Management Software Helps Campground Owners Maximize the Site-Rental Business ‘If you do not have your campground on the web and people cannot reserve sites online, then you are really missing out,’ saidTyler Duffy, president of Nashville,Tenn.-based Campground Automation Systems. The world has gone digital. Individ- uals from all walks of life are using the Internet to shop, interact, watch shows and, yes, plan trips. What does that mean for camp- ground owners who have been a little slow to adapt to the changing times? Experts say get on board — or get left behind. “If you do not have your camp- ground on the web and people cannot reserve sites online, then you are really missing out,” said Tyler Duffy, president of Nashville, Tenn.-based Campground Automation Systems, whichdistributesSunrise,areservation management soft- ware system. “We are seeing more younger families coming into the camping lifestyle and when you have kids, school and a bunch of otheractivitiesyou tendtoputoffreservingavacationuntil you have free time at night when a lot of offices are closed. “They want to get on, validate that the trip is booked and that their card has been charged. That way it is off their plate.” Online management and reserva- tion systems also serve as vital market- ing tools that can help grow your business. Most reservation software systems offer outlets to place photos and maps of your park. Customers can read reviews, see what activities are available and select a site that fits their needs — all on their own schedule. “We are trying to help our customers Campgroundreservationsoftwareproviderssupplyprogramsthatallow campground owners to keep track of their business from anywhere. get the most out of their current market, while also helping them grow,” said Josh Traxler, COO of Grand Rapids, M i c h . - b a s e d Campspot. “The younger genera- tion, and younger families, wants an intuitive experience — and if you don’t have that then they are not going to interact with your campground.” Foralotofcampgroundowners,tak- ing the leap into the digital realm is like taking the leap into the unknown; campgrounds that have been in opera- tion for decades oftentimes have systems in place that are familiar and reliable. PeterKearns, vice president of Niag- ara Falls, Ontario-based Mission Man- agement Information Systems Inc., which distributes Astra reservation software, said a lot of campground owners don’t want to give up control on who is booking sites at their campground. “Some of them don’t trust the Internet, they are afraid large, loud groups might come in and disrupt or damage their campground,” he said. “If what you have is working and you are full all the time, then fine, but I always tell people that a lot of those types of groups are not usually going to take the time to pre-book over the Internet, anyway.” Duffy said the management and reservation software makes running a campground easier and that it is built to increase revenue. “If you are worried about what type of people may come in then require full payment for a site up front,” he said. Owners are also concerned about the prospect of double-booking a site, something which can create conflict andbadreviews.JeffReed,founderand CEOatSevierville,Tenn.-basedStaylist, said that their software is designed to conduct transactions in real time and that its speed helps prevent double booking. “Staylistisaveryrobustapplication,” he said. “With the fastest real-time processing in the industry, customers realize they can use multiple on-site devices, including mobile devices, in conjunction with online guest reserva- tions simultaneously, without creating double bookings.” For owners who have taken the plunge, many find that they have more time to do the things they wanted to do when they first got into the camp- groundoperatingbusiness.GaryEvans, vice president and general manager at Dallas-based ACTIVE Networks, which distributes Reserve America software,saidtheirclientsenjoyspend- ing more time outdoors and that they can access their software from anywhere. “Our system simplifies every- thing so you can get out from be- hind that desk,” he said. “If you have a mobile phone or an iPad you can connect to our software.” Thom Gibb, chairman of the board at Barbados-based Digital Rez, which distributes RezExpert, a reservation- and property-management software system, said the company’s new software also allows campground own- ers to monitor and manage reviews. It develops a history of a customer’s visit and regenerates that information when they return for another stay. “Customers can useoursoftwareto reserve and rate their stay,” he said. “They could be at your resort, snap a picture of a problem with their accom- modations and then you see it and immediately take care of the issue, and it gives you an opportunity to get a better review.” Reservation software companies have also worked hard to make their products lighter, meaning they can run onslownetworks.Gibb’ssaidthatDigital Rezevenoffersfreedemostocustomers so they can spend time with the system to see if it is going to work for them. “This is a fully integrated demo,” he said.“They can have the system up and running for 30 days with no obligation to purchase the software. It gives them a chance to see how it will function, what options are available and if they purchase it they are already familiar with it.” Reservation software has even become a source of revenue for some parks. Most companies incorporate a small fee into every transaction, usually $2to$3,thatisnormallypassedontothe customer. That means beyond a minimal setup fee most campground ownersdonotpaytoutilizethesoftware. “Most customers now expect to see some fees attached when they book online,” said Traxler. “We have some (campgrounds) that decide to not pass onthecost,butwealsohaveothersthat up the fee a little bit and actually make little extra revenue off of it.” It really is all about making sure campgrounds are meeting customers where they are likely to plan trips. “Millennials and younger families are online,” said Evans. “There is a growing trend to place rentals online. Your traditional customers may have to adjust, but new customers are also important.” Woodall’s Campground Manage- ment talked to many of the providers of reservation software to provide an overview of some of the options out there. Here’s what they had to say. Astra/CampgroundManagerbyMis- sionManagementInformationSystems 800-547-9147 Mission Management Information Systemshasbeenofferingcampground software for more than 20 years, but its flagship product Astra is fairly new to the industry. Astra is a system that offers a full slate of campground man- agement tools, including an interactive grid and map that will help camp- ground customers find the exact site they want, an integrated point-of-sale module that helps owners manage store sales and inventory and account- ing software that helps owners better Tyler Duffy Gary Evans Thom Gibb Josh Traxler Peter Kearns 18 - November 2017 Woodall’s Campground Management