Private campgrounds and RV resorts appear to be doing better financially than many would expect during a period of falling RV sales, according to statistics contained in a 2008 economic survey commissioned by the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC).
Around 75% of private park owners made an average of $147,508 in improvements to their parks in 2007, according to the survey, which was prepared by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Most parks invested in improvements to their landscaping, electrical connections, roads and wireless Internet service, according to Thomas Combrink and Cheryl Cothran, who jointly discussed highlights of the survey during the Nov. 12–15 InSites 2008 Convention & Outdoor Hospitality Expo in Nashville.
But while the private park industry has struggled to accommodate the increasing size of many of today’s towable and motorized RVs, only 19% of parks reported combining sites to handle larger vehicles.
Combrink noted that the typical private park has six acres of undeveloped land that could be used for expansion purposes. “So there is room in the system to grow,” he said.
Many of the improvements have been implemented by new campground and RV park owners, Combrink said, adding that one-third of private parks changed hands during the past five years. Twelve percent of parks were on the market at the time of the survey, he said, adding that 37% of park owners expect to pass ownership of their business on to someone else in their family.
The survey identified one potential problem area for new as well as existing park owners: 24% of park owners said they were not sure of the zoning given to their park. “If you don’t know what your local zoning status is, you may be vulnerable or at risk with your local governments,” Combrink said.
Following are additional highlights of the survey:
• Private park occupancies: 62% was the average park occupancy rate, with the average park having a 270-day season.
• Discounts: 72% of parks offer some form of camping discount to members of the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Good Sam Club, members of the military and organized groups.
• Park income: Parks typically report 50% of their income from site rentals. Other sources of income include revenues from campground stores, food and beverage services and equipment rentals.
• Rental units: 60% of parks offer rental units, with most offering “five or six” cabins.
• Camp stores: 75% of parks have a camp store, with typical inventory items ranging from ice cream and snack foods to personal care items and RV supplies.
• Electrical Service: 37% have 50-amp service and 37% have 30-amp service
• Wireless Internet service: 79% of parks offer wireless Internet service, 82% of which offer it for free.
• “Green” park practices: 74% use flourescent light bulbs, 57% are involved in recycling efforts, 32% report efforts to reduce water use, 23% report efforts to reduce electricity consumption and 21% are using xeriscaping.
• Online marketing efforts: 95% of parks have a website, 89% of which have links to other sites.
• Preferred advertising venues 78% use the Internet, 70% use tourism directories, 65% use state campground directories, 64% use national campground directories, 58% use brochures
• Campground management: 63% of parks are managed directly by their owners and 26% of parks use professional park managers.