Editor’s Note: Peter Pelland is the CEO of Pelland Advertising, a company that he founded in 1980 and that has been serving the family camping industry for 40 years. His company specializes in building fully responsive websites, along with producing a full range of four-color process print advertising, for clients throughout North America. Learn more about Pelland Advertising at https://pelland.com.
There is typically a formula behind the content of most campground websites, with the navigation pointing visitors to the essential information that differentiates any one park from its competitors, including a link to a reservations page where the site’s “call to action” may be finalized. The content will likely include a list of amenities, a listing of accommodations and their accompanying rates, a site map that allows potential guests to visualize the entire park at a glance, a comprehensive listing of area attractions, travel directions, a calendar of events, an outline of rules and policies, and perhaps a photo gallery and one or more Google 360 or YouTube videos.
Often overlooked is a page of FAQs — the acronym for Frequently Asked Questions.
Although there may be some overlap with a park’s rules, as well as reservation and cancellation policies, a list of frequently asked questions — and, of course, the answers to those questions — can be very useful in helping guests to plan their stays prior to their arrivals. They also help to minimize the likelihood of misunderstandings and surprises that can set a negative tone upon a guest’s arrival and during that guest’s entire stay. Another big advantage of an FAQ page is its ability to streamline the workflow in your office, particularly when it comes to needlessly answering repetitive questions on the telephone. If you are being asked the same questions day after day, it is an indication that those questions are not being answered on your website or that the answers are buried away in a location that is not easily found. Let an FAQ page come to the rescue!
Most typically, an FAQ page presents a list of brief questions in a conversational format. When users click on a question, it either expands into content that discloses the answer, or it links to a list of answers at the bottom of the page. Although those recurring telephone questions will certainly be included, here are some specific topics to consider adding to your FAQ list:
- Pet Policies and Restrictions: Let your guests know in advance if you limit the number of pets they may bring, restrict certain breeds of dogs, or charge a fee to bring their pets. Also, outline the pet owner’s responsibilities. If you have a dog park or dog wash, be sure to promote that here.
- Check-In and Check-Out Times: Let your guests know your specific arrival and departure times, as well as any early check-in or late check-out fees, if applicable.
- Hours of Operation: These would include hours of operation for your office and store, laundry, game room, any food services that you may offer, honey wagon service, and propane fills. You should also outline the hours of operation for recreational amenities such as your swimming pool, miniature golf course, jumping pillow or water park. A guest who has been on the road all day and can’t wait for a dip in your pool needs to know in advance that it closes at 7:00 PM. While you are listing hours, be sure to mention your quiet hours.
- Add-On Fees: Particularly at a time when many parks try to offer all-inclusive recreational amenities, let your guests know if there are fees to use any of those amenities. If wristbands are required, is there an additional fee? Guests should also be informed in advance if there are fees for things like parking an additional vehicle, a gate card deposit or the use of restroom showers.
- Fishing: If your park offers opportunities for fishing, let your guests know whether or not a license or fee is required. If a pond is completely within your property, there is probably no state fishing license required; however, if your park adjoins a lake, a license is likely to be required. In many instances, there will be no license required for children under a certain age; however, a father helping to reel in a catch probably needs to be licensed. Also, be sure to let them know if they may keep any fish caught or if your fishing is catch-and-release.
- Boat Usage: Hand-in-hand with fishing, are guests allowed to launch their own boats in your pond or lake? If so, are motors allowed, or are there any other restrictions? If you rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboats, now is the time to let people know.
- Rental Accommodation Details: Let your guests know what is included — and what is not included. Do they need to bring their own towels and bed linens, or do you offer linen service, and if so, is there an additional fee?
- Usage Restrictions: Amusement parks typically have signs indicating that “you must be this tall to use this ride”, and you need to let your guests know if any of your recreational amenities are restricted to guests over a certain age, height, or other limitation.
- Visitor Policy: List any restrictions, including fees, on your guests’ visitors. These policies might vary when they apply to seasonal campers as opposed to weekend campers. May visitors bring pets, do they have full use of facilities, where do they park, and is there a limit to the number of visitors per site?
- Group Facilities: If your park has a safari field, picnic grove, pavilion, or otherwise offers facilities that appeal to groups, promote that fact.
- Wi-Fi: Is your Wi-Fi free or fee-based, what are the usage limitations, is the coverage widespread and is a password required?
- EV Charging: Do you allow – or prohibit – the charging of electric vehicles at your campsites or a central charging station? If so, what are the fees involved?
- Tobacco, Alcohol, and Marijuana Use Policies: Where may these be used within your park, and what areas are off-limits? Make your policies clear and enforceable.
- Prohibitions: If you prohibit fireworks, firearms or other types of weapons, generators, political flags, or any type of offensive behavior, let people know in advance. It is never safe to presume that every potential guest will routinely demonstrate basic standards of courtesy or respect for fellow guests
- Secondary Vehicles: May guests use personal golf carts, ATV’s, mopeds or other vehicles within your park during their stay? Outline insurance requirements, age restrictions, and be sure to list exceptions for people with disabilities.
- Forms of Payment: List the credit cards that you accept, along with outlining your policy on the use of anything other than cash for payment. If you charge any credit card processing fees, disclose those up-front.
- Cancellations and Refunds: At the risk of repeating yourself, list these policies again and make them crystal clear.
In addition to adding an FAQ page to your website, it is highly advisable to direct guests to this page and encourage that it be read in its entirety. When a guest makes a reservation, it could include an acceptance of policies that involve a digital signature.
Rather than simply saying “thank you”, add a link to your FAQ page, suggesting that visiting the page will help to ensure the most enjoyable stay possible.