The Definitive Guide to Increasing Profits as an RV Park Owner


The majority of RV Park owners are independent business owners. This means that people just like you are channeling their passion for outdoor hospitality into an opportunity to make a living. There are over 13,000 RV Parks in the United States alone, and travel by road and RV is growing every year - especially with the life-altering arrival of the Coronavirus. For those of you who already own a park, or for those that are considering buying or starting one, there are some tried and true best practices for how to Make Money, how to Save Money, and how to Enhance Your Guest Experience.

 

How to Make Money by Owning an RV Park


RV park owners need to ensure that their business is set up to maximize reservations and generate revenue. From getting found online to making it easy for guests to stay and spend at your property and ensuring repeat visits, there are multiple ways park owners can enhance and optimize their operations to make more money.

owneraccounting     Make It Easy   Offer Upgrades


Get Noticed           Make It Easy          Offer Upgrades


Get Noticed

  • Up your marketing game. To make more money, you don’t want to rely on drop-in reservations from recreational vehicle owners who happen to be passing by. While some road trip travelers thrive on last-minute or spontaneous reservations, the vast majority plan their itinerary - and you want to make sure they include a stop at your RV Park in their plans! If they don’t know your park exists, and they can’t find information about it while they’re planning their trip, you are limiting your financial prospects. Invest in an integrated marketing strategy.
 
    • Get Listed. Spend some time and energy making sure your park is listed in all the places that RV Travelers look for when booking a reservation.
    • Join a Club. RV Travelers report that being able to use a AAA or Sam’s Club discount make a park or campground more attractive. Membership in clubs of this nature also provide additional visibility and listings through their in-house magazines or other marketing. It’s a win-win. 
    • Increase Communication. Whether adding a “news” section to your website, creating and updating social media accounts, or using the features in your campground or RV park management system to send automated communications - reach out and connect with your past, current and future customers!

  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors
 
    • Are you the only park in the area? Lucky you! By virtue of your limited competition, you have an advantage. Folks that are looking for a place to park or camp in your area won’t have a lot of options, so you’re ahead of the game. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to work to entice them to confirm a reservation with you. It’s time for you to ask yourself a few questions and make sure the answers are easily available to your potential customers:

      • What makes your park unique? 
      • What are the closest landmarks or attractions?
      • Are you particularly pet, kid or family-friendly? 
      • Do you have special amenities on site such as a basketball court, lake access, or proximity to nature trails?

    • If you have some competition in the area, think clearly about how your park is different from them and make sure you lean into those differentiators in your marketing. If they have particular amenities or attractions that you don’t, think about investing in upgrades or service offerings that are completely different rather than trying to mirror their perks. Some of the most popular upgrades or attractions at RV Parks don’t require a huge investment, but will certainly give you bigger returns and increase your profits.  

    • Younger Generations are spending less on material goods and instead favor “experiences,” especially ones they can post about on social media. You can make your campground or RV Park more attractive to the millennial traveler by highlighting photo-worthy vistas and amenities on or near your property. A bonus - this social-media savvy generation shares their experiences widely, with their posts serving as additional visibility for your park or campground! 


Make It Easy

  • Make it easier for guests to book through the internet. The fewer barriers your guest has to clicking “purchase” the better! As the demographics of RV Travelers have changed, it is important to meet your customer base where they are by providing options to easily book a space at your park through the internet.
     
    • Make your website mobile-friendly. Your website should be compatible for both desktop computers and cell-phones. 73% of Millennials say they are likely to rent an RV in the future and this tech-savvy, growing traveler demographic is used to shopping and booking online. Also, RV Travelers are often searching for reservations on the go through a mobile phone or tablet, so it’s important that your website looks great and remains easy to use from the road.
    • Capture more stays and increase profit through direct online bookings on your website.

      Your internet booking service is the way folks make a reservation online at your property. It is the central function of a Property or Reservation Management System. Your booking service should allow you to display real-time availability so potential guests know exactly what options exist without having to call or email you to book. Having extra hurdles to book may cause you to lose business to another location where travelers can book immediately online.

  • Make rates and fees clear. You’ve probably experienced it yourself when traveling. You look up the rate for a stay on your upcoming vacation and seem to have found a golden ticket to a special deal that feels too good to be true. When you get to checkout, the other shoe drops - the posted rate didn’t include taxes, cleaning fees, resort fees or some other fee that you’ve never heard of. All in, the total cost is substantially above the advertised rate. This leaves a bad taste in your mouth and also causes you to abandon the reservation. In fact, the travel sector has one of the highest abandonment rates of any e-commerce vertical, at almost 85%. 
     
    • Adjust Pricing to Increase Profit. Different seasons and occupancy levels may affect how much it costs to stay at your RV Park or campground. Guests shouldn’t have to guess how much it is going to cost them or be surprised by unexpected costs. Your reservation management system should include a dynamic pricing feature that optimizes your revenue by adjusting pricing based on factors such as season, current occupancy, and holiday rates.

  • Offer multiple payment options. There are many ways to pay nowadays - whether bank cards or digital apps such as google pay, apple pay, or PayPal. If you limit the number of payment options that you accept, you are limiting the amount of money you can make if a willing customer can’t actually pay you. PRO TIP: Choose a booking solution that offers as many payment options as possible and conveniently ties into your accounting software. 

  • Offer a cancellation option. Plans change - especially for road trippers seeking the flexibility and spontaneity that the great outdoors provides. If booking at your location requires a strict commitment, this may discourage their wanderlust and therefore their willingness to book. If you can offer flexibility with reservations, this may increase sales. There are many potential scenarios including requiring a deposit that may or may not be refundable as the reservation date approaches. 

  • Collect complete payments. It’s difficult to make money when you aren’t able to accurately charge customers for what they owe you. Keeping track of add-ons or multiple services can be time-consuming, especially if guests are booked on a longer stay. 
     
    • Invest in an accounting tool that adequately tracks due payments and can either automatically charge the customer or send them a bill. This will increase the frequency with which you are getting all the money your guests owe you. Don’t leave money on the table! 


Offer Upgrades

  • Offer tiered experiences or upgraded sites to also increase your income. For instance,  diversifying the types of properties and on site facilities you have such as a “lot with a view,” adjacent fire pits or bbq’s, etc. will allow those guests who are willing and able to spend more to have upgrade options. 
     
    • We are also seeing a trend where RV Parks will offer guests on-site accommodations to get them out of their RV for the night. Some private parks or campgrounds are investing in Yurts, cabins or tiny-homes that are fully-furnished and available for reservation on their properties in addition to RV Parking and facilities hook-ups. These upgraded accommodations are a great source of additional income. 

  • Maximize revenue per booking with add-on options such as a lock site fee, WiFi, laundry facilities, and restroom/shower facilities that can be added during the reservation process.
     
    • Similar to rates and fees, it’s important that guests know which services are or are not included with their reservation at the time of booking.
    • Allow guests to peruse additional services while they already have their credit card handy. This is both a convenience and also an incentive to increase the amount of money you make at purchase.

  • Provide an on-site camp store. Travelers forget items or run out of necessities while on the road. Rather than running into town to a local drug store, they could be spending that money with you! 
    • Stock popular items that RV Travelers need such as bug spray, sunscreen, or compostable toilet paper. 
    • Buy the items at wholesale prices and sell for a profit using your own integrated Point of Sale (POS) system that automatically ties into your reservation system. 
    • PRO TIP: Offer discounts or coupons upon arrival to encourage guests to visit the store and spend money. 

  • Incentivize guests to stay at your property again and again through a Rewards Program. Discounts or special perks increase the likelihood of repeat business. Research shows that 52% of loyal customers will join a loyalty program if given the option, 39% will spend more even if there are cheaper options elsewhere, and 60% will tell friends and family about their favorite brands.
     
    • Use Your Property Management System to Reward Guests. Built-in marketing tools should have the ability to send targeted email campaigns to guests who have previously stayed with you. Include promotional codes that guests can apply to future reservations. This way, guests can earn points for stays and activities, and redeem points for credits on their account.


How to Save Money as an RV Park Owner

Increasing profits is just one way to make more money as an RV Park or Campground Owner. Another way to have more in your pocket is to spend less of it! This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be cheap or squeeze your spending so much that it affects the guest experience (more on that later). The key is to focus on spending smarter by building efficiencies to cut costs and save time.


Cut Costs

  • Go Green. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend money to save money, the return on investment for becoming eco-friendly is great for the environment, and great for your pocketbook.
     
    • Switch to Energy Efficient Appliances and Fixtures. Upgrading your equipment is absolutely worth it. Some of the machines to think of include laundry, vending machines, and faucets and fixtures in the bathroom. Even consider adding Solar, Wind Energy, or geothermal power to your property. 
    • Reduce Utilities Use or require Surcharges. 
      • Record meter readings for detailed analysis of usage to identify trends in consumption so you can make informed pricing decisions
      • Promote Solar usage from travelers 
      • Stay on top of your regular maintenance/upgrades for electrical pedestals on RV Sites 

    • Offer Green Housekeeping. One way to save money if you offer on-site accommodations and any sort of housekeeping is to offer a “green rate” to guests. If guests choose this option for their stay, housekeeping is notified to conserve resources such as not changing sheets and towels every day, not putting out small plastic toiletries and not stocking plastic water bottles in the room.

  • Create Less Waste. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This is such an important concept for campgrounds that can make a tremendous impact on our nation's landfills. Here are some guidelines to help you cut back on waste and keep your campground (and the planet) looking beautiful!
     
    • Go Paperless. There are hard costs to running your business off pen, paper and ink. The materials themselves cost money, but so does the time (in wages to staff) that it takes to manage, stock and file that paperwork. When you transition your forms such as contracts, payment receipts, and accounting into an online or digital solution, you will save on ink and paper -- and it’s also great for the environment! Your guests will also support the effort to be eco-friendly and if you invest in a paperless reservation software, your savings in materials and time will more than cover the cost of the system. That’s money in your pocket! 
    • Buy products in bulk to minimize packaging.
    • Create a Recycling Program. Have an appropriate number of recycling bins throughout your property for guests and campground staff.
    • Do away with plastic bags at your camp convenience store and post signs asking campers to bring recyclable bags with them.
    • Start a compost program and encourage campers to contribute appropriate waste to it. When compost breaks down, you can give it back to your property's soil.
    • Keep Track of  Stock. From laundry detergent to propane tanks to flashlights - keeping track of your stock can be time-consuming. It can also drastically affect your profits if not managed well. You may spend too much on seasonal items that must then be stored or trashed - literally causing you to throw money away. You may also miss a profit opportunity by not having enough of a popular item available for purchase because you didn’t realize you were low on supply. Having a point of sale (POS) system is a business-savvy and cost-saving tool that will make taking stock easier.

Save Time

The phrase “time is money” is infamous for a reason. Whether your own time or the time that you are paying your team for, there is never enough of it and it always costs too much. The money that you save by being more efficient with you and your staff’s time can be re-allocated to other investments or simply mean extra dollars for you! 

  • Investing in a reservation management system is one of the biggest opportunities to save time and increase your profits. Beyond having many of the features we’ve already spoken about, some functions of this software are particularly helpful for becoming a more efficient and profitable business. In particular, your system should offer:
     
    • Online Booking. Your reservation software will include the master form that actually gathers your guests’ necessary information to confirm a reservation. By integrating directly into your website, guests are offered a self-service experience and you save time and staffing costs. 
    • Automated Channel Management. Channels are the various portals through which your customers can interact with your product -- for instance your website, social media or reservation sites such as booking.com, Airbnb, or Expedia. If done manually, it takes a huge amount of time to keep all of these sites updated with current rates and availability. Great reservation software will allow you to manage all of these various booking channels through one system. Your rates and availability would be automatically updated in real time across all channels - and with plugins to the most popular sites for travelers looking for exactly what you offer, the software may even allow you to expand the number of sites you are able to book through. Reaching more customers with less effort = more money in your bank account. 
    • Automated Reporting. You may or may not be a “numbers” person. That could be because doing the work to figure out all the intricacies of running a business is time consuming and intimidating. It may be hard to even know what sorts of reports would be valuable for you if you’ve never been exposed to them before. With a reservation software solution, there are useful reports that RV Parks just like you have used to make their business more successful by making more informed decisions.  
    • Accounting Interface. It may seem like a no-brainer, but having your reservation system automatically integrate with your accounting software is a major time saver and often also means more accuracy! Your reservation system should be able to seamlessly export or import data with whichever chosen accounting software you use, so choose a system that offers the most options and integrations. 
    • Automated Guest Correspondence. Keeping up with your guests and making sure they are informed and happy is perhaps the most important of your responsibilities. It’s a missed opportunity (and potentially missed business) when you can’t connect directly with a guest because your time is divided by so many tasks. Your reservation management system can automatically send guest correspondence including email marketing and SMS text messages at specific points of the guest life cycle which can save hours of staff time every day. Some of the most time-saving automated messages include reservation confirmations, cancellations, pre-checkout instructions, or post-stay satisfaction surveys. 
    • Self-Service check-in/out. By allowing your guests the option to check in or out of your property on their own, you will minimize the front desk staff time you’ll need to manage customer needs. Done right from the guests’ phone via email or SMS (text), this is also a particularly attractive feature to travelers seeking socially-distant interaction with staff. 
    • Multi-property Support. If you are an RV Park mogul that owns and operates multiple properties, having one system that manages everything is a massive time saver. Why reinvent the wheel when you can duplicate your best practices across multiple locations? The most helpful multi-property functions in a reservation system include being able to access shared guest and company data, removing a significant amount of duplication, and providing insights and reports into all properties with one login. You’ll also be able to make more informed decisions by analyzing and comparing data across the business.

  • Prevent Cyber Attacks. One of the worst things to happen to your business is having your website or booking system hacked. Take precautions so that you don’t waste time (or money!) trying to undo the damage from a cyber attack or phishing scam, which is becoming increasingly common in the hospitality industry. 

  • Train Your Staff. It may take a bit more time up front, but it saves time in the long run to have everyone on your team, regardless of their age or experience, have clear direction and a unified commitment to business success. Staff interaction with guests makes a difference for your business, so it’s also worth putting in some effort to keep your staff motivated and happy. Software and technology can be intimidating, so take advantage of training resources that are available with your various systems including the point of sale (POS), reservation management, and marketing tools such as social media.


How to Enhance the Customer Experience at an RV Park

As travelers get more savvy and socially distant service offerings become crucial, RV Parks and campgrounds must meet travelers where they are. Many parks are turning to technology to create frictionless guest experiences and provide for interaction on the guests’ own terms. Additionally, your online reputation can make or break the success of your business, so leaning into that “customer is always right” mentality is crucial. If you spend time looking at the kudos and complaints that are left in online reviews, there are some quick lessons and best practices around making happy campers

Luckily - all of these efforts directly lead to increased profits, so the work to create happy guests is worth it. If guests have a great time at your park, they are more likely to extend their stay (increasing profits), return for additional visits (increasing your profits), post about it (giving you free positive PR), and they are more likely to recommend it to like-minded travelers (increasing your profits even more). Here are some ways to enhance the customer experience at your park: Entertain, Give Back, Make It Personal, Expand Your Reach. enhance (2)

Entertain


Offer recreational activities.
If your RV Park or campground is a destination in and of itself, your guests will want to stay longer and talk more about it to fellow travelers. These little efforts to create entertainment and recreation also help to distinguish you from your competitors. With a small investment of materials or space, your campground or RV Park will be worth parking at for longer, rather than just being the place folks sleep before getting to somewhere else they want to go. There are some really clever and affordable options such as Corn Hole or Life-Size Connect Four, and some big and exciting ones too - get creative!

Give Back

    • Brag about your sustainability efforts. RV Travelers are appreciators of nature and the great outdoors. They are more likely to appreciate your efforts to conserve the environment and feel better about their experience supporting a business that values sustainability. 
      • Post signage that talks about your conservation efforts, the local wildlife that is being protected, and clearly indicates opportunities for guests to contribute to these efforts such as recycling. 
      • Provide a welcome email that shares all the ways that your RV Park is giving back. 
      • Offer a weekly eco-tour of the local flora and fauna that guests can join to learn more about the local ecosystem and wildlife that surrounds them. 

    • Make Local Connections. As a business provider, you are a vibrant and important part of your local economy. Getting connected with your fellow business owners, especially within the tourism industry, generates good will towards your business and contributes positively to the community. Providing opportunities for guests to connect locally enhances their experience by creating a welcoming and hospitable environment. Here are some easy ways to get local:
      • Share a Calendar. It’s not uncommon for a guest to arrive without a set itinerary. Are there local events coming up this week in or around town? Post the calendars of local venues or museums. If your guests see an upcoming and entertaining opportunity, they may extend their trip - putting more dollars in your pocket! 
      • Offer Recommendations. Do you have a favorite hike, restaurant, or local attraction? Post them! Even better, connect with the owner(s) and provide a special discount or coupon to your guests. In exchange, ask those businesses to display a brochure for your park. 
    •  


Make It Personal

  • Provide convenience. Your reservation system should give guests options to personalize and take control of their experience with online reservations, mobile check in and check out, self-service kiosks, communication with the property through a guest portal, and the ability to make online payments. The more convenient and self-service options you can provide, the greater your guest satisfaction and the less staff time you’ll need to manage customer needs.

  • Personalize the guest experience. Even as the hospitality industry adjusts to the travel restrictions that Covid-19 has created, there are ways to use technology to welcome guests safely and ensure a great experience.  

    • Ask For Details. There are many ways you can gather information about your guests and use it to personalize their stay.  
      • At booking. Being able to customize the form that customers use when booking with your business can be a game-changer. Adding custom options such as a late checkout request will allow your guests to make their needs known up front and for you to be ready and organized to meet them before they even arrive. 
      • At Confirmation. Use the booking confirmation emails that come with your reservation management system as a survey tool. In addition to giving guests their reservation details, the email can include a link to answer a few additional questions that will help you make their stay special, like “What are your vacation goals?” Based on responses, have items ready upon arrival. For sunbathers, provide visors and vouchers for a sample-size sunscreen from your on-site shop.
      • After Departure. Provide guests a brief survey at checkout to gain valuable feedback about their experience and improve your business. This is also an opportunity to increase your Net Promoter Score (NPS) which measures the likelihood of a guest to recommend your business to someone else.

    • Offer a guest portal. Especially as socially distant travel becomes a selling point, allowing guests the opportunity to manage their reservation, input preferences and requests, make payments and communicate with staff through a guest portal will ensure a comfortable, enjoyable, and personalized stay for every guest. The best reservation software systems give you the ability to customize form fields to increase your knowledge of guests and also allow guests to create personal profiles.

    • Send texts / SMS messages. Whether alerting guests to an unexpected emergency (bears!) or reminding them they can check out automatically, sending text messages (especially through your booking software) provides direct communication as both a convenience and also an important personal touchpoint in the guest lifecycle. 

    • Engage and Connect throughout the guest lifecycle. From the moment a guest has booked (not just when they’ve arrived), customers appreciate and rely on communication with your business. It can be a lot of work to stay connected with a guest from booking to arrival to pre-checkout to departure. To increase their satisfaction and the likelihood they rebook or recommend you to their friends, use your reservation software’s automated correspondence features to save time while never missing those crucial connection moments in a guest’s stay. 
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  • Remind Guests of Your Safety Plan. Having an emergency or crisis plan is not only required by state law, it’s also in everyone’s best interest. It’s a great idea to offer at least a plan overview to campers upon arrival—or include it in a campsite confirmation email. It will give them peace of mind, and during an emergency, is advantageous for your campground staff.


Expand Your Reach

  • Reward Loyalty. Use Guest Rewards to create a custom loyalty program that incentivizes guests to return over and over again. 
  • Make your website and park accessible. Requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to physical access to businesses have begun to be applied to online access to businesses, i.e. websites. Think about how you can welcome more guests, regardless of their abilities. 
  • Become Pet-Friendly. One of the great aspects of camping for travelers is having the freedom to bring dogs along. If your park doesn’t allow them already, consider becoming pet-friendly. That one change could boost your bookings more than you think! 
  • List in Multiple Languages. With hundreds of nationalities and languages represented by travelers, it’s important to your business’s bottom line to welcome as many guests as possible. Having a translate option on your website or forms can be a game changer. 

Ready to take the next step in your owner journey?  Get my free demo