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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.”

 

Ocean Canyon Properties Hires Veteran CFO

March 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Ocean Canyon Properties Hires Veteran CFO 

Ocean Canyon Properties (OCP), a privately owned membership camping resort company, announced the appointment of Bryan Reed as chief financial officer.

Reed, 55, has 19 years of experience in the membership camping resort industry, including nine as CFO of Thousand Trails, the nation’s largest membership campground resort operator, according to a news release.

During his tenure as CFO, the company experienced revenue growth of almost 100% and expanded the number of operating locations by more than 50%. Through acquisitions, the company increased the number of members under management by more than 40,000. He originally joined Thousand Trails in 1994 as assistant controller, and served as controller from 1995 to 1999 before being named CFO. During Reed’s tenure as CFO, Thousand Trails was a publicly traded company and in 2003 was taken private through a merger with an affiliate of Kohlberg & Co.

“In five short years OCP has become one of the fastest growing companies in the membership camping industry,” said Reed. “Their state-of-the-art technology infrastructure has enabled them to grow rapidly, while maintaining the operational and financial controls necessary to effectively manage that growth. I am very excited to join Ocean Canyon Properties as CFO and become part of this dynamic company and management team.”

Reed most recently served as vice president of accounting for Equity Lifestyle Properties ELS, which acquired the operations of Thousand Trails in 2008. ELS is a large Chicago-based real estate investment trust and is the leading operator of manufactured home communities, RV resorts and campgrounds in North America.

“Bryan Reed’s professional background and experience is unparalleled in our industry,” said peter Graffman, executive vice president and chief development officer at Ocean Canon Properties. “He was instrumental in managing and controlling the tremendous growth of Thousand Trails as CFO, had responsibility for their financial and regulatory public reporting, and was an integral part of the team that merged the company with Kohlberg & Co., taking the company private. We look forward to Bryan’s financial and organizational leadership as we continue to grow our company.”

Reed began his career as a tax accountant with Deloitte, then served in a number of roles, including controller, with Ben Hogan Co., a golf equipment manufacturer, before joining Thousand Trails.

Reed is a Certified Public Accountant and has a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Texas-Arlington.

About Ocean Canyon Properties

Ocean Canyon Properties is a growing system of eight privately owned membership resorts that offer spacious RV campsites, comfortable vacation cabins, cottages, and condos, along with a wide variety of private resort amenities. With beautiful resort locations situated throughout the southern United States, OCP resorts provide the safe, secure and enjoyable recreational experience that so many families seek.

Its eight resorts are: Mountain Lakes Resort on Lake Guntersville in Northern Alabama, near Huntsville; Styx River Resort and RV Park in Robertsdale, Ala.; Bear’s Den Resort in Grove, Okla.; Tres Rios Resort in Glen Rose, Texas; Millwood Landing Golf and RV Resort in Ashdown, Ark.; Abita Springs Resort in Abita Springs, La.; North Shore Resort in Greensboro, Ga.; and Texoma Shores Resort in Madill, Okla.

The Ocean Canyon Properties senior management team has been directly involved in the membership camping resort industry on a national platform for over 30 years. This experience, combined with the rigorous standards of operation at both the resort and corporate levels, ensure that the company operates securely and responsibly, while providing the highest levels of service to its members, their guests and employees. Ocean Canyon is active in supporting community organizations that help children and families in the Southeast. For more information visit at www.oceancanyon.com.

 

Ocean Canyon Properties Announces New Upgrades

June 15, 2012 by · Comments Off on Ocean Canyon Properties Announces New Upgrades 

With the summer camping season getting into full swing, Ocean Canyon Properties (OCP) is both ready and proud to show off the results of its hard winter work.

Over the course of the past six months, OCP has been hard at work at each of its eight resorts developing and upgrading areas of the parks for members to enjoy, according to a news release.

The first big change was at its largest park, Mountain Lakes Resort in Langston, Ala. Newly paved roads, the addition of 36 more full-service campsites, a larger RV and boat storage area and new laundry equipment were all added over the past winter.

Member Jackie Weeks shared, “The country store is a great addition to the resort and a very well done job.” These are just a few of the improvements that will continue to be added to Mountain Lakes.

Another major OCP project was at Millwood Landing Golf and RV Resort in Ashdown, Ark. The bar and restaurant underwent a complete renovation. New floors were laid as well as full wood paneling on all of the walls. Weekly poker nights are held at the resort, and with the large amount of people that continue to play, a separate poker room was added into the bar. There is now a fully separate non-smoking area that separates the restaurant from the bar, and arcade games were placed in the bar area as well.

“It looks great!” said Lori Turnage on Millwood’s Facebook page, “What a big change.” If you feel like checking this out and enjoying good home-cooked daily dinner specials, look for it under its new name: the Coyote Bar and Grill.

Millwood was not the only resort to have an updated restaurant. Styx River Resort in Robertsdale, Ala., also had a facelift in its restaurant. “From the top to the bottom we went through and updated the colors, the menu and the service,” said Alan Patton, OCP Styx River resort manager. A new roof, new lighting, tables and paint were all added.

Abita Springs Resort in Abita Springs, La., has always been a popular resort within OCP for its large, spacious pool deck. This winter the deck area was made even larger. Completely new wood decking was laid out, a Tiki Bar area was built for folks to enjoy, more pool furniture was added and more palm trees and scenery areas were planted as well. Plus…. a covered deck was added.

“Everything looks great! We could hardly wait to come see it,” said member Carole Nicolle. Members are now able to sit outside and enjoy a meal while they relax and enjoy the sun.

All of the resorts have had an upgrade in some form or another. Newly paved roads were placed at Tres Rios; North Shore Resort had several new sites put in with 50-amp service; Texoma Shores remodeled its cabins and added more RV sites; and Bears Den Resort had several small projects such as the remodeling of its guard shack, painting of the outside buildings, family building, and cabins.

OCP continues to work year round making sure that the resorts stay up-to-date with all areas of the park. “We just wanted to tell you how much we appreciate that you are maintaining our parks and making them enjoyable to stay at,” sent a member through e-mail. Whether it’s remodeling a sales office or something as simple as adding a new flower bed, OCP makes sure its resorts are clean and taken care of for all of its members and guests to enjoy.

Based in Texarkana, Texas, Ocean Canyon Properties is a growing system of privately owned, membership resorts that offer spacious RV sites, comfortable cabins, cottages and condos along with a wide variety of private resort amenities. With beautiful resort locations situated throughout the southern United States, OCP’s resorts provide the safe, secure and enjoyable recreational experience that so many families seek.

The Ocean Canyon Properties senior management has been directly involved in the membership camping resort industry on a national platform for over 30 years. This experience combined with the rigorous standards of operation at both the resort and corporate levels ensure that the company operates securely, responsibly and continually provides the highest levels of service to its members, their guests and employees.

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.

New Owners Revive Once Struggling Campground

July 19, 2010 by · Comments Off on New Owners Revive Once Struggling Campground 

Four years ago, Mike Browder’s biggest fear was that the Grass Lake All Seasons Resort near Jackson, Mich., was going to be scooped up by some developer with big plans.

His suspicions were dead on, but what the co-manager of the Holiday RV Campground didn’t consider was that those plans involved reviving the campground through major renovations and an entirely new business model, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported.

Yearly upgrades at Holiday have become the norm, it has switched from a private membership campground to a campground open to the general public, and more than 1,500 reservations have been made.

Local businessmen Ed Machnik and Phil Willis bought the campground for $825,000 in 2006. The campground had gone bankrupt and owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jackson County in back taxes.

Machnik said he got a campground that needed a major cleanup and upgrades to become competitive again, and the proprietors of Holiday are annually investing in its future.

Fresh concrete has replaced overgrown wildflowers at the pool entrance, air-conditioning systems have been installed in several buildings and a free wireless Internet connection is available camp-wide.

Holiday is now home to 14 sites with 50-amp service to accommodate the most powerful, modern RVs. Its septic system has undergone an overhaul, and everything from picnic tables to the country store to the community center have fresh coats of paint.

“There was a whole lot of painting and touching up right away around here,” said Browder, whose wife Robin and son Larry also help manage the campground. “Paint wasn’t peeling off when (Holiday Campground LLC) took over. It was falling off.”

What has transformed Holiday was the ownership’s decision to open the entire 150-acre facility to the public.

Browder, who has been managing the camp since 2002, said the California-based owners of Grass Lake All Seasons let him open 20 sites to the public in 2004, but making the entire campground public has driven new reservations and created a better sense of community.

“There’s more people than ever before around here, and it’s great. I remember when you could probably take a 12-gauge and take a shot and the bullet wouldn’t graze anything important,” he said. “Things have changed, and we have a lot more seasonal campers than a few years ago.”

Seasonal campers pay $1,200, plus electric, for rights to a site May 1 to Oct. 1, and Machnik said the new blueprint of the business has brought in much different patrons.

“It’s improved, and the clientele is more upscale,” he said. “(Seasonal guests) can put decks on and they have little storage sheds, and it’s more of a permanent cottage kind of thing, so to say.”

Machnik made it clear he is interested in customers who see Holiday’s sign on the freeway and need a place to camp for a night or two (at $16 to 26 per night), but it is the seasonal campers who have a special fraternity.

Robby Loomis sold his lake house four years ago after his wife died and his kids headed to college. Now, he spends half the year at Holiday and the other half with family members or at his cottage in Everett.

Loomis was born in Jackson but lived all over the state and as far away as Arizona before returning for a job as a machinist in Dexter. In 2007, he decided Holiday would be a good place to check out. He commuted to work until he was laid off last year.

His first RV site was toward the park’s entrance and he said he loved “the secluded living and waking up with a bunch of wild turkeys running around,” but he has since traded that in for a location right in the middle of everything.

He said it is great to be part of an “open-gate” community where visitors don’t have to sign in and out all the time or pay to visit, and the Browders treat him like family.

Mary Himich, a secretary for the University of Michigan’s epidemiology department who is in her second year as a seasonal guest, echoed Loomis’ sentiments.

She has been an avid camper much of her life and said some campgrounds might have more luxuries available and activities planned, but Holiday is a good value for the money.

“I just love it. It’s a very nice community, everyone is friendly. It’s like a small family out here,” she said. “Some nights, if it’s too hot at home this summer, it’s only 20 minutes (from my house), so if I want to come out and go swimming, I can.”

The management team approaches guests like Himich on a first-name basis, and Robin Browder said a genial attitude comes naturally.

“There was this older, single guy who was living here a few years ago,” she said. “And we would help him with stuff, we would take him to doctor’s appointment and we would contact people, all the way up until he died.

“You treat them like family and that’s because they are family to you.”

Machnik said business has steadily been rising 10% to 20% per season since he and Willis bought the camp, but there is plenty of work to still be done.

“We’re working to fill it up,” he said. “We have 144 sites there, and we want it full all summer long. That’s our goal.”

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’s First Membership Camping Conference

March 11, 2010 by · Comments Off on Coast’s First Membership Camping Conference 

Bruce Hoster (left), president of Coast to Coast Resorts, goes over confernence materials with Mike Pournoury, president of Ocean Canyon Properties, Texarkana, Texas.

Market conditions are ripe for a resurgence of the North American membership camping industry. That was the message broadcast by speakers at the 2010 Coast to Coast Conference Feb. 16-18 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev.

”We feel there are a lot of factors in favor of growth in (the membership camping) industry,” said Bruce Hoster, president of Denver-based Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), who spoke to about 90 park developers and others during the opening session of the first-of-its kind conference.

Coast to Coast, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), Ventura, Calif., is committed to growing the membership campground industry, not only to the benefit of Coast to Coast but to the industry in general, Hoster said.

”We need more (resort) developers selling in this industry and we need more sales from our current developers, and mostly, we need more awareness and promotion of membership camping,” Hoster said. ”We are very serious about this mission and it’s a mission that we definitely can accomplish.”

Helping to boost that awareness is retailer Camping World, another AGI unit, which has begun promoting Coast’s membership camping parks by allowing local resort owners to set up kiosks in Camping World stores and promoting the industry in its publications.

”We are trying to help educate the Camping World customer base on the concept of membership camping, the value it brings to our customers and hopefully drive customers to the membership camping developers,” Mike Siemens, Camping World vice president of membership services, told RVBusiness. ”It’s always been a good program for customers like ours who want an opportunity to camp around their home, but also when they are on the road.”

Generally, membership campgrounds are privately owned with all or a portion of their sites set aside for use by RVers who pay an initial membership fee and annual maintenance fee to cover operating expenses. Members, in return, receive varying levels of access to the resort they join and reciprocal access to other parks in the network.

The average cost of an initial consumer membership is about $5,000, Hoster reported, adding that while Coast to Coast has 250 member resorts, only about 20% are selling new memberships to consumers.

”If people leave this conference and they are more excited about the opportunities and learned a few things they can take home, it can translate into better business,” Hoster told the assembled attendees. ”The measurement will be more over the long term.”

Membership resort organization such as Coast to Coast serve two different audiences. ”One, obviously, is our members, but secondly, our developers as well,” Hoster said.

The depth of the recent economic recession has caused consumers to change the way they spending their leisure time, Hoster noted.

”While RV manufacturers and dealers struggled, campgrounds were full,” Hoster said. ”That’s because a lot of people looked at campgrounds as a more economical way to take a vacation. They might not have been able to fly somewhere and stay for a week in a condo or go to Disney world, but they were able to go camp.”

Participants at the recent Coast to Coast membership camping conference include (from left) Joe Daquino, senior vice president and group publisher, Affinity Media; Mike Siemens, vice president of membership services for Camping World; Bruce Hoster, president of Coast to Coast Resorts; and Michelle DuChamp, vice president of sales and business development for Interval International.

So-called ”staycations” also have changed the travel landscape, and should play into the membership campground sector’s hands, he maintained.

”They are the perfect solution — being able to pick up Friday for a long weekend,” Hoster said. ”We hear from a lot of our developers that people aren’t taking the traditional vacations — the one-week or two-week vacation. ”It’s more the three- and four-day getaways. Having a membership in a resort nearby certainly takes advantage of that trend.”

Those trends, coupled with a decreasing number of high-end campgrounds, makes membership camping more attractive, he added. ”There really is a shrinking supply of quality campsites vs. growing demand,” he added. And there are more and more Baby Boomers that are entering our industry and buying RVs.”

Mike Pournoury, president of Ocean Canyon Properties, Texarkana, Texas, with resorts in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, spoke during the opening session on ”Unlocking the Value of Your Resort.”

”It all revolves around getting back to the basics’ Pournoury said. ”Everybody’s going to know everything that I bring up here. The only twist to it is the simplicity of it. Sometimes we take a good program and complicate it for ourselves.”

Pournoury said that key to Ocean Canyon’s success is its relationship with RV dealers who refer new owners to Ocean Canyon properties, which, in return promote the dealership when it comes time for the consumer to buy a new RV.

”Then you become one team,” Pournoury said. ”He sends a good customer to the resort where you sell a membership … and three or four years later, (the member) goes back and buys another RV from the same dealer.”

Consequently, he said, park owners should attend RV shows to show dealers that they want to be actively involved.

By the same token, he noted, membership parks should establish referral programs that reward current members for promoting the park. Ocean Canyon gives $500 to members for referrals resulting in sales.

”The referral program is the lowest-cost marketing and the most profitable program that we’ve got in our organization,” he said.

Upgrade programs for existing members also add to the bottom line, he said. They are easier to market because the customer already has bought into the resort and adding a few extra days or access to more amenities doesn’t cost a lot.

”Last year was hard, but one of the areas where we really excelled was our upgrade program,” Pournoury reported.

”When times are hard, you can’t leave any stone unturned.”

Seminars during the conference included:

  • ”Successful Marketing” by Annette Bruzewski, marketing manager for Outdoor Adventures, and Pam Nelson, director of marketing and resort operations for Midwest Outdoor Resorts.
  • ”Tour and Sales Presentation” by Greg Penrod, COO of Durango Riverside Resort, Durango, Texas, and Charles Youngren, director of sales for Midwest Outdoor Resorts.
  • ”Gaining Efficiencies with New Technologies” with Pournoury and Peter Graffman, Ocean Canyon executive vice president and CFO.
  • “‘How to Market to Non-RVers” by Penrod, Gene Addink, general manager of Midwest Outdoor Resorts, and Greg King, president, Outdoor Adventures.
  • ”Hiring and Developing Successful Salespeople by Robert Topci, sales manager, Travel Resort of America-Gettysburg Battlefield Resort and Youngren.

Subjects of half-hour breakout sessions during the three days included ”Project Renaissance: Restarting Sales at Non-Selling Resorts,” ”Partnering With Camping World,” “Other Revenue Sources,” “‘Creating Positive Members Satisfaction,” “Financing and Closing the Sale” and ”Off-site Selling.”

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 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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