Do I need a site map or a guest guide?

After working for Texas Advertising for seventeen years and being the general manager of AGS Guest Guides for nine, I like to think I know a little something about site maps and guest guides. It’s fair to say that every campground, no matter what kind, needs something to hand out to their guests. This should be a piece that not only leads guests to their sites, but includes the important rules and regulations that are essential in the maintenance and operation of your park.

There is a big difference between a simple, one page, two-sided piece that displays a park map and rules, and a multipage guest guide that is filled with park information along with ads or information on what to see and do in the community. This latter piece is often free to the campground if there are enough businesses that choose to place an ad in it; it’s no wonder that most campgrounds choose this option. “Parks can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year by providing a short on-site stay for a marketing rep in exchange for complete professional production of a comprehensive guide.”

What qualifies a campground for a site map or guest guide? For AGS, a primary metric is the total number of annual check-ins. If your park caters to long-term stays and only has 500-1,000 check-ins a year, or less, it would be tough for any salesperson to ask for money (advertising) from local businesses to support that small exposure rate. The park still needs a check-in tool, however. This type of campground is better served by a simple one-page (likely two-sided) piece, since there are not nearly as many guests in and out of the park. Now, if you see at least 3,000 check-ins a year, and tens of thousands of camper nights, those are numbers we can work with, and often do.
Another decisive factor is, obviously, the community. This is where a campground operator plays a critical role. If your staff doesn’t refer your customers to anything in town, how can you possibly make a connection with the community, and why would any business choose to support, or even know of, your park operations? Your park may be tucked away from town but you can’t change that. You can do something about your engagement with the local businesses. We market several campgrounds that may seem small and remote but have dozens of advertisers in their guides, because the campground makes every effort to recommend them. From displaying restaurant menus, to inviting businesses to come to the park and showcase their products or services, these parks engage with their communities. Plus, it’s just a good thing to do for your guests. After all, you’re in the HOSPITALITY industry! Don’t you want to refer them to a restaurant that you know has good service, or a mobile tech that will actually show up? Not only does this give your customers more options but it also adds pages to your guide for even more informative content–a true win-win.

Of course, there are several campground operators that choose to produce their own guides. They personally meet with businesses, ask for money, work with the printer, etc. This is certainly one way to do it! However, campground operators have the least amount of spare time of any business owners I know. You’re already filling the roles of plumber, electrician, bookkeeper, human resources director, etc.! Now, add Advertising Sales – NOT! A park guide takes our staff dozens of hours to produce, which doesn’t even count the handful of days it takes to market it. Wouldn’t you, as a campground operator, like to have more time to either work on your park, or just relax? Especially when there are companies that are happy to do the legwork to provide a professionally-designed piece?

Each park is unique and has different features to offer. Regardless of your park’s demographic, geographical setting, or day-to-day operations – you still want to put your best foot forward. It starts with the information you hand out to your guests. Take the time to learn what would be best for your business, and then do everything you can to make it a superior product. It’s one less thing for you to think about, and your patrons and the local businesses will love you for it.