When officials at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Northgate Resorts had the idea to drop marshmallows from a helicopter onto a group of children, some people might have thought they were crazy: thousands of marshmallows falling from the sky, after all, is not a typical camping activity.
However, time and time again, officials at Northgate have proved that they are willing to think outside the box to provide exceptional, one-of-a-kind experiences for its campers, according to CEO Zach Bossenbroek.
“We’re all about looking at things from a fresh perspective and trying new things,” he explained.
Since its founding in 2013, the company has acquired 11 campgrounds that it operates, with two more properties on the horizon — one of which is set to be built from the ground-up.
“Our passion is creating family camping memories for our guests that will last a lifetime,” said Caleb Hartung, chief data officer for Northgate and CEO of Campspot, Northgate’s reservation software company.
Out of its 11 parks, nine are franchised as Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Parks Camp-Resorts.
According to the company’s COO, Greta Bossenbroek, Northgate Resorts has seen its growth rate quintupled since the company’s founding.
“A lot of our success can be attributed to the fact that we have so many good people on our robust team,” she explained.
Greta Bossenbroek said that Northgate Resorts is willing to take ideas from anyone, and the company lets employees thrive in their areas of interest, contributing to Northgate Resort’s fast-moving approach in the industry.
“There really are no limits to advancement,” she noted. “If an employee excels in an area and enjoys their work, we let them run with it.”
Still, finding good employees to work at the company’s parks has been a challenge. Stress, especially during a park’s peak season, can have an impact on employees, according to Greta Bossenbroek.
She also reported pressure, tension and worry as the reasons for her company’s focus on employee appreciation.
“We try to relieve pressure with weekly department manager calls, training programs and even our gratitude events, like employee appreciation week,” Greta Bossenbroek explained.
Northgate attributes much of their growth in recent years to Campspot, a reservation software platform it developed to give its parks an edge over the competition, and has since expanded to offer its platform to parks and campgrounds acorss North America.
“We are thriving on the system, as it allows our customer service representatives to focus more on the campground experience and less on reservations. In one campground, 80% of reservations are made online,” said Zach Bossenbroek. “It gives an intuitive experience to the camper as sites appear on a map, and it walks them through the process like hotel software.”
While excellent staff and a state-of-the-art reservation system are important to Northgate’s success, the company also knows that the guest experience is what keeps customers coming back.
“Meaningful experiences are what sets us apart,” said Greta Bossenbroek. “We focus on making sure campers of all kinds will be able to find activities to keep them busy their whole stay. Between our variety of amenities which include water parks, ninja courses, and bumper boats, to our themed events occurring all year and spanning patriotic parades to fire dancers, we know we’re giving unique experiences guests can’t wait to tell their friends about,” she added.
Officials say Northgate is also dedicated to providing its campers unique and Instagram-worthy accommodations.
“We’re always willing to try something trendy, whether that’s tiny homes or treetop cabins,” said Zach Bossenbroek.