The COVID-19 pandemic arguably gave the North American campground industry the biggest boost since 9/11, again reminding people why camping is the safest and most affordable way to vacation with friends and family.
But even during the pandemic, some campgrounds failed to generate business as a result of bad management. That’s what happened at Peachland RV Park in Peachland, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, which is famous for its scenic lakes, wineries and temperate climate.
Only half of the 41 campsites at Peachland RV Park were occupied as of July 2021, which normally would have been peak season, said Angie Finley Braun, who manages the park with her husband, Dan, while receiving guidance from time to time from park owner Doug Turner.
Turner built Peachland RV Park and had a soft opening for the park in March 2021. But the managers Turner initially hired to run the business wound up not being the right fit for the job, as evidenced by the park’s low occupancy and low online ratings when the campground industry was experiencing explosive pandemic-driven demand across North America. But Turner’s luck changed when he met the Brauns and hired them to take over management of his park, which they quickly turned around.
Angie had previous experience working for the Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel, an association that provides training for operators of arenas, pools, parks and sports fields, while Dan spent 28 years overseeing the construction of gas lines in the U.S. and Canada. But both of them wanted to develop and manage a campground and saw the opportunity to do so with Turner as a perfect fit.
“We clicked as a team right away,” Angie said. “We are (now) managing partners with Doug, working and living directly on-site every day and loving every minute of it. Doug is the most genuine man you could ever meet.”
The Brauns not only immediately increased Peachland RV Park’s occupancy, filling up the park by the end of July 2021, but they picked up where the previous managers left off and finished another 41 campsites that were laid out, providing the undeveloped sites with power and paved roads in addition to creating new amenities for the park.
“By the middle of August (2021),” Angie said, “we managed to finish the second phase just in time to get our snowbirds for the winter. We also opened outdoor and indoor storage. That winter we had 95% occupancy for the winter months. In April of 2022, we got our roads paved and by August 2022, our bathrooms and laundry building were complete and open. This year, we are working on our playgrounds, parks, dog runs, trails, convenience store and food trucks.”
Peachland RV Park has also set up a luxury RV on one of their campsites, which is rented out like an Airbnb unit.
Angie said campers are enticed by Peachland RV Park’s large campsites. The smallest sites are 50 by 100 feet, she said.
Angie said she doesn’t know exactly what the previous managers were doing incorrectly, but she said Dan and her have not only increased Peachland RV Park’s occupancy but kept the park’s average Google and TripAdvisor ratings at 4.5 or higher.
Angie said guests can tell when park managers love what they do.
“If you love what you do, it will come through in your work,” she said, adding that they have tried to create a sense of community at Peachland RV Park by organizing special events to bring guests together.
“We put on July 1st events for the kids with water slides and snow cones for Canada Day, which was a hit, and on New Year’s Eve we put on firework shows,” Angie said, adding that the park, which is open year-round, continues to get busier.
“A lot of people come for a day or two and then come back and stay for a month or two,” Angie said, although she said Peachland RV Park continues to accommodate overnight travelers.
Most parks in the Okanagan Valley cater to seasonal campers, and considering the overall decline in the number of campgrounds in British Columbia, it can be challenging for traveling RVers to find places to stay.
The British Columbia Lodging and Campgrounds Association (BCLCA) has documented a significant decline in the number of campgrounds across the province since 2012, according to Joss Penny, the association’s executive director.
“Since we have been keeping records in 2012, we have logged 114 campgrounds as becoming inactive redeveloped or closed representing 4,886 overnight sites,” he said, adding, “In our members’ and nonmembers’ data for 2023, we have 592 campgrounds with 10 or more sites representing 32,536 overnight campsites.”
Penny previously told WOODALLSCM.com (WCM) that growing numbers of campgrounds were being sold as a result of the hot real estate market in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia, which has been fueled by investors from Asia and elsewhere. He said the association is doing online research to identify new parks.
Angie, for her part, said Peachland RV Park tries to keep at least a couple of its campsites available each day for RVers passing through the Okanagan Valley.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said.