Campgrounds in the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort franchise network generated more revenue in 2020 than they did last year despite a decline in camper nights.

Camper nights were down 6.5% through September because many locations were unexpectedly closed in March and April due to the pandemic but same park revenues were up 4% during that timeframe. Overall system revenues were also up 5.5%, according to Jon Burek, executive vice president of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), the Milford, Ohio-based company that franchises the Yogi Bear-themed parks across the U.S. and Canada.

Burek joined LSI COO Rob Schutter and other top LSI officials to discuss the Jellystone Park network’s 2020 performance with franchisees on Nov. 12. LSI did not hold its annual four-day Symposium this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you were to ask me at the beginning of the year where I thought we would end up, it’s nowhere near where we did,” Schutter said in his remarks to Jellystone Park operators, adding “That’s a testament to all of you and all of your efforts and your staff’s efforts.”

Schutter acknowledged the extraordinary challenges park operators faced this year, from varying state and local COVID-19 restrictions to difficulties recruiting sufficient staff to work during the pandemic.

“I commend everybody for their efforts,” he said, noting that no COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at any Jellystone Park location. “We can honestly say, from our standpoint, we heard of no incidents involving any spread of COVID at any of our parks.”

Burek, for his part, noted that business was exceptionally strong at Jellystone Park locations in 2020 despite the pandemic.

While overall camper nights were down 6.5% and weekend-camper nights were down 11.3% due to delayed openings across the system, weekday nights only fell 3.3% while rental units, including cabins and RVs, were up 1.1%, he said.

RV and tent site revenue was down 3.4%, but rental unit revenue increased 16.2% over 2019 figures.

Store revenues were up 15.4%, an increase Burek attributed to the large number of first-time guests who purchased Yogi Bear-themed clothing and souvenirs while visiting Jellystone Park locations in 2020. The typical store at a Jellystone Park location generated $159,400 in retail sales in 2020, according to Renata Evans, LSI’s vice president of corporate retail.

About half of the campers who visited Jellystone Park locations this year had never been to a Jellystone Park location before, a surge of new business that bodes well for the future, Burek said.

Jellystone Park locations are also attracting an increasingly affluent clientele, said Trent Hershenson, LSI’s vice president of marketing. In 2020, 54% of Jellystone Park guests said they had household incomes of $100,000 or more, with 24% of all guests reporting household incomes of $150,000 or more, Hershenson said. Only 11% of campers had household incomes of less than $50,000 with 35% earning $50,000 to $100,000 annually, he said.

Burek noted that Entrepreneur magazine ranked the Jellystone Park franchise network No. 1 in the campground category for the fourth consecutive year. He added that the system continues to expand, with three new locations added in 2020 in Milton and Glen Ellis, N.H. and North Point Huron, Mich. At least five more Jellystone Park locations are expected in 2021, he said.

While 47% of Jellystone Park guests visit the Yogi Bear-themed parks as a result of LSI and franchisee marketing efforts, 39% of guests are referred by friends or family members who have stayed at a Jellystone Park location.

“(This) underscores the importance of quality and customer service at your parks,” Burek said, adding, “Those guests who came to us for the first time went away with tremendous experiences. In some locations, more than 60% of the guests that showed up were new.”

While LSI officials shared their annual updates with franchisees online this year, the company also offered park operators the opportunity to meet with key vendors that sell Yogi Bear-themed apparel and merchandise in person in Cincinnati, Ohio, the week of Nov. 9.