Jim Westover, vice president of operations at LSI, speaks with attendees of the 2017 symposium.

Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems, Inc. (LSI) is preparing for its annual symposium and trade show as the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort network experiences the strongest growth in the company’s 49-year history.

The Nov. 5-8 Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Symposium & Trade Sow, which includes presentations by top LSI officials, educational seminars and a tradeshow with more than 75 vendors, is the largest annual gathering of the more than 80 Jellystone Park owners and operators in North America.

The event will be held at the Embassy Suites hotel and Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky.

“Our symposium provides ample opportunities for us to have face-to-face time with our franchisees,” said Kelly Jones, LSI’s vice president of operations. “It also provides our franchisees with opportunities to network with each other, refresh themselves after a long summer and to come away with a new feeling of energy.”

Jones will join President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Schutter and other LSI officials in providing franchisees with the latest statistics involving the growth of the Jellystone Park franchise network, as well as emerging camping and travel trends that could provide new marketing and business opportunities for Jellystone Park franchisees across the U.S. and Canada.

Jones said the Milford, Ohio-based franchisor is also planning several surprises that will put this year’s symposium in a league of its own compared to previous years. While Jones declined to reveal the nature of the surprises, she said the changes reflect the success that Jellystone Park owners and operators continue to experience as they develop the family camping market.

“It’s been another extraordinary year,” Jones said. “We’re on track for double-digit year-over-year growth for the fourth consecutive year.”

Indeed, LSI reported revenue growth of 15.5% through the second quarter among existing parks and growth of 16.4% when new Jellystone Park locations are added into the equation.

LSI anticipates similar figures for the third quarter, with much of the growth taking place in rental accommodations, as well as in camp store and ancillary sales.

While rental accommodations have proven to be lucrative investments for park operators throughout the campground industry, Jones said Jellystone Park locations typically generate more revenue overall than most parks because of their Yogi Bear-themed merchandise, as well as their extensive organized activities and amenities, such as water play parks, which generate day use pass sales during the middle of the week, when the campground industry typically struggles with empty campsites and cabins.

“A lot of our parks are putting in different water features, new activity programs and food service, and they’re opening themselves up more to their local communities for day use visits,” Jones said. “Many parks are also generating increased business from families, church groups and youth groups.”

LSI, for its part, is also receiving more inquiries from investor groups who are interested in building brand-new Jellystone Park locations from the ground up.

“We still have quite a bit of interest in conversions,” Jones continued. “But a lot more people are looking to get into our industry. They’re seeing our numbers. They’ve been pretty consistent numbers the past few years and that absolutely does spur interest in building new Jellystone Park locations.”

Jellystone Park operators tell Woodall’s Campground Management they have had an excellent year.

This year’s symposium will feature a number of educational opportunities for attendees.

“Our first year as a Jellystone Park franchise was truly an eye opener,” said Pamela McCreary, who reopened Country Stage Campground in Nova, Ohio, as the Cleveland Sandusky Jellystone Park in April with her husband, Todd.

“Our business is up approximately 20% to 30%, she noted. “We give total credit for that to the franchise. Todd and I are both extremely happy we made this jump.”

McCreary added that her park has attracted guests from all over the United States.

Heather Blankenship, who converted her Bear Cove Village campground in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., into a Jellystone Park campground last spring, said she, too, has experienced a phenomenal uptick in business at her park this year, with year-to-date revenue up 55% compared to last year’s figures.

Before next summer, McCreary said she plans to invest in a climbing wall, paddle boards, boats and other amenities, as well as at least one more cabin. Blankenship expects to upgrade to a commercial playground and purchase a small splash pad and a jumping pillow in the near future.

But while new amenities — some of which will be available from vendors at the LSI Symposium — can be important investments to build new business, seminars covering a broad range of business and management topics are equally important, Jones said.

Following a keynote presentation by humorist Devin Henderson, who will teach park operators how to “share their magic” and improve their team-building skills, this year’s symposium will feature seminars on the following topics:

  • “Anatomy of a Swimming Pool,” by Aaron St. Hill, of Kitchener, Ont.-based Acapulco Pools. Hill will talk about how to keep your pool and water amenities in tip-top shape. He’ll cover every component in a pool system, including circulation, filtration, heating and chemicals.
  • — “Business Advisors: Getting Your Money’s Worth,” by Amy Wirtz, a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (C.E.P.A) from Family and Business Success, LLC in Sheffield, Ohio. Wirtz is a practicing attorney, as well as a faculty member at the Exit Planning Institute. She’ll define the differences between an advisor and a mentor and show park operators how to budget for various advisors. She’ll also talk about when and how to develop a board of advisors versus a board of directors.
  • “Campground Master Planning,” by Stefanie Smith of Domokur Architects and David McCallops, P.E. of Environmental Design Group, both based in Akron, Ohio. They’ll discuss key changes in the field of facility planning and program development and demonstrate how to optimize your campground’s mission and vision through thoughtful site design using 3D models.
  • “Campspot,” a seminar by Campspot Chief Operating Officer Josh Traxler. This session is designed to answer park operator questions regarding the web-based, front desk management system developed by Grand Rapids, Mich., based Campspot, which is used by many Jellystone Park campgrounds.
  • “Difficult Conversations: How to Create a Dialogue Out of Conflict,” also by Amy Wirtz of Family and Business Success, LLC. She’ll describe time-tested methods of how to handle difficult conversations, how to move forward from an emotional disagreement and how to deal with difficult people.
  • “Drive-Thru Christmas Parks: Seasonal Revenue and Year-Round Impact,” by Brandon Stephens of Barcana, a Decor Group company in Irving, Texas, that specializes in providing Christmas decorations. Stephens will discuss how to determine if a drive-through Christmas park will benefit your property in terms of revenue and year-round impact.
  • “Food Service 101: Producing Bottom Line Profit,” by Jason Reid, director of food operations for Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reid will help park operators determine what types of menu items are right for their properties. He’ll define the key components of controlling food service costs and he’ll show park operators how to use their existing labor force to provide food service.
  • “Resolving Camper Conflict,” by Robert and Terri Bogue, co-founders of Kin-to-Kid Connection, a company that develops child safety cards as a way of helping parents communicate with their children. The Bogues will provide park operators with a superhero tool belt of techniques, including Yogi Bear-style verbal judo, to help campers move past their conflicts, whether it’s all in the family or between different guest families.
  • A trade show will also give attendees a chance to peruse merchandise and learn of new services.

    “Risk Management for Your Resort,” by Kim Ayers and Bryan Tolli of Leavitt Recreation & Hospitality Insurance in Sturgis, S.D. They will highlight common as well as unique liability and property exposures in RV resorts. Park operators will learn what exposures insurance underwriters scrutinize most and what they can do to minimize their risks. Ayers and Tolli will also talk about LSI’s new insurance requirements.

  • “Smart Ways to Make Your Business More Environmentally Friendly,” by Joanne Deuter, a lifelong advocate for environmental protection. She currently volunteers for Chicago’s Cook County Forest Preserve and works with marine mammals at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. She is also participating in Global Fin Print, a global research project to save sharks. Deuter will show how adhering to the three Rs of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” can actually save businesses money in the long run.
  • “The Proof is in the Paper,” by Matt Haynes, an American Red Cross Lifeguard, instructor and aquatics trainer who has worked for the Red Cross since 2012. He’ll talk about how to identify documentation lapses at your facility and how to define the best practices for signage and documentation.
  • “Valuing Your Business,” also by Wirtz. She’ll discuss due diligence, how value changes when it’s seen from a buyer’s perspective and how a good team of advisers can increase the value of a business.

LSI will also provide its franchisees with an educational session on how best to use the data gathered by MarketForce, a new guest satisfaction monitoring platform that incorporates social media monitoring, consumer review monitoring and a secret shopper program into a single consumer satisfaction monitoring system that features a real-time dashboard.

LSI introduced the Marketforce program last spring to Jellystone Park franchisees across North America. The program is provided free of charge to Jellystone Park franchisees.

In addition to seminars and tradeshow, the symposium will provide opportunities for park operators to attend meetings of the Yogi Advisory Council group. Known as the “YAC Group,” the council provides Jellystone Park franchise owners with opportunities to comment on decisions, policies and marketing initiatives made by LSI.

YAC Group members also wear special identification tags so that park operators can identify who they are and easily communicate any ideas or concerns they would like to share with the YAC Group or with LSI in general.

Meetings are also scheduled during the symposium between the YAC Group and LSI’s leadership team.

The symposium will conclude with its annual awards presentation and entertainment by Chris Yantek, a magician who has traveled the world as a headliner on cruise ships and performed at a myriad of trade shows and corporate events.

To learn more about the symposium click here.