b'Jellystone Seizing on Development Interest to Continue Growth Amid Camping Surge nBY BEN QUIGGLE way out to Oregon one time, he said. For those It has been a year of growth for Leisure Sys- folks out there, its status quo. Sometimes it tems Inc. (LSI) the franchisor of more than 75does slow the process a bit, but they feel they Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts incan overcome it. If theres a market for it, theres North America.the ability to do it. I think Northern California and The growing chain of parks has recentlysome other areas that may not be as impacted been recognized as a Top Global franchise byare still really good possibilities to develop. Entrepreneur, as well as being listed as a TopWestover noted that a Jellystone Park is typ-Franchise by Entrepreneur and Franchise Busi- ically more expensive to develop than a tradi-ness Review. It has also been named a Toptional park because of water features and other Franchise for Women, a Top Recession-Proofamenities that Jellystone Parks are known for. Business and Jellystone Parks made FranchiseLSI has also found that its campers typically Business Reviews Culture 100 list.love cabin rentals and RVs more than tent sites, Besides all the accolades, LSI has also foundsince the median household income for a Jelly-success as it makes a westward pushintentstone Park camper is $100,000, according to on expanding its reach and introducing moreHershenson.Interest in larger parks, and an influx of development cash, has helped Jellystone Parks campers to the Jellystone brand.You spend more because you are findingcontinue to grow its brand. LSI recently signed a franchise agreementways to cater to that type of audience, said with High Mesa Partners LLC to open a newWestover.brand is.day, he noted. Thats going to somebody Jellystone Park in Parachute, Colo. Along withWhen asked if construction costs and theIt is a concern because the more you canelses gas station and restaurant, it goes to help that announcement, LSI also noted that a newscarcity of supplies are hurting development ofexpand these campgrounds, the better the num- the town around it and that has happened at nu-Jellystone Park an hour west of Knoxville, Tenn.,newresorts,Westoversaiddevelopersarebers work out for the seller and the buyer, hemerous parks. is set to open in 2022. The development is beingcoming prepared for those scenarios.added. That hindrance really stops tourism andWeve had scenarios where one guy literally completed by The Jenkins Organization, whichTheyre already going into it anticipating thatthe growth of the industry.had a fishing business and he thought that currently owns four Jellystone Parks.theyre going to build a park thats $10 to $25Westover said that LSI helps developerswould deteriorate and detract from his business. There are also commitments to build Jelly- million, he explained. A few million here orpush through that to some degree and helpsWere going, If anything, its going to enhance stone Parks in Las Vegas, Nev., and Hurricane,there is not going to sway them just because oflocal officials understand that camping con- your business because these are nature-type Utah, along with conversions of independentthe way the business model is set. When youresumers dont just spend money at the park.folks, Westover added. But some folks can-parks in Cape Cod, Mass., northern Pennsylva- talkingabout40%earningsbeforeinterest,We have research that shows a camper willnot see past their own vision to be open-minded nia and near St. Louis, Mo.taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA)spend on average $75 outside of the park perJellystone Development continued on page 28In the past, we met with investors who were and these guys are hearing those numberskicking the tires, now they are banging down ourthey can afford to get squeezed on a couple of doors, noted Jim Westover, LSIs vice presi- percentage points. For them, the timeline of get-dent of product development and sales. Its re- ting up and running in this market and getting a ally created competition outfoothold is more important than the inflated there to buy up the goodcosts. performing, large parks thatPerhaps no part of the park development have expansion capability.journey is more frustrating than the permitting We have a lot of new buildsprocess and there have been plenty of stories also coming into the systemthat highlight the issues developers face when and weve had a lot of folksworking with local officials to get a project ap-come in from the hotel in- proved. Jim Westover dustry specifically trying toIve attended some community meetings, diversify their portfolio.and that has been a hamper for folks who are These arent one and done developers ei- not familiar with this industry, Westover said. ther, he said. These are developers who wantThey still have that impression that its going to to build or own multiple parks. When I take abe an old-style campground, and we are going call, even with people within the industry, its al- to lower the demographics and put-up cheap ways 150 sites or more with all the trimmings,housing, which is the exact opposite of what our including swimming pools, water features and cabins. I think a lot of folks have done their homework on it, and thats really boosted the industry wherewithal. Where is this desire to own a Jellystone Park coming from? Trent Hershenson, vice president of market-ing for LSI, points at the financial growth LSI has seen to answer that question. 2020finishedasour best year ever, which was the 14th year in a row that we have broken our all-time revenue record, he pointed out. We were up basically 10% over 2019, and then, this year has been crazy. Its justsmashingevenlast Trent Hershenson years records and its like nothing weve ever seen. Right now, we havent gotten all parks reporting for July, but based on those that have, which is more than two-thirds, were up year over year through the end of July essentially 50%. To have 50% above your best year ever is crazy. Its been just amazing how well the parks are doing. That has created a tremendous amount of desire from developers, according to Westover, and the threat of wildfires out west doesnt even appear to be slowing down interest. Ive actually sat on a plane with some smokejumpers (specialized firefighters) on the WOODALLSCM.com October 2021 27'