Dyana Kelley, standing, president and CEO of the California Outdoor Hospitality Association, joined members of CalOHA’s Board of Directors in making opening remarks to attendees of CalOHA’s Summit in Roseville, Calif.

Is it wise for private park operators to consider the people they rely on to perform ongoing park management or maintenance services as independent contractors?

Not in California.

“They’re not contractors, but we keep treating them as if they are,” said Dyana Kelley, president and CEO of the California Outdoor Hospitality Association (CalOHA).

Kelley talked about the dangers of treating workers as contractors during remarks to park operators on Tuesday (March 28), the second day of CalOHA’s three-day Summit in Roseville, Calif., which concludes today.

Kelley said park operators who compensate their workers as if they were independent contractors or work campers, instead of employees, face tremendous risks in California. She added during an interview with WOODALLSCM.com (WCM) that these types of arrangements are particularly problematic when people exchange their work services for a free campsite as part or all of their compensation.

What happens, Kelley asked, if there’s a falling out between the park operator and the person doing the work who then sues the park for back wages? The conflict could end up in court with the park operator being ordered to pay back wages as well as payroll taxes, she said.

Equally problematic are situations in which work campers are injured at the park. If they’re not paid as employees, their injuries won’t be covered by state workers’ compensation insurance, which puts the park operator at further financial risk.

It is for these and other reasons that Kelley recommends that California park operators compensate their workers as “employees,” so as to avoid the potential problems that can result from traditional work camper or contractor arrangements.

Park operators attending Tuesday’s Summit sessions learned about many other topics involving park operations from CalOHA board members and guest speakers, including Kathleen Walsh, of Cape Coral, Fla.-based Advanced Outdoor Solutions, a campground and RV park management company, who talked about several ways in which park operators can use amenities to increase revenue.

“Amenities matter because they drive rates and they drive occupancy,” she said, adding that installing things like outdoor kitchens with sinks and gas grills can significantly increase the rates park operators can charge for both RV and tent sites.

“I love tenters because they spend a lot of money in our camp stores,” Walsh added, noting that park owners can also increase the rates they charge for tent sites by installing platforms, which enable guests to keep their tents off the ground.

CalOHA 2023

Vendors remained busy during the expo at the CalOHA Summit.

Walsh also encouraged park operators to offer pet-friendly cabins and other special pet amenities, like bark parks and homemade dog treats, such as Barkery Dog Treats.

“We offer Barkery treats in our camp stores and they make a ton of money,” she said.

Walsh also recommended that park operators charge pet fees to help offset the cost of providing pet stations and pet waste bags.

Additionally, she advised park operators to also provide linens in their rental accommodations and to use an outside laundry service if they do not have the staffing or equipment needed to keep up with the washing.

“(Providing bedding) ups your perceived value and you can charge more,” Walsh said.

Tuesday’s sessions included a presentation by Dan Rudderow, of the Rudderow Law Group in Newport Beach, which specializes in RV park and mobile home park law, as well as sessions by several reservation and front desk management systems, including Firefly and ResNexus, along with a presentation on Wi-Fi from AccessParks, a broadband Wi-Fi service provider.

Tuesday’s activities included a tradeshow from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. as well as a dinner that included a presentation by Gene Zanger, of Casa de Fruta RV Park, who is chairman of Visit California, California’s nonprofit tourism marketing organization.

The Summit tradeshow continues today from 9 a.m. to noon. Today’s talks include a presentation by Mark Koep, of CampgroundViews.com, titled “Marketing to the Changed Consumer in a Digital First World.” The Summit will conclude with an “Ask The Experts” crackerbarrel discussion.