The biggest single marketing client for our company is the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO). They are currently fielding calls from hundreds of parks around Texas. It’s a variation of the same question — ‘I heard this or that or the other about campgrounds, what does this mean for me?’
Typically these pearls of wisdom are gleaned from some super reliable source (NOT) like Facebook or a rumor from a friend of a friend. Not only do we need to remind campground owners to consider the source of such information but also be sure to confirm whether it even applies to you. We have seen headlines that read – ‘Campgrounds Closing’ – only to find that the whole article was about government parks closing and not a word about private campgrounds. Hence – Read the Fine Print!
The federal government has broad Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines that include social distancing as a cornerstone and those need to be followed if we are ever to get out of shelter-in-place purgatory! If you operate in a location with a state-wide or county-wide order that says you are good to remain open but don’t take in any new business, particularly transient business — you need to follow those orders. These are not orders to shut down and kick all your monthly guests out – Read the Fine Print!
Next is the issue of ‘essential business’ and what it means to private campgrounds? First, it varies as many states have actually gotten their local politicians to declare private parks (in writing) to be essential. Other states have said that is their sentiment and you can actually ‘declare yourself’ essential – not kidding here! While other states have not declared private parks as non-essential, therefore you must be that which you weren’t NOT declared. A double negative on non-essential = essential!
Why? Because most states realize private campgrounds have monthly guests who would be displaced. Furthermore, many of those guests are affiliated with health care, communications companies, transportation companies, etc. – all being essential businesses. Fortunately, we haven’t come across any state that doesn’t deem private RV parks – especially those that offer laundry facilities, propane, etc. – to be essential – though it may not be spelled out in the Fine Print!
Drilling down locally, literally, each city and county is different on how they are approaching COVID-19. Even where I’m from, the two biggest counties situated right next to each other have different orders and definitions. It makes it very confusing when staff see things in the newspaper or hears it on the local news or the dreaded Facebook, about what’s happening in Dallas County when we all live and work next door in Tarrant. How do you sort it out? Read the Fine Print!
So, what do you do with all of this if you’re a campground operator? First, learn what you can about orders affecting your city, county or state – a Google search for your county and ‘shelter-in-place’ or ‘COVID-19’ will provide the info. These orders are brief and to the point. They will list who and what needs to shelter-in-place, what’s essential and non-essential, etc. If you don’t see your name in the fine print – read paragraph #4 above once again! Share all relevant information with your guests and future guests. If you’re open, make sure your website or Facebook page says so. If you’re not taking reservations for a few weeks, make sure your website or Facebook page says so. Web traffic is increasing by 25% – 50% around the country – make sure your digital presence is accurate in case your customers want to read the Fine Print!
Why are many government parks being closed and private parks staying open? Aside from the monthly guest at private parks, that most public facilities do not accommodate, there is the aspect of services available at private campgrounds that aren’t available at public facilities. You and your guests must practice the national CDC guidelines to stop the spread of the virus and not risk your industry getting shutdown. This means no gatherings of more than 10 people and giving everyone at least six feet of space.
Make sure your facilities are being properly cleaned and a log is taken so guests are reassured. If you need proper signage to post just send me an email and we’ll mail it to you free of charge as part of what we are doing to help parks and their guests.
Finally, think about your post-COVID 19 marketing. This thing isn’t going to last forever and all marketing, whether digital or print has a little lead time. If you are sheltering-in-place (one owner said it feels like the Witness Protection Program!) you probably have some time on your hands. Get your website up to date, review your collateral (printed) materials and consider what your overall exposure will be for the next year or so.
The pent up camping energy is going to hit us, but probably in stages. Will you be ready?