b'COVID Prompts Reduction in Seasonal Campsites as Parks Increase Revenue Through Transient Sites n BY JEFF CRIDERRecord demand for campsites dur-ingtheCOVID-19pandemicis prompting many private park opera-tors to convert more of their seasonal campsitestoovernightcampsites, which command more revenue. But while the movement away from seasonalcampsitesisbecoming morenoticeablenow,itsactually been underway for many years, ac-cording to longtime park operators. The trend of reducing seasonals has been underway for a while, but it has accelerated during COVID, said BrentGasser, who co-owns and operates the Yogi Bears Jellystone ParkCamp-Re-sortlocationin WisconsinDells, Wis., which cele-brated its 50th-an-niversary last year. The Jellystone Park at Wisconsin Dells, which celebrated its 50th Before COVID,anniversary last year, has seen a trend toward more transient sites.Brent Gasser Gassersaid, manyseasonalcampsiteswereproperties with competition that doesthenumberofseasonalcampsitesconversion process can be, having re-being replaced by cabins.offer seasonal rates. While seasonalthey offer over the years, the processduced the number of seasonal camp-The reality is that the most success- rates have long been a component ofofconvertingseasonalsitestosites at his familys park from 120 to 47 ful private park operators are alwaysproperties that are open seasonally, inovernightcampsitescanbenerve- seasonal sites over the past 15 years. looking for ways to maximize their rev- northern states in particular, Horizonracking for park operators because ofWe have created such a demand enue, whether its converting a low- works with our owner-partners to re- the emotional tiesfor our park that we have been able to performingcampsitetoalucrativeduce and eventually eliminate sea- seasonal campershandpickourseasonals,Quigley campsite with a cabin or other rentalsonalratesasoftenaspossible,develop with theirsaid. accommodation, or changing a sea- Foossaid.Notwopropertiesarecampsites.But telling campers their site will no sonal campsite to an overnight camp- alike though, and its imperative to un- GaryQuigley,longerbeavailableforseasonal site, which can command two or threederstand your propertys position inwhose family co- campingisdifficultandpainfulbe-times as much revenue.the local market. However, industryownsandoper- cause emotions get involved. PeoplehavebeentakingbasictrendshavelongpointedtowardsatestheThey have memories that are tied sitesandupgradingthemtofull- growing demand for daily occupancyJellystoneParkto this place. Maybe their kids grew up hookup sites or premium RV sites orand COVID has only accelerated thatin Harrisville, Pa.,on that site or maybe they saved their cabins, Gasser said.demand.knowsexactlymarriage on that site, Quigley said. Gasser added that overnight camp- But while parks have been reducingGary Quigley howdifficulttheSeasonalfrom page 35sites not only command more revenue per night, but the people who camp in overnight campsites are more likely to purchaseitemsfromcampstores. The guests that are staying at your park year after year, they arent spend-ing in your store. They really do not contribute much to business profitabil-ity, he told WCM. The reduction in the numbers of seasonal campsites is also accelerat-ing as investment groups increasingly purchase family-owned parks and re-duce or eliminate the number of sea-sonal campsites, which parks in the pastreliedontoproduceamuch lower, yet stable flow of revenue. As more and more parks get ac-quired by big entities, were going to seefewerseasonalsites,Gasser said. Scott Foos, CEO of Horizon Out-doorHospitalityinCastleRock, Colo., says he en-courages park op-erators to reduce oreliminatesea-sonal campsites. Horizondoes manage a handful ofnorthernloca-tions with a sum-merseasonal component,as Scott Foos wellassouthern WOODALLSCM.com April 2022 31'