RVC Donates $10,000 For Memphis Park

October 3, 2014 by · Comments Off on RVC Donates $10,000 For Memphis Park 

imageRVC Outdoor Destinations, a leading provider of high-quality outdoor resorts in the United States based in Memphis, Tenn., announced today (Oct. 3) that it is sponsoring the Shelby Farms Greenline.

The Shelby Farms Greenline is a 6.5 mile urban trail connecting midtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park, the largest park of its kind in the country. Created in 2010 after years of pursuit and development, the greenline is managed and operated by the nonprofit Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. The trail is an incredible community asset that has provided new opportunities for recreation, community building, and commuting while also serving as a spark for new greenways, trails, bike lanes and park space throughout the broader Memphis region.

Andy Cates

Andy Cates

Since Shelby Farms Park and the greenline do not operate on tax dollars, they rely on sponsorships and individual donations. RVC Outdoor Destinations made a $10,000 donation to support the operations and maintenance of the greenline and hopes to further encourage Memphians to get outdoors and utilize one of the city’s greatest assets. A new RVC Outdoor Destinations totem has been installed at the main entrance at Shelby Farms Park and Mullins Station Road.

“The Shelby Farms Greenline has been incredibly successful in bringing our community outdoors. We are pleased to support such a great project that is consistent with RVC’s efforts in helping folks experience beautiful natural settings,” said Andy Cates, RVC Outdoor Destinations CEO and general partner, in the written announcement.

RVC Reflags Texas Hill Country Resort Facility

December 5, 2013 by · Comments Off on RVC Reflags Texas Hill Country Resort Facility 

Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations announced that it has completed renovating and expanding Koyote Ranch Resort at Medina, Texas, and rebranded the place as Medina Highpoint Resort.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that the site, first opened 11 years ago, encompasses 95 acres in Texas Hill Country, perched on one of the highest points in the region.

In addition to the panoramic views, Medina Highpoint Resort has two ponds, an infinity pool, restaurant, retail store, fueling station, meeting pavilion and hiking trails.

RVC Outdoor Destination added 11 new cabins in a section called “The View,’’ each featuring long views, to the existing 33 cottages, 46 recreational vehicle (RV) sites, and three luxury suites.

“We’re so pleased that the best parts of the existing property have been further improved while we were able to add beautiful new cabins,” Pete Cook, Medina general manager, said in a prepared statement. “ … We are all so excited to be part of a family of similar properties throughout the country.”

RVC announced in May that it acquired Koyote Ranch Resort.

The company now has expanded its network of resorts to Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

To read the entire article click here.

Update: Cates Recounts RVC’s 2013 Highlights

August 7, 2013 by · Comments Off on Update: Cates Recounts RVC’s 2013 Highlights 

Andy Cates

Editor’s Note: Andy Cates, CEO of Memphis-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, recounted his company’s 2013 highlights thus far in a recent e-mail.

RVC Outdoor Destinations is a leading provider of high-quality outdoor hospitality in the United States and is redefining the traditional camping experience.

Excerpts from his e-mail appear below.

RVC continues to grow. We’ve had a good year and just finished our best July to date on both a same store and total portfolio basis.

Over the first half of 2013, some highlights include:

  • Re-flagged Garden of the Gods RV Resort in Colorado Springs after completing its renovation in April.
  • Reflagged River Plantation RV Resort, the strongest RV oriented property in the robust Sevierville/Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge Smoky Mountain market, as an RVC Outdoor Destination.
  • Acquired Koyote Ranch Resort ( in Medina, Texas. This 100-acre property sits on one of the highest points in the beautiful Texas Hill Country and will be renamed Medina Highpoint Resort and reflagged as an RVC Outdoor Destination in the coming months. We have been making improvements and are currently adding 11 cabins. A new website will be completed in the third quarter that will be exemplary of our future web site improvements for all properties.
  • Added additional yurts to Catherine’s Landing
  • Exceeded revenue, NOI, website visitation, Facebook Likes and guest survey score goals for the entire RVC network.
  • Added a video to our website to better tell our story
  • Completed some of our highest end units to date at Carrabelle Beach RV Resort in Florida.
  • Improved our retail presentation and sales revenue.
  • Announced our joint venture with Lake Raystown Resort, the premier outdoor destination in Pennsylvania, that we will reflag as an RVC Outdoor Destination in the coming months.

“After over seven years of effort, RVC has great momentum and is leading the business segment it is pioneering. We greatly appreciate your support in helping us continue to redefine the traditional
camping experience,” he concluded.

Pa.’s Lake Raystown Resort Joins RVC Family

July 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Pa.’s Lake Raystown Resort Joins RVC Family 

Overview of the Lake Raystown Resort that will be rebranded as an RVC Outdoor Destination in 2014.

RVC Outdoor Destinations announced today (July 23) that Lake Raystown Resort in Entriken, Pa., will be reflagged as an RVC Outdoor Destination in March 2014.

The property was developed by Jules Patt in 1984 and is one of the finest outdoor destinations in the country, according to an RVC news release. Lake Raystown Resort’s addition into the Memphis-based RVC collection of premium outdoor hospitality properties will coincide with its 30th Anniversary.

Brother and sister duo, Josh Patt and Samantha Patt Kozak, recently purchased their father’s interest in Lake Raystown Resort and continue to operate the over 400-acre property that includes a 52-room lodge, 79 cabins and villas, 221 RV sites, a 650-slip marina, the Wild River Water Park and a 22,000-square-foot state-of-the-art conference center.

Lake Raystown Resort is the second separately owned property to be flagged an RVC Outdoor Destination. In addition to providing long-term asset management and branding, RVC will provide capital for improvements and expansion.

“We are very excited to have Samantha and Josh joining the RVC movement and honored that they are adding their wonderful Lake Raystown Resort to RVC’s collection of upscale outdoor recreational properties,” said Andy Cates, RVC president. “They are great operators who add a lot to what we do, and their property is already one of the best outdoor destinations in the country. RVC is redefining outdoor recreation and camping by providing unique environments that provide a consistently high-quality guest experience.”

“Our family has been committed to high quality outdoor hospitality for three decades,” said Josh Patt. “RVC is the first company and brand that reflects what we have developed at Lake Raystown Resort. Also, they bring collaborative resources and support that will allow Lake Raystown Resort to grow and improve.”

Kozak added, “Ever since I first read about what RVC was doing, I was excited because their efforts were so similar to what we have been doing here for many years. We have always searched for a way to expand our market reach and to be a part of something larger, and after spending over a year getting to know the RVC team and seeing some of their resorts, we are very pleased to be a part of the RVC family.”

About RVC Outdoor Destinations

RVC Outdoor Destinations develops, owns and operates a portfolio of high-quality outdoor vacation properties located within some of the country’s most beautiful natural settings and offering upscale services and amenities. Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC is redefining the traditional camping experience with its original Outdoor Destination concept that provides guests with a customizable outdoor vacation through a variety of affordable lodging options, including RV sites, yurts, cabins and cottages, all with enhanced guest amenities and recreational activities. For more information, please visit


RVC Upgrades Garden of the Gods Resort

April 17, 2013 by · Comments Off on RVC Upgrades Garden of the Gods Resort 

Garden of the Gods RV Resort

RVC Outdoor Destinations, a leading provider of U.S. outdoor resort properties, announced today (April 17) that it has completed the renovation of Garden of the Gods Campground in Colorado Springs.

Now operating as Garden of the Gods RV Resort, the facility offers 173 RV sites, including six new executive pull-through sites, and 29 upgraded lodging units. In addition to renovating all of the buildings, various improvements and amenity additions include a new lobby, the Midland Trail gateway, a bark park and a fully remodeled Garden Studios & Suites. Other upgrades are a new pool deck, new fencing, road and landscape upgrades, upgraded Wi-Fi, a new business center and new picnic tables. Also, a new base camp area has been created that includes upgraded bunkhouses and family suites that surround a community campfire and grill.

After purchasing the property in 2012 and investing over $800,000 in improvements over the last year, Garden of the Gods RV Resort is one of the “most attractive outdoor hospitality properties in the region,” said RVC. The property’s logo, website, social media presence and signage have also been updated to better reflect the improvements.

“There is a lot of excitement about this renovation and I’m looking forward to all of the smiles the improvements will bring to our guests,” said Ian Horgan, General Manager of Garden of the Gods. RVC President Andy Cates added that “Garden of the Gods RV Resort is one of the strongest properties in the western United States. RVC is upgrading it from an already attractive and well located campground to an RV Resort by adding the right amenities and improvements.”

Cates added, “RVC continues to lead the outdoor hospitality industry in our niche of high quality, unique properties and we’re actively seeking others that fit our model.” In addition to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, RVC currently operates outdoor destinations and RV resorts in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.


KOA Says Time to ‘Rebrand’ Parks Has Arrived

March 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on KOA Says Time to ‘Rebrand’ Parks Has Arrived 

The dust has settled over the dramatic announcement last fall that Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) would embark on a new program to segment or rebrand its nearly 480 campgrounds into one of three categories and by and large, the bold move has won style points from across all sectors of the RV park and campground industry.

The idea is to step away from a “one-size-fits-all” perception of KOA parks in the public’s eye and, in the process, to generate new business among consumers who will have a better ability to match their expectations with the park at which they choose to spend the night, the weekend or an entire vacation.

Says Jim Rogers, KOA CEO who came to KOA from the hotel industry, “We have to appreciate that this is where we have come from and that our research tells us that there are still millions upon millions of campers in this country that think of us as an Interstate system. This is how we begin to break through that perception.”

Industry members sampled by Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) had glowing comments:

  • “I embrace it,” said Al Johnson, executive vice president of Outdoor Adventures Co., a Hill City, S.D., firm that owns 10 KOAs from coast to coast and is the largest franchisee.
  • “We think segmentation is inevitable,” said Andy Cates, president of RVC Outdoor Destinations, a Memphis-based owner of upscale RV resorts across the Southeast. “KOA is such a large player in our industry, their movement to segmentation is important for all of us and for the entire industry.”
  • “I’m not surprised by KOA’s move to segment its parks,” said David Gorin, founder and president of Best Parks in America. “I’m sure they’ve extensively studied every aspect of this very significant move and that they’ve got a very sound strategy to make the segmentation work for their exceptional brand.”

KOA President Pat Hittmeier speaking at the 2012 KOA convention.

Definitions Still Being Formulated

KOA plans to brand its parks into one of three categories: Journey, Holiday and Resort. The standards for each category are still being formulated but in general, the Journey campgrounds are designed for overnight guests who are looking more for a place to spend the night than for an amenity-rich park. The Holiday campground would be more of a destination park, while the Resort campground would be a place that has an abundance of services and facilities.

The concept of segmentation is patterned after the hotel or indoor hospitality industry where it has proven very successful among consumers who have developed clear ideas on the differences among accommodations.

For his part, Pat Hittmeier, KOA president, said the initial reaction to the branding strategy among KOA franchisees when KOA unveiled it to all the franchisees at the convention in Orlando, Fla., was one of acceptance.

During the convention, Hittmeier told WCM, “Based on the kind of reaction we’re getting here with this record crowd, I’d say that we were on the right track. We laid things out on the first day and have been talking about this new program in the hallways and we’ve got a lot of momentum going with this right now, and I think it’s going to be very big.”

Over the winter, franchisees had more time to think it over.

“As things settled down, people become more tentative,” he said.

“The reality is, I’ve become very confident in what we’re doing and the reasons why we’re doing it. I think the franchisees are struggling with it,” Hittmeier said.

KOA distributed two brochures to franchisees detailing the new strategy, and owners have now had several months to pour over the details.

To further gauge public reaction and iron out the weak points, KOA top management met with the 12-member board of the KOA Owners Association in February in Florida to review the plan.

Hittmeier expects as many as 50 “early adopters” will open their campgrounds this season reflecting the rebranding, while others may take several years.

KOA projects to have the entire system rebranded by mid-2016, he said.

Outdoor Adventures Co.’s Johnson anticipates his firm will have two to three campgrounds that meet the Resort brand and two to three that fit the Journey brand, with the rest falling into the Holiday category.

“We’re still trying to figure out what we need to do for each of our properties, figure out who our customers are at each one and figure out which branding will apply,” said Johnson, an exercise that every KOA franchisee was likely engaged in over the winter.

He expects the company will have to make certain expenditures at each park, no matter what category they end up in.

The necessary expense to meet the new criteria is part of the initial backlash that KOA expected from the rebranding, Hittmeier said.

“I feel like the process we’re initiating includes a longer timetable,” Hittmeier said, because it will give campgrounds time “to pay attention to things that are most important to the guests: improving campsites for size, power, access and angles. We have many parks that already do that; some don’t. The process to get the majority to meet these criteria could take many years. The bottom line is: it will improve the quality of the system.”

At the same time, Hittmeier stressed that this new way of looking at KOA’s franchised and corporate-owned parks is not a “good, better, best” type of formula, but one that should instead appeal to an Internet-minded world in which a demanding and time-starved public has increasingly exhibited a “need-to-know” or a “know-before-you-go” sort of attitude. And KOA’s management believes these new brand positionings will not only help set those expectations, but, according to the plan, ultimately drive new business to KOA campgrounds.

Andy Cates

Cates the Cheerleader Applauds KOA Move

There may be no one in the campground sector more excited about the KOA rebranding than RVC’s Cates. He has met with KOA often over the past four years to discuss industry matters, and quite often the topic of branding came up in discussion, Cates and Hittmeier confirmed. “They have been open and friendly about it,” Cates said of his talks with KOA. “We have absolutely begged them to accelerate what we knew they needed to do.”

“We felt when we started RVC that branding was inevitable,” Cates said, a mantra he has tossed around in so many discussions across the industry that he concedes listeners are “sick of hearing it.” But, he quickly adds, “It is necessary for everyone in the industry to hear. It is critical that it moves forward and accelerates. I know guests want to know what they’re getting. That is also true for franchisees and individual property owners to find out where they fit in.”

Cates continued, “I think their current segmentation effort is probably a compromise between what we would consider segment definitions and their reality in trying to keep a big tent in place. Regarding the pushback (from franchisees), there will be some pushback but ultimately they will keep some franchisees happy. If this keeps strong properties in the network, then good for KOA. They needed to do that. It’s not who they will anger but who they will keep in the long term. We would posit they didn’t have a choice. It’s more dangerous not to segment.”

He feels that RVC is establishing the “Hilton niche” in the outdoor hospitality market, but it becomes harder for guests to identify if they can’t compare it to the entire industry and other players. In the long run, this move by KOA will benefit RVC, he maintains.

Cates said KOA is not only the most recognized brand in outdoor hospitality but also one of the most identifiable among all U.S.-based franchises of any product or service. Yet, within KOA is “extraordinary inconsistency across the properties. Physically, these properties are very different.”

Outdoor hospitality is such a diverse industry that it is hard to segment, Cates admits, unlike the hotel industry. Indeed, RVC’s own definition of segments within the industry differs greatly from KOA’s. For example, Cates and RVC identify five different segments within outdoor hospitality. They term them campgrounds, RV parks,

RV resorts, outdoor destinations and luxury motorcoach resorts and like KOA, RVC has extensive definitions for each segment.

Cates said he was heartened by the fact that KOA will adopt a form of quality assurance to guarantee that each of their franchisees who adopt one of the three brand names are what they profess to be. “Campgrounds are not going to be able to just hang the sign up tomorrow without having to make sure that they meet these qualifications that we can then market to that particular defined camper to help drive that business,” Hittmeier said.

That’s good news to Cates, who considers his RVC holdings upscale resorts, which will now be competing on a more level playing field with other parks, at least the KOA ones, that call themselves “resorts.”

However, Cates quickly added, “We are much less concerned about the specific definitions and more excited about the broader conversation.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Johnson said he’s glad KOA chose the word “journey” to describe the campground best suited for overnight travelers, the type of campground his company seems to specialize in.

“The journey serves a traveling market. It’s helpful to us. We don’t have to wonder if we have to be doing resort style amenities. We don’t need an Olympic swim pool or a hall for reunions” to be considered a “journey” park.

As an outsider, Cates says he’s still thinking through whether KOA went far enough in its segmentation.

For example, he noted that some KOA franchisees have made a considerable investment in their campgrounds but they are in isolated areas. “Other properties are in good locations and in good markets but the property owner is not putting dollars into the property. That is their biggest challenge.”

Of the 26 campgrounds that KOA directly owns, Hittmeier anticipates that four will carry the Resort label with most falling into the Holiday category.

The Outlook for Segmentation

Not all in the industry are going to wrap their arms around segmentation, Cates predicts.

“There are some major players who do not want segmentation,” he said. “They don’t care. They say they do but they don’t. They are investors. They are manufactured housing operators. I don’t think they are motivated to see significant change in customer expectation. If you are a giant and the world is working just fine for you, change is not in your best interest.”

Cates also anticipates there will be KOA franchisees who are in a great market and want to be considered a “resort” property but KOA will say they can’t because the franchisee is not meeting the resort standards and the franchisee is unwilling to make the capital investment to meet the standard.

“That will lead to a lot of uncomfortable conversations,” Cates said.

When asked whether he thought the KOA rebranding would become an industry trend, Hittmeier initially said, modestly, “I don’t think so.”

But on further consideration, he said he would not be surprised if parks adopt some of KOA’s principles in marketing themselves.

“They might look at it as a way to address their marketplace. It’s the best way to compete in a local marketplace, in an area with, say, five RV parks around you; I think they’ll do that.

“Out 10 to 15 years in this industry, the natural tendency of the independent operators will be to congregate in groups, maybe a common ownership to a Best Parks kind of thing going on. It could be campgrounds that focus on transient overnight business become their own marketing group.”

Does KOA risk losing some franchisees over the branding effort?

Hard to say, says Hittmeier. But, he added, “KOA will work hard to keep that from happening.”

In summary, Hittmeier said, “I feel good that it will be a good platform for us to improve the overall experience for our guests at KOA campgrounds and improve the quality. It’s not easy to do when you have a lot of independent parks. In the end, it will increase our business.”


RVC Adds Premier Smoky Mountains Property

November 1, 2012 by · Comments Off on RVC Adds Premier Smoky Mountains Property 

Scenes from the River Plantation RV Park website.

RVC Outdoor Destinations announced today (Nov. 1) that River Plantation RV Park in Sevierville, Tenn., will be reflagged as an RVC Outdoor Destination.

After ongoing renovations are completed, including the addition of a new lodge and fitness center, the property will be renamed River Plantation RV Resort in early 2013, according to a news release.

River Plantation RV Park, developed by Jimbo Conner over the last 20 years, is the preeminent outdoor hospitality property in the Smoky Mountain National Park region and one of the best performing RV oriented properties in the United States, RVC stated in the release.

With extensive frontage on the Little Pigeon River, River Plantation RV Park provides great water views and close proximity to the many attractions within one of the largest tourism markets in the United States. Boasting 293 RV sites and eight cabins, the property has ample room for hosting large groups and rallies.

“In our ongoing expansion efforts, we discovered that River Plantation RV Park shares our vision for a better guest experience. River Plantation is already the finest RV and cabin oriented property in the region, and we are honored and excited to have River Plantation joining our group of upscale recreational properties that are redefining the outdoor experience” said Andy Cates, RVC’s president.

“RVC understands the industry. They are striving to improve consistency and standards and we want to be a part of it. Also, they bring collaborative resources and a partnership that will allow River Plantation to grow and improve,” said Conner, owner of River Plantation.

This partnership is the first joint venture for RVC involving flagging and operating a separately owned property. In addition to providing long-term management and branding, RVC is providing capital for improvements and expansion.

About RVC Outdoor Destinations

RVC Outdoor Destinations develops, owns and operates a portfolio of high-quality outdoor vacation properties located within some of the country’s most beautiful natural settings and offering upscale services and amenities. Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC is redefining the traditional camping experience with its original outdoor destination concept that provides guests with a customizable outdoor vacation through a variety of affordable lodging options, including RV sites, yurts, cabins and cottages, all with enhanced guest amenities and recreational activities. For more information, please visit

Andy Cates Recounts RVC’s Formative Years

October 26, 2012 by · Comments Off on Andy Cates Recounts RVC’s Formative Years 

In this illustration from CNNMoney, RVC Outdoor Destination’s Andy Cates dons a pair of fictitious boxing gloves for his company’s competition with traditional campgrounds.

RVC Outdoor Destinations is in the business of bringing upscale to the great outdoors, the Memphis Business Journal reported.

Andy Cates, president, started the company in 2006 to redefine outdoor vacations and camping.
The company has developed a brand it calls the “Hilton of outdoor hospitality” in a business of mostly mom-and-pop operations, ranging from RV parks to cabin communities. RVC locations have gourmet coffee, fitness centers and many other high-end amenities that people normally don’t expect when “roughing it.”
“We felt and still feel there is an opportunity to disrupt an industry that has not changed in 50 years,” Cates says. “Specifically, to bring consistency and a great quality to that effort.”
The company’s first step was hitting the road for a year, sometimes renting a recreational vehicle and sometimes in a car.
“We visited hundreds of properties and talked to property owners, visiting the KOAs (Kampgrounds of America Inc.) of the world,” Cates says. “We knew that to really understand a business, you really have to be in the business.”
Cates realized there wasn’t a hospitality company that oversaw many of these sites and that most were owned by people looking for passive real estate investments.
RVC first bought Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., to serve as the company’s “test kitchen and laboratory.”
The company redeveloped the property and bought contiguous land to expand it. The purchase allowed RVC to experiment on development and operational sides.
The company hired Yale Spina, a seasoned hospitality veteran with experience at Harrah’s, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Caesars Hotels & Casinos, to run operations.
RVC now has seven properties and is working to acquire another. It has offers on other properties but is growing cautiously, taking a long-term investment strategy.
One challenge which comes with creating a brand is marketing. For RVC Outdoors Destinations, the Internet was key to starting the company.
“If this was five years ago, before Google took over the universe, we’d have a hard time doing this,” Cates says.
Since many people perform vacation searches online, RVC focuses a lot of its efforts on search engine optimization, researching key words that high-end customers are looking for when searching for outdoor vacation sites.
“We’re noticing a trend in the market where people want Wi-Fi within their accommodations, but they also want their campfires,” Alex Embry, director of marketing, says.
In addition to social media interaction, the company also listens carefully to guest feedback, trying to respond quickly and resolving any issues. RVC added a pool at a Florida property to meet guest demands, even covering it to keep insects out. With repeat customers, RVC lets them know about news, packages and specials.
“We also give them insider info,” Embry says. “A new property we’re opening in Colorado, we let them know what’s going on. It gives them a more personal touch to our brand and they have a deeper relationship with us.”
RVC is trying to grow the right way primarily through three methods: buying an existing property which is well-located but needs to be renovated; purchasing a prime piece of land that is priced appropriately; and joint ventures.
The company is working with a property owner in Gatlinburg, Tenn., who has maintained and improved his property for years. The property should be flagged under the RVC brand next year, with the company providing management services, capital and other services.
“That is ultimately a great way for us to expand our footprint,” Cates says. “There aren’t a lot of those properties which are that high quality and who have owners who get it and who want that Hilton segment but have not to-date seen that option. That’s why we’re here.”

Cates’ Goal: ‘Hilton of the Campground World’

October 1, 2012 by · Comments Off on Cates’ Goal: ‘Hilton of the Campground World’ 

Andy Cates

Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations (RVC), an emerging provider of “high-quality U.S., outdoor vacation properties,” was founded in 2006 with an eye toward redefining North America’s camping experience through an outdoor destination concept involving upgraded RV and marine resort properties offering travelers the benefit of camping “on their own terms” in RVs, tents, yurts, cottages or cabins.

RVC, offering affordable lodging options as well as upscale accommodations and hotel-like amenities like concierge services, is intent on developing, owning and operating vacation properties in naturally attractive environments in close proximity to local attractions and activities. Those amenities run the gamut from community lodges to coffee and wine bars, convenience stores, free cable and Wi-Fi, game rooms, fitness centers, modern swimming pools and pet facilities plus scooter, bike and golf cart rentals.

Driven by outspoken CEO Andy Cates, RVC is focused
on expansion throughout the U.S. beyond its current seven resorts, including 400-acre, 120-site Catherine’s Landing in Hot Springs, Ark.; Carrabelle Beach and Carrabelle Boat Club, both in Carrabelle, Fla.; Live Oak Landing, Freeport, Fla.; Pine Mountain, Pine Mountain, Ga.; Mountain Springs Cabins, Ashville, N.C.; and recently acquired 200-site Garden of the Gods, a facility located within sight of Pikes Peak and walking distance of Manitou Springs now being renovated in Colorado Springs. Colo.

And Cates, a Memphis native, University of Texas grad and real estate developer by trade, says he and his associates are just getting started as “capital partners,” operators and, more often than not, active participants in the facilities they choose to acquire across the U.S. “You will see us grow in three ways,” says Cates. “We will purchase properties where we can buy them intelligently. We will joint venture existing properties that we reflag as RVC properties and then, in extraordinarily select opportunities, you’ll see us buy land and build new properties.” Here are some edited highlights of a conversation between Cates and Woodall’s Campground Management Publisher Sherman Goldenberg.

WCM: What, in your words, is the central mission of RVC – the thing that sets it apart from all the other park operations that claim a high level of amenities and great locations?

Cates: We are trying to redefine camping and lead a specific niche in outdoor hospitality. To put it simply, we want to be the Hilton of the campground world and believe we are leading that market. We think that the outdoor hospitality world and especially, the RV world hasn’t seen significant change in five decades. But we think that change is inevitable and that it’s happening now. We are extraordinarily motivated to help accelerate that inevitable evolution in segmentation where there is an understanding of the different quality products among these outdoor hospitality properties.

At RVC, we don’t do RV parks. We do RV resorts and outdoor destinations. We are not saying that to criticize or diminish other properties or other property owners. We are saying that just like you would whether you are going to stay at a Best Western or Hilton Hotel. There’s nothing wrong with a Best Western, but you might prefer better lodging. And right now, in our opinion – and we’re putting our money where our mouth is – that has never been clear in the RV world.

WCM: What is it that hasn’t been clear in the RV arena?

Cates: The quality and segment differential is extraordinarily uncertain to the guests. We talk a lot about rating systems, which we find often inconsistent. But in reality, the average guest, and especially the new guest who is either a new RVer or who rented an RV or is looking for a cottage experience, to me those folks don’t even know what the existing rating systems are.

It’s very difficult for that guest to go to a single property portfolio company and get any true consistency of experience. Our goal, on the other hand, is to provide that on a national basis, and we’re doing that. Now, granted we are starting small and we’re focused on quality and consistency in getting our brand right, versus just growing for the sake of growth. But we think this is happening and that we will accelerate what will inevitably happen nationally.

WCM: How did all this come about?

Cates: We did a lot of research, spent a lot of time traveling and RVing, before we started up six years ago. We’ve got over 100 years of RVing experience in our company, collectively. We don’t do this lightly or arrogantly. But we’re excited and enthused because we are seeing our guests confirm our thesis. Again, we are putting our money where our mouths are. We spent a lot of time and money building this foundation, and we are excited about where we’re going. This is the least passive investment on the planet.

WCM: It’s not a business you’d want to manage from afar, right?

Cates: People who have historically looked at this business from the real estate world who have never been in this business often assume that it is a relatively passive investment that does not require an enormous amount of energy. But anybody that knows the business knows that it’s a full-court-press hospitality business that requires an enormous amount of energy and focus.

Again, our thesis from the beginning is to be the first to build that Hilton quality segment that does not exist today.

In this illustration from CNNMoney, RVC Outdoor Destination’s Andy Cates dons a pair of fictitious boxing gloves for his company’s competition with traditional campgrounds.

Now, I should add that we have a lot of respect for KOA. I want to make that crystal clear. We respect KOA a lot. We like the people there. We think the culture’s good. But frankly, they are going to go through an inevitable segmentation because they have roughly 480 properties, and they have a very wide range of quality with regard to their physical properties.

They’re extraordinarily good markets and good people and franchisers that provide a lot of resources, but the physical properties are often limited. They are the only brand nationally that I believe the average consumer knows.

WCM: Tell us more about this “segmentation” concept, something we’ve heard about among other forward-thinking industry people.

Cates: We have proposed specific definitions of the outdoor hospitality industry. We believe there are campgrounds, which are rustic properties that are generally within state or federal parks. We think there are RV parks, which can be overnight parks or extended-stay or traditional RV parks, but are typically more oriented toward a single-night stay and are extraordinarily price sensitive.

Then, there’s a segment that we are focused on – RV resorts – and that is going to be your high quality, highly amenitized, well-located property that is going to have a lot more in common with a hotel than a trailer park.

On top of that you’ve got the “outdoor destination,” which is multiple lodging options, not just RV. You are going to have significant cottage inventory, yurts, access to boating and well-amenitized facilities with beautiful environments that generally have a hotel-like lobby. We’ve built those in Live Oak Landing in Destin (Florida) and in Hot Springs (Arkansas) at Catherine’s Landing, which is on 400 acres and has a mile of waterfront and is only five minutes from one of the largest horse tracks in the country and ten minutes from downtown Hot Springs.

And finally, there’s the luxury motorcoach resort segment, the Signatures and Outdoor Resorts of America type of facilities, which is for your affluent segment, but for motorcoach owners only, and that’s not a business we are in.

Please note, by the way, that we are not claiming to be a luxury brand, just like Hilton is not a luxury brand. Ritz and Four Seasons are luxury brands and there are RV properties out there that we’re aware of that are that great. But, again, that’s not what we do. We think there’s a place for that, but we as an industry need to see a better understanding of the definitions of these properties.

WCM: So, obviously, you think that a better grasp of this “segmentation” concept will serve the entire industry better in the long haul?

Cates: For the outdoor hospitality industry to grow, to attract new RVers and to attract families and Boomers to come to our properties and rent cottages, we must do a better job of defining what we are.

I can tell you right now, there is an enormous audience of people in the Unites States, especially women, who, if they hear that you’re offering them a stay in a wonderful cottage in a beautiful environment, will be interested. But if you tell them that beautiful environment is an RV park, they’re done, they’re out. That’s common sense and we are not using common sense as an industry to explain what these differences are. If we are trying to attract guests and consumers to our industry, we need to do a better job of explaining what the value proposition and quality experience is. We are not doing that well, in our opinion.

WCM: So, given a more refined approach on the part of the RV park and campground sector, you see good things down the road?

Cates: There’s a huge opportunity cost of not getting on our game because there’s an enormous number of entertainment and hospitality options on the planet right now. Now, I couldn’t be more excited about the potential for the outdoor hospitality sector right now or we wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars on it because I absolutely believe that, culturally and as a society, everything is going our way in terms of people wanting to go back to the basics and spend more time with their families in an affordable way. And you’ve also got this huge wave of Baby Boomers retiring who want to have a quality retirement.

But because there are a lot of other people in competition right now, we have to be more aggressive communicating what we offer. And we’ve got to be more consistent and accurate in explaining our value proposition. If we do that, we have a huge competitive advantage in trying to get people’s attention. Frankly, what we are offering is wonderful. It’s solid and makes a ton of sense.

WCM: You mean getting that average, non-RVing American family to wake up to the reality of what kind of accommodations now exist, right?

Cates: Yes. It’s not an accident that KOA is spending so much energy on vertical units, bringing park models into their properties and really competing with hotels and motels. I laud them for that. That’s smart. But to do that, you have to have mom and dad know that they’re not just staying in a box in a parking lot. If that’s the perception they have, you’re not going to get them. You’ve got to educate them – that you exist and that you are an alternative and that it’s a damn good alternative.

WCM: And that – changing perceptions — is not a simple thing to do.

Cates: No, that’s why we are spending a lot of time on PR and social media, on search engine optimization, organic and paid searches, gorilla marketing and on getting loyal customers to spread the word.

But to your point, when you really add up all of our collective marketing budgets in the outdoor hospitality world, it’s a blip on the radar compared to the hotel industry.

That’s why you hear me saying we’re going to have to be better and more efficient. We have to be. And again, the good news is that it’s already happening. Without the Internet, without the web, we wouldn’t have a chance. We would have never started this company.

That is a game changer utilizing our guests’ mailboxes. That is their lifeline to society. That gives us an advantage to get to them like we never would have been able to get to them. And it’s happening. So, that allows us to compete with the 9,800-pound gorilla, the hotel industry.


Live Oak Landing to Host Wounded Warriors

September 12, 2012 by · Comments Off on Live Oak Landing to Host Wounded Warriors 

Live Oak Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination vacation property near Destin, Fla., and Wounded Warrior Fishing will host its first event dedicated to wounded soldiers and their families called “Wounded Warrior Weekend” during the last weekend in September. The private event will host nine wounded warriors and their families as they enjoy great food, free gifts and some of the country’s best fishing.

“At Live Oak Landing, we’re dedicated to helping the soldiers who have bravely sacrificed for our country,” said Neil Sorrell, general manager. “Events like these are very important to us because we believe in giving back to families of those men and women who have been wounded in the line of duty.”

Families will arrive Friday, welcomed with gifts and new friends. Bass Pro Shops will be cooking food and providing pontoon boats for the families to enjoy. Columbia Sportswear will be donating apparel. Live Oak Landing will be donating nine fully furnished RVC Resort Cottages to all families during the event. Each cottage is equipped with modern appliances, cable, Wi-Fi, fresh linens and more. Families will also enjoy the newly built and screened saline swimming pool, canoes, and the air-conditioned activities pavilion.

Live Oak Landing offers lodging options such as RV sites and RVC Resort Cottages for those interested in making overnight reservations. For more information about Live Oak Landing, please visit


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