Jesse Cole

Jesse Cole, the founder of the Savannah Bananas, gave the keynote at the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort Symposium.

Jellystone Park operators from across the country gathered in Covington, Ky. in early November to attend their first face-to-face Symposium of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Owners and managers had much to celebrate with system revenues up 47% and growth of 40% or more in all categories of park performance. The Jellystone Park brand enjoyed a sharp increase in new campers, 45% of whom had never stayed at a Jellystone Park location before. The system has also been recognized from top-tier business magazines, including Entrepreneur and Franchise Business Review.

“What an incredible year. It’s amazing what you have all accomplished. We experienced unprecedented demand over the past year,” Jon Burek, executive vice president of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), said in his opening remarks to Jellystone Park franchisees who gathered Nov. 7-10 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky. for their annual Symposium and tradeshow.

LSI franchises 75 Jellystone Park locations across the U.S. and Canada, although Canadian franchise owners were unable to attend the Symposium because of the COVID-related border closure.

Myra Jimison, LSI’s director of finance, said total park revenues were up 47%, while store revenues increased by 41% and ancillary revenues from water attractions and other activities were up 51%.

Camper nights increased by 12% with weekday nights up 8% and weekend nights up 18%. Rental unit nights were up by a whopping 40%.

Meanwhile, seasonal sites were down by 17%, reflecting the rising demand for overnight campsites, which command higher rates than seasonal sites.

Renata Evans, LSI’s vice president of corporate retail, said Jellystone Park store revenue increased dramatically, with sales driven by new merchandise, including more than 400 new items in 2021, as well as the large numbers of first-time campers who had never purchased Yogi Bear-themed merchandise before. The typical Jellystone Park store generated $223,000 in sales in 2021.

While the flood of first-time guests has resulted in unprecedented sales for Jellystone Park operators, the Yogi Bear-themed camp-resort network is also expanding.

Three more campgrounds joined the Jellystone Park franchise network in 2021, including a park in Carver, Mass., owned by Northgate Resorts of Grand Rapids, Mich.; one in Mansfield, Penn., owned by Four Points RV Resorts of Lake Charles, La.; and the former Mark Twain Landing in Monroe City, Mo., which is owned by The Jenkins Organization of Houston, Texas.

Four new locations parks are expected to join the Jellystone Park franchise network in 2022, including parks in Augusta, Me.; Groesbeck, Texas; Hurricane, Utah; and Lake Hartwell, Ga.

Trent Hershenson, LSI’s vice president of marketing, said visitation to the franchise network’s newly designed website at JellystonePark.com has also generated an increased interest, with user sessions up 28% compared to last summer with new user sessions comprising 74% of website visits in 2021.

The demographics of Jellystone Park guests are heavily weighted toward affluent families with young children. During the peak season, fifty-four percent of Jellystone Park guests enjoy household incomes of $100,000 or more and 23% of guests have household incomes exceeding $150,000. Thirty-four percent have incomes between $50,000 and $99,000, with 12% having incomes below $50,000.

While demand remained strong, many Jellystone Park guests held off making reservations until shortly before they planned to stay. Fifty-four percent of peak season guests booked their reservations less than two months in advance, while 39% booked theirs less than one month in advance.

The four-day Symposium included LSI’s annual awards program, a tradeshow with more than 100 vendors, and a dozen seminars on topics of interest to park operators, including succession planning, dynamic pricing, marketing strategies, managing and motivating front-line staff, and understanding and responding to the changes underway in today’s workplace.

Next year’s Symposium will be held Nov. 6-9 in Charleston, S.C.