What to Expect from RV Park & Campground Management
This is a HUGE subject with a lot to cover. The purpose of this guide is not to be the end-all of articles to give you all of the possible information you’ll ever need for running a successful campground, but rather to the place you can come to get the resources and direction you need to more experts who can help you with each step along the way.
Running and RV park and campground is a serious business, and while very difficult, it can be amazing and rewarding at the same time.
Table of Contents
- Where to Buy and RV Park/Campground
- Marketing for Campgrounds
- Campground Management Software
- Quick Tips to Keep Campers Happy
- Campground Management Associations, Resources, and Workshops
Where to Buy an RV Park/Campground
When you’re just starting out you basically have two options, buy an existing campground, or purchase/rent/lease a plot of land to build your own park. Now, we’re no experts here on park-design and actual construction and development, but we know some of the partners we mention below can definitely help in this area. If you’re deciding to go the route of purchasing an existing campground, there are already a few great resources available to help you here too.
The Campground Connection is one of the leading market places on-line right now for RV parks for sale by their owners. Listings here include prices, park introductions, images, and even videos of the properties for you to browse. Parks are searchable by region, the number of sites, acreage, and price, which makes browsing a nice experience.
They also hold a Campground Buyers Workshop, which helps you navigate through all of the nitty-gritty details that go into purchasing a new park.
The RV Park Store is a more modern portal and directory of RV parks and campgrounds for sale across the country. The RV Park store has a great and beautiful interface that’s fun to navigate and really easy on the eyes.
They also have a ton of resources available to help you get connected with the right people for financing, appraisals, insurance, etc.. which helps simplify the process of buying a park a lot.
What’s really nice about the RV Park Store is the listing format. Each listing includes detailed information such as the gross income and operating expenses, as well as property amenities, year built, park size (both lots and acres), and pictures. You can search by city, state and set distance restrictions to really hone in the results. Their advanced search filter also allows you to search for RV parks for sale by their owners depending on min-max pricing as well as the number of lots.
Parks and Places is an ARVC member and is comprised of some seriously experienced individuals in the RV park industry. With parks for sale across the country, Parks and Places offers full A to Z service in helping you purchase (or sell) a park.
Their website has a ton of listings, each with a great breakdown of the key information on the park for you to consider such as amenities, buildings, the total number of acres, total number of sites, and open seasons.
Aside from being the pro’s in the RV park buying/selling space, Parks and Places offers a lot of supporting consulting services, which can come in super handy in these early stages of begging and new RV park/campground business.
Marketing for Campgrounds
A huge part of making sure that your campground actually has campers will depend on your marketing plan. Not just any joe-shmoe can open up a plot of land, call it a campground, and do $1,000,000 in revenue their first year. Marketing a campground takes effort, finesse, and patience, but if done correctly can pay off big time.
Perhaps the most valuable asset in growing your park is going to be your website. These days potential guests are used to doing a lot of research on a park before booking their stay. Your customers will likely hear about your park through a lot of different channels (referrals, Good Sam, park review directories, etc…) but regardless of how they hear about you they will all use Google/Yahoo to search for your park as their next step.
This is your chance to wow your potential customers with a great first impression and them know that you take your park seriously. Just as you wouldn’t leave your bathrooms uncleaned since 1995, you should have a clean, updated, and professional website to let your customers know that you’re an actively managed park that cares about their customers experience.
Your website is the first point of customer experience that your guests are going to have, so it needs to be a smooth and pleasant one. If it is, this will increase your likelihood of bookings a lot, and campers will be happy that it was so easy to find the information they were looking for and subsequently book a space.
A well designed RV park and campground website can also help you save your staff a lot of headaches. Many RV’ers like to research the areas they are heading to next in advance, and commonly ask they same type of questions about the nearby attractions, as well as questions about your park amenities, spaces, and pricing. If your website is updated, easy to navigate, and informational, customers will be able to find all of the answers to their questions themselves, which will help lighten the load on your staff members in the long run.
Here are a few of our quick tips on what a good RV park website should include:
- Start with research, look into what campers want and are looking for in your area
- Research your competition and know your Unique Selling Points (USP’s)
- Simplify and streamline all of your information
- Include clear, large, and beautiful images
- Have a clean, modern, and easy to use design
If you’re getting ready to build a website you’ll also quickly learn that there are a lot of options. A website is something that you want to do it once, and do it right, otherwise, you could end up with something you really don’t like and that doesn’t actually deliver all of the benefits we just covered. We help parks of all sizes build amazing websites for their campers, and can help answer any questions on design and how to help get your park discovered, just get in touch with us!
(P.S. We also offer a special rate for both new and upgrading parks if you mention this article!)
Probably the most common techniques to marketing an RV park/campground is through directory listings and association memberships. Afterall, campgrounds need to go where the campers are, and campers go to these associations for discounts, recommendations, and community.
Campground Reviews is one of (if not THE) largest directory of campgrounds on the net. This is an excellent resource for hunting down places to stay and their bread-and-butter product is their awesome reviews system. You can search by state, and filter down further with lots of different options. Each listing has detailed reviews from previous camper and a star rating so you know what you’re getting when you choose a campsite.
Reserve America also has a database of parks listed with a great search tool. Parks that are included here are USFS, KOA, and Good Sam parks amongst many others.
Speaking of Good Sam, this is a HUGE resource for campers and probably one of our top recommendations. The organization is massively popular, and you need to be sure your park is a member to be listed in their directory. Many campers also view having the Good Sam logo on your website as a badge of approval, so becoming a member park can have a lot of benefits.
Content and Newsletters
Another great way to keep campers flocking to your site is by providing great content. Campgrounds are best doing this through their blogs and newsletters, and if they are a member of an organization like Good Sam, through things list guest posts and appearances.
This method is also supercharged if you are including your newsletter/blogs on your own website, as it will help you rank in the search engines for more keywords and drive more traffic (more traffic = more potential campers!).
Now, just writing anything isn’t going to cut it here. You need to write focused, valuable content for your readers so that they’ll actually want to come and read what you’re putting out there.
Great ideas for this are:
- Covering local area events as they happen, so people know what’s coming up and may want to go ahead and book a night at your park to attend the event.
- Writing more about area attractions, history, and park specials
- Featuring RV camper influencers for stay reviews
Remember to keep is valuable, updated, and fun! Include images, use easy to read language, and a light-friendly tone for campers to get excited about whatever the topic may be for the post.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
In these modern times, this is more important than ever. Not surprisingly, many RV parks and campgrounds are not super fluent when it comes to technology and staying up to date with the Joneses. This makes total sense when you think about the reason we’re going to RV parks is to actually disconnect and get back in touch with nature!
Nonetheless, if you want more people to discover your park and enjoy the outdoors, you’ll need a good SEO strategy. SEO, in a nutshell, is how to get your park showing up in search engine results for people looking for a place to stay. This involves keyword research, question research, technical things like making sure your website structure and HTML tags are correct, as well as non-technical things like building up relationships within the RV community to share traffic and information.
SEO is a very, very diverse subject and we could go on for days on how to properly plan your web strategy and grow your park. In order to keep things short for this guide here are a few quick, actionable tips to help you get started:
- Start with an SEO Audit of your current website. An SEO audit will help you see the areas for improvement you have on your own site (content copy, code improvement, etc..) so you have some clear steps you can take immediately to start improving your website.
- Add a competitor analysis to the SEO Audit. With a competitor analysis, you’ll get an inside picture as to how your competitors are performing and why. This can be hugely useful in planning a new strategy to increase bookings in the future.
- Know what makes you special. There are likely to be multiple campgrounds in your area for people to choose from. Think about what really makes your’s special and highlight that to the world to stand out of the crowd.
- Research, Research, Research. With the SEO tools available these days there is no excuse for just ‘winging it’ when it comes to defining a new on-line SEO strategy. Do your keyword, traffic, and demographic research properly as the first step, and you can almost guarantee a much bigger ROI when you finally get things moving.
- Be Patient. SEO is a long-term game. It can take several months before you start ranking for some keywords. At the same time, you could rank for a new keyword in less than 24 hours, its really anyone’s guess! What we do know however is that a proper SEO strategy can be massively productive and boost revenue consistently, with little to no effort for a long time in the future.
There are lots of companies that can help you with SEO, but the closer they are to your industry the better. Try and find a specialist rather than generalist, as they will be better positioned to help you gain more traction in the search engine results than anyone else.
There are a few methods of paid advertising you can use to give your RV park or campground a boost in bookings quickly. The main ones that typically bring the quickest and highest ROI are:
- Google Ads
- Website Featured Park Ads
- Website banner ads
- Facebook advertising
- Magazine/published ads
We won’t go into depth on each one here but we can say that we’ve ranked these above in order of effectiveness in our experience. Google Ads, if done correctly, can be like added jet fuel to your park and can instantly increase bookings.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Facebook advertising and published ads have relatively lower conversions as people are typically not actively searching for a new park to stay in while using these platforms.
Parks and Rec Media also offers content creation and marketing services in case any of this feels like a little too much to handle on your own. Just give us a shout and we’ll get back to you ASAP to see how we can help grow your park.
Campground Management Software
So, now that you’ve mastered the art of marketing your park and campers are flocking to your park, it’s time to talk a little about Campground management software. There’s a lot to be said on the subject of campground management software, and there are a TON of choices on the market. This site here has a huge list of options on the market and is filterable by the functions the software supports. Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular and widely used options we’ve come across:
Choosing a campground management software is a subject that deserves a full post on its own. It’s important to really sit down and consider your needs when comparing these tools as there are a lot of options on the market with a ton of different functionalities. A few tips to consider when going through these options are:
- Does this support check-in/check-out
- Does this support on-line bookings?
- Is there a POS (point of sale) integrated?
- Do I need multi-locations or just a single location?
- Will I need utility billing?
- How responsive is their support and sales team in case I’m in a jam?
- Is there any training required, and if so, is it in person? How Long?
- Is this supported on all devices and platforms (Apple IoS, Android, Windows, Mac)?
One final thing to remember with campground management software is that you’re on-line and off-line systems need to work together, and for everyone on your staff. In many cases, if the booking platform is too complicated, staff members will end up not using it or keeping inaccurate records. This could lead to booking issues and ultimately effecting campers’ stays, which would be a big no, no!
7 Quick Tips to Keep Campers Happy
Through talking with many RV park owners, park managers, and campers themselves, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to keep visitors happy. Here’s a quick list of items to remember while running your park that will help keep people coming back year-after-year!
- Customer Service is #1 – We’ve surveyed hundreds of park owners about their success and it always boils down to one thing… Customer service. The classic saying of “service with a smile” isn’t well known for no reason, it truly provides a ton of value to your patrons and business. Be knowledgeable, friendly, and welcoming to your guests, and we can almost guarantee you’ll see them return year after year.
- Always Improve – It’s important to continuously invest in making improvements to your campground. Maintenance is incredibly important, but also adding things like carports, paved roads, fishing ponds, hammocks, bike rentals, etc… can all give campers reasons to stay at your campground rather than the competitors, and at the same time give campers who have stayed before even more of a reason to return!
- Keep the Noise Down – Everyone likes a private, quiet camping experience, so it is important to have reminders around the park for groups that may cause more noise than others to please be respectful and maintain a comfortable noise level for all. This can be done by posting keep quiet signage being posted frequently all over the park. Post it at the entrance, main facilities, but also in-between many of the spots and around street corners. If campers see your signage 3 times on the way in, you can be sure they’ll get the message.
- Invest in quality Wifi – repeaters, and bandwidth to keep people on-line. Many tips out there will suggest that you call your ISP and have the bandwidth or specific sites such as Netflix and Hulu blocked so campers cant’ access and hog all of the bandwidth from your WiFi system. While this may work, it’s actually hurting your customers and could lead to the classic complaint of “SLOW INTERNET!!” or “NO INTERNET”, or even worse, tying your campground management up with calls and complaints about not being able to access online services.
- Take online bookings! This should almost be a no-brainer these days. There are a lot of campground booking systems that support on-line booking services that are affordable and easy. ResNexus and RMS Cloud are two just to name a few. We have some more options outlined in the Campground Management Software section below.
- Get Extra Revenue by Up Selling – If your campground offers extra services that you normally charge for like finishing rod rental, snack packages, or even dump station charges, try and collect these directly at the time of booking. This especially goes for on-line bookings, as you can help suggest ways for campers to enjoy more of your amenities all while boosting your periphery revenue.
- Have a Referral & Rewards Program – This doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds and can have huge benefits for your camp. To encourage campers to come back to your campground on their next visit, consider setting up a return customer discount system. Even better, creating a referral rewards system can help drive NEW business by getting new customers through powerful word-of-mouth recommendations. This can also be super effective if combined with Google reviews, CampgroundReviews.com, and other-on-line directories to boost your scores and gain more trust with potential campers!
Campground Management Associations, Resources, and Workshops
Whether you’re new to the game or just looking to acquire some new skills, campground management schools and workshops can be a great idea to get moving forward. Just like campground management software options, there are a lot of these to choose from. Some of the bigger organizations in the industry hold some amazingly useful workshops that provide a TON of value.
Discounts, Advocacy, Education, and Community are the pillars of benefits for all ARVC members. The organization publishes incredible reports, directly related to RV campgrounds and operations. These are hugely useful, specifically for campground owners and managers, and will help you learn from the experience of others and the entire industry.
ARVC also publishes their work in many different formats, which is super useful and keeps things interesting. For example, their blog is full of great tips and news, while their magazine The Voice is a seasonal publication with all sorts of more in-depth management topics such as how to capture the attention of younger generation campers and staff training.
One of the most useful resources for new/potential campground owners ARVC provides is their POW series workshops. These are in-depth, information-packed workshops that go over all and everything you need to be aware of in the early days of starting a campground.
ARVC is also the home of the National School of RV Park and Campground Management, which is a week-long course led by industry experts to educate students on the best practices and management principles in running your RV park.
The RV Industry Association is a powerhouse in the industry and has a lot of fo really great resources that are constantly updated for the newest information. While the organization is primarily aimed at RV manufacturers and less directly at park owners, these guys help bring all of the industry players together under one roof and increase communication, collaboration, and growth together.
RVIA’s reports are incredibly insightful and can help you keep up with the trends of the industry and what’s happening across the country. This is really important stuff to keep up on to make sure you’re staying competitive and that your business is sustainable. They’re also one of the co-founders of Go-RVing, which has a huge following of campers and campgrounds alike.
Video’s, events, directories, industry updates… Woodall’s has it all. If you’re not already following Woodall’s blog and feeds, you need to be, as they are on the frontlines of the industry and constantly pushing great and useful news that can help your park.
Woodall’s also publishes a great industry calendar where you can follow upcoming events from different organizations easily to see if you’re able to attend, network, and grow your park!
Bringing it all together
Whew, congratulations, you made it through the guide!
By now you should have a good idea of where to begin your journey. There are tons of resources available about there to help you build and grow a successful park, which you’ll continue to discover as you expand and grow your news business. We’ll update this guide as we come across new and better resources as well, and as always, we’re open to suggestions for new things to include to help others. If you have a recommendation or comment, just get in touch with us!