The following profile by RV Daily Report Editor Greg Gerber appears in the August issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
How can a Wibit, Wedgie, Zulu, Iceberg and Jungle Joe 2 help campgrounds attract more guests and increase sales?
Just ask the experts at Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), a company founded by Ron Romens in 1999 with the goal of transforming the outdoor hospitality industry. At CRS, they’re serious about fun, and offer those products — and more — to help campgrounds maximize revenue.
Romens originally started in the outdoor hospitality industry as a founder of Rave Sports, a firm built around a single product, a unique floating trampoline that caught the attention of park owners with water-based amenities.
Two years later, Romens left to start Commercial Recreation Supply, where he not only sold the Rave Sports floating trampolines, but a variety of other unique floating products built to withstand constant use of very active children, teens and adults in a park setting.
In 2004, the name was changed to Commercial Recreation Specialists to convey that the company was not only about supplying equipment, but they were a full-service resource that could design attractions and guide customers through installation, maintenance and operation to ensure that customers were getting the most from their investments.
Today, whether it’s a massive floating playground, or an attraction like a splashpad, playground or miniature golf course, CRS works with campgrounds and RV parks to best understand their goals and utilize whatever space they have to create experiences that keep families coming back.
“In much of the country, the camping season is relatively short, so we want to help campground and RV park owners make the best of what little time they are open,” said Romens. “For many parks, access to water is the big draw for guests. Water attractions are often cited by guests as the reason a park is ‘recreation friendly.’”
Any campground with access to a pond, lake or river can take advantage of CRS water-recreation products. Even those without existing water access can create it using the “water-based family recreation center” concept.
“Campgrounds realize that water attractions are so successful, we are working with many land-based parks to dig ponds to create recreation areas,” said Romens.
With CRS, the service doesn’t stop after the installation. The company will help parks develop an income stream to recover the investment costs and provide ongoing cash flow for the business.
“We work with owners to use whatever existing assets the campground has to enhance the camping experience and offer families a reason to make return visits, whether it is every weekend or once or twice a year,” he added.
“I have five children and I know what it takes to engage them in activities that not only keep their attention, but wear them out,” said Romens.”Campgrounds are faced with the need to develop activities that pull kids away from technology and actually make them want to get outside and play. Once engaged, the kids love it and beg their parents to come back to the campground.”
It’s not summer camp
Although CRS works closely with traditional overnight summer camps and family-friendly campgrounds, the equipment installed at each facility can vary greatly based on the mission and goals of the business.
For example, summer camps use the CRS equipment as programming tools to encourage teamwork and team sports. They may use stand-up paddleboards as a way to take a group of campers on an eco-tour of a waterway or use a floating trampoline to create a competition between groups of campers. The goal in this application is to build community and get children to work and play together.
Campgrounds and RV parks don’t have that responsibility. Those businesses are poised to use the equipment as an amenity to attract families and increase sales. Once guests arrive, parents want their kids to be entertained — so much so that they are often willing to pay more to ensure they have a memorable experience.
So, many campgrounds will use the equipment to create recreation zones and sell wristbands for access to these zones to generate additional revenue for their business. These zone areas are designed not to build cohesive teams, but to foster individual and small group play.
Creating a business model
The staff at CRS works with campgrounds to help them develop a business model that will support the investment costs and help get the most bang for the money spent. They recommend admission prices and can show campgrounds other ways to enhance their revenue.
Best of all, CRS can work with any budget. If a campground only has a small budget to work with, they can develop a plan to add an attraction or two each year until they create a full-fledged recreation area.
Those campgrounds that really want to attract families can develop a “family entertainment center” that not only includes a water park, but mini golf, a splashpad and/or playground equipment.
“We can show a campground how an investment in some play equipment at their park can increase overall camper nights as well as average revenue per camper by 3% to 15% or more,” said Romens.
“We can even show owners data that demonstrates how selling a recreation pass for a certain dollar amount can increase camper nights percentage,” he added. “So rather than spending $30,000 to create a park over time, owners may see the advantage of getting a loan to spend $150,000 creating a full-blown recreation center and recouping the cost by the sale of wristbands.”
Financing for many of the projects is provided by the same companies that finance cabin installations, so the lenders truly understand recreation and how profitable it can be when done right, Romens explained.
With a big recreation center, many campgrounds can augment their income by allowing daycare centers and day camps to buy access to the park on weekdays. Some parks have found that weekday birthday parties are a profitable enhancement as well. One Jellystone Park in Oklahoma sold 22,000 day passes alone in 2014, he noted.
It’s not for every park
Parks that benefit the most from CRS services are those that make a concerted effort to be family friendly. Although being family friendly will result in more income for the park owner, it also results in more work. Staff must be hired to manage the activity or sell wristbands and there is some maintenance required to keep up with the constant use.
For example, the equipment must be properly anchored and regularly inflated to maintain the proper pressure. An ultraviolet inhibitor needs to be applied twice a year and, at the end of each season, the equipment must be properly cleaned and stored.
Parks also need to be willing to assume some liability, but CRS can refer park owners to a variety of insurance agencies that specialize in the specific types of recreation offered at the campground. Those firms can work with the campground to institute policies and procedures to reduce the risk of injury, which keeps costs down.
“Commercial Recreation Specialists is willing to present a comprehensive plan to help campgrounds set up a recreation zone, establish safety protocols and develop operational objectives. We don’t just sell the equipment and leave the park owners to figure out the best way to make the system work,” said Romens.
The CRS staff can help park owners develop specific activities for children, teens and adults. For example, a splashpad can take the pressure off the pool or pond by moving smaller children to that area and leaving room in the water for teens, and increasing deck space for parents to congregate and relax.
The same can be done by offering a variety of land-based activities such as minigolf or playgrounds to attract children away from adult-only areas of the park.
CRS knows there isn’t one solution that works for every location, which is why they offer recreation solutions that can be tailored to each region of the country based on the relaxation styles of people living in those areas.
For example, people in Arizona and Florida are more relaxed and not as intensely focused on recreation as people are in the northern states where nice days are a premium commodity. It’s for that reason that CRS offers both water- and land-based activities like splashpads, playgrounds and mini-golf courses to its customers so that they can find the best solution for their property.
Recreation = A HUGE amenity
Just how important are recreational opportunities in determining the reputation of a campground or RV park? It’s huge, Romens explained.
“In guest-satisfaction surveys, recreation is right up there with cleanliness of the bathrooms,” he said. “Everyone wants clean parks and clean restrooms, but families with children consider recreation opportunities to be a huge factor in determining which parks they’ll visit. For them, it’s all about the ‘stuff.’”
It is often the children who are determining where a family will spend a weekend. They’re talking with their friends and Googling ideas they can present to mom and dad.
“When kids can maneuver a high-ropes course over water, activities like that add excitement to the overall experience,” said Romens.
“Best of all, recreation is recession proof, and that was proven a few years ago when families postponed mega trips to Orlando and other further destinations in favor of having fun locally,” said Romens. “One thing is for certain, they didn’t stop wanting to have fun. Campgrounds that can offer first-class recreation experiences will never have to worry about surviving a recession.”
For more information about Commercial Recreation Specialists, call 877-896-8442 or visit www.crs4rec.com.