Rustic Does Not Equal Rundown

Illustration: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / clairev

Having spent many years in the park industry, I have encountered some common beliefs held by park owners when it comes to campgrounds.

In speaking with Evanne Schmarder, host of the RV Cooking Show and co-author of Unconventional Wisdom Works , here are some of the more popular myths appearing in the industry:

Myth 1: A campground is a seasonal business.

Yes, the doors are open 6 months, more or less, but the use of the off-season period is critical to growth and success. Every park has at least two seasons—peak or prime season, and planning and rejuvenating season. During the open period, the days are often packed with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of running a business, with hundreds or even thousands of people on the property 24/7. The off-season is important for planning, strategizing, expanding, hiring, buying, marketing, educating, and installing. And it’s also a time to relax, vacation, and otherwise energize and re-vitalize.

Myth 2: During the winter, people planning for summer camping understand that camps can’t always respond to calls or emails immediately.

In today’s world, campers (like most other people) want instant gratification. They are ready to make reservations now. They want answers to questions now. Any obstacle to fulfilling their needs now makes it very likely they will go elsewhere until they find a business that meets their needs. Those camps that don’t respond during the winter may give the impression they won’t do any better when guests are actually camping during the summer. Always have a system in place to meet the consumers’ needs.

Myth 3: No one’s complaining, so everything must be OK.

All of the comment cards are positive, and most of the online reviews are great. Sure, there’s the occasional disgruntled camper who takes his or her frustrations out by posting a nasty review on Trip Advisor or other online blogs, but because so few complain, things must be going well.

Illustration: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / lenm

No one’s perfect. Complaints are the best way to learn what needs to be improved. Seek out complaints.  Don’t disregard them—even those like “The mosquitoes were really bad.” Use complaints to continuously improve business.

It’s common knowledge that a majority of people who have real complaints don’t really voice them. They will simply move on to another park, and you may never know why. Keep careful track of first-time guests, and note if they repeat within a 12-month period. For every camper who stayed at the park and never returns, there may be an unresolved or unknown complaint.

Myth 4: On-the-job training is sufficient for campground staff members.

For those camps that want a truly quality team that can offer guests the highest standards of hospitality and service, it’s vital to have both a formal training program as well as suggestions for off-site opportunities (Chamber of Commerce seminars, local community-college opportunities, state and national industry meetings and education, etc.). On-the-job training is one part of a training program. Manuals, checklists, shadowing, meetings, online webinars and training, and mentoring programs are also necessary.

Staff members can never be over-trained. Sending employees to off-site meetings and education opportunities will provide valuable training for the staff while reinforcing that they are valued. It is also an indication that you want them to succeed, not to mention to qualify them for bonuses or potential advancement.

Myth 5: The campground is very rustic, so guests don’t expect much.

Rustic campgrounds, with their unique atmosphere and ambiance, have a large market of people who love this type of camping. However, that doesn’t mean guests don’t expect a park to be the best rustic park it can be.

Keep in mind that rustic does not mean old and poorly maintained. It does not mean old restrooms that appear dirty, buildings in need of a paint job, small, unlevel RV sites, or tent sites with tree roots and rocks. The challenge of a rustic park is to be a modern park capable of providing guests with high-quality facilities, amenities, services, and activities, even in a rustic setting.

David Gorin is the owner of David Gorin & Associates which provides consulting services to the RV park and campground industry. Reach him at .