Editor’s note: This is part of a renewed effort to gather business updates from park owners across the country as Woodall’s Campground Magazine works harder to get a better pulse on the outdoor hospitality industry.
Bay Hide Away RV Park & Campground, located on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, made it through Hurricane Ida in August unscathed to continue its record-breaking 2021 season.
“We couldn’t ask for a better season,” said the park’s owner Lea Taylor. “Sadly, Hurricane Ida has been tough on others, but for us, we’ve just been slammed.
“I don’t know how we managed to get through Ida with no damage,” she added. “We lost our power for 45 minutes and the day after the storm, the phone just started ringing off the wall.”
She explained that the first wave of campers were evacuees from nearby Louisiana. Once the evacuees left when the power came back on in their areas, another wave of customers pushed the limits of her 50-site campground on the ocean.
In mid-September, the park was mostly filled with insurance adjusters and workers who were working to help repair Hurricane Ida damage. As Taylor moved into fall, her regular snowbird visitors were beginning to reserve sites as they eyed a move back south this winter.
“They’ll start coming in November,” she explained. “We’re just trying to explain to these folks that are here now who thought they would be here for months that we’re sold out with snowbird reservations. I don’t know how long we’re going to be able to accommodate these adjusters and workers.”
Taylor continues to expand her little campground during these boom years.
“We added 10 new sites last year,” she said. “We’re a smaller park, so we went from 40 to 50 sites. Since we bought the park in 2018, we have been adding things non-stop. We have remodeled our bathhouse, took our clubhouse and converted it to a store, and now we are taking our pavilion that is attached to our store and we’re enclosing it for the wintertime. We do five to seven activities a week for our snowbirds there.”
These added amenities have made a difference.
“The store has been a huge hit,” Taylor noted. “But a small service we are adding this winter is having food trucks come out a couple of times a month. We’ve got fiber internet, a pool, disc golf, as well as a bathhouse and laundry, all the basic stuff.
“We also just added 50 chickens,” she exclaimed. “So now, we have fresh eggs for all our guests. We don’t let people up in the chicken coop, but the chickens are free-ranging”
Taylor stated that on the Gulf Coast some of the big traffic producers are event-oriented.
“We have a classic car show coming that is in its 25th year,” she said. “It’s the biggest event on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and we are sold out for that. When it comes to trends, we are seeing people booking further in advance. The flip side of that is we’re seeing more cancellations. This caused us to change our cancellation policy. They feel like they can’t find a place so they’ll book a whole bunch of places and then they decide where they’re going to stay and cancel.”
Before if campers canceled 10 days or more prior to their reservation she charged them $10. If they canceled four to nine days, she charged them a night. And then three days or less, no refund.
“Now, what we have gone to is four days or more is $25 plus 10% because we’re paying credit card fees since we take payment at booking. We’re taking the credit card fees and we get hit coming and going on them, so we just decided to beef up that cancellation policy a bit and make it simpler. It’s three days or less, no refunds. Four days or more, $25 plus 10% off your stay. We’re hoping that will curtail a little bit of the issues we are having.”
She sees a bright future for her business.
“I don’t see that it’s going to slow down,” she concluded. “I don’t know at what point COVID is going to settle down, but I think that it changed the industry because people want to figure out how they’re going to vacation. Camping, which was already growing, became a bigger thing. I don’t think people are just going to stop camping and go back to cruises and flying someplace for their vacations now that they have a taste of our lifestyle.”