. “That is a great return on investment Park Model RVs and cabins are becoming ‘must have’ features — along with some truly different shelters — as park operators move to embrace non-RVing outdoor enthusiasts Cavco Industries Inc. soon-to-be-released Magnolia Series park model RVs will feature a contemporary farmhouse look with front and rear porches. Unique Accommodations,Interest in‘Glamping’ Show There’s More to a Campground than RVs After some remodeling, the red ca- boose at St. Louis/Historic Route 66 KOA is a hit with families. Conestoga wagons can give any campground a unique look.