Now Isn’t the Time to Ignore the Competition
One of the hats we wear around here is managing the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO). TACO has 400-plus member campgrounds in Texas and a handful in bordering states.
Overall, our members are expecting a good year. In fact, in a recent survey we helped to conduct, over half of the responding campgrounds indicated they were expecting a better season in 2023 compared to 2022. Another 40% expected about the same amount of business. These respondents are basing their predictions on advanced reservations, calls to the park and more.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in that 10% or so that doesn’t expect business to be as good? Or, maybe you are part of the 40% that thought business would be just as good, but you have already seen a decline in your January business? I’ve talked to a few park operators in that category who have been in business for decades, which means they know what they’re doing.
But, when I started investigating why that could be, it didn’t take long for me to find one, two or more new RV parks arriving in close proximity. It could be a brand-new resort — Texas is one of the states that still sees plenty of new construction — or new owners that are beefing up a tired operation. Either way, it’s another option for the RVer to choose from, and this has a way of sneaking up on you as you are busy dealing with a full park.
If you find yourself in this predicament, you’ll have to beef up your operations, your marketing or both. Are your amenities on par with your competitors? It’s not enough for consumers to have standard Wi-Fi or a pool for the kids. They’re going to want more by way of things to do or conveniences, like EXCELLENT Wi-Fi. This is especially true if your pricing is the same or higher as your neighbor’s. Think about it — will your customer remain loyal if your prices are similar but there is a newer option with newer amenities?
This brings up another topic worthy of repeating and exploring. When we survey established parks and ask for their No. 1 source of business, the answer is always the same — repeat and referral. Great! Now, what have you done to demonstrate an appreciation for your customers beyond providing sparkling clean restrooms, which are a good barometer of a well-run operation? Is it the same as offering a re-booking discount? Or handing out a premium incentive —a little appreciation gift — that is branded and keeps your name in front of YOUR customers? Do you and your staff literally thank your customers for choosing you at every turn, including an exit survey?
Finally, there’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart — marketing. Any new operation, no matter what industry, will need a significant marketing push to get the word out. You probably did it if you were a new park or new owner, and there are so many platform options out there now that it can seem suffocating to try and have a presence in all of them. But, as an existing campground, you may need to ramp up your marketing efforts while offering a different message.
Remind RVers why they originally chose you and should continue staying at your park. Advertise your upgrades or specials. Don’t be afraid to try a new strategy.
Assuming your repeat and referral customers will always stay with you isn’t a great strategy. Attracting some new campers is necessary and inevitable.
The time for that is now, not after the drop in occupancy.