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Insiders: Membership Camping on a Rebound

July 16, 2013 by · Comments Off on Insiders: Membership Camping on a Rebound 

Rushmore Shadows, a Midwest Outdoor Resorts campground in South Dakota. 

After a prolonged downturn that began well before the Great Recession, membership camping seems to be on the rebound.

Major players in this oftentimes misunderstood segment of the outdoor hospitality business tell Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) that they are upbeat about the recent past and more so about the immediate future as regular campers as well as newcomers discover the appeal of membership camping.

That appeal revolves around the individual beauty of the member parks, the security that they afford every camper and the relative affordability in an era of ever-rising camping costs elsewhere in the public and private sector.

Under membership camping, members pay an upfront membership fee that is good for, say five to 10 years, or perhaps a lifetime, which allows members to access one or more resorts, if the resort is part of a network.

“We have seen the last five years, even with the economy upside down, we have had our best year, year after year. When life gets hard, people go camping,” said Mike Pournoury, CEO and majority owner of Texarkana, Texas-based Ocean Canyon Properties, a growing system of eight privately owned, membership resorts in the Southeast that offer spacious RV campsites, comfortable vacation cabins, cottages and condos along with a wide variety of private resort amenities. “The industry as a whole has been weak due to the fact that it is so fragmented, but if you talk to each company like ours, business is great, seriously. Several companies our size are just thriving in this industry. I have a real positive expectancy for the future of the membership industry.”

Bruce Hoster (left) of Coast to Coast Resorts and Mike Pournoury of Ocean Canyon Properties

Gene Addink, general manager and CEO of Midwest Outdoor Resorts, which owns and operates three resorts in South Dakota and Minnesota, agrees with Pournoury’s take on the business.

“Even in bad times, we were successful,” said Addink, who has been in the membership camping business since 1984 and led the team that founded Midwest Outdoor Resorts in 2000. “There was a little bit of a downturn in 2008-2009 but when the economy was at its worst, even then we were successful.”

Addink, whose company operates resorts near Rapid City, S.D., and two in the greater Minneapolis area, is looking to add a fourth resort this year, either in northern Minnesota or northern Wisconsin.

Pournoury and Addink say their companies are typical of the more than 50 membership camping systems that operate in the U.S. and Canada. Both maintain systems of upscale campgrounds that appeal to seasoned campers as well as newbies and also employ expert sales staffs that can walk prospects through the intricate concept of membership camping.

“It’s not like going to a KOA,” said Addink. “If you’re going to a KOA, you know what you’re getting. With membership camping, the concept has to be explained to people one on one. It is usually not a product people shop for. They have to be shown how it fits in their lifestyle. It’s a very misunderstood concept in the public’s eye.”

Gene Addink, CEO of Midwest Outdoor Resorts

Each membership camping system has its own set of rules, pricing and reciprocal agreements. The concept requires a full explanation before purchase.

“It takes a proactive marketing group that can find people who fit your demographic and then convince them to come to a presentation to learn about the program,” Addink said. In his 30 years in the business, he doubts whether more than five clients ever literally walked in off the street and purchased a membership without first undergoing a formal sales presentation.

Thousand Trails Zone Pass

The industry’s leading player, Thousand Trails, affiliated with Chicago-based real estate giant Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS), has enlisted the ranks of the RV industry to help it sell memberships for its far-flung system of 80 RV resorts in 22 states and British Columbia. Today, more than 100,000 member families and guests enjoy its parks. Formerly only open to lifetime members, Thousand Trails has introduced the Zone Camping Pass, which provides a low-investment way to enjoy the benefits of resort-style camping on an annual basis.

An ELS spokesman was unavailable to speak with WCM. However, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at the end of 2012, ELS had these comments on its membership camping business.

“In the spring of 2010, Thousand Trails introduced low-cost membership products that focus on the installed base of almost 8 million RV owners. The company began offering a Zone Park Pass, which can be purchased for one to four zones of the United States and required annual payments in 2012 of $499. Beginning on Feb. 1, 2012, the required annual payments increased to $525.

“The Zone Pass replaced high cost products that were typically entered into at properties after tours and lengthy sales presentations. The company historically incurred significant costs to generate leads, conduct tours and make the sales presentations. A single zone ZPP requires no upfront (additional) payment while passes for additional zones require modest upfront payments.

“Since inception, ELS has entered into approximately 22,000 Zone Pass agreements. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, the company entered into approximately 10,100 Zone Pass agreements, or a 36.5% increase from approximately 7,400 for 2011.

“In 2012, the company initiated a program with RV dealers to feature the Zone Passes as part of the dealers’ sales and marketing efforts. In return, the company provides the dealer with a Zone Pass membership to give to the dealers’ customers in connection with the purchase of an RV.

Since the inception of the program with the RV dealers, the company has activated 1,289 Zone Passes and recorded approximately $140,000 of revenue through the end of 2012, ELS reported.

Travel Resorts of America

One of the cabins at the Travel Resorts of America campground in Gettysburg, Pa.

Another major membership camping player is Travel Resorts of America, based in Southern Pines, N.C., which operates six resorts in the eastern half of the U.S. Sycamore Lodge near Pinehurst, N.C., was its original resort, followed by Gettysburg Battlefield Resort “which with the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is our busiest this year,” noted David Petsolt, director of marketing. “We have three resorts in Ohio, Wally World Riverside Resort, Rocky Fork Ranch Resort and Pymatuning Adventure Resort, each providing a different experience. Finally, there is Twin Lakes Resort in Florida.”

The company’s expansion has been driven by two factors.

“First, although most are within an RVer’s drive time of each other, each is in a diverse geographic areas and easily accessible from major metropolitan areas,” Petsolt said. “Secondly, we seek properties where we know we can create a top-tier experience for our visitors – the resorts have to have the right ‘bones.’ Our goal is to ‘Wow’ our visitors with something unexpected and provide the backdrop for them to create unforgetable memories. The Mohican Riverbanks at Wally World, the History of Gettysburg, the rich outdoor activities at Rocky Fork Ranch, the waterslides at lake at Pymatuning Adventure, the great fishing at Twin Lakes, and the world-class golf surrounding Sycamore Lodge (Pinehurst #2 is home to the 2014 Men’s and Women’s Opens) – each of our resorts has something unique to offer our visitors, all with a focus of fun.”

While the firm does not have any immediate plans for further expansion, it is always on the lookout for the next opportunity – “but it has to be something special,” he stressed.

Coast to Coast

Bruce Hoster, president of Coast to Coast Resorts

The turnaround has been very noticeable at Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Good Sam Enterprises LLC. Coast to Coast does not own any of its own parks, however, it maintains reciprocal agreements with 208 member parks which allow people who buy memberships through Coast to Coast to visit any of the affiliates’ resorts.

“People see the value in this. That’s why the business has come back,” explained Bruce Hoster, president.

Of the 208 resort firms, approximately 50 are active sellers of memberships, Hoster estimates. “A lot are older resorts now owned by homeowner associations or they just don’t sell new memberships,” he said.

Besides Ocean Canyon Properties, Midwest Outdoor Resorts and Travel Resorts of America, Hoster identified Outdoor Adventures, based in Bay City, Mich., and Colorado River Adventures, a network of eight resorts on the West Coast and based in Earp, Calif., as active and growing in the membership camping market. Indeed, Outdoor Adventures with its five resorts in Michigan has been the top seller of Coast to Coast memberships for many years, he said.

“Coast is showing some nice growth the past two years and is setting some records this year with our new Premier product,” explained Hoster. “Membership camping (finally) seems to be making a comeback, and it’s (finally) fun working on Coast to Coast. It’s always nice when the numbers are good.”

Hoster, who has headed the Coast to Coast network since 2007, attributes the rebound to RVers seeing the value in memberships compared to other ownership positions.

Coast to Coast offers three types of memberships, classic (entry level), deluxe and premier. The latter, filled with benefits and relaunched in summer 2012, has been key to Coast to Coast’s rebound, Hoster maintains.

Member parks have made considerable investments in recent years to either upgrade their parks or add new ones, thus giving campers more camping options.

For example, Ocean Canyon Properties announced in April extensive renovations totaling $1 million have been taking place to improve members’ camping experiences at six of their resorts.

This map shows locations of Coast to Coast Resorts in U.S.

Not Just for RVers

And membership camping is not just for RVers.

“We look for people who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, probably age 35-plus and can afford the product. But you don’t need a camper to buy our product,” he noted.

Addink estimates that more than 50% of Midwest Outdoor Resorts members do not own their own RV. Instead, they rent RVs or covered shelter such as cabins and lodges at the resorts.

The love of the outdoors may be the crucial requirement for prospective membership campers. Minneapolis has a high percentage of RV owners, but even more so, it has a high percentage of people who enjoy the outdoors, Addink said. That’s why his company has a sales office in Minneapolis and operates two of its three resorts within an hour’s drive of there. It also makes for an easy trip to show prospects.

Pournoury’s Ocean Canyon Properties are strung out across the Southeast, making the sales presentation more problematic.

“There is no national ad campaign, no media advertising for membership camping,” Pournoury noted. “I’m sure if there was, there would be a lot more people coming to membership camping. Since the industry is so fragmented, the news does not get out.”

Still, he adds, “There are a lot of good operators in the industry that know how to market and how to cultivate their memberships. There is not much growth as far as new resorts joining membership camping because of that. It is a very tough field to master the marketing, the sales effort, the administration and the operations end.”

“It’s not just like opening an RV park and waiting for customers to come in. You have to go after them and grab the right kind for your product. If it is done the right way, it has a lot of rewards. Every company that is in the business and selling upward of 300 or 400 memberships a year is profitable and has been so for many years.”

 

Conference to Boost Membership Camping

November 10, 2010 by · Comments Off on Conference to Boost Membership Camping 

Feb. 21-23 conference is in New Orleans.

In planning for the 2011 Coast to Coast Membership Camping Conference to be held in New Orleans, organizer Bruce Hoster, Coast to Coast Resorts president, wanted to give attendees some new angles to ponder during the three-day convention.

So, when conferees gather Feb. 21-23 at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino, they’ll find not only some familiar themes in marketing membership camping but also some new wrinkles, such as a virtual sales tour, a trade show and a presentation on off-site sales centers. A half-day has been added to the conference, giving attendees two full days of presentations, on top of the opening night reception.

The theme for the conference is “Driving Profits in Private Membership Camping.”

“We’re still working against our objective we outlined last year: to share best practices in sales and marketing in the membership campground business. That’s the secret sauce that makes our industry tick,” said Hoster.

There will be some of the same topics, such as “Turning Tours into Sales,” “Successful Marketing Strategies” and “Developing A Winning Sales Team,” he said “But there are some new things we’re introducing. I don’t want to have the same meeting every year.”

“We are pulling our speakers from our most successful resorts and the most successful sales and marketing folks,” Hoster said. “Most of our sessions are panels with two to three industry experts and time for questions and answers. All sessions are back to back. No concurrent sessions. If somebody wants to attend all the sessions, they will be able to do that.”

Bruce Hoster

The private membership camping business faces many of the same operational issues faced by other privately owned campgrounds, so there is great value for owners to attend regional or national association meetings and join 20 Groups, Hoster said.

But there are some unique sales and marketing challenges and opportunities facing private membership campground operators that aren’t being addressed by conventional means, thus the need for the Coast conference, he said.

Virtual Park Tour

That being said, Hoster has taken a page out of the playbook of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and created a Virtual Campground Tour for the Coast conference.

“We would love to take all the conferees to four or five resorts and walk them through a sales presentation, but we physically can’t do that,” Hoster said. “So, we’re doing the next best thing, taking everyone on Virtual Sales Tours. We visited our top sellers with Outdoor Adventures, Travel Resorts of America, Midwest Outdoor Resorts and East Coast Resorts this year, took photos and, working with the sales people there, followed them on a typical sales tour. We’ll take the audience from the start when a couple walks in to the front desk, to a tour of the park, and back to the office to try to close the sale. We examine what people see and say during each step. We think it will be a tremendous value to people attending the conference.”

Another new wrinkle at next year’s conference will be what Hoster calls a “What’s New in the Industry” discussion.

“One of the new and exciting things in the industry is off-site sales centers. We’ll look at how they do it,” he said. “It’s done well in the time share business and some of our developers have done it right in our industry.”

Instead of expecting potential clients to visit their parks, some developers are taking their programs to major population centers and pitching their sales presentation via videos, brochures and posters, he said.

For example, one park owner is successfully promoting park model rentals for non-RVers (the other 90% of the population) via a display in the parking lot at a nearby Camping World store, he said.

The first-time trade show will be a small but highly visible part of the conference, said Hoster, who is soliciting vendors to participate. The show will be held in the same room and concurrent with breakfast and breaks both days.

Another new twist to the upcoming conference will be a presentation by Woodall Publications on its unique rating system used in Woodall’s North American Campground Directory. To be eligible for Coast to Coast affiliation, campgrounds must maintain at least a 3W rating.

“We will have a session to talk about Woodall’s rating, how to go from a 3 to a 4 or a 4 to a 5. We’re lucky to have several resorts with perfect 5/5 ratings,” he said.

As at the first conference, conferees will have plenty of time to network with their colleagues over meals, between sessions and after hours, Hoster noted.

Renaissance Underway

The membership campground part of the industry was a lot bigger in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it has shrunk,” Hoster acknowledged. “However, we see a lot of renewed interest in it. We see a product that is very right for the times. It’s affordable, a product that is easy to use, especially if the resort is located within a couple of hours of your house. I think membership camping in particular is due for a renaissance.

“For Coast to grow, we have to invest in this industry and have to do what we can to help this industry grow. It will pay back many times over for us. Membership camping has suffered due to a lack of awareness and lack of enough people promoting and selling it. We see a lot of good things on the horizon for the industry. Even this year, there are a lot of new parks. From where I sit, I believe we will see this industry grow in the next year or two. I think it will be a lot of long-term growth. There are a lot of underlying factors in travel and tourism that favor this industry.”

Not to be overlooked is the conference’s setting: New Orleans. “It’s always a great venue, great food and great music,” he said.

Affinity Group Inc. is parent company of Coast to Coast, Woodall Publications and Woodall’s Campground Management.

For more information on the Coast conference, visit www.coastconference.com or call (800) 833-9183, ext. 429.

Coast Conference: February in New Orleans

September 2, 2010 by · Comments Off on Coast Conference: February in New Orleans 

The 2011 Coast to Coast Conference, Feb. 21-23, in New Orleans, will educate registrants about that right camping-related product. And, according to Bruce Hoster, president of Denver-based Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc., the time is now and that product is membership camping.

“It’s a product whose time is right and is due for a renaissance because so many people are putting a high value on leisure time,” he says.

Building on 2010’s conference in February in Las Vegas – a first-time event that generated a good crowd and a flurry of activity – planners for the upcoming 2011 conference were challenged to add new ways to share best practices in sales and marketing.

Now, they think they’ve come up with the right solution. “We thought it would be great to take a virtual sales tour of some of our successful membership parks,” says Hoster.

Consequently, attendees — without leaving the comfort of their conference seats — will see first-hand what happens at check in, during a park tour, in the sales process. Four of Coast to Coast’s leading resorts will be featured: Outdoor Adventure Resorts in Michigan, Travel Resorts of America in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, East Coast Resorts in New York, and Midwest Outdoor Resorts in South Dakota.

“That’s going to be worth the price of admission,” says Hoster.

Abe Libitz of Liberty County, Texas, got his money’s worth when he attended the 2010 Coast to Coast Conference. He and partner Judy Miller were pondering how to best utilize a campground property they’d purchased. “It was probably the No. 1 reason we went to the conference,” he says. “It was an eye opener of what it would take from a business standpoint for us to convert to a membership campground.”

“At a conference like this, you also get to talk to other developers and get a pretty good idea about what you’re about to bite and chew,” he adds. “If you understand that on every element, it helps you decide how to run your business better, plus you have the backing of Coast to Coast.”

Since the 2010 conference, their property, the Liberty Lakes Resort, is now a Coast to Coast Resort and the partners are already reaping the financial benefits.

“We have people coming to us who want to convert to a membership park, so we started Project Renaissance,” says Hoster. “Fabian Russell from East Coast Resorts put together a six-step process to take them from where they are today and walk them through the steps.”

For more information about creating a renaissance at one’s own park, Hoster suggests attending a session called “Resurrecting the Resort and Project Renaissance.”

Conference attendees, who are likely to draw inspiration from the can-do attitude of the people in the New Orleans region, will also rub shoulders with park owners and developers who are already working successfully within the Coast to Coast network.

“Pooling our individual efforts is a powerful force, which can be fun and informative,” says Hoster. “In another session, we’ll break into teams with a set of questions about how we can work together nationwide to promote awareness of and grow the membership camping industry.”

To register and get more information about the various sessions, visit www.coastconference.com.

ARVC Business Forum Reports on the Industry

June 11, 2010 by · Comments Off on ARVC Business Forum Reports on the Industry 

ARVC Business Forum members gather at the conclusion of a tour of the Keystone RV Co. plant in Goshen, Ind., where Springdale travel trailers and fifth-wheels are manufactured. Springdale Product Manager Nick Eppert (left) led the tour. Tour members (from left) are Ann Emerson, Linda Profaizer, David Gorin, Cindy Halley, Vic Nulting, David L. Berg, Al Johnson (in rear), Ian Steyn, Rob Schutter Jr., Mark Anderson, Eric Stumberg, Bruce Hoster, Pat Hittmeier and Chris Cutler. Shane Ott and Larry Weaver also participated in the forum but were not present for the photo.

This week’s ARVC Business Forum, held on the campus of Keystone RV Co. in Goshen, Ind., featured a typically lively give-and-take among the leadership of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and some of the nation’s key campground vendors.

Forum members met in conjunction with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Committee Week and Annual Meeting functions held not far away in downtown South Bend. The week’s agenda also included an industry party in recognition of what RVIA has designated in 2010 as the RV industry’s centennial.

The ARVC Business Forum brings together members of the ARVC Executive Committee and key players in the RV parks and campground business to discuss topical issues.

Shane Ott, director of campground relations for Thor Industries Inc., Keystone’s parent company, who helped orchestrate the meeting at Keystone, said the forum meeting at an RV company, a first for the forum, will help narrow “the huge gap” between the campground and RV industries. “There is no reason we shouldn’t do this more often,” he said.

A few forum highlights:

Mark Anderson, former ARVC chairman and owner of Camp Chautauqua Camping Resort, Chautauqua, N.Y., reported that his park and many others in the East “had almost a perfect Memorial Day weekend,” providing “a great start” to the season. The summer’s outlook for the Northeast is good as travel is up, he added. He noted that while the state of New York is “broke,” the governor found funds to reopen the state parks, which Anderson considers “an important baseline to private campgrounds.”

Vic Nolting, vice chairman of Leisure Systems Inc., franchisor of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, Milford, Ohio, began by summarizing, “In general, things look oh so much better than last year.” He then deferred to LSI’s COO, Rob Schutter Jr., who went into greater detail. Schutter echoed Anderson’s holiday observation. He said business in the Northeast is “leveling out” after “a disaster last year,” due to weather.

Schutter, noting that Yogi operators are seeing an upturn in campers’ ancillary spending after a 2%-3% downturn in such spending last year, reported that the rental market at Jellystone Parks is “through the roof,” thanks in part to its non-dependence on good weather and the growing number of visits of campers new to the Jellystone system.

LSI’s rental business was up 8% in 2009 and he expects another rise this year. The rental business, which puts campers into lodges and cabins, is bringing a lot of non-traditional or first-time campers, added Nolting. They explained that many Jellystone Parks maintain good working relationships with area chambers of commerce and hotels, which also spurs business. Cabin rental rates were $145 a night in 2009 and have been raised by $10 a night for the 2010 season, said Schutter, adding that LSI opened its first company-owned park this year in Bloomington, Ind.

Cindy Halley, publisher of the Trailer Life RV Parks and Campgrounds Directory and vice president of Good Sam Club marketing, Ventura, Calif., reported that TL’s rep teams are well underway in their collection of data and advertising sales for the 2011 directory. Team members “are very upbeat and expect a better year overall,” she said. On the club side, membership growth is exceeding forecasts and currently totals about 950,000. Good Sam Club members average 62 years of age and are typically retired, empty nesters. However, she added, the club is always trying to recruit younger members.

Eric Stumberg, president and co-founder of Wi-Fi provider TengoInternet, Austin, Texas, reported that TengoInternet’s acquisition of Nomad ISP is complete with Nomad’s clients integrated into Tengo’s in May, bringing its market penetration to some 800 parks and between 67,000 and 100,000 guests a month, depending upon the season.

Wi-Fi remains a key criteria in RVers’ decision on where to camp, he noted. He sees mobile point of sale terminals, such as an ice cream cart that accepts credit card swipes, becoming the next popular phase in parks and campgrounds. He is targeting 25% growth for 2010.

David L. Berg, ARVC chairman and owner of the Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, said business appears to be “back to where we used to be.” He had sold out his 140 sites for the July 4 holiday by Memorial Day and his tent and popup trailer sites sold out first for the first time ever.

Berg, at the same time, said he remains “boggled” by the growth and popularity of the cabin business. He charges $120 a night for a cabin, even though “the motel down the street charges $29.” He can explain the willingness to pay more because customers “want it all today, the safety, the experience…” He also is getting into the RV rental market, charging about $1,000 a week to rent a unit on-site.

Al Johnson, president of Recreational Adventures Co., an 11-park chain based in Hill City, S.D., reported “an exceptional Memorial Day” and stated that nine of his 11 KOA-affilitated properties are ahead of plan so far this year. He has begun to replace aged cabins with new park models. He is putting on hold an overhaul of RV sites until he can better determine size requirements for the next RV generation. He, too, saw more guests with tents and folding camping trailers last year, but said it’s too early to tell whether that trend will continue this year.

David Gorin, who wore multiple hats to the forum as a campground consultant, ARVC lobbyist, park owner and state association director, reported that his Holiday Cove RV Resort in Bradenton, Fla., experienced a 25% increase in business last year, with his rental business up 20%-25% annually.

Gorin says he sold approximately half of the lots for sale in his park in the last 19 months. As director of the Virginia Campground Association, he said that state’s parks are looking for a good year, but that they’re concerned about whether the Gulf oil spill will make its way eventually up the East Coast. Meanwhile, Gorin says his Best Parks in America network has grown from 22 to 63 parks in the past year, has recently finished a long-term strategy session and will be publishing its first print directory. Finally, Gorin announced that he will be building a new 250-site RV park in Palmetto, Fla.

Ann Emerson, ARVC Business Forum chairwoman and vice president of Woodall Publications, publisher of the Woodall’s North American Campground Directory, Ventura, Calif., said sales consultants are reporting overall that most parks are doing well. In general, parks near metro areas are still faring better than those in remote areas. And there’s a serious concern among tourism-related business operators — parks among them — in many Southern and Southeastern locales regarding the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill, prompting some owners to defer decisions on marketing expenses.

Emerson began a discussion on the explosion of social media in the campground business. At her parent company, Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), parent company of RV Business and Woodall’s Campground Management, almost all the websites have a Facebook page and each publication has at least one staff member assigned to increase its social media presence and AGI is developing a SmartPhone “app” for both of its campground directories. This discussion elicited comments on mobile marketing, which fueled a wider discussion on the explosion of mobile phone use in society. Some 90% of all U.S. homes have cell phones, and a significant percentage of Woodall customers have SmartPhones, she said. Stumberg noted that one study showed that almost as many people today access the Internet via their SmartPhones as from personal computers.

Bruce Hoster, president of Coast to Coast Resorts, the membership camping wing of AGI, said, “We think membership camping is due for a renaissance.” He cited a number of ways Coast to Coast is attracting new parks and members to the concept. As an aside, he observed that membership campgrounds are finding new revenue streams by developing storage facilities for their members’ RVs while they are not camping. For example, one membership park developed a 7-acre storage facility and realizes an estimated $1 million in revenue in annual storage fees. He reported that Camp Club USA, AGI’s discount camping club, “has come back strong after seeing a slight dip during the recession” with high renewal rates and is up to nearly 50,000 members. Coast to Coast, which has taken membership camping under its wing, sponsored a membership camping conference in February in Las Vegas and will sponsor another in February in New Orleans. He is working to make inroads with developers of hotel and condo complexes to consider integrating campgrounds into their projects, he said.

Pat Hittmeier, president of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Billings, Mont., said camping was “soft” over the winter, hindered by cold weather in its Southern campgrounds. But it’s taken off since May and was up 7% through Memorial Day. KOA is projecting an 8% increase through Labor Day, said Hittmeier, adding that use of the Internet to make reservations is up 12% over last year, a reflection of more business in general and the migration of campers to the Internet.

KOA has 4,000 units in its lodging pool and that business is strong, he said. Lodges make up 13% of the total KOA sites, but the company is aiming to raise that figure to 20% at 50% of its campgrounds. KOA also is looking to increase its first-time visits, which now make up 15% to 19% of its total guests.

ARVC loyalist Ian Steyn, owner of Jellystone Castle Rock Campground, Castle Rock, Colo., noted that his business is up 38% year-over-year, and 2009 was a good year for his business. He discussed an integrated approach to promoting the outdoors with other hospitality businesses in his community seeking to make it the epicenter for outdoor recreation in his state.

Larry Weaver, park model sales manager for CrossRoads RV, Topeka, Ind., briefly outlined the preferred park model program his parent company, Thor Industries Inc., has established with ARVC. Weaver stressed that campground owners should make sure they buy “ruggedized” park models for their rental units and refrain from features such as carpeting that will not hold up well under the rigors of long-term use.

Coast to Coast Resorts Partners with Winnebago

June 1, 2010 by · Comments Off on Coast to Coast Resorts Partners with Winnebago 

Coast to Coast Resorts, the industry leader in bringing RV enthusiasts access to some of the finest “members-only” outdoor resorts in the country, and Winnebago Industries Inc. today (June 1) announce the “3 for Free” promotion for new Winnebago Industries motorhome owners and Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) Club members.

The promotion entitles new owners and WIT Club members to a free three-day, two-night stay at one of more than 50 of the top Coast to Coast outdoor resorts across the U.S. and Canada, according to a news release.

The offer is available to anyone who purchases a new Winnebago Industries motorhome on or after Jan. 1, 2010, as well as new and existing WIT Club members. To be eligible, participants must attend a 90-minute presentation/tour on Coast to Coast membership at the campground.

In addition to the free three-day, two-night stay, participants qualify for exclusive credits and discounts. Guests who join Coast to Coast will receive a $500 discount on their membership, while those who decline membership will be offered a $500 camping credit at the resort where they stayed.

Participants in the promotion will experience the type of luxurious facilities offered by Coast to Coast’s resorts at locations that stretch from the wilderness of Washington’s Cascade Mountains to the Orlando, Fla. area. The resorts contain a range of high-quality amenities for vacationers of all ages, such as swimming pools, clubhouses, boating and countless fun planned activities for adults and children alike.

“Coast to Coast has a long history of providing excellent value on outstanding resorts across the country,” said Bruce Hoster, president of Coast to Coast Resorts. “By partnering with Winnebago Industries, we’re able to show the benefits of Coast to Coast membership to a whole new world of new and existing motor home owners. We look forward to welcoming Winnebago Industries motor home owners and WIT Club members at our resorts and anticipate that many of them will choose to become members of Coast to Coast following their stays.”

“Winnebago Industries offers a wide variety of motor home products with high quality expectations and the finest in luxury comfort available to RV owners,” said Chad Reece, director of marketing for Winnebago Industries Inc. “Therefore, it’s natural that we are partnering with Coast to Coast, whose resorts offer an equally high level of amenities and activities. We are sure that the combination of a Winnebago Industries motor home and a five-star outdoor resort will provide the perfect vacation getaway.”

A Coast to Coast membership makes it easy to travel safely and comfortably throughout North America, with hundreds of affiliated RV resorts in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Member benefits include a subscription to Coast to Coast Magazine and a number of travel services, with additional advantages that include cabin and condo rentals, trip routing and dining and leisure discounts. Coast to Coast offers RV Tripsetter, an online and phone reservation system, which provides a simple way to reserve a space.

Coast to Coast was established in 1972 and is owned by and affiliated with Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events that service the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American recreation vehicle and outdoor enthusiast market. AGI is the parent company of WOODALLSCM.com.

Existing members of Coast to Coast are ineligible to participate in the “3 for Free” promotion. Other restrictions may apply. To participate, visit www.experiencectc.com/3forfree.

Coast to Coast Names VP of Member Services

April 26, 2010 by · Comments Off on Coast to Coast Names VP of Member Services 

Clint Britt has joined Coast to Coast Resorts as vice president of member services.

Britt brings to Coast to Coast and parent company Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) a wealth of successful experience managing call centers for Countrywide Financial Corp., according to an announcement by Coast to Coast President Bruce Hoster.

Britt started his career as a business analyst for Countrywide Insurance Services in Simi Valley, Calif., and soon thereafter received a promotion to vice president and retail production manager. In this role he managed a 62-seat call center in Simi Valley responsible for sales of insurance and related products to Countrywide customers. During this time he also assumed management responsibility for a Countrywide call center in Orlando, Fl., which under his leadership was transformed to one of the top performing call centers for the company.

Following this he was promoted to first vice president of Customer Care and Client Service responsible for Countrywide offices in Chandler, Ariz., and Pittsburgh, Pa., selling insurance products for 20 different clients. For the past three years Britt has served as general manager for Britt PowerSports in Littleton, Colo., a family-owned Honda distributorship.

Britt is a Colorado native and resides in Highlands Ranch with his wife and two young children. He is a sports enthusiast and still competes in motocross racing on a regular basis. He attended California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where he received his bachelor of science in business administration as well as his masters of business administration in management and organization behavior. He also played shortstop for the California Lutheran baseball team and was drafted during high school by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Britt will work out of the Affinity office in Denver, Colo.

Conference Promotes Private Membership Camping

December 16, 2009 by · Comments Off on Conference Promotes Private Membership Camping 

Coast to Coast Conference logoThe 2010 Coast to Coast Conference, Feb. 16-18 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, is designed to help grow the RV park and campground industry by sharing and promoting best practices for sales and marketing in the private membership camping industry.

Conference speakers, recruited from the most successful developers in the industry, will show how to shape sales and marketing strategies and tactics to drive sales, maximize revenue and generate better overall results, according to a news release.

Sponsor Coast to Coast Resorts offiers a number of reasons for attending. Among them are these:

  • Learn best practices in sales and marketing in the private membership camping industry.
  • Discover the “secrets to success” used by the leading developers in the industry.
  • Network with leaders and experts in the industry.
  • Gain insights and ideas to improve sales and marketing.
  • See how new technologies can make sales and marketing more effective.
  • Take home ideas and practices that can make an immediate and positive impact on business.

Who should attend?

  • Current owners and developers.
  • Resort sales and marketing managers and other park personnel.
  • Owners interested in converting their parks to private membership camping.
  • Consultants to the campground industry who want to learn more about membership camping as an option for their clients.
  • Private membership camping resorts who are not currently selling but want to re-start their sales program.
  • Park investors and developers.
  • RV industry executives.
  • Suppliers to the private membership camping industry.

For more information visit www.coastconference.com

Affinity Group Inc. is the parent company of Coast to Coast Resorts and WOODALLSCM.COM.

Membership Camping: ‘The Perfect Solution’

November 30, 2009 by · Comments Off on Membership Camping: ‘The Perfect Solution’ 


Coast to Coast Conference logoMembership-driven Coast to Coast Resorts and New York-based consultant Fabian L. Russell have rolled out ”Project Renaissance,” a customizable guide for campground owners interested in becoming Coast affiliates.

Coast to Coast Resorts has 60,000 commercial members who have access to 450 resorts, 250 of which are membership-only parks plus 200 other ”good neighbor” parks that charge Coast members special rates.

”We realized that a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t necessarily work because each resort, each location, each marketplace has a unique set of goals and circumstances,” said Russell, while attending November’s National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) InSites 2009 Annual Convention and Outdoor Exposition in Orlando, Fla.

Project Renaissance assesses a number of aspects associated with a campground, including the demographics of the area it’s in, local traffic patterns and tourism and creates a membership, sales and marketing plan for each location.

Fabian Russell

Fabian Russell

”Project Renaissance” will be featured among the presentations during the Coast Conference Feb. 16-18 at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., which is designed to provide a nuts-and-bolts overview of the operations and development of membership campgrounds.

Doug Woods, national sales manager of Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), noted that mounting an effective membership-campground marketing campaign is not inexpensive, but that resort-style campgrounds are missing out on an opportunity if they remain only available for nightly rental.

”It’s easier to rent your sites out at $40 a night than it is to get into a sales and marketing campaign,” Woods said. ” But longer term, you can make a million dollars more on your park by going to a membership camping program.”

”It’s designed to be flexible,” said Russell, who for 23 years has operated Bass Lake Resort, a 277-site membership park in Parish, N.Y., and also is president of East Coast Resorts and the Memory Maker Travel Network, both of which market membership RV, cruise and condo vacations.

Bruce Hoster

Bruce Hoster

”We’ve seen an example that it is more lucrative,” said Coast to Coast President Bruce Hoster. ”(Russell’s) park as a membership park grosses a million dollars more a year.”

Membership fees eventually pay for the operation of the park, so that sales of new memberships ”becomes an extra pool of money,” Hoster said.

”Some is profits, some is reinvested, because in membership camping, you have to have a great looking park because you are bringing people in all the time to tour them and to sell memberships to,” he said. ”It’s critical that the product look good and be good.”

Russell said that membership campgrounds tend to flourish because the member community becomes an extended family. ”There’s a club feeling, a camaraderie among members. It’s like (they are) coming home every spring when you open up.”

Russell also predicted that membership parks will become more appealing to RVers because of the trend for state parks to close or cut back their hours and for private campgrounds to be sold to developers.

”There will come a time when the RVer is going to have a hard time getting into a nice place,” Russell said. ” That’s where a membership park will give the RVer a leg up because he’s got a place to go.”

Hoster agreed.

”We feel that the competition is going to get stiffer and stiffer,” Hoster said. ” There’s going to be more demand for high-quality campsites and high-quality camping experiences with the same or fewer suppliers of those kinds of sites.

”We think that membership camping, especially for a lot of the Baby Boomers coming into RVing, is the perfect solution.”

Full conference registration is available for $299 per person through Dec. 15 — $100 off the full rate of $399 for those signing up after mid-December. The price does not include hotel room, and a la carte pricing is available for networking and breakout sessions.

For more information or to register for the 2010 Coast Conference visit www.coastconference.com.

Coast to Coast’s AGI parent company also is the parent company of  Woodall’s Campground Management and RVBusiness magazines.

Coast to Coast Plans Membership Camping Conference

November 17, 2009 by · Comments Off on Coast to Coast Plans Membership Camping Conference 

Coast to Coast Conference logoRepresentatives of Coast to Coast Resorts were promoting their upcoming Coast Conference Feb. 16-18 at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., during the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (ARVC) InSites 2009 Convention and Outdoor Hospitality Expo that ended Nov. 12 in Orlando, Fla.

Coast to Coast President Bruce Hoster said that while the membership resort system has sponsored conferences before, this one will have a more nuts-and-bolts focus.

‘‘There really has not been a venue for the membership camping industry to gather and to network,’’ Hoster told WOODALLSCM.com during ARVC’s convention. “The Coast Conference is designed to identify and share best practices in the membership camping industry because that’s the ‘secret sauce’ of the industry.’’

Speakers, Hoster said, “‘will be drawn from the industry,” specifically, those who have achieved success in selling and marketing membership resorts.

“Our speakers are going to be from the most successful developers in the industry talking about a whole range of topics from tour generation to what a sales room should look like to how to finance a sale, how to find leads and how to use a phone to turn a lead into a tour.

“It will really be a kind of soup-to-nuts gathering.”

“In the past, we’ve done a number of summits for our key developer,” said Doug Woods, Coast national sales manager. “But we never really had a lot of input from the sales managers and marketing managers and tour-generation managers. This will include two or three levels below the developers who usually come to these conferences. It’s literally the how-to of membership camping.”

The conference will be geared not only toward resort developers, but also those already operating high-end campgrounds who may be interested in attracting membership campers.

“It’s designed to attract both current developers in the industry and people who are new to the industry who may be building new resort-type campgrounds that want to consider membership camping as an option for their development,’’ Hoster said. “And it may be upscale resorts or open-to-the-public campgrounds that want to convert to membership or think about adding membership as a component of their campground.”

Coast to Coast Resorts has 60,000 commercial members who have access to 450 resorts, 250 of which are membership-only parks plus 200 other “good neighbor” parks that give Coast members special rates.

Registration for the entire conference is available for $299 per person through Dec. 15 — $100 off the full rate of $399 for those signing up after mid-December. The price does not include hotel room, and a la carte pricing is available for networking and breakout sessions.

For more information or to register for the 2010 Coast Conference visit www.coastconference.com.

Coast to Coast is a division of Affinity group Inc. (AGI), parent company of WOODALLSCM.com.

Coast to Coast Resorts to Host 2010 Camping Conference

November 4, 2009 by · Comments Off on Coast to Coast Resorts to Host 2010 Camping Conference 

Coast to Coast Conference logoCoast to Coast Resorts, the industry leader in private membership camping, has announced its plans to hold the 2010 Coast to Coast Conference on Feb. 16-18 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

The Coast Conference aims to help grow the industry by promoting best practices for sales and marketing initiatives to developers currently selling memberships, developers interested in restarting their membership sales activities, and new developers interested in entering the industry, according to a news release.

Several key topics will be addressed, including insights and ideas to improve sales and marketing at the resort level, secrets to success used by the leading developers in the industry and utilizing new technologies to make sales and marketing more effective. Attendees will learn ideas and practices that can make an immediate and positive impact on the bottom line.

“The Coast Conference is designed to help grow our industry by focusing on sales and marketing strategies specific to private membership camping,” said Bruce Hoster, Coast to Coast president. “We believe the private membership campground industry has the right product, at the right price, and at the right time to meet changing consumer demands for high quality campground experiences.”

Full conference registration is available for $299 through Dec. 15, $100 off the original rate of $399, and includes a welcome reception, main stage presentations, breakout sessions, two networking breakfasts and a lunch on Wednesday. Pricing is per person and does not include hotel reservation. A la carte pricing is available for networking and breakout sessions.

For more information or to register for the 2010 Coast to Coast Conference, visit www.coastconference.com.

Since 1972, Coast to Coast Resorts has been the industry leader in bringing RV enthusiasts access to some of the finest “members-only” CampResorts in the country. Coast’s primary focus is to make it possible for people who purchase memberships at private CampResorts to maximize their destination and vacation choices. To fulfill this mission, Coast to Coast has created an internationally recognized network of hundreds of affiliated private CampResorts, enhanced with hundreds of Good Neighbor Parks/Best Parks in America, forming a network of beautiful properties where nearly any vacation experience can be found.

 

Coast to Coast is a division of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), parent company of WOODALLSCM.com.

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