Rob Schutter Jr. addresses a record crowd at the LSI Symposium awards banquet .

Read more about the LSI Symposium in the December issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.

Rob Schutter Jr., president and COO of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), promised an upbeat message for LSI’s franchisees at their annual Symposium held Nov. 5-8 in Covington, Ky., and he delivered.

During his annual LSI Updates presentation on Nov. 6, Schutter reported to a record gathering of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort operators that LSI’s 78 franchisees outperformed the RV park and campground industry in general as well as many American businesses in 2012.

“There wasn’t one down area in occupancy or revenue numbers in our franchise system from last year; every possible scenario we studied was up. Not many people out there in our industry can say that,” he said.

For example:

  • System revenue totaled $71.4 million, up 12% from 2011 and up 8% for same parks from 2011.
  • Camper nights (general sites) rose 9%.
  • Rental unit revenue rose 17%.
  • Extended stays were up 2%.
  • Online reservations rose 13%.
  • Deposits increased 15%.
  • Store sales were up 9%.
  • Ancillary products sales up 12%.

“This is great,” Schutter said, stating that the fine performance was due in large part to franchisees’ perseverance and dedication to improving customer satisfaction.

The revenue performance was well above industry average of flat to up to 4%, he noted, and the rental unit uptick exceeded the industry figure of 15%.

Rental units are a growing phenomenon for not only LSI franchisees but the entire industry as well, Schutter continued. Rental units with full service typically attract “non-campers” who want niceties they can’t find in a tent or a travel trailer and yet want a unique camping experience. Double-digit growth has been recorded the last three years. “Some people (parks) are not really taking advantage of this. This is an area that we can exploit for many years. We have not maxed out.”

In a reference to “The Field of Dreams,” Schutter concluded, “Build it and they will come.”

On the other hand, Schutter noted that “transient” or overnight traffic continues a steady decline. He estimated that 40% of this market has been erased in recent years. “This is a market that’s not going to come back,” he warned. “This market will fall to a certain level and then stay there. It’s not because more people aren’t traveling, but that travelers are keeping to a limit of 150 miles. “It’s almost becoming an industry standard,” he said. “If you’re banking on that part of your business, you better look elsewhere.”

However, that trend in modern-day camping plays into the hand of LSI franchisees, who have evolved into destination parks with strong activities programs for families. This focus has separated Jellystone parks from many other parks, he added. In general, Schutter encouraged franchisees to “focus on what you have done extremely well in the past.”

Among his observation of other factors that affect the campground industry, Schutter said bank financing for park expansions remains very tight. He said owners need to educate potential lenders about the RV park and campground business so they will become more likely to loan money.

He also noted that gasoline prices in 2012 were 25% higher than they were in 2012. “We have been programmed to pay the price. It will fluctuate a little bit but it’s not going down.”

In general, Schutter encouraged franchisees to “focus on what you have done extremely well in the past.”

A record crowd of 240 attended the annual awards banquet where the Jellystone park in Warrens, Wis., was named Camp Resort of the Year, the system’s highest honor. The park is owned by Bruce Bryant Management.

The theme of this year’s Symposium was “Rising to the Challenge.”

This year’s Symposium was a day shorter than in years past, and it seemed to work out well for everyone. Schutter suspects the shorter time commitment was appealing to franchisees and will become standard for the event.

Camp Resort of the Year honors went to the Jellystone Park in Warrens, Wis., owned by Bruce and Andrea Bryant (right) of Bruce Bryant Management Co. Others in the photo are Bob Yaquinto (left) and Diane Yaquinto (center) representing Bruce Bryant Management, and Rob Schutter Jr., LSI president and COO. Photo by John Walters.