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TACO: Winter Texan Market Already Booming

November 8, 2012 by · Comments Off on TACO: Winter Texan Market Already Booming 

Campgrounds and RV parks that cater to Winter Texans in South-Central Texas anticipate a stronger winter season than last year, thanks in part to the Eagle Ford shale oil pipeline project, which has brought scores of construction workers into the area, according to a news release from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

“Last winter was about the best we’ve ever had and we’re going to be about 20% ahead of that this winter, so we’re looking really good,” said Doug Shearer of Parkview Riverside RV Park in Rio Frio.

In addition to seeing the return of their Winter Texan visitors, campgrounds in the Texas Hill Country and other areas of South-Central Texas are filling up with construction workers involved in the Eagle Ford shale oil project, which is boosting campground occupancies during the fall shoulder season, Shearer said.

Other Hill Country campgrounds and RV parks also anticipate a strong winter season, including Hill Country RV Park & Cottage Rentals in New Braunfels. “We have a waiting list for both RV sites and park model rentals,” said Bryan Kastleman, the park’s manager.

Other parks are similarly upbeat.

“We did well last winter, but we’re doing better this winter,” said Teri Blaschke of Hidden Valley RV Park in Von Ormy. “People are making reservations further in advance, so we’re being able to tell sooner what our vacancies will be. I do have spots here and there for travelers, but our long-term sites are already booked.”

Blaschke added that she is putting in eight new campsites for the winter season and they are already reserved.

Further to the north, La Hacienda RV Resort in Austin is already booked solid for the winter season. “We’ve got a waiting list and we’re turning people away for the 2012-2013 winter market,” said park owner Ken Butschek, who added that his year-to-date revenue is up about 15 percent over last year’s figures.

La Hacienda RV Resort has a mix of sites that are owned by RVers as well as elegant park model cottages that are available for rent. The park also has about 30 sites that are available for overnight use.

“We have a loyal group of repeat Winter Texans. But we’re also seeing a lot of people who are trying out our park models,” Butschek said.

Further east, Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring and Timber Ridge RV Village in Tomball are already booked for the winter season, said Gwen Craig, who co-owns both parks. She said she has waiting lists for her seasonal sites, although she has kept a few overnight sites available for travelers.

“Every year we’ve outperformed the prior year in occupancy and revenue,” she said, adding that this year is again shaping up to be stronger than last year.

Thousand Trails RV Resort at Lake Conroe is also seeing a strong winter season, fueled both by Winter Texans as well as families from Texas that come to the park on weekends to take part in organized activities and special events.

“We’re seeing younger crowds,” said Terry Munoz, resort manager of the 360-site park. “Even during the winter the locals come out on weekends, so long as we have mild weather. We do a lot of themed weekends and activities.”

 

 

 

New Logo and Website for Arizona ARVC

May 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Arizona ARVC's new logo

The Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Arizona ARVC) had a good story to tell its membership at the Annual Conference and Trade Show April 25-26 at the Rincon Country West RV Resort in Tucson.

The association has a new logo, launched its revamped website (www.gocampinginarizona.com) with the help of Strait Web Solutions in February and is nearing completion of its annual camping directory with publication expected this summer, explained Jo Ann Mickelson, executive director.

The two-day conference attracted representatives from 27 parks and 15 vendors. Attendance was good, considering that the event comes at the conclusion of Arizona’s “winter” season for the parks in the southern half of the state and the start of the “summer” season for most parks in the northern half, she said.

The southern parks had a good season, about on par with a year ago, she said, and the feeling among owners is that the upcoming summer will be good for the northern parks.

For her part, Mickelson was just opening her park, J & H RV Park in Flagstaff, and reported good traffic already.

The conference featured seminars on four diverse topics.

A screenshot of the homepage for Arizona ARVC's new website.

Jeff Sims, director of state relations and program advocacy for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), was the keynote speaker and focused on member benefits available to ARVC members. He also updated members on the ADA swimming pool and spa lift regulations, whose implementation was successfully delayed through lobbying efforts of ARVC and the hotel and motel industry. And and in a cracker barrel session, Sims helped clarify questions about compliance with federal regulations on accommodating guests with service dogs.

Others seminar speakers were Nicole Perri and Jordan Kelly, who spoke on social media, and Jason Porter of Legally Mine.

A fourth “seminar” was an instructive lesson for park owners and operators on how to play pickle ball and bocce ball, two activities that are popular among guests in Arizona parks but not necessarily familiar to park owners themselves.

A special guest was Saundra Bryn, Region 6 ARVC board member representing the West. She is the owner of Desert’s Edge RV/The Purple Park in Phoenix.

The association recognized three parks of the year. Desert’s Edge RV/The Purple Park was named Medium Size Park of the Year, and there was a tie for Large Park of the Year between La Hacienda RV Resort in Apache Junction and Rincon Country East in Tucson.

The new officers for Arizona ARVC are Robert Rolle, president, Rolle’s Linda Vista RV Resort in Yuma; Barbara Stafford, vice president, Apache Palms RV Park in Tempe; Wendy Bykovsky, treasurer, Rincon Country West; and Annette Sounnakhone, secretary, Rincon Country West.

A 12-member board also was elected.

Mickelson briefed members on key legislative issues affecting their industry. The primary focus was on pending legislation that would hold RV parks and manufactured housing communities responsible for the cleanup of meth labs that are found within their boundaries. As of April 30, the bill was in a conference committee. An amended version would not hold parks responsible for the total cleanup but only for remediation of chemical contamination

WCM Survey: Park Model/Yurt Builders Optimistic

January 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on WCM Survey: Park Model/Yurt Builders Optimistic 

The master bedroom of a solar-powered park model built by Palm Harbor Homes, a division of Cavco Industries Inc.

Private park operators are continuing to increase their investments in park model cabins, cottages and yurts as they work to both diversify and fortify their business base in a challenging economy.

And even though private parks have been stepping up their investments in rental accommodations for several years, the parks themselves are still a long way from reaching the saturation point, according to both park model and yurt manufacturers.

“There’s no letup in demand for rental units,” said Joe Follman, sales manager for Ocala, Fla.-based Chariot Eagle, which is promoting new floorplans as well as more rustic cabin-style park models.

“I don’t think there’s saturation by any means,” said Alan Bair, president of Cottage Grove, Ore.-based Pacific Yurts, adding that demand for yurts as rental accommodations is coming from both public and private parks.

“Once a campground or park puts them in, they buy more,” Bair said. “People love the unique experience. It’s different than what they’re used to. It’s unusual and exciting and they remember it.”

Park model manufacturers report a similar experience. Small- and medium-size parks typically order one or two park models to start out, and then gradually increase the numbers based on consumer demand.

Some park operators say the level of demand for rental accommodations has surprised them.

Operator Surprised by Rental Demand

Interior of a upscale yurt by Pacific Yurts.

“It’s a market I didn’t plan on,” said Ken Butschek, who owns La Hacienda RV Resort near Lake Travis, Texas, who is seeing rising demand for park model rentals from RVers and non-RVers alike. His park model renters include Lynn and Gary Kingsbury of Vermont, who opted to leave their fifth-wheel at home this winter and rent a park model instead.

“One of the issues we have in leaving Vermont in January is that it’s quite an adventure with the cold and the snow and the roads,” Lynn Kingsbury said. “We love our RV. But we decided to see how we like staying in a park model.”

Liz Fisher of Seattle drove her Class B RV to La Hacienda RV Resort this winter as well, but she’s renting a park model instead of staying in her RV.

“One thing I like about park models is there are windows all around, so there is more light coming in, and I have a deck facing south, so I can enjoy the sun,” she said.

Butschek said Winter Texans are also renting park models because they offer an easy way for retirees to enjoy the Sunbelt during the winter months. “I’m getting a lot of people renting my park models this winter because they don’t want to rent an apartment or sign a lease,” Butschek said. “Here, they don’t even have to turn on utilities. They just bring their clothes and food, and they’re good.”

Butschek said he is considering adding eight park models this year to his stock of 21 because of the winter traffic.

Park model rentals, of course, also enable park operators to broaden their business base to include individuals and families who don’t have a tent or RV, which explains their allure to public and private park operators across the country.

KOA, LSI Still Growing Park Model Segment

“We’re going to continue to grow (the rental) segment of our market,” said Pat Hittmeier, president of Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), adding, “I don’t think we’ve hit saturation by any stretch.”

KOA corporate and franchise parks purchased several hundred park models during the past two years, including 340 in 2010 and about 230 in 2011, Hittmeier said, adding that KOA parks plan to purchase another 230 park models this year, which the company plans to market as “deluxe cabins.”

Dutch Park Homes park model

Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), parent company of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, also expects its franchisees to continue to broaden their rental base with park models this year. “We saw revenues jump 13% in the rental business (in 2011),” said Rob Schutter, LSI’s COO. “We don’t see that abating any time in the near future.”

Aside from broadening a park’s business base, park models can significantly increase a park’s income, said Dick Grymonprez, vice president of marketing for Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas. He added that park operators can pay off their units in less than two years in some locations.

“In my campground, it’s about 20 months,” said Joe Moore, general manager of The Vineyards Campground and Cabins in Grapevine, Texas, adding that park models can generate two to three times the revenue of a typical RV site. “It depends on how well you market the product and what your clientele is and your location,” Moore said, adding that he’s been purchasing units from Athens Park Homes in recent years.

Ken Lawrence, production manager for Indianapolis, Ind.-based Yurts of America, which featured a yurt at the Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in Savannah, Ga., sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), said the payback can be even faster with yurts, given their lower cost. He added that 24- and 30-foot-wide yurts are also available, which are ideal for large groups, such as children with chaperones.

Builders to Market Product at State Shows

Interior of a park model built by Woodland Park.

Increased park operator interest in rental units has also generated increased competition among manufacturers as they compete for sales in a challenging business environment.

“It is a fairly competitive market,” said Daryle Lambright, North America sales manager for Woodland Park in Middlebury, Ind. “We really see the rental market opening up to more floor plans as well as some units with nicer features and residential style appointments.”

Despite the competition, growing numbers of park model manufacturers are stepping up their involvement in the rental market. “We’re going after the rental market more than we have before,” Lambright said.

Larry Weaver, sales manager of Goshen, Ind.-based Dutch Park Homes, whose product offering includes a log cabin style park model, said his company is also stepping up its involvement in the rental accommodations market. “We’re going to be a lot more aggressive at Dutch Park than we have been,” he said. “We’re going to attend the Ohio and Michigan state shows,” he said. “By being at the state shows, we’ll find out what (parks) want and we’ll build it. Rental units are really coming on strong. You need to be where people are looking for rental units.”

ARVC has also weighed into the market, offering park operators significant savings on rental units through a preferred provider agreement with Elkhart, Ind.-based Skyline Corp. Skyline, in fact, is expected to showcase a new rental unit for the campground market in March during the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO) conference and trade show.

Solar-Powered Park Model Unveiled at Tampa Show

Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries, for its part, has increased its competitive edge by acquiring other companies, including Palm Harbor Homes, Fleetwood and Nationwide Homes, which provide Cavco with the ability to produce park models in every region of the country. “Our direction has always been to work outside of the box and create products that are conducive to the property that wants rental cabins or cottages,” said Tim Gage, Cavco’s national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products.

Cavco’s latest park model designs include a new off-grid solar powered park model cottage, which the company showcased at the KOA convention in Las Vegas, as well as the nation’s first “net zero” park model, which was shown by its Palm Harbor Homes subsidiary in January at the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa.

“This is green to the point of being ‘net zero,’ which means you typically have a ‘zero dollar’ utility bill or in some cases end up selling power back to the utility company,” said Mike Wnek, Palm Harbor’s senior vice president, adding that the unit’s 3.2 KW photovoltaic panels generate more than enough electricity to use each day.

Dubbed the Staniel Cay Eco Cottage, after an island in the Exuma Cays archipelago east of the Bahamas, the 399-square-foot unit is designed for use as a part-time residence or vacation cottage in Sunbelt RV resorts as well as on private property in the Caribbean and Central America.

Builders Say Lending Environment Improving

Pinnacle Park Homes park model.

About the only thing putting a brake on park model sales is the availability of financing. “I could list 10 campgrounds who will tell me they’ll buy five park models right now if we could find them some financing,” said Grymonprez of Athens Park Homes. “We need some new lenders out there.”

But while the limited availability of financing has limited the park model industry’s growth in recent years, some park model manufacturers tell Woodall’s Campground Management they are starting to see some improvement in the availability of financing.

“The market has started to loosen,” said Lambright of Woodland Park. “We’re hearing a lot less complaints from the dealers (about the availability of financing). There are a couple more lenders that have entered the market, which has helped as well.”

Andy Davis, national sales manager for Pinnacle Park Homes in Ochlocknee, Ga., is also seeing some improvement in the availability of financing.

Manufacturers are also working to increase their sales of park models to consumers, who use them as weekend retreats or vacation cottages at private parks across the country. “This time of year, most of our sales are in Florida and Texas, but there is still business going up north,” said Follman of Chariot Eagle.

Some park model manufacturers are seeing rising demand for their units in Canada and overseas as well. “We’re actually building units for China,” said Dave Hostetler, sales manager for Bridgeview Manufacturing in Elkhart, Ind. “A lot of our business is overseas.”

Bair of Pacific Yurts is also seeing rising demand for yurts overseas, particularly from vacation resorts in Europe. “We expect to see a continuing trend of (sales) improvement,” he said.

Woodall’s Names Favorite Campground Sweepstakes Winners

January 5, 2012 by · Comments Off on Woodall’s Names Favorite Campground Sweepstakes Winners 

Woodall’s Publications, publisher of the comprehensive Woodall’s Campground Directory, has released its list of North America’s top 100 favorite campgrounds based on the nationwide voting. The announcement and release of the top parks came at the close of Woodall’s “Vote for Your Favorite Campground” Sweepstakes where guests could vote via website or text messages for their preferred RV Parks or campgrounds.

To celebrate its 75th anniversary Woodall’s Publications wanted to discover the best places to camp across North America, so it took that question to its readers by running the “Vote for Your Favorite Campground” Sweepstakes. Every time campers voted for their favorite park, whether through the website or by text, they were entered in a drawing to win a 7-night cruise to the Hawaiian Islands. The park or campground that received the most votes by the end of the contest also received an all expenses-paid cruise to Hawaii, according to a news release.

The Sweepstakes ran for 10 months and was sponsored by trusted names in the industry like Evergreen USA, Cavco Industries Inc., Utility Supply Group and Athens Park Homes. The response was overwhelming as the votes flooded in from RVers and campers who wanted to highlight their favorite campgrounds. There were over 7,000 RV parks that received votes during the search. Out of those 7,000 entries, Woodall’s compiled a list of the Top 100 Parks and Campgrounds in North America, based on the number of votes received.

The Top Ten RV parks, as voted by RVers, were (in alphabetical order):

  • Bay Hide Away RV & Camping Resort, Bay St. Louis, Miss.
  • Big Bear Shores RV Resort & Marina, Big Bear Lake, Calif.
  • Candy Hill Campground, Winchester, Va.
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
  • Frontier Town Campground, Ocean City, Md.
  • La Hacienda RV Resort, Apache Junction, Ariz.
  • Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort, Santa Claus, Ind.
  • Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro, Mass.
  • Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  • Pismo Coast Village RV Resort, Pismo Beach, Calif.

The Grand Prize winner of the Sweepstakes was Bay Hide Away RV & Camping Resort in Mississippi. Bay Hide Away RV & Camping Resort won a 7-night, all expense paid cruise to Hawaii, courtesy of Woodall’s and its sponsors.

Michele Richards, owner of Bay Hide Away RV & Camping Resort, said the response to the sweepstakes from her guests was tremendous. “Our regular campers told me that they were going to vote for us every day” said Richards, “but we even had new guests who told me that they had a great experience at the park, and they were going to vote for us based on their stay.” Woodall’s “Vote for Your Favorite Campground Sweepstakes” became an excellent “comment card,” Richards noted. “We appreciate the satisfied guests who helped us win.”

The winners of the Consumer Grand Prize were Emily and Edward Dozier of Arlington, Va., who also won all-exclusive cruise to the Hawaiian Islands for 7 nights.

See the entire list of top 100 parks at www.woodalls.com/2012FavoriteCampgroundsNorthAmerica.

About Woodall’s Publications

The Woodall’s Campground Directory and the website, www.wooodalls.com, are part of the Good Sam family, the nation’s largest provider of clubs, services, media and events, and devoted to enhancing the lifestyle of recreational-vehicle enthusiasts. Woodall’s is the official directory of the Family Motor Coach Association, Family Campers & RVers, NASCAR, and Camping World President’s Club. Woodall’s Campground Management and www.woodallscm.com are part of the Good Sam family.

TACO Stands by Texas Campground Owners

October 26, 2010 by · Comments Off on TACO Stands by Texas Campground Owners 

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has developed a packed legislative affairs agenda for 2011 and is planning initiatives to protect private park owners from everything from higher taxes to cutbacks in tourism funding and efforts to extend the school year, according to a news release.

TACO attorney Casey Erick briefed association members on details of several laws previously put on the books that are RV park-specific, including Theft of Service and Trespass codes. TACO legislative consultant Ron Hinkle reviewed the 2011 legislative affairs agenda during the “Texas Parks on Tour” meeting at La Hacienda RV Resort in Austin.

Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO, said the state of Texas is facing close to a $25 billion deficit and is going to be looking for ways to raise taxes and cut programs. “We don’t want them coming to us for fees such as occupancy taxes,” Schaeffer said, although the association may support minor broad-based tax increases that are applied to everyone and every industry, such as minor increases in gasoline or sales taxes.

But TACO does not want to see any cutbacks in state funding to promote Texas tourism to out-of-state residents. TACO is also gearing up for a fight to prevent school districts from extending the length of the school year.

“We obtained legislation a couple of years ago that prevents school districts in Texas from starting the school year before the last Monday of August. But now we’re seeing some creep on school ending dates,” Schaeffer said, adding that TACO would support legislation to govern school ending dates as well.

TACO is also working with the Texas Rural Water Districts Association and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop standard billing rates for rural water districts, which have increasingly tried to charge Texas parks residential billing rates.

In other business, TACO members elected several board members for its 2011 term, including Robert Crockett of Spring Branch RV Resort in Spring Branch; Allan Hughes of Traders Village in Grand Prairie; Joe Moore of The Vineyards Campground in Grapevine; Don Temple of Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville; Doug Shearer of Parkview Riverside RV Park in Rio Frio; Ed Welliver of Oleander Acres RV Resort in Mission. Officers for 2011 will be selected in January.

The meeting also included a tour of La Hacienda RV Resort by park owners Ken and Lydia Butschek. This resort recently expanded from 60 RV sites and a handful of cabins on five acres to 240 sites with 15 cabins on 35 acres with majestic amenities and meeting facilities. Fall tour sponsors included Wilcor International, Parkview Riverside RV Park, TengoInternet and Texas Advertising.

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