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Arlington Named Exec. Dir. of Kansas ARVC

September 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on Arlington Named Exec. Dir. of Kansas ARVC 

Mary Arlington

Mary Arlington has returned to the Kansas Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (KARVC) as its executive director.

Amy Stuhlsatz, KARVC president, announced Arlington’s return today (Sept. 20).

Arlington has been tasked with helping the association restructure its foundation, strengthening it for another 40-plus years into the future, Stuhlsatz stated.

“Our first 40 years proved to us we are a vital asset to our members. We play a significant role in Kansas tourism, and our members gain from one another in ways we can’t even begin to document! We will continue to offer our members tools for growth because professional development leads to stronger and more solid businesses,” Stuhlsatz stated.

“You may remember Mary from her time on our board of directors and in various officers roles, as well as being our executive director for many years. She sold her campground in December 2011, and has been helping our leadership occasionally, but it’s time we bring her on for awhile to make some definitively positive changes,” she said.

Arlington will represent KARVC at the National Association of RV Parks and Campground’s (ARVC) national conference in Knoxville, Tenn., in November.

You can reach her by email at CampKansas@ksrvparks.com.

 

 

More Inside ‘Uh-Ohs’ from CPO Mary Arlington

July 9, 2013 by · Comments Off on More Inside ‘Uh-Ohs’ from CPO Mary Arlington 

Mary Arlington

Since selling her RV park, Mary Arlington now teaches and consults with small businesses through her consulting company, MMCC Inc. She wrote the following column for the July issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. Find her online at www.MaryArlington.com.

I’m honored to return for more “Uh-Ohs” for the outdoor hospitality industry. As I stated in the April edition of WCM, where we began my list of Uh-Ohs, traveling by RV before buying a campground provided great insight for our own RV park. We didn’t want our guests encountering issues we had experienced. And yet, after selling the park and traveling by RV, I realize the traveler’s perspective is still overlooked at many campgrounds. As I experience Uh-Ohs today, I not only see my situation but I also see how it could be handled if I were the park owner.

Remember, these aren’t “feel good” articles. My focus is on helping business people strengthen and grow that which their passions ignited before they were blindsided by over-busy-ness and by exhaustion from reality. Strengthening and growing means changing, tweaking, and altering… not justifying, becoming complacent and feeling good. So let’s continue.

Laundry is a chore from which we can’t escape, even while traveling. You, however, can make the chore more of a burden… or not.

Uh-Oh #3 – Price: Yes, laundry equipment costs money, uses utilities and requires frequent attention by housekeeping (meaning it costs you in payroll and supplies). But charging astronomical fees is simply unjust. When I find excessively high prices, I wait until I find a park which understands the value of a happy guest and the value of a load of laundry. If your laundry is astronomically priced, you won’t receive this ancillary income from me.

Uh-Oh #4 – Timing and Temperature Controls: Washer water temperature is important, but let’s focus on dryers. A dryer should take 25-40 minutes to dry most loads, not 75, and certainly not 90, as was the case at one park. I know some people call 20 towels “a load” but most of us know what constitutes a load of laundry. I don’t mind putting in my money and returning as the cycle is ending, but I don’t like returning to find a damp load.

In this case, not only has the price of my laundry now exceeded my expectations, but also your equipment has messed up my timing for my dinner, my outing, my bedtime or whatever it is I planned to do next. My mind is now on the negatives! This sounds terribly stingy, as if it’s all about me, but if you’re in business to provide services for your guests, then it ought to be about me, the guest, and meeting (if not exceeding) my expectations.

Uh-Oh #5 – Equipment Cleanliness: There is a difference in the guest having to tolerate other messy guests compared to park management not ensuring a clean facility. Old spills and dirt, grime and grease, trash and flies, and multiple “out of order” signs… these are serious Uh-Ohs! As a traveling RVer, I don’t leave my money at these facilities; I hold out for a properly maintained RV park.

Uh-Oh #6 – Insufficient Equipment: If the washers don’t hold large enough loads (a set of queen sheets or more) or if there are too few washers and dryers for the number of guests standing in line, my ancillary money waits for another RV park.

Uh-Oh #7 – Comfort: Doing laundry in a facility that is over-heated and overly humidified from improper venting of the equipment (let alone Mother Nature, herself) is not going to give you a good rating when I’m online at the review sites. I was at a place where the room was so hot and muggy I couldn’t fold my clothes in there. I dumped the loads in my basket and did my folding in my RV, and of course by then much of it had wrinkled! As I wore clothing from those loads, I remembered that horrible place. Yes, you get it; the negative image kept compounding in my memory book! Had someone else been doing laundry before me, I would have realized the situation and would have kept my money for a better facility.

As an RVer, I pay attention to how I spend both site money and ancillary money. The park owner in me knows how every bit of revenue tallies up (not to mention the value of customer service). If, for any reason, I’m taking my ancillary laundry money to the next RV park, someone’s P&L is missing out!

Some parks made the laundry chore a welcomed experience. How?

  • Provided proper quantity of machines in the 1:1 ratio (why have four washers and one dryer?).
  • Supplied laundry carts.
  • Climate-controlled the room.
  • Maintained the equipment.
  • Get out a jigsaw puzzle (started, to encourage attention).
  • Provided outlets for charging laptops and cell phones.
  • Offered Wi-Fi.
  • Provided tables and chairs (I prefer sanitize-able chairs!).
  • Distributed travel literature.
  • Displayed magazines, a Bible, and copies of Reader’s Digest (short stories are handy).
  • Tuned a TV to The Weather Channel (it saved me from going online).
  • Offered a clean and smooth high table for folding clothes.
  • Provided a place to hang clothes.
  • Set up ironing board and provided an iron.
  • Added a deep clean laundry sink for items needing to be hand-washed or pretreated.
  • Placed trash cans near the dryers for lint and other garbage.
  • Provided benches or chairs outside for pleasant days or for private phone calls.

It’s a bonus to find such facilities. Laundry can’t be avoided but you can make it less of a burden. If you offer a quality laundry experience, don’t be surprised if guests return to the office after seeing it to request an extension of their stay. An extra night of occupancy is a great reward for offering an outstanding laundry facility! Oh, while you’re extending their stay, enjoy watching that ancillary income roll in!

Sadly, I’m out of space here and still I’m not out of Uh-Ohs.

 

Former Owner Looks at RV Parks As A Guest

April 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Former Owner Looks at RV Parks As A Guest 

Mary Arlington

Mary Arlington is an avid RVer, former RV park owner and a lifetime certified park operator (CPO). Since selling her RV park in west Kansas, Arlington now teaches and consults with small businesses through her marketing and management company, MMCC Inc. Find her online at www.MaryArlington.com. This column appears in the April issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.

Traveling by RV before buying a campground provided me with great insight for our own operations when my husband and I bought our park. We wanted to make sure our guests didn’t encounter the “issues” we experienced as RVers.

Sadly, traveling by RV after selling the park also provided me with great insight. So many parks still don’t get it!

Before I proceed with some Uh-Ohs, let me say that nearly all parks did many things very well. If you want a “feel good” article about what you’re doing properly, you’ll need to look elsewhere because in this chapter of life, I’m focusing on helping people strengthen and grow that which their passions started before they were blindsided by exhaustion from striving to achieve success. This means finding new ways of doing things and new ways to grow revenue, which often involves change in many aspects of the business, including how they find their guests and what they offer to their guests.

So, how did some parks fail me as I traveled by RV? Please remember, I owned, managed and fully operated an overnight park for a decade. As I experience Uh-Ohs, I have a bit of an idea of your side of the counter, as well. Change isn’t easy, but are you in business for you? I hope it’s for your guests!

Uh-Oh #1

Some parks greatly limit the length of time a guest can use the Wi-Fi. I understand the need to limit things, but you’re turning off your vacationing travelers (especially foreigners; I was traveling in Canada for part of my trip). Even at a limiting park, my evening Wi-Fi time can look like this:

  • Read and respond to internet-based emails.
  • Check tomorrow’s weather for my travel plans.
  • Research tomorrow’s route, activities and road conditions.
  • Locate my next campsite (or determine I should extend my stay right here).
  • Read and post a bit on social media to keep in touch with my family and friends.
  • Post reviews of my last-night’s camping experience; sometimes in multiple places because I have my favorite review sites and parks often have their own method.

With that list, assuming I don’t have something new to surf for, such as RV service, church schedules, news stories or a friend’s new blog, you can see that limiting me to 60 minutes is simply too limiting.

If you must limit usage, if at all possible, please let the overnighters or short-stays (those who happen to be paying the most per night) have less-restricted use of the Wi-Fi.

By the way, I usually checked online again in the morning, checking new e-mails and confirming the weather forecast. And later that evening, I’d be back at all again, only this time I’d be rating my stay at last night’s place. If it was your place, you’ll likely hope my review is favorable! Did you limit my Wi-Fi too much?

Uh-Oh #2

If your answering machine says, “We’re sorry but we’re on the other line, so please leave a message and someone will call you right back,” then please mean it. Why? Because I’m the driver, navigator and caller. That’s right. We don’t all travel in pairs or in families.

When I placed the call that gave me that greeting, I had stopped somewhere specifically to make the call. Therefore, based on the recorded assurance of a prompt return call, I stayed put for it. After 30 minutes of waiting, I called again and heard the same message. I then chose to drive the hour, on a wing and a prayer, hoping for a site (my plans had changed unexpectedly, thus I wasn’t as prepared as I would normally have been). Upon my arrival, 90 minutes after my first call, I suggested they throw away the message from me since I was now there. They informed me they had just retrieved their messages, having been out of the office all day. My advice, “change the message.”

Please keep your voice messages up-to-date, respond to voice mail and e-mails frequently and check all other means of communication as often as possible. Your guests may be using out-of-country precious minutes of cell phone time, or might be traveling in areas with weak phone signals or driving alone. If you’re in business for your guests, be there for them, and make your posted/recorded greetings relevant.

Some fellow RVers I met this summer were using Skype and Facebook to see if parks had openings for the same day or the next. WOW! Kudos to those park owners!

On a side note, while I was at that non-responsive park, I became very ill. I called the office to alert them of my extreme illness. I was traveling alone, in Canada, and felt they should be alerted in case I needed emergency care (I knew at my park I’d have wanted to know). I left a message but wondered when it might be heard. Later I left another message, informing them of a bit of progress. The next morning the manager came by to say they’d just received my messages. I am grateful I wasn’t calling with a more dire need!

Unfortunately, my list of Uh-Ohs is quite lengthy. Look around your place. Look at it with fresh eyes, or invite a friend or hire someone to study your park from the guest’s perspective. No park is perfect (yep, not even mine was), so use the pre-season time to see how many of your Uh-Ohs can be fixed before the RVers point them out to all their online friends.

 

Arlington Sells High Plains Camping in Oakley, Kan.

December 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Mary Arlington

Mary Arlington has sold her High Plains Camping campground in Oakley, Kan., to Jim and Jessie DesRoches.

Arlington, a former board member of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC),  resigned her positions this week as president and treasurer of the Kansas Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (KARVC).

Arlington and her husband (now deceased) bought the park 10 years ago. The park today is in the top 8% of all parks in the country with its 5W-rating by Woodalls for its facilities. The park now is also one of just 12 nationwide which have achieved the GuestRated “A” Award every year since its inception in 2008 (including the most recent one given last week at the ARVC conference in Savannah, Ga.).

In a Dec. 7 letter to KARVC members, new president Carolyn Fenn had this to say:

Today the Kansas Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (KARVC) had mixed emotions over our need to accept the resignation of Mary Arlington as president and treasurer and as a member of our group. We’re excited for her as she moves on from owning High Plains Camping (Oakley) but we will miss her endless enthusiasm and energy that she provided to our organization for nearly a decade.

The Board of Directors elected me, Carolyn Fenn, of Four Seasons RV Acres (Abilene) to her seats of president and treasurer, and I look forward to serving our members until next we meet in February when we’ll fill the board vacancy and elect the officers. Mary has graciously offered to assist me in the transition, and she’s already transferred the bank funds to me.

With Mary’s departure, we’ll be looking forward to having your help as we fill the roles that Mary has carried for us. Please make it a point to be at our general membership meeting. It’s set for February 28 and Natalie Donges is hosting it at her park (Deer Grove RV Park).

KARVC’s board approved the acceptance of membership for the new owners of High Plains Camping, and we welcome them to the group. Jim and Jessie DesRoches took ownership today, and we wish them a warm welcome, even if it is a very chilly December day. If you’re driving near Oakley, please stop in and introduce yourself to them.

If you wish to remain in touch with Mary, you’ll need to email her at MaryArlington@gmail.com.

If you’re interested in reading a bit more about the sale of the park, Mary posted 2 blogs relating to her departure:

http://highplainscamping.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/is-it-farewell-or-is-it-merely-until-next-we-meet/

http://highplainscamping.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/a-letter-of-appreciation-and-of-welcoming/

Mary Arlington ‘Carries Sunshine in Her Pocket’

October 3, 2011 by · Comments Off on Mary Arlington ‘Carries Sunshine in Her Pocket’ 

Mary Arlington

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by Cheryl Unruh and appeared in The Emporia (Kan.) Gazette. “Flyover People” is online at www.flyoverpeople.net. Cheryl Unruh can be reached at cheryl@flyoverpeople.net.

When we began planning our Boulder vacation, I told Dave that I wanted to stop in Oakley (Kan.) to meet Mary Arlington.

Mary owns High Plains Camping, an overnight RV park located at Exit 70 on I-70.

She and I have been Facebook friends for about a year and she’s delightful. Slender and energetic, Mary carries sunshine in her pocket.

During the warm months, she seldom leaves her RV park. She’s the desk clerk, bookkeeper, janitor, and she works on renovations, all without losing sight of her mission: to provide an oasis for guests.

So over the past year I’ve followed Mary and High Plains Camping on the Internet. Last winter, she showed photos of snow creeping up the ankles of a yellow giraffe, the park’s climbing feature for kids. In the springtime, I saw pictures of her newly painted merry-go-round.

Most of her guests are overnighters, RV travelers or tent-campers, on their way to someplace else. But the goal Mary and John Arlington set out to accomplish when they bought the park nine years ago was to make that traveler’s night-along-the-way an optimal and memorable experience.

While scouting for a park to purchase, Mary and John, who had been living in Ohio, spent a year traveling the country in an RV themselves. In 2002, they bought the property in Oakley.

“He wanted to buy an RV park,” Mary said of her husband. “It had been his early-retirement dream.” They considered various types of RV parks: destination, lakeside and overnight campgrounds. “And what we felt were underserved were the overnight parks. Overnight camping lacked personality and character and we wanted to create a park to make the whole trip enjoyable.”

When Dave and I stopped in Oakley, Mary gave us a tour. Restrooms and showers were spacious and sparkling. The laundry room was pleasant and clean and had a jigsaw puzzle in progress on a table.

As we walked across the 18-hole miniature golf course which was updated this spring, Mary pointed out the soccer net and water-spray stations for kids, and three hot tubs for the grown-ups. For four-legged guests, a large and grassy fenced-in dog space is available.

During her ownership, a barn on the property has been straightened and painted. Campers can hang out in the barn on rainy or windy days. “The park has Wi-Fi,” she said, “and they can bring their laptops in here.”

The park’s U-pick organic garden is in its third season and has been a big hit with the guests. In the well-stocked store, guests can purchase a variety of items a traveler might need or want. DVDs may be borrowed; a book-swap shelf is available.

In addition to the time commitment and physical labor involved in maintaining the park, Mary has faced numerous and heartbreaking challenges since she came to Kansas. A year after they purchased the park and began renovations, her beloved husband died of a fast-spreading cancer.

“If that trial wasn’t enough, the trials ahead of me were beyond any I could have predicted,” Mary wrote in an e-mail last winter. “Had I known then what I know now, I’d have thrown in the towel on the day he died, but I also would’ve missed God’s most glorious work.”

“I’ve suffered several significant illnesses, massive financial strains, enormous (and repeated) hail damage, lightning strikes, chauvinism, damaging winds, intense droughts, blizzards that brought about three weeks of hell, and structure-moving microbursts.”

But Mary persevered and has turned her place into an award-winning camping resort. High Plains Camping has an A+ rating from guestrated.com. In 2010, she affiliated with Best Parks in America which invites only the highest-rated campgrounds to join. Online reviews are very kind and they rave about Mary’s hospitality, the well-planned park and its cleanliness, the organic garden, the store.

“There’s so much to (a park owner’s) life that the customers don’t see,” Mary said. “The amount of work is something else, but the reward of their rejuvenation is worth it. And the way they reward me, by thanking me and by their praise, the weariness just rolls off of me and I can go to bed with a ‘wow.’”

Aerial view of High Plains Camping, Oakley, Kan.

Ashdown to Address Virginia Meeting

September 16, 2010 by · Comments Off on Ashdown to Address Virginia Meeting 


Blake Ashdown

The Virginia Campground Marketing Conference, sponsored by the Virginia Campground Association (VCA),  will be held Oct. 18-20 at American Heritage RV Resort in Willliamsburg, Va.

The 2 1/2-day meeting will be entirely devoted to discussing marketing tools and techniques for the 21st century, according to a news release. As the park industry continues to enjoy significant growth and public interest, the industry is becoming increasingly competitive and marketing is considered the key to success for individual parks.

The major speaker at the conference will Blake Ashdown, one of the park industry’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Blake has started 15 businesses over the past 30 years, including 10 RV resorts and campgrounds. He received the “Professional of the Year Award” from the American Resort and Development Association and is a Registered Resort Professional. Ashdown was one of the creators of the Encore brand of RV parks and was the architect of its successful marketing and branding program. His most well-known RV park project is Tropical Palms Fun Resort in Orlando.

For the past four years Ashdown has been a professor at the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University where he taught Marketing and Business Strategy. He is a frequent speaker at industry conventions, conferences and business meetings.

He is the president of SureVista Solutions, a marketing research firm that provides new marketing tools designed to increase revenues.

“Blake has an incredible appreciation for what it takes to market an RV park in today’s rapidly changing world,” said David Gorin, VCA executive. “We’re thrilled to have him as the featured speaker at this first-ever VCA marketing conference. VCA parks have had a good 2010 camping season and parks are improving their game significantly. Staying in the game with great competitors in the Virginia market, requires a real understanding of marketing to today’s consumers. Blake will be a great inspiration and help to park owners who are ready to step up for success.”

In addition to Ashdown, special guests and speakers will include Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), who will share the lessons she’s learned about the park industry in her 40 years in the business. VCA will honor and recognize Profaizer’s long industry career as she prepares to retire at the end of the year.

Mary Arlington, owner of High Plains Camping in Kansas, will also be a special guest. Arlington has fine-tuned the use of social media to build her small campground into a powerhouse small business with national recognition. Affiliated with Best Parks in America, High Plains Camping has received a Guest Review A rating for two years running and is gaining RVer attention throughout Kansas and Middle America. She will discuss her successful social media campaign and how she’s used the cost effective outreach to grow her business.

John Rust and daughter Carol Rust, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, Luray, Va., will also speak, addressing two marketing programs they created during 2010. One program offered a camping discount through Groupon, an Internet marketing program that is sweeping the country in some metropolitan areas. In addition, the Rusts launched a weekly e-mail newsletter to potential and past guests offering specials and most importantly advising on availability for the coming weekend and future weekends. Both of these programs, Groupon and e-mailing, will be part of a panel discussion on new marketing techniques and tools.

The conference is open to park owners throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. For information on program details and registration, please email tovca@aol.com or call David Gorin at (703) 448 6863. Camping is available at American Heritage RV Resort and hotel accommodations are available nearby.

Kansas RV Park Owner Goes ‘Green’ for Guests

April 28, 2009 by · Comments Off on Kansas RV Park Owner Goes ‘Green’ for Guests 

Mary Arlington Mary Arlington, left, owner of High Plains Camping in Oakley, Kan., has come up with a unique way to  differentiate her RV park from any other, according to TheExaminer.com.
 This year Arlington has created and planted a garden, where the produce is produced for her guests. Here  are quotes from her blog:

 Organic produce. Vegetables and fruits for your meal. Stay at High Plains Camping this summer or fall  and pick from the garden. The campground owner has a farmer friend who will plant this garden for  the guests at the RV park. He loves farming and hopes the guests will appreciate his produce. This is the first year so we’ll learn as we go with this program. We’ll provide 2 pots where people can donate to show their appreciation to David The Farmer. There will be large variety of produce. As the plants are planted I’ll update this posting to give you the full list.
APRIL 25, 2009: The farmer was back today to till again, and to begin planting. The onions are in the ground!

Like many of the more progressive RV campgrounds, Arlington and High Plains Camping may be followed on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/highplainscamp.

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