Rob Schutter Jr.

“Rising to the Challenge” is the theme for Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) Symposium scheduled for Nov. 5-8 at the Embassy Suites and Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky.

“Every day our owners and operators rise to meet all sorts of challenges they encounter,” Kelly Jones, director of franchisee development for LSI, said in explaining the theme. “At this year’s annual symposium, we will be helping our franchisees with tools to address the new ADA challenges, employment challenges, social networking needs and the challenge of reducing costs in today’s market.”

LSI answered the challenge of keeping campground conferences relevant by modifying this year’s symposium for its 78 franchisees. The gathering has been shortened by one day, without reducing the number of educational seminars offered to its franchisees.

This year’s symposium will also feature a trade show and a first-time look at the new Yogi Bear-branded merchandise for the coming season.

On Tuesday morning, President and COO Rob Schutter Jr., will give franchisees an in-depth look at company and franchisee operations. Schutter will have a good story to share. Through August, same-park revenues were up 9 percent from a year ago with occupancy up around 4 percent, he told Woodall’s Campground Management in a sneak peek at his presentation.

“In a down economy, people are looking for more affordable, economical locations,” he explained. “Many of the Jellystones have the amenity packages that satisfy the needs of American families. Also, because of our strong development of in-park activities and special events, we have been fortunate in maintaining our customer base and revenue base.”

Rental unit revenues continue to be a driving force behind increased occupancies at LSI camp-resorts with a 12 percent increase through the end of August, he said. Most of these lodges and cabins are park models.

The resorts that offer RV rentals, typically travel trailers, reported an 80 percent increase over 2011.

“That typically is not the way we encourage our parks to expand their rental fleets, but there is a certain segment of our customer base that enjoys staying in an RV,” Schutter said.

In fact, this segment has shown double-digit growth each of the last three years, he continued.

“We continue to see parks convert sites into their rental pool or building additional sections to accommodate them. We have seen traditional site nights erode a little bit but made up by people deciding to be seasonals. That is one change we have seen and we’re going to take a long, hard look to stem that tide. We would like to see our destination sites stabilize more. Either way you look at it, it’s been a good year.”

LSI added four new franchisees at the start of the 2012 season and hopes to add a similar number for 2013, he said.

“We’d like to be between four and five a year for a few more years and we’ll feel we have hit the bulk of the regions we feel our concept has the most potential in,” he said.

ADA and EEOC Seminars: Even though the Symposium is a day shorter, LSI will again offer strong educational seminar content this year. Two of the most highly anticipated seminars will deal with compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOC).

A staffer from the ADA’s Access Center will outline how parks may become ADA compliant, starting with accessibility to parking lots, restrooms and campsites and working on recreational facilities, such as pools.

Meanwhile, LSI has added another seminar to the lineup: a class from “Don’t Move Firewood.”

“I am sure you are aware of the infestations that are killing trees; we are going to talk about early detection and what to do when someone comes to the park with firewood,” said Jones.

Another new wrinkle this year will be the location of the park model village. The display has been moved inside the exhibition hall. As of Sept. 1, the park model and cabins exhibitors list included Cavco Park Homes and Cabins, Conestoga Cabins, Dutchmen/Breckenridge, Stone Canyon Park Models & Lodges and Yurts of America.

The challenge theme continues with an “eating challenge” on Wednesday night. Teams and individuals will compete in eating a fully loaded pizza topped with macaroni and cheese – dubbed The MacDaddy Pizza Challenge.

LSI will hand out a number of awards and honors during the concluding banquet on Thursday, Nov. 8.