Tyler Duffy spent an extended stay at an unattended West Virginia campground four years ago and was surprised that the management took several weeks before collecting his campground fee.
From that experience sprung the idea to set up an automated check-in service for campgrounds to use after closing hours as well as other times when they are unattended.
He envisioned a self-service check-in kiosk that would allow consumers to select a campsite with the desired water, power and Internet utilities and then pay for everything with a credit or debit card. He spent part of the summer researching the topic and found that no one provided this service for campgrounds.
Duffy applied for a patent, built a prototype and unveiled it at the joint National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) vendor show last November in Phoenix.
“We had an excellent response” said Duffy, who is president and owner of Campground Automation Systems Inc., based in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. “From the show we got some early adopters and are working with them to set them up and get off and running.”
His installation allows campers to select a site and pay at the kiosk, or make a reservation online and enter their reservation confirmation number in the kiosk upon arrival. It provides fast, convenient service for campers, while relieving the work load of office personnel.
In an interview with Woodall’s Campground Management, Duffy explained that his first customers are approaching his service from a variety of angles. Some large campgrounds see the automated check-in as a way to speed up service on busy days. Others see it as a way to reliably collect fees when the campground is unattended, while others see it as a way to cut back on late-night staffing.
Duffy’s installation can be customized to fit each campground’s needs but in general it will consist of a covered kiosk (to keep campers dry during inclement weather) and computer screen. “We have a ton of different options,” Duffy said. For example, campers without a reservation will be asked to select the desired amenities such as amperage needed, water, cable and Wi-Fi. The next screen will provide a summary of the amenities selected and the total price. Upon swiping a credit or debit card, a receipt is printed, which could include directions to the campsite. Upon payment, utility service is turned on wirelessly to the site.
The system allows utilities to remain unavailable at a campsite until automatically activated at check in. Utilities only remain on for the time paid for, so managers no longer have to worry about the cost of stolen water or electricity, Duffy said.
An intriguing aspect of Duffy’s system is that it’s wireless, so no digging or excavation is needed to retrofit an existing park, he noted. It also provides automated campsite utilities management and remote monitoring and reporting.
Duffy charges an installation fee and a monitoring fee. The cost will vary, depending upon the type of installation and monitoring, so Duffy encourages interested campground operators to go onto his website, www.campgroundautomation.com, and fill in the estimate request.
He plans to kick off a full marketing program later this year. Duffy’s staff will install the kiosks for his first customers, but he has hired a national contractor that specializes in kiosk installation “once we are ready to go full bore with this.”
Duffy plans to promote his company at campground association meetings in Michigan and Florida in the first half of this year, as well as the National Association of State Park Directors in September.