Five Must-Have Rec-Management Software Features For Campgrounds
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By Brian Stapleton
The camping industry is booming thanks to interest and engagement among Millennials and Gen Z to embrace the great outdoors. According to the 2018 North American Camping Report, Millennials intend to increase their camping trips over the next year, and 96 percent of Gen Z teens have adopted their parents’ appreciation for the activity. As surprising as it is to think of perpetually plugged-in, tech-focused Americans leaving their Wi-Fi hubs for an extended stay in the great outdoors, recent research supports that for generations of overly connected and overly fatigued individuals, camping provides a much-needed respite from the overstimulation of social media platforms, text messages, email, and “click to add to cart.”
Camping facilities are poised to benefit from this recent trend, but unlike their camper customers, they need to leverage the latest tech to stay on top of facilities management, reservations, and promotions. If you’re not already leveraging recreation management software to help you engage the growing population of digitally-proficient campers before they arrive and go into do not disturb mode, you could be missing valuable opportunities to streamline your operations and increase camp attendance. Here are the five must-have features to look for when choosing a recreation management software for your campground.
1. Online Facility Reservations
Most Americans today begin their search for information with a browser and a search engine, and that includes individuals who want to know about “campgrounds near me,” and “things to do this weekend.” The 2018 North American Camping Report found that 60 percent of camping nights are spent on public lands and in campgrounds, which means if your camping facility requires advanced bookings they will be looking for a convenient way to secure their spot, and they are going to want to do it from a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Choose a recreation management software that lets you customize your available camping facilities and provides users with a secure and intuitive interface to place a reservation in advance using map- and grid-based reservation functionality. Ideally, it should be possible to complete the entire reservation process online, both for campers and administrative staff. Choose a software solution with PCI-compliant online credit card payment transaction capabilities. Then, all your campers will need to worry about when they arrive, is how to get their new, fancy tent set up.
Ensure your recreation department has oversight and control over the reservation process. Choose a recreation management software that includes an option to require a set amount of days in advance to reserve a camping spot, allows administrators to block off areas for scheduled activities such as summer camps, enable recurring bookings, and require administrative approval to reserve resources. With built-in master calendar functionality, staff can assist campers who call or stop in for a reservation rather than booking online with total transparency by accessing a single reservation system.
2. Membership Management
With an increase in both the number of campers and the number of repeat campers according to the camping report, there is a corresponding growing number of campers who are seeking out convenient, close-to-home locations they can return to time and again. According to the report, Americans are becoming significantly more likely to camp within 50 miles of home and are less likely to travel more than 150 miles for campgrounds. Many Campgrounds are starting to offer annual or seasonal memberships to accommodate the needs of nearby regulars, but they need an integrated recreation manage system to organize records and allow for online purchases.
Choose a recreation management system that allows you to manage all member-level details in a single location. It should allow you to sell memberships, punch cards, and key-fobs for any term length at the point-of-sale (POS), or through an online self-service solution, including the processing of recurring memberships for campers who want to return every summer. When campers arrive at your facility, it should integrate with your POS hardware to enable the scanning of members as they enter the campground gate.
3. Instructor Management
Modern campers may be willing to give up their Wi-Fi and streaming services for a few days to enjoy nature, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want continual entertainment. According to the camping Report, 93 percent of campers are looking not just to pitch a tent, but to participate in recreation activities while camping. Such opportunities may include guided hikes, canoeing, or kayaking. If your campgrounds have begun to accommodate such interests through the hiring of dedicated staff, then you need a system to manage scheduling, training, certifications, waivers, and other critical paperwork.
Choose a recreation management system that allows instructors to self-manage their classes and registrants, freeing-up administrative staff for other facility operations. Ideally, your software solution should give individual instructors permission to access only the data they need—protecting camper privacy and minimizing the risk of data loss or compromise. The most robust solutions allow instructors to sign up to lead activities, manage their rosters, directly outreach to activity participants, and digitally process activity waivers in advance.
4. Built-In Marketing
Today’s campers may be looking to take a break from social media once they enter the campgrounds, but social media is still a critical platform for them to learn about facility offerings and share photos and memories with followers. According to the report, 25 percent of campers say it is important for them to share their experiences while camping on social media. It is also a vital platform for new camper adoption. The report found that seeing friends and others with whom they relate posting photos and videos on social media while camping can help to break down mental barriers among “camping curious” individuals who are considering camping for the first time.
Your camping facility is likely already utilizing social media to promote its offerings, so be sure to choose a recreation management software that allows you to integrate directly with your social accounts to advertise activities, season pass discounts, registration deadlines, events, and other marketing opportunities.
While a growing number of campers are looking to make purchases online, your campgrounds will still need to accommodate POS transactions, without the need to manage disparate systems. Keep your accountant sane and choose a recreation management software system with an integrated enterprise-level, touchscreen-friendly POS system. It should allow you to process registrations, book facilities, or sell merchandise from the POS screen from anywhere in the software—all through the same interface.
It may seem like a paradox, but to take advantage of digitally-minded Millennials looking to disengage from technology, you need a powerful recreation management software system that will enable you to power your operations and streamline your administration efforts. By knowing the critical systems most advantageous for campgrounds, you can be confident in choosing a software system that will benefit your facility, both in the short- and long-term.
As the senior solution manager and subject matter expert for CivicRec, Brian Stapleton is primarily responsible for ensuring parks and recreation clients are fully leveraging all the flexible features and modern functionality offered by our local government recreation management software. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree in Management from Western International University.