b'2022 CONFERENCE CONY Conference Highlights Marketing & Tech; Association Raises Over $265K for Camp Good Days nBY JEFF CRIDERPrivate park operators need to em- you want a gate crasher coming and bracetechnology,notonlytobettertaking up your lounge chair? serve their guests, but to lower theirWalsh also suggested park operators payroll costs and improve their bottommonetizetheirWi-Fiservice,giving line.them basic service for free but charging They also need to fix the immediatefees for steaming capability Wi-Fi. But problems in their parks before addingbe sure your Wi-Fi works. new sites.Youll take a serious hit if you charge These were just some of the tips of- (for Wi-Fi) and it doesnt work, she said.fered by expert speakers from Oct. 31- Representatives from Livingston En-Nov. 1 at the Campground Owners ofergyGroupandNationalGridalso NewYorks(CONYs)spoke about the importance of park op-59thAnnualExposi- eratorsaddingelectricvehicle(EV) tionfortheOutdoorcharging stations at their parks. David Hospitality Industry.Vickers, Livingstons manager of part-Ive seen too manyner development, noted that people will campgrounds with 10eventuallyselectparksbasedon beautiful sites and thewhether they have EV charging stations rest of the park looksavailable,muchlikepeoplechoose crappy,saidCathyparks based on whether they have Wi-Cathy Reinard Reinard, a realtor andFi. Both Vickers and Kate Carleo, of Na-consultant who has owned and oper- tional Grid, said it behooves parks toCONYs annual exposition attracted dozens of vendors and gave attendees plenty of products to peruse. ated campgrounds. take advantage of grants and tax incen-Kathleen Walsh, president and CEOtives to EV installations now, while they of Advanced Outdoor Solutions, en- are available.are effectively setting the tone for theirspective of cheaper sites because they couraged park operators to make use ofReinard,forherpart,encouragedfuture experiences as RVers.arenewtotheindustry,Koepsaid. online travel agenciespark operators to fix what needs fixing If you recognize that they are a newThey dont have the history. (OTAs),eventhoughbefore adding new sites.RVer or they are on their first trip, youKoep urged park operators to use dy-theychargeafeeforBefore you go about adding, shehave an opportunity to grow our indus- namic pricing and to use Airbnb to mar-their services.said, you need to make sure your basicstry, Koep said, adding, First trips areket their rental accommodations if they OTAsmatterandare up to par. Make sure what you havethe most important ones for RVers.need help keeping their units booked. theyregoingtofillis bright, cheerful and well-purposed.Koep,whoalsohostsaFacebookHowever, he also noted that dynamic nights that youre notMake the laundry room something yougroup for over 3,200 campground oper- pricing doesnt only mean raising prices going to fill yourself,would want to use. If your store or bath- ators who regularly exchange ideas onduring periods of high demand but also shesaid,referencingrooms need updating, you have to haveways to operate their parks a little bet- lowering them when demand falls. Kathleen Walsh the growing number ofthose things updated first.ter, said people who became RV andIts time to start discounting some-OTAs represented by Glamping Hub,In terms of improvements, Reinardcampingenthusiastsasaresultoftimes, he said. BookOutdoors,TheDyrt,Spot2NitesaidKampgroundsofAmericaInc.COVID have different expectations thanKoep also said park operators need to and Hipcamp.(KOA) has found that its deluxe patiothe campers who got into the industrymake sure their websites are mobile-Whileparkoperatorscomplainsites bring the greatest return on invest- years before the pandemic.friendly. about the close to 15% fees that OTAsment. These sites include a nice grillWhat people saw about our indus- Right now, 72% of campers use mo-chargefortheirservices, Walshsaidand commercial-grade outdoor furni- try is that it represents freedom, hebilephones.Buttheaveragecamp-thats a small price to pay for a site thatture.said.Camperswantfreedom,theyground website is not built for mobile would otherwise go unbooked.If your budget is limited, you can getwant adventure.phones, he said. Youre getting 85% of your money,into this with blocks, she said, addingPeople increasingly sought the out- Firstimpressionsareimportant, she said.that deluxe sites are in such high de- doors during the pandemic because ofKoep added, noting that the first expe-Some park operators expressed con- mand that they fill up during the week. the stay indoors orders, he said.rience most people have with camp-cerns about double bookings, but WalshKOA has also found that more peopleButwhilenewcampersrelishthegrounds is online. said many OTAs have two-way integra- camp with dogs than children, so it be- freedom and adventure that campingIf you dont have an updated web-tiontoensurethatdoublebookinghooves park operators to covert theircan provide, many of them also wantsite, its time to get that updated, he doesnt happen. However, she said itsworst performing sites into Paw Penquickandeasytouch-freecamp- said. If youre dealing with transient important for parks to clarify with OTAsites or sites with other pet amenities.ground reservation and check-in expe- guests, you need that technology yester-providers whether they have a two-wayIf you want to attract more campers,riences. Koep urged park operators today. integration capability.you need to think about what optionsuse technology to accommodate theseKoep also encouraged park operators Your choice in technology is key toyou can provide your campers besidesnew campers, rather than forcing themto cross-market each other by showcas-so many of these things that work, shea dog park, she said. to stand in line to physically check in ating each others rack cards. They should said.Reinardalsoencouragedparkstothe camp store or office after theyvealso reach out to nearby state park rep-While some park operators said peo- glamp up their units with nicer pillowsbeen on the road for hours.resentativesandcultivatethemas ple who book online sometimes try toand mattresses. Make sure your mat- Newcampersexpectations,hesources of referrals, he said, since many check in early, Walsh said that problemtresses are at least 10 inches thick, sheadded, are based on what theyve expe- government-run parks do not offer full can be eliminated by not emailing themsaid.rienced with the hotel and Airbnb in- hookups or other amenities.theirsitenumberuntilthenormalReinard also said bell tents can bedustries,whichhaveputtheirKoepalsojoinedRoxiBaxley,of check-in time. QR codes for securitytransformed into glamping units thatreservationprocessesonline.Camp- Strait Web Solutions; Kate Gagnon, of gates can also be programmed to coin- are more affordable than covered wag- groundsthatforcecamperstobooktheTowneLawFirm,P.C.;andJeff cide with eachs guests stay. ons or yurts.their reservations over the phone or toCrider, a campground industry publi-Walsh said there can be problemsCONYs keynote address was givenmake them by leaving a voicemail mes- cistandsenioreditorforWoodalls with people who try to sneak into parksby Mark Koep, a former full-time RVer,sage and waiting for a call back are los- CampgroundMagazine,onapanel and use their amenities. She recalleddigitalmarketingex- ing business.discussion highlighting ideas to help one man, a plumber, who would takepertandownerofIf they have to call you to book apark operators improve their market-his kids to a campground every day soCampgroundViews,reservation, they are staying somewhereing through both traditional and social they could use the parks amenities, es- who talked about howelse, Koep said, adding, Seventy-fivemediaanddigitalmarketingplat-sentially using the park as a daycareCOVID has brought sopercent of the people you call back haveforms.center, and then pick his kids up at themany new people withalreadybookedtheircampgroundDuring the conference, CONY was endoftheday.Sheeliminatedthisdifferent expectations(someplace else).also able to announce that park opera-problem by requiring guests to haveinto the RV lifestyle. HePriceperceptionsaboutcampingtors had raised $265,593.34 for Camp wristbands.notedthatcamp- have also changed as a result of the in- Good Days in 2022, a record for the as- Guests didnt like (wristbands) atMark Koep ground operators whoflux of new campers during the pan- sociation. This means CONY has raised first, she said. But then she would telltake a little extra time to help first- demic.$1,226,506.91forCampGoodDays them, You paid to be at the pool. Dotime RVers have a positive experienceNew campers dont have the per- CONY Expocontinued on page 3014 January 2023Woodalls Campground Magazine'