If a candidate for the U.S. presidency can announce his running mate’s identify via text message to his supporters, why couldn’t a campground operator alert the RVing public in the same way to some last-minute campsite availability on an upcoming holiday weekend?
This and other ways to use emerging electronic marketing technologies was discussed in one of the seminars held during the Minnesota Resort & Campground Association 2008 Fall Conference & Expo Oct. 19-21 at the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn.
More than 120 resort and campground representatives and 48 vendors attended the conference, David Siegel, association executive vice president, told Woodall’s Campground Management.
The marketing possibilities opening up through e-marketing are endless, Siegel said, summarizing the talking points at one of the seminars and during a subsequent cracker barrel. For example, using the process known as “twittering,” a campground could build a network of, say 150 prospective campers and notify them through a maximum 140-character text message when unexpected vacancies open up at the campground.
Members talked about whether to set up blogs for guest entries and if this will be beneficial to the business. They also discussed using YouTube to post amateur videos taken at campgrounds, he said.
How to set up these and other emerging technologies and who maintains them is part of the challenge, Siegel said.
Networking With State Parks A Key
Siegel said the association also discussed the need to work more closely with the state’s 72 state parks.
“Sometimes campground operators look at them as competition, but state parks, at least in Minnesota, are mostly primitive overnight camping facilities,” Siegel said. “Research was done by the state parks people and revealed that a lot of their users are day visitors. This means there are a lot of opportunities to use the state park as an amenity and send people over to the parks but staying overnight at the resort or campground.”
For this reason, he said, it behooves the private resort and campground owner to take an inventory and know what’s around their parks, he said.
Demographic data show fewer Minnesotans are spending time outdoors, as evidenced by fewer hunting and fishing licenses being issued and fewer visitors to the stage parks, he said. “That’s a concern for the health and fitness of our citizens and the future of our industry,” he said. “If people are not used to getting outdoors, they’re not going to camp and stay outdoors.”
The association discussed three looming political issues:

  • Treating resorts and campgrounds differently from other lakeshore businesses as the state rewrites its regulations governing shoreland management.
  • Leveling the playing field by requiring private homeowners who rent out their lakeshore properties to abide by some of the same state regulations, such as collecting lodging taxes and submitting to inspections, as do the campgrounds and resorts. The association sits on the task force rewriting the regulations. A report is due in January.
  • Preserving the state requirement that public schools not resume classes in the fall before Labor Day. “We think it’s a pretty significant impact on our industry,” Siegal said. “If we lose the Labor Day start, schools will start earlier and earlier and it will be a domino effect. We really make our money in the summer months, so extending that capability is very important.”
    During the awards ceremonies, the association inducted Fred Boos, co-founder of Grand View Resort, into the Minnesota Resort & Campground Association Hall of Fame, and named Wally Heise as Resorter of the Year. He and his wife, Sue, own and operate the South Isle Family Campground in Isle, Minn.
    New Officers, Directors Elected
    The association elected the following officers: President Ron Rykken, Timber Bay Lodge & Houseboats, Babbitt; President-Elect Harold Kraft, Canary Beach Resort, Villard; Vice president David Langhoff, Shady Rest Resort, Villard; Treasurer Tom Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Lodge, Brainerd; and Immediate Past President Paul Bugbee, Bug-Bee Hive Resort, Paynesville.
    Directors elected to the board are: Steve Wiczek, Gull & Love Lake Campground and Marina, Nisswa; Lee Midlo, Country Camping, Isanti; Dan Berg, Lakecrest Resort, Detroit Lakes; Jim DeRose, Riverside Resort, Richmond; Steve Dragt, Lakeshore RV Park, Ortonville; Wally Heise, South Isle Family Campground, Isle; Bill Forsberg, Timber Trail Lodge and Outfitters, Ely; Mark Ludlow, Ludlow’s Island Resort, Cook; and Kathy Manteuffel, Limmer’s Resort, Ottertail.
    Directors returning to the board are: Jerry Cheney, Appert’s Foodservice, St. Cloud; Eric Hanson, Pehrson Lodge, Cook; Bryan Harris, Eagle Nest Lodge, Deer River; Harriet Williams, Fun Ta Boot Resort, Park Rapids; Jim Benson, Grandview Lodge, Nisswa; Don Hales, Woodland Beach Resort, Deerwood; Cheryl Harris, Northern Lights Resort, Richville; Chris Ruttger, Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, Deerwood; Beth Schupp, Fair Hills Resort, Detroit Lakes; Debra Thelson, Pine Park Resort, Park Rapids; and Kevin Ward, El Rancho Manana Campground & Stable, Richmond.
    Retiring directors are: Dave Aaberg, Pelican Hills Campground, Pelican Rapids; Lee Kerfoot, Gunflint Lodge, Grand Marais; and Michael O’Phelan, Cascade Lodge, Lutsen.