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RVtravel.com’s YouTube Following Grows

October 13, 2014 by · Comments Off on RVtravel.com’s YouTube Following Grows 

America’s most-watched YouTube channel about RVing topped 20,000 subscribers on Saturday (Oct. 11), according to an announcement from RVtravel.com. The RVtravel.com channel has received more 6.7 million page views to date and is growing at several hundred thousand a month.

“YouTube has become a big deal for us,” said RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury. “It’s driving traffic to our websites and we’re seeing an increasing number of subscriptions to our newsletters coming from our channel.”

A survey last month by RVtravel.com showed that nearly one-third of the website’s readers are watching more videos online now than a year ago. “Add that to about the same number who have been watching online videos all along that and that’s a lot of eyeballs getting information from YouTube.com and other video channels,” said Woodbury.

Woodbury notes that while some traditional RVing-related broadcast and cable-TV programs routinely boast of “audience reaches” in the millions, the potenial reach of the RVtravel.com channel is in the billions. “A billion people watch YouTube in a single month,” he says. “If you consider our videos will be seen for years, the potential “reach” of our channel dwarfs any programming about RVing on broadcast or cable TV.”

The RVtravel.com channel features nearly 500 videos. It is currently running a six-part series by RV journalist Chris Dougherty titled “The Green RV Project.” The idea, explained Woodbury, is to show RVers easy ways to make their RVs more environmentally friendly, and in most cases save money in the process.

Woodbury: Elevators In A KOA Campground?

May 12, 2014 by · Comments Off on Woodbury: Elevators In A KOA Campground? 

The following column is Chuck Woodbury’s in his latest newsletter from RVTravel.com.

When is the last time you stayed in a campground with an elevator? Or one with “hotel-like suites?” My guess is never. Same here.

So I must say, I was intrigued recently by a headline in Woodall’s Campground Management with the headline “KOA resort redefining camping,” followed by news of Kampgrounds of America’s (KOA) new and improved park in Cape Hatteras, N.C., that includes an elevator and “eight hotel-like suites.”

“We are redefining it [camping],” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “Camping is not about the buildings or the pools, it’s about people and the way we act. What we’re doing is attracting a mix of people who have never been to a campground. We call it genuine engagement … it’s providing something that’s missing every day. We block ourselves up, we’ve hooked ourselves up to a phone or an iPad or whatever, we don’t have that genuine engagement. Campgrounds do,” Rogers said in the article.

So, let’s see. A campground with hotel suites is helping us reengage in some way with the great outdoors? Did he really say that?

It sounds to me like KOA may be “redefining the RV park industry,” but I hope the company does not believe that elevators and hotel suites are synonymous with a camping experience. Heaven knows, even camping in our RVs is not roughing it compared to the old days when many of us camped in tents. KOA’s PR person Mike Gast told me that KOA has no plans for other campgrounds with elevators and hotel suites. But we’ll see. Jim Rogers comes from the hotel industry and he’s a smart businessman. If Cape Hatteras fills its hotel suites (which it likely will), my bet is other high end KOA “resorts” will follow (watch a video where Jim Rogers explains the new, three-tier KOA classification system).

Woodbury Questions Parks’ Checkout Times

January 28, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Chuck Woodbury

Editor’s Note: The following column was written by Chuck Woodbury and appeared on his www.RVTravel.com website. This column chronicles his latest thoughts on RV travel.

I have stayed in a few RV parks this trip where the checkout time is 11 a.m. Nothing unusual about that, right? Par for the course. Now, 11 a.m. is the checkout rule at motels and hotels. They need time to make the beds and clean the toilets before the next guest shows up. Makes sense.

But RV parks? Personally, I have yet to find an RV park that offers to make my bed or clean my toilet before the next customer pulls in. When I de-park at 11 a.m., the site is ready for the next guy at 11:01. So why the early checkout? It’s because few people in the RV park industry have figured out that’s a crummy, unfair, stupid, ridiculous, customer-unfriendly time. What will it cost a park for me to stay an extra two hours? Hummm. . . let me think. Okay, I know: next to nothing!

But no, they want us gone ASAP, even though we pulled in the night before at dusk and plopped down half a day’s wages with the idea of getting a good night’s sleep — maybe sleeping in — and then lounging around with our coffee and croissants while the kids or grandkids play Marco Polo in the pool.

And what about the campsites at RV parks? First off, you’d think a park could make them level. Is that too much to ask? As I recall, the last hotel I stayed in had level floors. I believe Motel 6 has level floors.

AND DO YOU THINK that maybe the park could do something to increase the distance between campsites (and yes, I know that’s not always easy)? I hate trying to sleep while listening to the guy next door break wind all night. I stayed in an RV park this trip in Las Vegas. Here’s how it’s described on its website: “Shaded by oak and pinzanata trees. . . it provides a dramatic contrast to ‘The Strip’ just six miles away.” Sounds good. But check out the photo of my campsite. Now, isn’t it lovely? I love the way the park provides enough space for me to open my front door without banging my neighbor’s slideout. And what exactly is a pinzanata tree?

Here’s my suggestion: let’s start a movement. The next time you use an RV park, ask the checkout time before paying. If it’s 11 a.m. tell them you will gladly oblige if they will make your bed and clean your toilet before you depart. If they won’t, then move on; tell them you will stay at WalMart where you can remain all day if you want, and for free. And if they put you in a site where you can hear the guy next door hacking and snoring all night, then when you leave tell the manager that the spaces are too cramped and you will never return. And if they give you a site that’s not even close to level, ask for another one, or request a 50% discount for hill camping, or demand a bulldozer.

 

Survey: RV Park Game Room May Be a Goner

September 17, 2012 by · Comments Off on Survey: RV Park Game Room May Be a Goner 

The RV park game room is headed the way of the dinosaur, according to a weekend survey by RVtravel.com.

“Only three percent of the more than 1,500 readers who responded were interested in a game room,” said RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury. “Seventy percent said it was not important to them in choosing one park over another, and 27 percent said they would “rather a park did not have one.”

“We are amply entertained with our computers and our Kindles if it comes to indoor fun,” one reader commented.

“To be fair, most of our readers tend to be older, avid RVers and not young families,” so that partially explains the high negative results,” said Woodbury. “Still, RV park owners tell me that RVers and their children are bringing their games with them now on their computers and mobile devices and don’t need to visit a game room. KOA does not even require its new franchise owners to have one.”

The up-to-the-minute results of the survey can be viewed here.

Follow RVtravel.com on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/rvtravelnewsletter <http://www.RVtravel.com/facebook

 

Chuck Woodbury to Debut Daily e-Newsletter

September 12, 2012 by · Comments Off on Chuck Woodbury to Debut Daily e-Newsletter 

Chuck Woodbury

The publishers of the weekly RVtravel.com newsletter, now in its 11th year, will debut a new daily newsletter in mid-November.

According to a press release, the Monday through Friday online publication, RV Daily Tips, will include concise, helpful advice to RVers. RVtravel.com publisher Chuck Woodbury will oversee operations with long-time contributor Russ De Maris as editor.

“We are still refining the format, but our plan now is for one brief lead article each issue with advice that will enhance an RVer’s experience, whether it’s about lifestyle, maintenance, safety, towing or anything else about RVing,” said Woodbury. “In addition, we’ll embed one 60- to 90-second video tip in each issue from an RV expert. We already have two month’s worth ready to go that we videotaped at the recent FMCA rally in Indianapolis and we’ll be adding new ones this week at the RV show in Hershey.

“We’re looking for other video submissions from people in the RV industry who have something of value to say to our readers,” he added. “There’s no charge for appearing in the videos unless we have to travel to record them. I expect that each one, depending on its topic, will eventually receive 10,000 to 50,000 views through its archives on several websites and blogs, so it would be good exposure for a company.”

The RVtravel.com YouTube channel, where the videos will be hosted, has garnered 1.7 million views to date.

The free newsletter will debut with about 6,000 daily subscribers. “We’ve solicited sign ups in our RVtravel.com newsletter and Facebook page for a couple of months now,” said Woodbury. “But once the new newsletter is underway, we’ll push harder and I expect it to grow fast.”

RV Daily Tips will be supported by advertising and from sales at the website’s e-commerce site, RVbookstore.com. More information is available from Woodbury at Chuck@RVtravel.com.

Columnist Touts No Frills Camping

July 5, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Editor’s Note: Chuck Woodbury, editor of RVtravel.com, published the following column in the current issue of his online newsletter.

Most RVers would rather pay for a campsite than stay for free in a Wal-Mart parking lot. In a May edition of this newsletter we asked if you would rather pay $10 for a no-frills campsite in an RV park or stay for free in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Nearly three-quarters of you answered you would rather pay.

This is significant because in an earlier survey, 57% of you said you have stayed in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

When I wrote about this before, I received letters from several RV park owners, who said they could not afford to offer a $10 campsite. They listed reasons that basically boiled down to “how could we distinguish the $10 campers from those paying the going rate?” They explained their need to cover their overhead: there were restrooms to clean, pools and a dump station to maintain, Wi-Fi to pay for, etc.

Frankly, their responses were predictable.

It’s a whole lot easier to maintain the status quo than to change. A combination lock on restroom doors would keep the $10 campers out. With no password, they couldn’t use the Wi-Fi. Few of them would want to use the pool anyway: they’d just want to park and sleep. Charge them $5 to dump.

Put the $10, self-contained campers in a corner of the park or overflow area with a self-pay box like at Forest Service campgrounds. I bet 98% of them would play by the rules. And some of those folks would return again if they liked the park — paying the going rate next time to stay awhile.

IF I WERE A CAMPGROUND OWNER I would ask myself, “Is it really THAT hard to provide a $10 no-frills service?” I would then address the problems and see if they were insurmountable. If I knew that every night there were 20 RVs down at the local Wal-Mart, I’d try my best to lure some of them my way. I could dispatch an employee there to put a flyer on their windshields: “Next time stay with us in a safe, secure place for $10.” And provide them with a two-for-one coupon for the next time they’re in town.

If five of them stayed a night for 200 nights a year, that would put an extra $10,000 in their piggy bank with no effort. I bet some of those folks would buy a quart of milk at the campground store. And if 10% of them came back once a year paying the full rate, that could add another $35,000 to the pot.

Soon — maybe in a year, maybe two, maybe five — Wal-Mart will post NO OVERNIGHT PARKING at all its stores. It will happen, for one reason or another. And then all those freebie campers will stay by the road, in rest areas, in truck stops, in supermarket lots, on city streets — anywhere to avoid paying $30-$40 for one night in an RV park when they want only to sleep and then move on. For RVers on a tight budget, not having a free or cheap place to stay on occasion might force them off the road.

A creative, “can do” business person needs to come forward with an innovative plan to find a way to enable cheap, safe overnight RV parking in campgrounds across America. I know I will get letters from RV park owners saying it’s impossible. I say it is not. It’s easy to say “Can’t.” It takes vision to say “Why not?”

Woodbury to Publish 400th Newsletter this Week

October 15, 2009 by · Comments Off on Woodbury to Publish 400th Newsletter this Week 

The week of Sept. 11, 2001, Chuck Woodbury was set to issue his first RVtravel.com online newsletter. He recalls he had less than 100 subscribers. “Then, after the terrible events of that day, it seemed unimportant to be discussing RVing,” he recalled.

Two weeks later, he issued his first newsletter, initially every other week, then weekly after a few months. On Saturday, (Oct. 18), the 62-year-old RVer and publisher will post his 400th edition to an audience of about 100,000, according to a press release.

It’s a labor of love for Woodbury, but also a driving force in his business, which earns half its income from advertising and the other half from sales at RVbookstore.com, which Woodbury said is the largest store in the world specializing in books, eBooks and DVDs aimed specifically at RVers.

The newsletter, which is free to subscribers, covers important consumer news about recreational vehicles and the RV lifestyle, and short features on most aspects of RVing. Woodbury’s opening essay — sometimes newsy but often more personal — is the biggest draw. “In the 1990s, I spent a good part of my time traveling the American West in a motorhome, publishing my on-the-road newspaper Out West,” he said. “I kept a journal of my travels and published it in the paper. That was where I found my own voice as a writer. What I was doing was blogging before the term was coined.”

Out West was so unique that Woodbury was profiled by most of the major news media including all the broadcast TV networks, CNN, USA Today and People Magazine. Phone booths became his favorite hangout. “For about a year, every couple of days I’d be a call-in guest on a radio talk show,” he said.

HIS MEDIA FAME led to a book deal with New York publisher William Morrow, “The Best from Out West,” and a six year stint with the New York Times Syndicate, which distributed his columns to newspapers around the world.

These days, Woodbury says he spends about two days a week producing his RVtravel.com newsletter. Most times, he writes it from his home in Edmonds, Wash., but he’s written and posted many issues from throughout North America while traveling by motorhome. In September, he posted two issues while vacationing in Germany.

Woodbury says he will likely make it to a 500th issue, but he’s not sure after that. “I will have been publishing it more than 10 years at that point,” he explained. “I know I will keep writing, but I don’t know if I will want to deal any more with a weekly deadline.”

The 400th issue of the RV Travel newsletter will be posted early Saturday at RVtravel.com. The same morning two RVing experts, the ”RV Doctor” Gary Bunzer and Eric Davis of Eric’s RV Performance Center, will join Woodbury in a live two-hour video webcast that will appear on the same web page as the newsletter beginning at1 p.m. EST

 

Brisk Business Reported at U.S. Campgrounds

July 10, 2009 by · Comments Off on Brisk Business Reported at U.S. Campgrounds 

koa-logoAt the Battlefield KOA Campground in Gettysburg, Pa., you can catch up on e-mail at your campsite, take in an evening movie on a 9-foot inflatable outdoor screen, lounge by the pool, play a round of mini golf or try your hand at Extreme Hunting, one of the arcade games in the game room. There’s live music on Saturday nights and pancake breakfasts on weekend mornings, and if you don’t feel like cooking, you can have dinner delivered to your RV door, tent flap or what-have-you. 

Heck, you don’t even have to really camp at this wooded 25-acre site, thanks to its growing inventory of air-conditioned cabins, cottages and lodges – essentially, tricked-out trailers done up to look like hand-hewn log dwellings, according to USA Today

“So much for getting away from it all,” owner John Bergeron says with a laugh. 

But getting away they are. By many accounts, business is brisk this summer at campgrounds nationwide. The sinking economy may have put the brakes on taking the Grand Tour, but many Americans still want to get away. And with relatively low gas prices, more people are pulling into campgrounds. 

All Metrics Point Up 

Campground reservations through ReserveAmerica.com, which books campsites in most national parks, are up 8% over last year in the first six months of 2009. 

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), a network of 460 commercial campgrounds, reports a 5% increase in June occupancy. REI, an outdoor-gear chain, says sales of family tents were up 17% in June over last year. The retailer also saw double-digit increases in sales of related products, such as air mattresses and campground stoves. 

A recent survey by the Outdoor Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes outdoor activities, indicates camping’s popularity rose 7.4% in 2008 after a decline the year before. Overnight backpacking grew by 18.5%, the group reports. 

“People are returning to simpler lifestyles – the ‘less is more’ ethic,” says the foundation’s Christine Fanning. “And everyone is searching for vacations that fit with today’s economy.” 

Indeed, ForestCamping.com, a comprehensive guide to U.S. National Forest campgrounds, where campsites go for $10 to $15 a night, has seen a spike in hits. Bookings for reservable Forest Service campsites were up 11% through May. 

“When the economy goes down, camping goes up,” says Suzi Dow, who with her husband, Fred, runs the site. 

David Berg, owner of the Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, echoes the sentiment. “I believe camping is a recession-proof business,” he says. “When people can’t afford $200 or $300 a night for a waterfront cottage, they dust off the pop-up (camper) or get out the tent and spend $50 a night on a campsite and maybe still go out to good restaurants.” 

At Yellowstone National Park, lodging bookings are down this year, but campground stays are up, says Rick Hoeninghausen, marketing director for Xanterra, which runs the park’s concessions. 

“This is an interesting summer because, even in April, reservations were trailing last year. Then it kicked in in May. There’s more last-minute decision-making this year than I can ever remember.” 

As in other segments of the travel industry, campers are staying closer to home, but they’re also staying away longer. At KOA campgrounds, for instance, average stays are 2.5 nights, up from 1.7 nights three years ago. 

RVTravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury has been traveling through Western parks this summer, and says he’s struck by the number of rental RVs on the road. “It’s families, it’s couples, it’s everyone,” he says. “RV’ing has become much more accepted. It’s not just Grandma and Grandpa’s playhouse anymore.” 

Campgrounds Expanding Services 

yogi-40th-logoNor are today’s campgrounds necessarily like the ones you might remember as a kid. Food delivery, concierge services and skate parks are among innovative additions at some private facilities. In Columbia, Calif., the Marble Quarry RV Park features on-site gold panning. At Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Hill Country in Canyon Lake, Texas, laser tag is all the rage. At Kamp Klamath RV Park and Campground in Klamath, Calif., the alder-smoked salmon served at the park’s restaurant has won prizes in several competitions. 

At Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp Resort & Water Playground in Wisconsin Dells, owner Brent Gasser has gradually expanded what began as a campground with basic tent sites to a “camp resort” with a four-level water playground, boat and golf cart rentals, themed weekends (think Christmas in July), and 51 rental units that go from $39 to $299 a night. 

“The traditional camper has been requesting more and more accommodations that they’d find in a hotel,” Gasser says. “And since we’re in an area with many hotels, we have to compete.” 

And at the Red Apple Campground, the annual $25 Maine lobster fest sells out two years in advance. This summer, bookings are up 9%, and the average stay has stretched from 2.5 to 4.5 days. 

“You have to be more creative to get people in your park and get them to come back again,” Berg says. “Today’s customer wants it all. In the majority of campgrounds today, we have Wi-Fi and concierge services. There are (waterfront) campsites in Maine that go for over $100 a night. And they sell first.” 

But the constant buzz of organized activity can be a bit much, even for avid campers such as Brian and Michelle Gillespey of Brownstone, Mich. 

“They’re on the PA making announcements about putt-putt golf and the ice cream social at 3 p.m.,” she says. 

“There are too many activities at some of these places,” he says. “To me, it’s not relaxing.” 

America’s ‘Last Small Town’ 

What many campground denizens say they do like is the camaraderie of the camp. KOA president Jim Rogers calls campgrounds “the last small town in America. They’re a live community, a social beehive. You’re interacting with strangers and allowing your kids to.” 

“A woman stepped onto our site to avoid a passing car last night and ended up staying until midnight,” says Lynn Boozel, a camper at the KOA in Gettysburg. Boozel and his wife, Rhonda, of McVeytown, Pa., are wrapping up their seventh annual week-long visit here. “We came for a weekend and got hooked,” Boozel says. 

The couple, with their two young daughters and a granddaughter, are sleeping in a six-person tent, which puts them in the minority among the Hitchhikers, Wolf Packs and other RV models that occupy most of the sites. 

Across the way, Valerie and Bill Stack of Donora, Pa., have just arrived in their Ford pickup pulling a 12,000 pound, 38-foot trailer. This is one of five trips they’ll make here this summer. 

“Once you’re addicted to this, you can’t stay home,” Bill Stack says. “You come back and say, ‘Boy, did I have a great time,’ and they ask, ‘What did you do?’ and you say, ‘Nothing.’ ” 

The trailer has a gas fireplace, queen-size bed and flat-screen TV, among other amenities. They’ll spend the weekend swimming in the pool and maybe play some putt-putt golf. 

“But we’re here for nature,” Valerie Stack says. “If I lost everything tomorrow, I’d go out and buy a tent.”

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