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Top 5 Reasons Why Campgrounds Systems are not Hotel Systems

This happened again:
So we have a customer (who shall go nameless at this point) or should I say had a customer for the last 7 years who was very happy with our service. Nice park and very nice people. All of a sudden they stopped paying us. When I called there the staff was too embarrassed to say anything. In fact when one of the staff had to call us and let us know they they are moving to a hotel software, she was crying. So here is what happened.

They hired a consultant from the hotel industry. They paid him a lot of money. He was going to revolutionize their customer service levels, their phone script and double their business. He brought with him a hotel business software. He recommended a big amenity expansion of the park.

The software has no POS, no loyalty card program, no gift card program, no meter reading and the list goes on. To top it all off the park is now financially strapped after spending all this money based on the consultant recommendations they have no funds to pay us. The ultimate irony is they had to fire the consultant as they had no funds to pay him!

So what I am saying our business is much different. This is not the first nor do I suspect the last time I have seen this in 20 years in the business.

Here are some of the differences between hotels and campgrounds I can think of without much effort on my part.

The list:
Some of these are pretty simple, some not so.

  1. Our parks have meters – Yes they do. Especially for their seasonal accounts and cabins. I have yet to check into a hotel room that has a meter.
  2. Campground and RV park customers talk to each other – Yes they do. What does that mean? When was the last time you knocked on the door of the person next to you in your hotel room and asked how much they were paying for their room? My guess is never. Happens all the time in campgrounds. Keep that in mind as we move to on-demand variable pricing like hotels.
  3. Campground and RV parks have stores – Yes they do. In the very least they sell propane, ice and firewood. Hence the hotel software does not have a POS. A lot of people want to sign the product they buy to their site so they do not have to carry around a wallet. Others have full on retail stores that are an important source of revenue. I have yet to see that in a hotel other than a small gift shop that they have probably leased out to someone.
  4. Campgrounds and RV parks do not have 52 week seasons – Hence the revenue stream is a lot less. Yes we have some parks that have nearby attractions that are open year round but for the most part a lot of our customers have 2 months to make all their revenue. You have to make hay while the sun shines.
  5. The consumer pays when he checks in – You have to have your staff ready and to collect and assign a site as quick as possible. Not only that he has to match the site to the customers needs (ie. pull through, 50 amp etc). The process is different.

So these are just a few of the differences between the two industries. Few of the many.

So I guess what I am saying there are lot of outlets in the outdoor hospitality business where you can get some consulting help. Right off the top of my head I can think of three good ones; Randy Hendrickson of Horizon, Bob Boler of Leisure Resorts and Rich Stockwell. Try them first. They understand and know the business. The nuances of the business. As they say, god is in the details.

You can also:

  • Join ARVC and then join one of their 20 groups- We are in one and it has been great for our park. However you must attend their Convention and trade show. People are social animals and face to face is always the best way. It is how we are wired.
  • Join your state associations. If you have a good forward thinking state outfit it can be a great source of intelligence. Associations like TACO, WACO and PCOA just to name a few. Again, get to know those people. Invaluable lessons can be learned.
  • Become part of a franchise. They will help you grow and prosper as a business as it is in their best interest to do so. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park and RVC Outdoors come to mind.

So that is my rant for today. As always keep in touch and feel free to comment.

After all, I doubt if you’d see American Airlines hiring consultants from Greyhound bus lines to increase their business.