Read more about the LSI Symposium in the December issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
Rob Schutter Jr., president and COO of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), promised an upbeat message for LSI’s franchisees at their annual Symposium held Nov. 5-8 in Covington, Ky., and he delivered.
During his annual LSI Updates presentation on Nov. 6, Schutter reported to a record gathering of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort operators that LSI’s 78 franchisees outperformed the RV park and campground industry in general as well as many American businesses in 2012.
“There wasn’t one down area in occupancy or revenue numbers in our franchise system from last year; every possible scenario we studied was up. Not many people out there in our industry can say that,” he said.
- System revenue totaled $71.4 million, up 12% from 2011 and up 8% for same parks from 2011.
- Camper nights (general sites) rose 9%.
- Rental unit revenue rose 17%.
- Extended stays were up 2%.
- Online reservations rose 13%.
- Deposits increased 15%.
- Store sales were up 9%.
- Ancillary products sales up 12%.
“This is great,” Schutter said, stating that the fine performance was due in large part to franchisees’ perseverance and dedication to improving customer satisfaction.
The revenue performance was well above industry average of flat to up to 4%, he noted, and the rental unit uptick exceeded the industry figure of 15%.
Rental units are a growing phenomenon for not only LSI franchisees but the entire industry as well, Schutter continued. Rental units with full service typically attract “non-campers” who want niceties they can’t find in a tent or a travel trailer and yet want a unique camping experience. Double-digit growth has been recorded the last three years. “Some people (parks) are not really taking advantage of this. This is an area that we can exploit for many years. We have not maxed out.”
In a reference to “The Field of Dreams,” Schutter concluded, “Build it and they will come.”
On the other hand, Schutter noted that “transient” or overnight traffic continues a steady decline. He estimated that 40% of this market has been erased in recent years. “This is a market that’s not going to come back,” he warned. “This market will fall to a certain level and then stay there. It’s not because more people aren’t traveling, but that travelers are keeping to a limit of 150 miles. “It’s almost becoming an industry standard,” he said. “If you’re banking on that part of your business, you better look elsewhere.”
However, that trend in modern-day camping plays into the hand of LSI franchisees, who have evolved into destination parks with strong activities programs for families. This focus has separated Jellystone parks from many other parks, he added. In general, Schutter encouraged franchisees to “focus on what you have done extremely well in the past.”
Among his observation of other factors that affect the campground industry, Schutter said bank financing for park expansions remains very tight. He said owners need to educate potential lenders about the RV park and campground business so they will become more likely to loan money.
He also noted that gasoline prices in 2012 were 25% higher than they were in 2012. “We have been programmed to pay the price. It will fluctuate a little bit but it’s not going down.”
In general, Schutter encouraged franchisees to “focus on what you have done extremely well in the past.”
A record crowd of 240 attended the annual awards banquet where the Jellystone park in Warrens, Wis., was named Camp Resort of the Year, the system’s highest honor. The park is owned by Bruce Bryant Management.
The theme of this year’s Symposium was “Rising to the Challenge.”
This year’s Symposium was a day shorter than in years past, and it seemed to work out well for everyone. Schutter suspects the shorter time commitment was appealing to franchisees and will become standard for the event.
Editor's Note: New ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter Jr. wrote the opening portion to this installment of the ARVC Agenda.
Nearly two years ago with the retirement of ARVC’s then President/CEO Linda Profaizer, past ARVC Chairman David L. Berg saw an opportunity to address the question raised by members – the association’s purpose and direction. The ARVC Board of Directors embarked upon a thorough review of the association, leading ARVC toward refocusing efforts and redefining priorities.
With the extensive search for and hiring of a new association leader, President/CEO Paul Bambei, ARVC is no longer operating in “business as usual” mode. President Bambei and his hand-picked staff are dedicated to providing value to ARVC members in four important program areas: member benefits, education, legislative advocacy and industry marketing and promotion.
From member-only benefits including Just In Time/DIRECTV, Skyline park models, Ford Motor Co. and the soon-to-be-finalized music licensing program to the ARVC Foundation’s new Outdoor Hospitality Education Program, to the commissioning of one of America's largest law firms to provide well-established government strategies and lobbying on behalf of ARVC members, to a renewed emphasis on marketing and public relations placements promoting the camping/RV lifestyle, ARVC is positioned to experience even greater achievements for their members.
ARVC is also moving forward with the Strategic Task Force, delving into the issues regarding future roles and responsibilities in the partnership of ARVC and its member state associations. ARVC members are encouraged to comment on the Strategic Task Force Committee’s recommendations – found in the member section of www.arvc.org – to assist the association in formulating the future direction of ARVC.
Details Emerge for ARVC’s New Spring Seminar Series
ARVC is pleased to release details on the new ARVC Spring Seminar Series scheduled for May 16-17 at the Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center. Four learning tracks will be available to attendees, including Health and Safety and Risk Management, Customer Satisfaction and Service Standards, Information Technology, and Ancillary Income and Recreation.
A sampling of session topics include Protecting Your Park from Perils presented by Mark Maciha of Northern Arizona University, The Social Stampede with Ocean Lakes’ Barb Krumm and Rachel Beckerman and Cash Cow – a session on increasing ancillary income conducted by Bud Styer of Camping for the Fun of It. A full list of seminars and presenters is available at www.arvc.org under the Conference and Seminars link.
All members of the outdoor hospitality industry are welcome to attend. Early-bird registration is available to ARVC members. For more information, contact Barb Youmans, ARVC senior director of membership and education, at (303) 681-0414 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Both members and nonmembers may register online at www.arvc.org.
ARVC Voice Releases 2012 Editorial Calendar
Continuing to provide ARVC’s membership with high-value business tools, industry education and practical news that relates to daily operations, the 2012 editorial calendar for the association’s member e-magazine, ARVC Voice, has been released. Each edition includes feature topics developed with ARVC members in mind as well as interesting short videos submitted by industry peers.
2012 feature topics include: Industry Education, Accounting and Financials, 6th Annual Recreation Report, Marketing and Advertising, Enhancing Customer Service, Award-Winning Parks, Money-Saving Moves, 6th Annual Technology Report, HR/Staffing, Pre-Conference and Post-Conference.
Rotating columns include reader favorites such as Recreation Roundtable and Technology Talk in addition to the newly requested Safety First and Service Smarts.
The ARVC Voice is published 11 times per year and distributed to members via e-mail. ARVC welcomes contribution inquiries on these and other topics from those in the industry. Contact ARVC Voice Editor Evanne Schmarder at email@example.com to inquire about providing an article or short video for this publication.
Travel Promotion May Benefit Industry
On Jan. 19, President Obama signed an executive order designed to increase travel and tourism in the United States. Among other things, the order directs the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to lead a task force in developing recommendations for a National Travel and Tourism Strategy to promote domestic and international travel throughout the United States.
According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. tourism and travel industry represented 2.7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and 7.5 million jobs in 2010. The task force will focus on strategies to increase tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures. In addition, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough income to support an additional travel and tourism-related job.