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Gorin Letter Explains Best Parks’ Rebranding

September 17, 2013 by · Comments Off on Gorin Letter Explains Best Parks’ Rebranding 

Branding network suspended.

David Gorin, founder of Best Parks in America, announced on Monday (Sept. 16) that Best Parks “has decided to overhaul its current operating platform as a prelude to growing the brand” and that in the interim it would suspend its branding operations.

A relaunch of the network is anticipated after at least 12 months.

Here is a copy of the letter he sent out to Best Parks affiliates last week announcing the decision.

Dear Best Park Affiliate:

Since our meeting in Orlando last November, we’ve been analyzing how to make Best Parks in America a visible, respected brand name. Our conclusion is that considerably more work needs to be done.

After careful consideration, we’ve decided to suspend Best Parks operations effective January 1, 2014. We will use the next 12 to 18 month to re-configure the brand. Our objective is to build a sustainable platform which produces quantifiable economic benefits to all participants.

Our recent examination of the business, which included visiting many of your parks, determined that the current structure is unsustainable. Further, the costs of building and testing a new platform exceeds the revenue generated by Best Parks. Rather than raise your rates, we felt it prudent to suspend operations and save you the 2014 expense while we continue to study what is required for the brand to be successful.

David Gorin

When we re-emerge, the structure will be different. The platform will include stringent standards that are validated by RVers and campers who seek the best experiences in the highest quality RV parks and campgrounds. Our marketing program will be re-tooled to focus on camper acquisition, retention, and loyalty. We will test website layouts, social media interactions, e-mail offers, cross-selling, reservation channels, guest recognition programs, and co-branded campaigns to find the most effective distribution techniques and channels and build our promotional strategies accordingly. We will use real time web reservations to provide quick, easy access to our parks.

Once we have completed work on the platform, you will be invited to rejoin. We look forward to the challenge ahead and are committed to delivering a service that has been market tested and proven.

We understand that many affiliates have already made advertising and marketing commitments that reference Best Parks in America. As you move forward for the balance of this year and into 2014, please refrain from using the name and logo on signs and any new materials.

We sincerely thank each and every park owner for their continued confidence in Best Parks and for their support over the years, many since the company’s inception in 2003. We are confident the process will lead to a stronger and more profitable brand for the independent, premium RV parks and campgrounds market.

 

Best Parks is Developing New Marketing Plan

September 16, 2013 by · Comments Off on Best Parks is Developing New Marketing Plan 

Best Parks in America is suspending active marketing of its brand for the time being.

In a news release send to Woodall’s Campground Management today, founder David Gorin stated, “Best Parks in America has decided to overhaul its current operating platform as a prelude to growing the brand. We believe the process will take at least 12 months. During this transition period, we feel the responsible action is to no longer actively support the current product. We have recently notified our affiliates of this strategic direction and look forward to re-launching our network of the finest independent campgrounds and outdoor resorts in North America.”

 

 

 

 

Normandy Farms:World Class Campground

March 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Normandy Farms:World Class Campground 

Entryway sign at Normandy Farms Campground

Nestled in a rolling, woodland near Foxboro southwest of Boston lies Normandy Farms Campground, a luxury camping destination that has been widely recognized as one of the premier resorts in the world.

From the moment one walks into the luxurious reception center and store, complete with a friendly check-in staff and concierge, campers realize the 100-acre Normandy Farms is some place special.

This multiple winner of Campground of the Year honors from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) draws its largest clientele from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Quebec but also attracts campers from around the world.

Normandy Farms is owned by brothers Al and Bob Daniels and their sister, Janis Pendergast, the children of campground founders Norman and Jeannette Daniels. Al is the president, Janis is the vice president and Bob is the treasurer.

Normandy Farms traces its history back nearly 300 years to a Frenchmen who settled in the area. In the late 1960s, Norman and Jeannette laid out a snowmobile park in the rolling hills and eventually turned that into a 45-site RV park starting in 1971 when they realized they needed another source of income. From there, the campground has evolved gradually through the years, but mostly in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when RVing became increasingly popular.

Today, the campground has more than 400 sites, including four cabins and three yurts. When filled, the campground resembles a small town with some 2,000 campers flitting among numerous amenities.

Recreation Lodge, a Campground Landmark

One of the pools at Normandy Farms Campground. The Recreation Lodge is in the background.

Normandy Farms has undergone several expansions through the years but there is still an orderly feel to the layout of the grounds.

A focal point of the campground is the Recreation Lodge in the center of the park, which gives Normandy Farms a true resort feel. The 20,000-square-foot lodge is centrally located, complete with an arcade, fitness center, indoor pool, sauna, double Jacuzzi and Adult & Activities Lofts. Most major events and entertainment are held at this fully air-conditioned facility.

The lodge has been open for several years and has undergone renovation and expansion.

In 2004, the fitness Center was opened and the pool area refurbished. In 2012, the Wellness Center opened. The wellness center features include Swedish or deep tissue massages, which are proving to be very popular among campers, noted Marcia Galvin, human resources director, daughter of Normandy Farms President Al Daniels and one of the three grandchildren of the campground’s founders who work at the resort.

Normandy Farms is truly a destination park, offering just about everything a park can offer. Among its other features are:

  • A Business & Information Center located in the Reception Center with a concierge who will assist campers in making dining reservations and help arrange their day trip outside the park complete with maps and literature.
  • A Creative Arts Center with a large theater screen and surround sound.
  • An 18-hole disc golf course.
  • A 1 ½-acre Freedom Tail dog park (where dogs are free to chase their tails) complete with agility equipment, a dog wash and drinking fountain.
  • Day kennels which allows dogs to hang outside in the comfort of their own custom Canine Coop complete with a doghouse. The campground also provides supervised pet walking.
  • A bike park that features a jump line, track and skills area.

Other recreation facilities include four swimming pools, two playgrounds, fishing pond and picnic area, horseshoe pits, full-court basketball, volleyball court, soccer field, bocce court, two softball fields and nature trails.

Conveniently located within the campground, the Kamper’s Kitchen, Normandy’s open-air snack bar, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner items along with ice cream and snacks. The snack bar is being doubled in size for the 2013 season, as Normandy Farms senses campers’ growing trend to do less cooking on their own, Galvin observed.

Thinking Ahead to Stay Ahead

Normandy Farms is coming off a good 2012 season, led by about a 13% rise in rental revenue. A warm spring got that season off to a good start, reported Kristine Daniels, marketing director and Galvin’s sister. Galvin and Daniels observed that the number of first-time campers is growing, helping to spur the rental occupancy rate. They expect that to continue this year.

A fountain graces this pond at Normandy Farms. Yurts are on top of the hill in the background.

Normandy Farms owners are always trying to anticipate their guests’ needs and wants, Galvin, explained, so the park is constantly undergoing improvements.

Indeed, the campground’s success is due to what Kristine calls “a collaborate effort of the family to be one of the best in the industry. We always try to think ahead of the competition and forecast the newest trends on how to best serve the industry.”

Management has crafted a vision statement, which is shared with and embraced by the staff. The statement reads: Normandy Farms Campground strives to be a renowned pioneer in the RV industry by being a profitable leader, remaining on the cutting edge with technology, providing creative and innovative recreation activities, utilizing environmentally friendly practices, providing the highest quality of guest service, and exceeding guest value with pristine amenities through working professionally and efficiently as a team.

First-time visitors remark about the quality guest service. David Tetrault, executive director of the Northeast Campground Association (NCA), recalled his visit to Normandy farms last fall.

“The members of NCA were invited to Normandy Farms for our annual Great Escape,” he related. “As my wife Pat and I approached the registration office for the very first time, we were greeted by this bubbly young girl that had all our tickets, badges and passes ready for us in one neat envelope. As I continued on and approached the gatehouse, I was in the wrong line and had to call for help. Help came quickly from a young man that treated me like I was his best friend and stopped the on-coming traffic so I could proceed. Our reservation included a cabin and as we drove up to the front door, we found our name engraved on the sign. The guest services during our three days at Normandy Farms continued to astonish us.”

Visitors also remark how clean the campground appears. There’s a good reason for this.

“We train our staff to pick up trash – everyone is on littler control,” noted Galvin.

Another first impression is the large number of boulders that dot the grounds. Hundreds of them. They weren’t moved there by man but by the last glacier that came through eons ago.

Recreational facilities at Normandy Farms are superior, such as this playground.

Marketing a Premier RV Park & Campground

Marketing Normandy Farms falls primarily on the shoulders of Kristine Daniels.

“Most of our advertising is focused within New England; however, we also advertise in the Good Sam/TL directory as well as the MACO (Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners) directory, which is distributed all over, including at the New England camping shows. We also print brochures, which are distributed to sports and outdoor stores throughout New England and to guests upon request. We specifically target New England states with special state weekend discounts.

“Our website also attracts many visitors and we have a newsletter with over 40,000 subscribers, but most of our business is through word of mouth and repeat guests. We do virtually zero advertising in Quebec, yet they’re our fourth highest market.”

The Quebecois are likely attracted by Normandy Farms’ trilingual website which is offered in French, as well as Spanish and English.

Kristine Daniels (standing) and her sister, Marcia Galvin, are key staff members at Normandy Farms Campground.

Staffing

Normandy Farms maintains a seasonal staff of around 120 people and holds a job fair every spring to fill open spots. Staff will interview as many as 300 people to fill 40 spots.

“We have a core staff that returns year after year and have about a 33% turnover rate,” said Galvin. “We hire for character, not the skills. We can teach the skills.”

Galvin makes sure staff is familiar with the community and can quickly refer campers to area attractions. In fact, Galvin leads an annual excursion into Boston to familiarize new office staff with the attractions there.

Normandy Farms is active in state and national campground matters.

Galvin is executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners (MACO) and is first vice chairman of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and in line to become chairman in 2014. Her father, Al Daniels, is a former ARVC chairman.

The resort is also a member of Best Parks in America network and the Northeast Campground Association (NCA).

“For all the years I’ve been associated with the park industry, Normandy Farms has been at the very top of the industry,” said David Gorin, founder and president of Best Parks. “The Daniels family has always known what the business is all about far ahead of the crowd – attention to delivering the best guest services, attention to every detail of the physical and recreation facilities, attention to every aspect of operations and the business, and attention and leadership of the industry. There is no doubt that Normandy Farms represents the best of the park industry. Best Parks is truly delighted to have this exemplary resort as a Best Parks in America affiliate.”

Normandy Farms hosted the NCA’s Great Escape for campground owners last September and is a key supporter of The Jimmy Fund, a benevolent fund in the Northeast. Normandy Farms is a founding member of the first ARVC 20 Group, which has been meeting for the past 18 years.

Improvements

In 2012, the campground installed a new reservation service, which included the capability to show pictures of every reserveable site. The resort also added several lean-to tent sites.

Added Kristine Daniels, “Most of our focus and investment for 2013 will be on our infrastructure as we continue to upgrade our sites to ensure that most offer cable TV and 50-amp electric.”

Most RV sites are metered to measure electrical consumption.

The campground provides ample storage for RVs and boat during the off-season.

Promoting Massachusetts, Green Park and Shoulder Seasons

Normandy Farms helps promote the area through its concierge service. The campground is located just 30 miles from Boston where visitors can walk the Freedom Trail viewing unique historical sites and just 50 miles from Cape Cod where campers can enjoy the salty air while having a romantic ocean side dinner. Normandy Farms is also just 5 miles from Patriot Place and the Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Not to mention a short distance from Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, a commute made even easier by public transportation.

Normandy Farms also distributes a free monthly e-newsletter, which contains information about specials, upcoming events and much more.

Normandy Farms is a “green” park. The park offers single sort recycling, sensor lights at the restroom and laundry facilities, water saving devices on the showers, and waterless urinals in the men’s restrooms. Staff also replaced all of the lights in the park with fluorescent bulbs.

Normandy Farms also hosts themed birthday parties April 1 through May and Labor Day through November on Sunday afternoons and midweek; and baby and bridal showers from after Labor Day until it closes for the winter and then April 1 until mid-June. After that, the park facilities are for our camping guests only.

Normandy Farms Campground

Location: 72 West St., Foxboro, Mass.

Season: April 1 – Nov. 30 (While the office remains open and continues to take reservations, the campground is closed for all activities from Dec 1 – March 31.

Phone: (866) 673-2767

E-mail: camp@normandyfarms.com

Website: www.normandyfarms.com

 

Growing Up at Normandy Farms Campground

Editor’s Note: Marcia Galvin shares some personal memories of her early years at Normandy Farms with her sister, Kristine.

“Kristine and I both grew up at the park. We opened when I was 7, three years before my sister was born. My most fond memories are the friends that I made. I not only had my school friends but I had friends from all over the country. I still keep in touch with many of them, in fact we have Normandy Farms reunions with the kids that all grew up here! Many of them continue to camp here with their families.

One of the specific memories that I have is when my sister was 3 and I was 13 and I was assigned babysitting duties at the campground. Well, my sister has always been pretty independent and wanted to do her own thing so when I lost track of her and we later found her at the Rec Lodge, my father grounded me until I was 16! It didn’t last 3 years.

Since the campground was still a farm for many years, many of my memories involve that part of the campground. I had a pet lamb as a kid. I learned to drive a standard truck at 14 so I could drive in the hay fields while my dad and uncle bailed hay and I had my own small snowmobile to ride around the fields.

We both worked at the campground all through school, myself in the office and Krissy at the pool. We both went to college and worked in our fields but ended up coming back to work here full time. I am very blessed to have been given the experience of growing up in a campground and am more blessed to be able to allow my children the same experiences.”

 

 

Gorin Discusses New Best Parks Arrangement

March 4, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

David Gorin

David Gorin is the former president of ARVC and is currently the president of Best Parks in America and the principal of David Gorin Associates LLC. He writes a monthly column for Woodall’s Campground Management. He can be reached by e-mail at david@bestparksinamerica.

First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I created Best Parks in America in 2003 and have owned the intellectual property, the brand and the program since that time.

In 2013, Best Parks is breaking new ground. As announced on Feb. 4, I’ve basically sold Best Parks to long time park owner, real estate investor and entrepreneur Reza Paydar. Reza’s plans for Best Parks call for significant expansion of the brand, the establishment of standards and inspections to assure the parks in the system stand behind the brand name, stepped up consumer marketing and advertising, the introduction of a recognition and loyalty program to reward consumers, and a new, warmer and more welcoming website.

I will continue to be the president of Best Parks and look forward to working with Reza and all of the affiliates to continue to grow and expand the Best Parks brand.

Congratulations, Reza, on acquiring the Best Parks brand. Together and with the support of the affiliates, there’s no doubt that this brand is taking its place along side the prominent industry brands that have carved out their places among consumers. The Best Parks brand provides a home for consumers seeking the best and most unique guest experiences as they enjoy RVing and outdoor recreation across America.

Thanks to all who have supported and worked cooperatively with Best Parks over the last 10 years. And for those who have sat on the sidelines over the years, if your park can uphold the Best Parks name and brand, we invite you to contact Reza or me to learn more about the brand and how it can improve your park business.

National Parks to Become Ghost Towns?

Budget sequestration – coming Feb. 28? If Congress fails to enact a new federal budget, current law calls for sharp and dramatic cuts in federal spending set to take place on Feb. 28 (or March 1).

On Jan. 25, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis warned top Park Service officials that budget sequestration could lead to widespread closures of park units and other operations reductions.

In a memo to staff, Jarvis said, “We expect that a cut of this magnitude, intensified by the lateness of the implementation, will result in reductions to visitor services, hours of operation, shortening of seasons and possibly the closing of areas during periods when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, employees, resources, and government assets.”

Imposition of the anticipated 5% budget cuts (down from 8.2%) would be devastating.

“This would be devastating for America’s national parks, for the nearly 300 million Americans who visit them, and for the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources the parks were established to protect,” said Maureen Finnerty who heads up an organization of retired Park Service officials. “Additionally there will be steep impacts to the private sector – the hundreds of concession businesses operating inside of the parks, the stores operated by cooperating associations in park visitor centers, not to mention the economies of the communities adjacent to parks and entire states that depend so heavily on both tourism and other spending done by the parks.”

For all these reasons, let’s hope that by the time you read this article, steps would have been taken to avoid sequestration and the devastating impacts that could have on the gateway communities that serve the national parks and on the economy in general.

Writer Questions Parks on Check-Out Times

Just in case you missed this, the editor of RV Traveler newsletter, a weekly newsletter supposedly read by more than 200,000 RVers each week, took RV parks and campgrounds to task for 11 a.m. check-out times. The writer questioned the need for such an early check-out time since parks do not have to replace linens, clean rooms and accomplish other chores typically done in hotels. Why, he questioned, couldn’t parks extend the check-out time to 1 p.m.?

According to the editor Chuck Woodbury, “Letters poured in last week about my essay urging campgrounds to extend their check-out times from a stingy 11 a.m. to later. Most of the readers agreed with my comments, but others, mostly workampers, defended the early check-out time with horror stories about awful campers who left their campsites a mess. Most of their stories, however, had nothing to do with check-out times. “They pulled apart a fence to use for firewood,” was one comment.

“Most of these people said that if someone wanted to stay longer, they were usually allowed. They just need to ask. I say that they should not need to ask. One o’clock should be the official time, not 11 a.m.,” wrote Woodbury.

“From what I have observed through the years, nearly all campgrounds have campsites available for any early arrivals because 90% of the overnight campers leave early. My guess is that 99.7% of campers leave their space as clean as when they arrived and I don’t think RV parks kick us out early because they need time to clean our sites: I think they do it because they have always done it, and nobody bothers to ask “Why?” So I say that unless there is a compelling reason, RV parks should do away with the 11 a.m. check-out time and make it 1 p.m. It’s the right thing to do.”

Chuck, I can think of several reasons why parks adhere to an 11 a.m. check-out time.

First, many parks do a “housecleaning” of a site before the next visitor arrives. Sites need to be blown off, picnic tables and grills need to be cleaned, pedestals and utility connections need to be cleaned and checked, in some cases electric meters need to be read, and landscaping may need to be trimmed and cared for. The larger the park, the longer it can take to be sure each site is prepared and ready for the next guest.

Second, with the expansion of the number of rental units in parks, housekeeping is a bigger job then ever before. To keep staffing requirements at reasonable levels, site and cabin housekeeping may be done by the same crew and the job is bigger than you think.

Third, there are often new guests arriving who are just as eager for an early check in as departing guests might be for late checkouts.

I don’t know of any hard and fast rule among park owners that specifies that 11 a.m. check-out is set across the industry. Parks set their own rules based on their own needs and the needs of their guests. As hotels will often allow late check-outs upon request based on incoming check-ins and the hotel needs to housekeep the rooms, parks too will often allow late check-outs on request.

Park owners out there: I’d be happy to share any messages you might have for Chuck Woodbury on this issue of later check-outs. Feel free to forward comments to me at david@davidgorinassociates.com and I’ll be glad to forward them to Chuck.

 

 

 

KOA Says Time to ‘Rebrand’ Parks Has Arrived

March 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on KOA Says Time to ‘Rebrand’ Parks Has Arrived 

The dust has settled over the dramatic announcement last fall that Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) would embark on a new program to segment or rebrand its nearly 480 campgrounds into one of three categories and by and large, the bold move has won style points from across all sectors of the RV park and campground industry.

The idea is to step away from a “one-size-fits-all” perception of KOA parks in the public’s eye and, in the process, to generate new business among consumers who will have a better ability to match their expectations with the park at which they choose to spend the night, the weekend or an entire vacation.

Says Jim Rogers, KOA CEO who came to KOA from the hotel industry, “We have to appreciate that this is where we have come from and that our research tells us that there are still millions upon millions of campers in this country that think of us as an Interstate system. This is how we begin to break through that perception.”

Industry members sampled by Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) had glowing comments:

  • “I embrace it,” said Al Johnson, executive vice president of Outdoor Adventures Co., a Hill City, S.D., firm that owns 10 KOAs from coast to coast and is the largest franchisee.
  • “We think segmentation is inevitable,” said Andy Cates, president of RVC Outdoor Destinations, a Memphis-based owner of upscale RV resorts across the Southeast. “KOA is such a large player in our industry, their movement to segmentation is important for all of us and for the entire industry.”
  • “I’m not surprised by KOA’s move to segment its parks,” said David Gorin, founder and president of Best Parks in America. “I’m sure they’ve extensively studied every aspect of this very significant move and that they’ve got a very sound strategy to make the segmentation work for their exceptional brand.”

KOA President Pat Hittmeier speaking at the 2012 KOA convention.

Definitions Still Being Formulated

KOA plans to brand its parks into one of three categories: Journey, Holiday and Resort. The standards for each category are still being formulated but in general, the Journey campgrounds are designed for overnight guests who are looking more for a place to spend the night than for an amenity-rich park. The Holiday campground would be more of a destination park, while the Resort campground would be a place that has an abundance of services and facilities.

The concept of segmentation is patterned after the hotel or indoor hospitality industry where it has proven very successful among consumers who have developed clear ideas on the differences among accommodations.

For his part, Pat Hittmeier, KOA president, said the initial reaction to the branding strategy among KOA franchisees when KOA unveiled it to all the franchisees at the convention in Orlando, Fla., was one of acceptance.

During the convention, Hittmeier told WCM, “Based on the kind of reaction we’re getting here with this record crowd, I’d say that we were on the right track. We laid things out on the first day and have been talking about this new program in the hallways and we’ve got a lot of momentum going with this right now, and I think it’s going to be very big.”

Over the winter, franchisees had more time to think it over.

“As things settled down, people become more tentative,” he said.

“The reality is, I’ve become very confident in what we’re doing and the reasons why we’re doing it. I think the franchisees are struggling with it,” Hittmeier said.

KOA distributed two brochures to franchisees detailing the new strategy, and owners have now had several months to pour over the details.

To further gauge public reaction and iron out the weak points, KOA top management met with the 12-member board of the KOA Owners Association in February in Florida to review the plan.

Hittmeier expects as many as 50 “early adopters” will open their campgrounds this season reflecting the rebranding, while others may take several years.

KOA projects to have the entire system rebranded by mid-2016, he said.

Outdoor Adventures Co.’s Johnson anticipates his firm will have two to three campgrounds that meet the Resort brand and two to three that fit the Journey brand, with the rest falling into the Holiday category.

“We’re still trying to figure out what we need to do for each of our properties, figure out who our customers are at each one and figure out which branding will apply,” said Johnson, an exercise that every KOA franchisee was likely engaged in over the winter.

He expects the company will have to make certain expenditures at each park, no matter what category they end up in.

The necessary expense to meet the new criteria is part of the initial backlash that KOA expected from the rebranding, Hittmeier said.

“I feel like the process we’re initiating includes a longer timetable,” Hittmeier said, because it will give campgrounds time “to pay attention to things that are most important to the guests: improving campsites for size, power, access and angles. We have many parks that already do that; some don’t. The process to get the majority to meet these criteria could take many years. The bottom line is: it will improve the quality of the system.”

At the same time, Hittmeier stressed that this new way of looking at KOA’s franchised and corporate-owned parks is not a “good, better, best” type of formula, but one that should instead appeal to an Internet-minded world in which a demanding and time-starved public has increasingly exhibited a “need-to-know” or a “know-before-you-go” sort of attitude. And KOA’s management believes these new brand positionings will not only help set those expectations, but, according to the plan, ultimately drive new business to KOA campgrounds.

Andy Cates

Cates the Cheerleader Applauds KOA Move

There may be no one in the campground sector more excited about the KOA rebranding than RVC’s Cates. He has met with KOA often over the past four years to discuss industry matters, and quite often the topic of branding came up in discussion, Cates and Hittmeier confirmed. “They have been open and friendly about it,” Cates said of his talks with KOA. “We have absolutely begged them to accelerate what we knew they needed to do.”

“We felt when we started RVC that branding was inevitable,” Cates said, a mantra he has tossed around in so many discussions across the industry that he concedes listeners are “sick of hearing it.” But, he quickly adds, “It is necessary for everyone in the industry to hear. It is critical that it moves forward and accelerates. I know guests want to know what they’re getting. That is also true for franchisees and individual property owners to find out where they fit in.”

Cates continued, “I think their current segmentation effort is probably a compromise between what we would consider segment definitions and their reality in trying to keep a big tent in place. Regarding the pushback (from franchisees), there will be some pushback but ultimately they will keep some franchisees happy. If this keeps strong properties in the network, then good for KOA. They needed to do that. It’s not who they will anger but who they will keep in the long term. We would posit they didn’t have a choice. It’s more dangerous not to segment.”

He feels that RVC is establishing the “Hilton niche” in the outdoor hospitality market, but it becomes harder for guests to identify if they can’t compare it to the entire industry and other players. In the long run, this move by KOA will benefit RVC, he maintains.

Cates said KOA is not only the most recognized brand in outdoor hospitality but also one of the most identifiable among all U.S.-based franchises of any product or service. Yet, within KOA is “extraordinary inconsistency across the properties. Physically, these properties are very different.”

Outdoor hospitality is such a diverse industry that it is hard to segment, Cates admits, unlike the hotel industry. Indeed, RVC’s own definition of segments within the industry differs greatly from KOA’s. For example, Cates and RVC identify five different segments within outdoor hospitality. They term them campgrounds, RV parks,

RV resorts, outdoor destinations and luxury motorcoach resorts and like KOA, RVC has extensive definitions for each segment.

Cates said he was heartened by the fact that KOA will adopt a form of quality assurance to guarantee that each of their franchisees who adopt one of the three brand names are what they profess to be. “Campgrounds are not going to be able to just hang the sign up tomorrow without having to make sure that they meet these qualifications that we can then market to that particular defined camper to help drive that business,” Hittmeier said.

That’s good news to Cates, who considers his RVC holdings upscale resorts, which will now be competing on a more level playing field with other parks, at least the KOA ones, that call themselves “resorts.”

However, Cates quickly added, “We are much less concerned about the specific definitions and more excited about the broader conversation.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Johnson said he’s glad KOA chose the word “journey” to describe the campground best suited for overnight travelers, the type of campground his company seems to specialize in.

“The journey serves a traveling market. It’s helpful to us. We don’t have to wonder if we have to be doing resort style amenities. We don’t need an Olympic swim pool or a hall for reunions” to be considered a “journey” park.

As an outsider, Cates says he’s still thinking through whether KOA went far enough in its segmentation.

For example, he noted that some KOA franchisees have made a considerable investment in their campgrounds but they are in isolated areas. “Other properties are in good locations and in good markets but the property owner is not putting dollars into the property. That is their biggest challenge.”

Of the 26 campgrounds that KOA directly owns, Hittmeier anticipates that four will carry the Resort label with most falling into the Holiday category.

The Outlook for Segmentation

Not all in the industry are going to wrap their arms around segmentation, Cates predicts.

“There are some major players who do not want segmentation,” he said. “They don’t care. They say they do but they don’t. They are investors. They are manufactured housing operators. I don’t think they are motivated to see significant change in customer expectation. If you are a giant and the world is working just fine for you, change is not in your best interest.”

Cates also anticipates there will be KOA franchisees who are in a great market and want to be considered a “resort” property but KOA will say they can’t because the franchisee is not meeting the resort standards and the franchisee is unwilling to make the capital investment to meet the standard.

“That will lead to a lot of uncomfortable conversations,” Cates said.

When asked whether he thought the KOA rebranding would become an industry trend, Hittmeier initially said, modestly, “I don’t think so.”

But on further consideration, he said he would not be surprised if parks adopt some of KOA’s principles in marketing themselves.

“They might look at it as a way to address their marketplace. It’s the best way to compete in a local marketplace, in an area with, say, five RV parks around you; I think they’ll do that.

“Out 10 to 15 years in this industry, the natural tendency of the independent operators will be to congregate in groups, maybe a common ownership to a Best Parks kind of thing going on. It could be campgrounds that focus on transient overnight business become their own marketing group.”

Does KOA risk losing some franchisees over the branding effort?

Hard to say, says Hittmeier. But, he added, “KOA will work hard to keep that from happening.”

In summary, Hittmeier said, “I feel good that it will be a good platform for us to improve the overall experience for our guests at KOA campgrounds and improve the quality. It’s not easy to do when you have a lot of independent parks. In the end, it will increase our business.”

 

Morningside RV Estates Joins Best Parks

February 21, 2013 by · Comments Off on Morningside RV Estates Joins Best Parks 

New Best Parks in America affiliate

An affiliate of Athena Real Estate, a real estate investment and advisory firm focused on specialty collateral types including RV parks, recently purchased Morningside RV Estates, a 400-site, 55-plus RV park located in Dade City, Fla.

The property is located in Pasco County and caters to the senior community. Morningside RV Estates announced that it has been accepted as a Best Park In America, a prestigious affiliation for the highest quality RV parks and campgrounds in the nation, according to a news release.

Richard J. O’Brien, CEO and founder of Athena Real Estate, said, “We are extremely pleased that Morningside RV Estates was named as one of the Best Parks In America. This is a wonderful 55-plus community with high quality amenities, large lots and terrific infrastructure. The property is an attractive location for retirees and is conveniently located near retail stores and medical  facilities. Its close proximity to Tampa and Orlando also is a big draw.”

Morningside is one of the newest affiliates of Best Parks, a national network of the top 10% of America’s RV parks and campgrounds as rated by the industry’s rating companies and consumers. Best Parks in America currently has a network of 70 of the nation’s highest rated parks located in 27 states. The network’s website, www.BestParks.com, allows RVers and campers to easily and quickly identify the very best places to stay. Best Parks also publishes an annual complimentary print directory that can be ordered online.

“Morningside is one of the nicest extended stay luxury RV parks in Florida and is yet one of the best kept secrets. We are honored to be associated with and recognized as one of the Best Parks in America. This affiliation will help us get the word out,” remarked O’Brien.

RVers and campers are invited to join Best Guests in America, a complimentary camping club. Members of Best Guests receive special recognition and “advantages” when they check in at any Best Park. For information about joining Best Guests and taking advantage of these special advantages, go to www.bestparks.com.

“We are delighted to welcome Morningside RV Estates as one of the newest Best Parks in America and congratulate the owners and staff on this achievement,” said David Gorin, network president. “The park truly represents the best of the RV park and campground industry. Achieving the high ratings required to be part of Best Parks is no easy task.”

 

 

Reza Paydar New Majority Owner of Best Parks

February 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on Reza Paydar New Majority Owner of Best Parks 

Best Parks in America is not only under new leadership but its new capital investor, Reza Paydar, plans to make the network of 70 parks across the U.S. into a worldwide known product.

David Gorin, Best Parks founder and president, announced Paydar’s investment during a news conference today (Feb. 4).

Gorin, based in Virginia, will remain the Best Parks spokesman and president, but Paydar, a Californian, takes on the new role of chairman and majority owner.  Paydar has extensive experience in building successful RV resorts, hotel and commercial property developments as well as other types of companies, Gorin noted.  Deb Kohls will continue as vice president of Best Parks

Reza Paydar

The changeover occurred about three weeks ago.

“For the last year or so we have been working hard to identify new sources of capital for Best Parks in America to develop the program and brand and to secure high-level executive leadership to move the network forward. I am excited to say we accomplished both elements,” Gorin said.

David Gorin

Paydar’s investment in Best Parks ties in with several of the major points raised during Best Parks’ first membership conference held last November in Orlando, Fla., Gorin noted.

The landmark conference drew Best Parks affiliates as well as representatives from international campground associations.

At that time, Best Parks in America affiliates agreed progress was needed in five areas:

  • Building a state of the art website that will exceed consumer expectations and will serve as the welcoming face of Best Parks In America.
  • Introducing on line reservation capability that will allow consumers to make 24/7/365 reservations directly from the Best Parks website.
  • The creation of a consumer loyalty, recognition and reward program beginning with the Best Guests in America Advantages program being launched in the next two months, and moving rapidly towards a total system on par with those in other industries.
  • Renewed focus on promotion and advertising to expand the visibility and awareness of Best Parks among consumers.
  • Development and implementation of a brand compliance program including an inspection program to assure that all of the Best Parks are complying with brand standards and meeting the highest standards of facilities, amenities, staffing and guest services expected of Best Parks affiliates and expected by our guests.

Progress is being made on accomplishing all five points, Gorin said.

For example, starting this year Paydar said all Best Parks affiliates will undergo an inspection to guarantee that they meet the standards expected of all members.

Gorin said Best Parks, heretofore a brand with a decided “Eastern” composition, has identified many “target markets” west of the Mississippi River to expand its footprint in the coming years. The idea, Paydar said, is that the Best Parks brand will become so compelling that its ranks will grow well beyond the present membership of 70.

Improving the technology aspects of Best Parks affiliates is at the heart of the new alliance.

Paydar is a 30-year veteran of the RV park industry and owner of the upscale Sunland RV Resorts chain based in Southern California, including Best Parks affiliate Emerald Desert RV Resort in Palm Desert, Calif., and Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, Fla. He said he plans to promote the software available through his RMS North America holding as a software platform not only for Best Parks members’ reservations systems in the U.S. but also, at present, to promote the brand internationally, primarily in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Paydar’s investment in Best Parks ties in directly with his RMS North America venture.

Paydar said he recognized more than four years ago that the outdoor hospitality industry needed the computer software and technology that connected the indoor hospitality industry. Providing that connectivity was essential to serve national as well as international travelers, he said.

Now, with the strategic alliance between RMS North America and Best Parks in America, the two will create a synergy that will serve them both in a competitive marketplace, Paydar said.

Best Parks affiliates that choose to adopt RMS software will benefit from this alliance, not only through improved software, but also through connectivity to domestic travelers and international travelers who will become familiar with the high standards set by Best Parks, Paydar said.

Best Parks in America already has a strategic partnership with the Leading Campings of Europe, an organization similar to Best Parks in America, and the two are laying the groundwork for an organizaiton that would have worldwide representation, from areas such as Australia, New England and South Africa.

Landmark Conference

In kicking off the first-ever national Best Parks conference in Orlando, Gorin sounded two themes. The objective of Best Parks in America, which was founded in 2003, is to become a household word among first RVers and then among the general outdoor recreation and travel enthusiasts. The second objective during 2013 and beyond is to build bridges between BPA and every part of the park industry, the consumer, RV manufacturers, dealers, the media and travel writers.

Paydar echoed those themes again during today’s press conference.

He noted that while the indoor hospitality industry has direct connectivity with airlines and rental car agencies, the outdoor hospitality industry has no similar ties with RV manufacturers or even dealers.

“Everybody is on their own to operate separately,” he said. “My goal is to bring both industries together and bring the services together that would be beneficial to RVers.”

In remarks to the Best Parks in America board of directors at a special meeting on Jan. 31, Paydar pledged 100% of his efforts toward building the Best Parks brand. “The challenge ahead is great, make no mistake about it,” Paydar said. “I am committed to our success and I am very confident that by working cohesively and diligently together as a national team of premium RV parks and property owners, we can change the landscape of the park industry and build a brand that exceeds customer expectations and improves the business and profitability for all the affiliated parks.”

For more information about Best Parks in America landmark conference in Orlando, click here to read a story from Woodall’s Campground Management.

 

 

Best Parks in America Adds Four Affiliates

January 30, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Best Parks in America, a national network of highly rated RV parks and campgrounds continued its strong growth during January adding four new affiliated parks in Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Arizona.

“The addition of these new parks come in popular markets where RVers enjoy visiting and we’re delighted to have new affiliates in the Tampa, Fla., metropolitan area, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Branson, Mo., and Yuma, Ariz.,” Best Parks President David Gorin stated in a news release. “As we expand we are looking towards building a network of parks in the most popular markets for RVing, camping and all kinds of outdoor recreation and hospitality,” said Gorin.

The new parks are described below.

America’s Best Campground in Branson.

America’s Best Campground, Branson, Mo., gives Best Parks in America its first property in this very popular country music city. Owned by Jim and Sue Alkire, America’s Best Campground (ABC for short) has a long history of being the top-rated park in the Branson area.

ABC has been the recipient of the Good Sam Welcome Mat Award every year since the award was created in 2003. This is testimony to the excellent customer service as judged by their guests.

The resort sells tickets to most of Branson’s shows and attractions and helps guests make the most of their Branson experience. “We often can negotiate special discount rates with some of our favorite shows, and pass those along to our guests,” said Sue Alkire.

The resort is known for being “City Close, Country Quiet”. Located just outside the city limit the park offers easy access in minutes to any of the area shows and attractions.

“We at America’s Best Campground are excited about becoming a Best Parks of America affiliate. This recognition of excellence and our on-going quality of customer service go hand in hand to make our guests feel welcome and special,” said Jim Alkire.

Shangri-La RV Resort in Yuma, Ariz.

Shangri-La RV Resort in Yuma, Ariz., is a true oasis in this southern Arizona paradise for wintering RVers. Resort owners and entrepreneurs John and Tami Heidrich have lovingly cared for and developed Shangri-La into Yuma’s finest RV resort.

Family owned and operated for the last 25 years, Shangri-La has been named one of the Top 100 Parks in the Good Sam network nationwide for the last three years.

Always on the look out for new and different ways to entertain and serve their guests, the park recently build the largest remote control race track in Yuma.

Tami Heidrich is rightfully proud of their resort and when asked about why they affiliated with Best Parks in America responded that “our family is proud to be a part of the Best Parks in America family. We have and continue to work hard to provide an RVing experience that makes our customers happy and wanting to return.”

Best Parks in America is also pleased to welcome Morningside RV Estates as one of our newest affiliates in Dade City, a suburb of Tampa, Fla.

Morningside RV Estates in Dade City, Fla.

Morningside RV Estates, an extended stay luxury RV Park, is a 400-site 5-star 55-plus gated RV park with full amenities. The park has two clubhouses, an enclosed heated pool, shuffleboard courts, horseshoe pits, two laundries, billiards, a library and a golf cart path to the Walmart.

Morningside is big rig friendly with its large lots (2,160 square feet) and wide streets. Morningside has commercial lighting, three ponds, Wi-Fi, a hurricane/tornado shelter, and all underground electric and municipal water and sewer. The community is pet friendly.

The community is extremely active with bingo, pot luck dinners, water aerobics, outside entertainment, poker tournaments, shuffleboard, horseshoes, dart tournaments, holiday gatherings, game night and more. The property is an attractive location for retirees and is conveniently located near retail stores and medical facilities.

Richard J. O’Brien, CEO and founder of Athena Real Estate who owns Morningside, said, “We are pleased for Morningside RV Estates to be affiliated with Best Parks in America. This affiliation is part of our plan for this recent acquisition to provide the best possible outdoor hospitality experience to the discerning high quality guest that Best Parks in America attract.”

Athena Real Estate was founded in 2004 by O’Brien, who is a former executive of a mid-cap public hotel REIT and a large real estate financial services and investment company.

Cypress Camping Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Cypress Camping Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is a boutique property in an resort area known for its large and exciting beach front RV resorts. Owned by Kenneth Hucks, son of a longtime park industry pioneer in Myrtle Beach, Lacy Hucks, knows how to deliver top notch service in a comfortable resort.

The resort features year-round premium intracoastal waterway campsites and a 100 pull thru campsites with full hook ups to meet the needs and desires of the most discerning guests.

The park provides direct waterway access complete with a boat ramp, a calendar of planned activities, modern bath houses and laundry facilities.

In addition, in the tradition of Best Parks in America affiliates leading the ARVC list of annual awards, Cyrpress Caming Resort was the winner of ARVC’s 2012 Plan-It Green ARVC award and was recognized for its efforts to preserve the environment.

“Cypress Camping Resort is more than just a campground to our family, it’s a dream come true and was a labor of love. We always wanted to create a resort that was about comfort, style, relaxation and nature for all ages. We were able to combine all those things and more. When you come to camp with us you aren’t just a guest, you are family. We’re delighted to be a part of Best Parks in America as Myrtle Beach’s newest Intracoastal Waterway camping resort” said Kenneth Hucks.

About Best Parks

Best Parks in America is a national network of highly-rated RV resorts and campgrounds across the United States. With over 70 affiliated resorts, the network is proud to represent and include the finest RVing and camping resorts. Best Guests in America, a complimentary camping club for travelers who enjoy the finest in RV camping, offers members special benefits and advantages when visiting a Best Park affiliate.

Best Parks was founded by David Gorin, a 27-year veteran of the park industry and a nationally known expert in the park business. Gorin is president of the network and is based in McLean, Virginia.

 

Anaheim Resort RV Park Honored by Chamber

December 10, 2012 by · Comments Off on Anaheim Resort RV Park Honored by Chamber 

Anaheim Resort RV Park owner Vern Mangels with Nia Cross, office manager.

Best Parks in America affiliate Anaheim Resort RV Park, has been recognized as the 2012 Family-Owned Business of the Year Award recipient as part of the coveted Anaheim Business Awards sponsored by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

Receiving the award at the Anaheim Marriott on Dec. 5 was Vern Mangels, CEO, president and third generation owner, who said in a news release, “We are honored to be chosen among such a distinguished group of business owners and leaders. It is with sincere gratitude, that I pay tribute to my grandparents and to my mother for their years of hard work, which made this possible. I am looking forward to many more decades of successful partnership with the city of Anaheim.”

Among other tourism community leaders receiving awards were Disneyland Resort, Tourism Business of the Year, and The Catch, Restaurant of the Year.

The property opened in 1956 by Vern’s grandparents as the Midway Trailer City, just one year after Disneyland opened. In 1990 improvements were made to establish the property as Anaheim Resort RV Park.

Over the years the park has been recognized in the RV park industry as a leader in service excellence. The 150-RV-site property received TripAdvisor’s No. 1 ranking in Anaheim in both 2011 and 2012. Recent improvements include the RV Café, a themed dining and meeting area, which reflects a Route 66 theme.

Anaheim Resort RV Park was invited to join Best Parks in America in 2010 and has become an active and engaged affiliate. On Nov. 30, 2012, the park was recognized as one of only 42 in the U.S. to be awarded an “A” grade by Guest Reviews, a nationwide program inviting guests to rate the parks they visit. Anaheim Resort RV Park has received that honor for two consecutive years.

“Vern and his team have worked exceptionally hard since taking over the family business in 2009 and the hard work is paying off,” said David Gorin, president of Best Parks in America. “To be recognized as the top family business in a ‘Disney’ market is no easy task, but Anaheim Resort RV Park is deserving of this honor. Best Parks in America is proud to have the park in its national network of premium RV parks and campgrounds, and we are so pleased that the Anaheim business community is recognizing one of our affiliates.”

Mangels serves on the board of Best Parks in America.

Also attending the awards luncheon were Mangels’ mother, Beth Bostwick Lamb, and Deb Kohls, vice president, Best Parks in America.

 

ARVC Honors Best Parks in America Affiliates

December 5, 2012 by · Comments Off on ARVC Honors Best Parks in America Affiliates 

Best Parks in America affiliates were well represented among parks winning awards and receiving recognition at the recent National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) annual conference in Las Vegas.

With two Park of the Year Honors, nine “A” GuestReviews ratings, and a State Association President of the Year award, Best Parks affiliates captured more awards than any park group or brand, according to a news release.

Affiliates Win Two Park of the Year Honors

The Vineyards Campground & Cabins/Best Parks in America, located outside Dallas in Grapevine, Texas, was recognized as the ARVC Small Park of the Year. Led by industry veteran Joe Moore, this park has been on the cutting edge of innovation for many years and continues to set the standard for public parks.

Bethpage Camp Resort/Best Parks in America, Urbanna, Va., won Park of the Year honors among the largest parks in the country. Bethpage is an outstanding full scale and full service camp resort offering a wide range of accommodations and recreation in a Chesapeake Bay location about 3 hours from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The resort, owned by Walt Hurley and his family, won the award for the second time.

“Best Parks extends a warm congratulations to both Joe and Walt on this outstanding recognition. We’re proud to have two Best Parks win Park of the Year honors this year and I doubt there are any more deserving parks than these,” said BPA President David Gorin. “Winning in both the Small Park and Mega park categories reinforces the Best Parks model that recognizes the highest quality resorts regardless of size. Quality is a combination of facilities and guest service, and both can be delivered by parks of any size.”

BPA Affiliates Recognized by Guest Reviews

BPA affiliates won nine of the 42 “A” grade awards from Guest Reviews, more than any other park group or brand.

Best Parks earning the coveted “A” rating were

  • Anaheim Resort RV Park, Anaheim, Calif., a two-time “A” grade winner,
  • Cherry Hill Park, College Park, Md., a four-time “A” grade winner,
  • Cross Creek Camping Resort, Delaware, Ohio, a two-time “A” grade winner,
  • Far Horizons 49er Village RV Resort, Plymouth, Calif., a first-time “A” grade winner,
  • Misty River Cabins & RV Resort, Walland, Tenn., a five-time “A” grade winner,
  • Mountain Vista Campground, East Stroudsburg, Penn., a four-time “A” grade winner,
  • Pioneer Campground, Laporte, Penn., a five-time “A” grade winner,
  • Red Apple Campground, Kennebunkport, Me., a four-time “A” grade winner,
  • The Vineyards Campground & Cabins, Grapevine, Texas, a five-time “A” grade winner,

“Best Parks is exceptionally proud to be so well represented among the parks receiving A grades from Guest Reviews,” said Gorin. “There’s nothing more important to the success of an RV park or campground then to be highly thought of by guests and to have guests verify their satisfaction by rating a park so highly,” Gorin said.

Best Park Owner Wins President of the Year

In addition to winning key park awards, Best Parks in America park owner Jimmy Felton of Misty River Campground & Cabins, Walland, Tenn., received the State Association President of the Year Award. Felton was recognized by his peers for his leadership and volunteer efforts on behalf of the park industry in Tennessee.

“In addition to being outstanding business owners and executives, BPA owners are industry leaders in many respects. Jimmy’s a great example of providing excellent leadership to his own business, but also taking time to give back to the industry as a volunteer leader. Being involved in industry associations helps give Jimmy and other association leaders a broad view of the business they are in, a necessary view that’s important to staying up with business developments,” said Gorin. “Best Parks encourages owners to be involved in their local and state business organizations,” Gorin said.

 

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