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Amazon.com Provides Jobs for Workampers

November 29, 2010 by · Comments Off on Amazon.com Provides Jobs for Workampers 

Former truck driver Jimmy Sowder and his wife, Sheila, worked in New Mexico last summer — he at a hardware store, she in the office and consignment shop of the RV park where they were staying.

Now they’re working at an Amazon.com distribution center in Campbellsville, Ky., plucking everything from books to tools and toys off the shelves to fill Christmas orders, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

After some time off, they’ll look for jobs somewhere for February through April before heading to Maine to work at a campground from May to October.

That’s the life of “workampers,” people who live on the road most or all of the year, seeing the country as they work temporary jobs to help finance their footloose lifestyles.

“That’s the way I think everyone should be able to live,” said Jimmy Sowder, 53. “It’s the freedom of the road. We’re doing what most people wanted to do when they were 20.”

Campers have come to Taylor County from around the country to help Internet retail giant Amazon.com handle increased shipping demand at its Campbellsville center during the Christmas rush.

Some came as early as August, though most arrived in October and November. Many will work through Christmas Eve.

There are 500 to 600 campers staying in five parks while working at the distribution center, local officials said.

About 1,200 people work at the 780,000-square-foot facility year-round, but the company needs up to 2,000 additional workers during the three-month Christmas season, said Ron McMahan, executive director of the Campbellsville-Taylor County Economic Development Authority.

Still looking for workers

Amazon.com hasn’t been able to get all the seasonal workers it needs locally. There are still hundreds of jobs available at the Campbellsville facility, said Michele Glisson, an Amazon.com spokeswoman.

The company has about 50 such “fulfillment centers” worldwide, including one in Lexington. Many are in much larger labor markets, McMahan said.

Amazon.com started the center in Campbellsville in 1999, moving into a building where Fruit of the Loom had employed 2,500 people before closing.

Unemployment topped 25% in the late 1990s in Taylor County after the loss of Fruit of the Loom, Batesville Casket and other manufacturers, so it was welcome news when Amazon.com came to town.

The state approved the Seattle-based company for possible tax incentives of more than $27 million for facilities in Campbellsville and Lexington.

Amazon.com has bused in workers from elsewhere, including out of state, to work in Campbellsville, but stepped up efforts to recruit campers this year.

The company, local and state officials and businesspeople worked to expand the number of sites available for RVs and travel trailers.

At Green River Lake State Park, for instance, the state installed frost-free water taps and wireless Internet service to accommodate campers.

That cost is being offset by the extra revenue the park gets from renting sites.

The park normally would close at the end of October but is staying open through the end of December for campers working at Amazon.com, manager Sharon Abney said.

Two separate businesses, Green River Resort and Heartland RV Park, built a total of about 150 campsites with water, sewer, electricity and wireless Internet service, investing more than $500,000, owners said.

“We just saw an opportunity to make some money that wasn’t there” before Amazon started recruiting campers, said Marie Taylor, a partner in Green River Resort.

The business, which also operates Green River Marina, built 68 RV sites and added a laundry and showers to the camp store.

“We’re hoping that this will be big,” Tucker said.

Amazon.com said if the program goes well this year, it could bring in 1,200 to 1,600 campers in 2011, McMahan said.

Campers working at Amazon said the company pays the rent on their campsites.

They make $9.90 or $10.50 an hour on top of that, with the higher salary for the overnight shift. Many work four 10-hour days, but overtime is mandatory for some.

Pennsylvania Campground Owner Jailed

July 29, 2010 by · Comments Off on Pennsylvania Campground Owner Jailed 

Taken from the Moon Meadows Campground website

Erie County Judge Shad Connelly charged the owner of Moon Meadows Campground near Erie, Pa., with civil contempt Wednesday (July 28) and sent him to the Erie County Prison.

Connelly told Thomas Peckham that he will remain in prison until all tenants leave his Greenfield Township campground or he fixes its sewage system, said Doug Range, director of environmental health for the Erie County Department of Health, the Erie Times-News reported.

“If they decide to vacate the property, it must truly be vacant,” said Range, who attended the hearing. “People can’t be staying there during the day and just sleeping somewhere else at night.”

Peckham’s incarceration is the latest development in his 13-month battle with county health and law-enforcement officials.

He has consistently refused to make improvements to the campground’s sewage system after a county health inspector found puddles of raw sewage and substandard septic work done without a permit in June 2009.

Peckham has said there were no puddles of raw sewage, and that he never needed permits to do septic work before 2009.

Connelly had ordered the campground closed by Tuesday if the improvements weren’t made.

Five Erie County Sheriff’s Office deputies went to Moon Meadows on Tuesday to tell Peckham that the judge wanted to talk with him. They waited two hours for Peckham to show, but he never did.

Peckham later said he avoided the campground because he knew the deputies were there to arrest him “and make a big show of it.”

He turned himself in to authorities Wednesday morning.

At the hearing in Connelly’s courtroom, county Health Department officials testified that the campground still was not in compliance with the Pennsylvania Sewage Facility Act, Range said.

“We received a call from the property’s manager, Bonnie (Jenkins), asking what she needs to do to vacate the campground,” Range said.

Range told her what needed to happen, and Jenkins then passed word to some of the Moon Meadows residents.

“The longer everyone stays here, the longer Tom will stay in jail,” Jenkins told people as they sat outside the campground’s store, 9915 Station Road.

Some residents said they were moving out Wednesday, even if they didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Linda Bayhurst has lived in a Moon Meadows cabin for almost a year with her two grown daughters. She plans to drive them to work during the day, then find a spot to park their recently fixed 1998 Saturn at night.

“I’ve been in the situation before,” Bayhurst’s daughter Lisa Decenso said. “We’ll just shift around until we find a nice and quiet place, pull over and sleep in the car.”

Doug Naugle planned to park his recreational vehicle in someone’s cow pasture Wednesday night.

He called other campgrounds this week to see if he could park his RV there, but he said he keeps getting a runaround

“Right now, I’m leaving to get Tom out of jail,” Naugle said. “And once the campground is reopened, I’ll be back.”

Range said no one called the Health Department on Wednesday to find out how to fix the campground’s sewage system.

Park Owner ELS Reports Higher Q2 Earnings

July 20, 2010 by · Comments Off on Park Owner ELS Reports Higher Q2 Earnings 

Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS), a real estate investment trust, reported a rise in earnings for the second quarter, attributed to higher revenues, and a slight fall in expenses.

Funds From Operations (fFFO) per share beat Wall Street estimates, but property revenues fell short of expectations. Also, the company gave its guidance for the for the full year of fiscal 2010, RTT News reported.

For the quarter, FFO rose to $27.1 million, from $23.7 million a year ago. On a per-share basis, earnings were lower at $0.76, compared with $0.77, reflecting a higher share count.

On average, six analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings per share of $0.69. Analysts’ estimates typically exclude special items.

Funds available for distribution was lower at $18.66 million or $0.53 per share, compared with $19.46 million or $0.63 per share.

Net income available to common stockholders rose to $6.0 million or $0.20 per share, from $2.9 million, or $0.11 per share the prior year.

Total revenues grew to $123.84 million, from $121.52 million.

The company said that property operating revenues climbed to $119.0 million, from $116.1 million last year.

Two Wall Street analysts had forecast revenues of $120.40 million.

Revenues for the latest quarter included a rise in community base rental income to $64.6 million, from $63.31 million. Resort base rental income slightly climbed to $28.5 million, from $27.74 million.

Consolidated income from continuing operations was higher at $11.02 million, versus $7.35 million the prior year.

The company also gained from a fall in total expenses to $113.38 million, from $114.64 million.

For the quarter, the company said it had 22 new home sales, up 4.8% from last year level. Total sites as of June 30, 2010, was at 111,000.

The company’s average long-term secured debt balance was approximately $1.5 billion in the quarter.

For the six-month period, FFO rose to $64.6 million, from $61.6 million the prior year. On a per share basis, earnings fell to $1.82, from $2.01. Net income increased to $21.1 million or $0.69 per share, from $16.5 million or $0.65 per share. Property operating revenues increased to $246.5 million, from $240.4 million. Total revenues grew to $255.9 million, from $252.34 million.

Looking ahead, the company said it expects FFO per share of $1.68 – $1.78, and net income of $0.54 – $0.64 for the six months ended December 31, 2010. Also, it expects income from core property operations, excluding property management expenses, to grow between 2.5% – 3.0% from a year ago.

For the full year of fiscal 2010, the company anticipates FFO per share of $3.50 – $3.60, and net income of $1.23 – $1.33. Also, the company estimates core property operating revenue to grow between 1.0% – 1.5%. Also, income from core property operations, excluding property management expenses, is expected to rise between 1.5% – 2.0% from a year ago.

Wall Street analysts are looking out for FFO per share of $3.49, on revenues of $498.06 million for the full year of fiscal 2010.

ELS closed Monday’s regular trading at $49.29, up $0.98 or 2.03%, on a volume of 205,401 shares on the NYSE.

How KOA Brings the Small-town Touch to its Guests

July 19, 2010 by · Comments Off on How KOA Brings the Small-town Touch to its Guests 

Chris Mink

Editor’s Note: Chris Mink, manager of the Value Kards Rewards program for Kampgrounds of America Inc., wrote the following story which appears in the current issue of Colloquy, the “voice of the loyalty marketing industry since 1990.”

We like to say that we believe KOA is one of the last small towns in America. Kampgrounds of America is the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds, with small-town atmosphere and camaraderie.

But we realized that our small town had room to grow comfortably. Each year in the U.S. alone, nearly 100 million nights are camped. With 475 locations in nearly every state and Canadian province, KOA accommodates millions of faithful campers, yet receives only a 6% slice of the entire camping night pie.

KOA was founded 48 years ago on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Montana. For nearly half of the time since then, campers have been able to purchase an annual discount card to save 10% off the cost of camping. Discount cards are pretty much the norm in the camping industry, offered by many camping organizations—and KOA wanted something more, something to set us apart. In March 2008, we added camping rewards points to KOA’s Value Kard Program, renaming it Value Kard Rewards. This made KOA the first camping provider to follow the lead of many airlines and hotel chains.

The new program still provides an immediate 10% discount on daily rates, but it’s the Value Kard Rewards points that are getting the attention of more and more campers. To explain why, join us on a tour of our small-town loyalty principles:

Best-customer recognition. KOA’s Value Kard Rewards points are tied to both the nights stayed at a KOA, and the rate paid for those nights. As guests camp more with us, they can reach Bonus and VIP tier status, which offers accelerated earnings potential. For instance, a camper in the VIP program earns at a 25% bonus level over the base member. And as long as members maintain their VIP status, the membership fee is waived. Combining rewards with recognition at the campground creates win-win. In 2009, KOA campers saved nearly a million dollars in camping fees by belonging to the program.

Getting to know our neighbors. Value Kard Rewards provides us with data variables that allow our campground owners and managers to anticipate and respond to guests’ needs and preferences—the site locations they like, the type of camping equipment they use, and even if they travel with a pet. We can employ that individual knowledge to arrange for quicker check-in, and for personalized service and accommodations at arrival. In addition to enabling the personal touch on site, this information allows us to broaden the camping experience through communications tailored to tenters, RVers, and those who stay in lodges.

Fun. Camping is a lifestyle choice, not just a means of travel. We incorporate pictures and stories of real people having fun in all of our marketing materials. Making the points part of the memories created on the campgrounds helps promote a return stay or a future stay at another KOA down the road. And because camping is a communal activity, we extended the social aspect into the social media world. Today, through sites such as Facebook and KOAKompass.com, we’ve built a community that extends to the digital world. Sharing camping experiences, recommendations, recipes, product reviews, and more, we continue to build memories and emotional ties.

Consolidation of tech. Having developed our proprietary computerized campground operating system called KampSight, we were able to tie individual reservation systems together to bring more value. All records of discounts, point accrual and redemptions are linked, providing an efficient and easily administered program.

Consistency of experience. To smooth customers’ transition to our new program, we retain the discount aspect that was both familiar and widely accepted. In fact, though a physical membership card isn’t needed because of our new technology, we still provide one because some campers want to “show their card.” They take pride in their citizenship in our small town.

Today, we’re seeing the desired shift in increased camper nights among our Value Kard Rewards members. “Stays per household’ are up 9% from the previous year, and “nights stayed” is three times greater than our non-Value Kard Rewards campers. Now that’s a program with “staying power.”

Cavco’s Park Model Business Picking Back Up

June 1, 2010 by · Comments Off on Cavco’s Park Model Business Picking Back Up 

Phoenix-based Cavco Industries Inc. is helping create a market for campers who don’t want to pitch a tent, tow an RV or buy or rent a pricey cabin.

The company’s main business is making manufactured homes, but it has developed a small but steadily growing niche of making recreational park trailers that can be purchased for about $35,000 and up, or rented at affordable prices, according to the Arizona Republic.

Cavco is even producing a solar version and recently installed what it claims to be the first solar-powered park-model cabin that can be operated off an electrical grid at a KOA campground.

Officials with Kampgrounds of America Inc., the world’s largest camping company, credit the little units with expanding its customer base, bringing in more minorities and “jump-starting” a new camping segment that wants an affordable camping experience with some comfort.

“They opened up camping to an entirely new market for us. There’s a level of camper out there who wants the comfort and is willing to pay for it,” KOA spokesman Mike Gast said.

Jim Rogers, president and CEO of KOA, predicts that the commercial-campground industry will become more aggressive over the next five to 10 years in buying units like these.

The 400-square-foot lodges that Cavco makes for KOA are rented for $75 to $150 a night and come with bathrooms and full-service kitchens, and can sleep four to six people. “We call it Marriott camping,” Rogers said.

KOA and Cavco came together about eight years ago. The 48-year-old KOA, headquartered in Billings, Mont., had been renting smaller “Kabins” and “Kottages” for several decades to give customers alternatives to tents and RVs. But most of those units don’t have bathrooms and kitchens. KOA found them to be expensive to maintain and buy.

And for about the past dozen years, 45-year-old Cavco had been making smaller 400-square-foot versions of its manufactured homes as second homes. They are called park models because they designed for RV parks.

Cavco proposed the idea of making more rustic-looking park models for camping. For several years, the two companies tested various materials and the durability of the homes.

Gast said of a typical Cavco lodge: “It looks like it belongs in a campground. It either has cedar or log sides. It comes in on wheels. You add a porch, and all of a sudden you’ve got a cabin in the woods.”

The company bought 250 last year and expects to buy an additional 300 this year, he said.

The lodges have proven to be popular with customers.

“We can’t get enough of them fast enough,” Rogers said of the lodges. “That’s the future of camping in the U.S. It’s looking very good for Cavco Industries as a result of the popularity.”

The bulk of KOA’s business is renting tent or RV spaces, and only about 15% is its lodging business, Gast said. But rentals of the Kabins, Kottages and now lodges have been growing because they offer affordable vacations at a variety of locations.

“We found out last year that camping is hotter than we thought. We had our best summer in 48 years. We did a lot of surveys, and it was the affordability and the desire for a quality affordable vacation close to home that really rang true to customers,” Gast said.

Rogers said Cavco is KOA’s main supplier but it hasn’t been able to buy all its lodges from Cavco because of the cost of freighting them from a plant in Goodyear, Ariz.

Cavco hopes to resolve that issue by starting production at a Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. plant at Rocky Mount, Va., that Cavco acquired last year.

Cavco and other makers of manufactured homes have been struggling during the recession because would-be buyers are having trouble getting financing. Cavco last year lost $3.37 million, after making a profit of almost $500,000 the year before.

Cavco sells about 750 to 1,000 park models a year, and about half of those are recreational types such as the KOA lodges, said Tim Gage, a Cavco vice president.

“The rental market is kind of an up-and-coming market,” he said, and has been expanding every year for the past five yeas.

Cavco has been going to RV industry conventions and seminars to promote the recreational units. Now, it is pushing into solar-powered units for remote campgrounds or campsites that don’t have electrical connections.

Its first “off grid” park-model cabin was installed at a KOA campground in Herkimer, N.Y., to be used as a rental cabin and to showcase green-living practices.

It has solar panels on its roof that can produce two kilowatts of power. It also has a backup propane generator, bamboo floors, axles and tires made of recycled materials, recycled-lumber composite decks, and energy-efficient heating and cooling. Even its furniture was made from recycled milk jugs and recycled hickory wood.

Last year, Cavco delivered its first solar-powered park model to Sacred Rocks Reserve and RV Park near San Diego but that one is connected to an electrical grid.

“One reason for solar is to stay ahead of the game of what everyone else is doing,” Gage said.

Campground Industry Salutes Richard Hartford

May 4, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Richard Hartford, Evergreen Insurance president

Many people not only know him, but love him. They refer to him as their friend first, and their business partner second. Richard “Dick” Hartford has a lot to celebrate this year — his 65th birthday, 37 years in the insurance industry, and 24 with Evergreen, a company insuring the campground industry, owned by campground owners.

President of Evergreen Indemnity and Evergreen USA, Hartford resides in Lewiston, Maine, and has two sons, Lucas and Justin. He is a man who has supported many causes within the Northeast Campground Association (NCA) and has gaveled many charity auctions. He has received both the  “Stan Martin Award” and the “Curtis Fuller Award” from state campground associations.

Hartford began a program of insuring campgrounds and RV parks in 1973 and started Evergreen in 1986. That year many campgrounds and RV parks were seeing their insurance premiums double and triple and often they could not even find coverage. During the mid-1980s nearly all of the insurance companies were pulling out of the camping industry. That’s when a group of people within the camping arena asked Hartford to find a long-term solution for insuring their industry. He set to work and found a group that was willing to invest to start Evergreen.

“It was exciting to put together a program when there was relatively no insurance available to campgrounds, and to get enough support from the camping industry from wonderful campgrounds that invested in the effort to start a new company like this one had never been done before,” he explained.

Hartford describes campground owners as a hardworking, down-to-earth and a respectful group of people.

“Very seldom do you ever find a rude campground owner,” he said. “You can’t meet a nicer bunch of people than in the camping industry. They are willing to help their fellow mankind and are very generous. As I look back, I can’t imagine that I could have ever picked an industry that would have suited me any better than the campground industry. I got to the point where I loved the camping industry more than the insurance industry.”

Today, Hartford continues to manage the long-range interests of the Evergreen companies, while his son Lucas oversees the daily activities.

“My dad brought me into the business by teaching me how to do risk management inspections and policy reviews of campgrounds and RV parks,” Lucas said. “But the biggest thing he taught me in this business is that Evergreen’s success only comes with the success of the camping industry. He realizes that the long-term interests of Evergreen come with the long-term success of the camping industry.

“As his son and business partner, I am forever grateful for him trusting me to run the daily activities of Evergreen. He has played many roles in my life from father, ski coach, boss, co-worker and friend. And in all those things I have seen him commit himself 100% to every effort. He does nothing half way. It is all or nothing for him and that is a quality I fully admire.”

In 2007 Dick and Lucas sold a local insurance agency in order to focus all of their efforts on Evergreen and the camping industry.

“My dad told me for years that the camping industry is the best group of people to deal with and he is 100% right – so that is what we focus on,” Lucas said.

Dick enjoys fly fishing, carpentry and electrical work and flower gardening. But most of all he enjoys watching Lucas take Evergreen to new levels of success.

“What I love now is watching my son take the company to heights that I couldn’t have,” he said. “It deflates my ego a little bit to watch that, but that is the most wonderful part about it, seeing how much better he is at it than I was.”

The future for Dick Hartford? He will remain the company’s chairman of the board and president for around five more years and at that time he envisions handing over full reign to Lucas.

“Maybe I’ll start an insurance company to compete with him, that will teach him a lesson,” he joked. “I can’t imagine myself not working and I will probably do carpentry and electrical work when I feel like doing it. I have gotten to a point where I can choose to do things when I want to which is kind of nice. Even if I give up the leadership of the company, I see myself being involved behind the scenes.”

On the subject of fatherly advice, Dick says one thing he has never tried to do is give advice to either of his sons.

“If they come and ask a question, I usually try to refrain and say, ‘What do you think you should do?’ I encourage them to do what they believe they need to do. I will give Lucas the same advice I gave him 15 years ago when I turned over the daily activities to him. He asked me, ‘But dad, what happens if I fail?’ I said, ‘If that happens, the only suggestion I have for you is to have another job lined up because you’re going to need it.’”

Failure, according to Dick, is the best education there is.

“Every young person in this world under the age of 50 needs the opportunity to succeed and fail on their own,” he said. “It makes you humble, teaches you a lesson and you move on. It wasn’t what I learned in a classroom in college – it was what I learned outside of the classroom – how to get along with people, how to budget my time, etc.”

It doesn’t take a long conversation with Dick to pick up on his sharp wit and sense of humor. When told people have nothing but compliments for him, he quipped, “They must be lying.”

“When I think of Dick Hartford I think about family and friends,” said Rick Abare, president of Campground Association Management Professionals (CAMP) and executive director of the Maine Campground Owners Association. “The business of insurance I think of as a secondary item when I think of him. I think about that uncle that everyone has who is wise, fun-loving, and energetic all at the same time. The good uncle.”

When Abare bought his campground in 1992 and went looking for insurance companies, he was thoroughly impressed with the concept behind Evergreen – that the campground owners are owners of the company.

“That kind of thing is what Dick Hartford would dream up,” Abare said. “He is always there for you. He is one of the people I have always looked to when I have a question about what is right or wrong and I know I will get the truth. He is genuinely one of a kind. The ‘what can I do for you, how can I help’ attitude is a Hartford family trait. This is part of why so many people look up to Dick and all he has done for the camping industry. There probably is no one like him. When you think of family and camping and put it all together and ask yourself who is always there for you, that would be Dick Hartford.”

Chip Menz, co-owner along with his brother Bruce, of Big Timber Lake Campground in Papemay Court House, N.J., met Dick in the early 1980s before he began Evergreen.

“When he decided to start Evergreen, we became invested in Evergreen,” explained Menz. “Dick is a straight shooter, he stands by his word and he is just a lot of fun, and easygoing.”

The Menz brothers are on the board of directors for Evergreen.

“Dick is good for the industry and I’m glad I met him,” Menz said. “He has a world of knowledge about the insurance business and he does what he does well. He has helped a lot of campground owners.”

April 26 was Dick’s birthday and this year his family planned a surprise party to mark 65 years.

“There haven’t been many chances to surprise my dad and he was completely surprised,” Lucas said.

To Dick his 65th birthday was just another day. But to his family there was a lot to celebrate.

“He doesn’t like parties or surprises,” joked Lucas.

“I was momentarily (mad),” Dick said. “But I got over it.”

British Columbia Campsite Bookings Up 30%

April 13, 2010 by · Comments Off on British Columbia Campsite Bookings Up 30% 

British Columbia campground bookings jumped 30% in the first five days of the province’s revamped online reservation system compared with last year, says Parks Minister Barry Penner.

That is a “pretty significant increase year-over-year,” Penner said in an interview with the Victoria Times Colonist.

“I’m certain some of that increase is due to the new features that we are now offering through the reservation system. In particular, you are now able to request a specific campsite within a campground.”

Penner, who used to work as a park ranger on the Lower Mainland, remembers campers who were devoted to certain spots. Some prefer to be next to a creek, hiking trails, near a woodlot, or washrooms and hot showers.

The province also recently moved the overnight rate in British Columbia campgrounds up by as much as $6 a night on April 1, depending on the location. Camping at the most popular spots on Vancouver Island, such as Goldstream Park near the Malahat, or Rathtrevor Beach near Parksville, has gone up to $30 per night.

However, 60% of British Columbia’s park campgrounds still offer campsites for $16 per night or less, Penner said.

There has been little feedback to the new rates, he said. “The new fees have hardly been a deterrent to camping as evidenced by a 30% increase in bookings,” Penner said.

During the first five days of bookings, there were 8,259 reservations for the season, up from 6,327 for the same days last year, Penner said.

British Columbia’s provincial parks have more than 340 campgrounds with 11,000 campsites. Overall attendance rose 5% last year.

Fees were increased to cover escalating operating costs, Penner said. Currently fees cover 40% of the cost of operating the parks system. Taxpayers pay the rest.

British Columbia’s provincial parks fees are 7-50% lower than those found in the private sector or national parks for similar services, he said.

Maine Camping Show Reflects RV Upturn

April 12, 2010 by · Comments Off on Maine Camping Show Reflects RV Upturn 

To watch a video of this newscast, click here.

Things are looking up in the camping industry in Maine, a good indication that the economy is slowly turning around, according to WCSH-TV, Portland

The 6th Annual RV and Camping Show saw thousands over the weekend. Some campgrounds say they’re reservations are up nearly 20% from the last few years.

The industry was hit fairly hard by the mix of the economy and a few bad summers.

But this year, people seem to be booking early and often, even buying new and used RVs.

Most campgrounds in Maine open in May, but with the nice weather, some campground owners say they may even open as early as this month.

Park Veteran Sims Heads ARVC Promotional Effort

April 12, 2010 by · Comments Off on Park Veteran Sims Heads ARVC Promotional Effort 

ARVC representative Jeff Sims (right) meets with Tom Bell, owner of the Montrose RV Resort in Montrose, Colo., during a recent visit. Photo provided courtesy of the Montrose RV Resort.

Jeff Sims has about as much experience as anyone can get in the campground business.

He was 10 years old when his father, Dean, co-founded the Missouri Campground Owners Association. He worked in the campground business growing up and co-owned and operated Compton Ridge Campgrounds, Lodge & Convention Center in Branson, Mo., from 1967 to 2007. He also served as chairman of ARVC from 1997 to 1999 and served on the ARVC Foundation board.

But while private parks have withstood the economic downturn much better than other segments of the travel and tourism business, Sims said the industry would be stronger if more campgrounds were members of ARVC and its state affiliates, according to a news release.

“When you boil it down,” he said, “it’s about numbers. The more people you have as members, the better able you are to take advantage of opportunities. But when you have no budget, you can’t. In fact, you can’t have effective outreach, public relations, government affairs or discounts if you don’t have enough members.”

So what’s keeping campgrounds from joining ARVC and its state affiliates?

“It’s about education,” Sims said. “We have to educate our constituency. Educate them about the work ARVC is doing and how it is benefiting the industry.”

And Sims has taken on the task of meeting face to face with park operators across the country to hear their concerns and talk to them about ARVC and the work the association is doing on their behalf.

Sims said he has already visited more than 230 park operators across the country to talk to them about ARVC and the work the association is doing. He said he plans to visit many more parks across the country in the months ahead.

“The campground industry has been good to me and my family,” Sims said, adding, “I feel like I have an opportunity to give back.”

ARVC President and CEO Linda Profaizer, for her part, sees great value in having Sims working on the association’s behalf.

“We are extremely fortunate that Jeff has the conviction of his beliefs in the value of belonging to ARVC and the state associations,” she said. “He is so particularly well-suited to be on the road talking to park owners and managers about the benefits of associations and to lend an ear to their concerns and their business needs.”

Profaizer said ARVC is working with Sims on a test basis. “If successful,” she said, “we will see how this can be continued and expanded into the future. “

Sims is currently focusing his efforts on the ARVC-affiliated states of Missouri and Colorado and non-affiliated states of Texas, Utah, New Mexico and Mississippi.

Pinnacle Park Homes Units in Louisiana Park

April 9, 2010 by · Comments Off on Pinnacle Park Homes Units in Louisiana Park 

Pinnacle Park Homes park model onsite at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Lake Charles, La.

The state of Louisiana awarded Pinnacle Park Homes the contract for six park models it was adding to the Sam Houston Jones State Park in Lake Charles, La.

Ochlocknee, Ga.-based Pinnacle Park Homes has now completed the project. This is just one of many projects that Pinnacle Park Homes has been a part of for state and local governments, according to a news release. Campground owners know the value of offering rental cabins at their parks and now many states are looking to increase revenue at their parks by adding park model and cabin rentals.

Pinnacle Park Homes has recently released three new cabin and park model price point packages designed just for campground owners. These units are designed to sleep six people and come complete with all appliances and heat/AC, one of the units even comes with two TV’s.

Pinnacle Park Homes offers an optional furniture package with all of their units.

“Anything we can do to accommodate our campground owners to make it easy for them to generate income faster is what we are all about,” says Andy Davis, sales manager.

Currently Pinnacle Park Homes offers many different options for financing, including one plan that allows campground owners to get their cabins and park models now and make no payments till 2011.

Visit them on the web at www.pinnacleparkhomes.com or call them at (866) 574-5159 for more information.

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