One Size Does Not Fit All

When pricing your sites, most parks realize that backs in sites, pull thru sites, etc. should be priced differently and they do so accordingly.

What many parks do not take into account are the nuances between like kind sites. Thus they price all back in sites the same, or all pull through sites the same, though there are nuances between the same site class that would allow for differentiation in pricing.

This week I am out west and visiting new clients along the Pacific Coast. As I walk the parks, it is clear that the pricing structures need to change. For instance, one park has all back in sites priced the same. Yet-four of the sites have stunning, and I mean stunning, Ocean Views. Looking at the occupancy, these sites are in high demand. They should NOT be sold at the same price as the regular back in sites.

Another park has back in sites on the interior, but near the pond. Again-as we say at AOS-“There is waterfront and there is everything else.” Thus, waterfront or water view should never be the same price as other sites.

This seems simple, right? All waterfront or water view should be higher, but there are other circumstances that are not as evident. Even if parks up-charge for premium views, they often fail to charge for desired locations. Some desired spots are near pools, playgrounds, or cul-de-sacs. Others might have sites close to bath houses or amenities that cause guests to covet those sites above others. Look at the guests behavior and their requested sites and you will quickly see where are few more dollars added to the ADR can mean tens of thousands of dollars added to your bottom line.

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The Why Behind The Rules

Rules and structure have always been very important to me. It is probably why I chose to study accounting in college. Accounting follows very logical rules, and at the end of the day, the math adds up and is reconcilable. Black and white thinkers like me love this about accounting.

Rules, however, must make sense. There must be a method behind the madness. We often go into parks and find rules and regulations in place than not only make NO sense, but they are a hinderance to the overall guest experience.

One recent example is a park with, “No Dogs Over 40 pounds permitted in the park.” When I asked if it was a local code ordinance, they said, “No,” When I pressed further and asked why they had this rule, there was no reason. It was just always there. I pointed out that Labrador Retrievers are the number one breed in the US, and they are almost always over 40 pounds. The park, without any good reason, was banning guests who own the most popular breed in the nation.

Another absurd interaction was with a GM who had refused to allow coffee makers in the cabins. When we ordered them and they arrived on site, there was major pushback. There was-again-no good reason for this rule. When pressed, the GM replied, “They can walk to the office to get coffee.” Clearly, guests do not want to get dressed and walk up the road just to get a cup of coffee. Again, rules with no diminishing the guest experience.

Code compliance rules are one thing and are meant for matters pertaining to health and safety. Random rules with no rhyme or reason are often made by staff who do not wish to deal with pets, children, guests-or coffee. This is a bad precedence to set for any hospitality venue. The goal of a park is to make the guest experience one of fun, relaxation, pampering, and overall enjoyment. Check your rules and make sure your guests are not hearing, “No, No, No,” when “Yes,” is a much more welcoming word.

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Road Tripping Through the US

The AOS team have been road warriors so far this year. We are honored to have new clients in Michigan, Tennessee, New Jersey, Washington State, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and Oregon.

We have been all up and down the state of Florida working with new clients on new projects.

We have been in Colorado working with existing clients and getting their processes and procedures in place. As we exited, one staff member told us we got more done in three weeks than they have accomplished in years.

Well-that’s how we roll. We move quickly and efficiently to make things happen.

All in all, a pretty eventful start to the year.

We are also beyond excited to have been announced as speakers at this year’s NJCOA Annual Meeting in Dover DE. This is sort of where it all began, so we are really excited to be a presenter at this conference. We have also been invited back to speak at the Glamping Conference again this coming season. We really look forward to reconnecting with the many fine folks we met in Aurora. What a pleasure it was for Rachel and me to meet everyone.

Stay tuned for other news and events …and we hope to add your park to our portfolio along the way! Thanks to each of you for putting your faith in us.

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Moving Dirt and Taking Names

Having just returned from a long road trip-we are beyond excited to see some of our land plans coming to fruition.

It is exciting enough to see our land plans on paper, but when we are on site and see the dirt moving and the sites taking shape, there is a whole other level of anticipation.

What makes our land plans better than others? Well for one, we approach all our land plans from the operational and guest experience perspective. Will it work for the guest and maximize revenue? These are our first questions.

We also want to know how to maintain the environment so that both nature and guest are protected. We plan to make sure the modern day guests and their families are able to navigate our property safely, and their four legged family members will be included in the experience.

Lastly, outdoor hospitality is all we do. Our land planners know where to place the utilities, how to arrange the sites, how to create unique amenity areas, and how to draw a flow that works. They make sure there is enough density to make the numbers work, but enough space for guests to get the entire outdoor experience

Our parks have won awards, have been nominated for ARVC parks of the year, and most rewarding, have afforded young and old alike unique vacation experiences and a lifetime of memories.

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What Not To Do Wednesday-Ignore the Loopholes

No matter how well intentioned, park owners often fail to close the loopholes that lead to lost revenue. The familiarity and family atmosphere often prevent these owners from running their parks like a well oiled machine.

In our experience here is the list of place where we clamp down and help our owners spot lost revenue:

  • Laundry-Make sure whoever empties the laundry machines is someone who is trustworthy, records the revenue immediately, and makes the deposit the same day. Ideally, it would be a two part system where one employee empties the machine while another looks on while the quarters are weighed and recorded. Better yet, move to credit card or blue tooth enabled machines that bypass cash altogether and the money land directly in your bank account.

Vending Machines-the same holds true with coin operated vending. Make sure there is accountability with the way the money and supplies are handled. It is very easy to find sodas, snacks, or money missing when you do your own on site vending.

Propane-Propane is invisible and can easily slip through the cracks. Make sure you keep a propane pumping log at the pump, there is a clear process for pumping and payment, and no guest is allowed to get tanks filled without prepayment or being escorted to the payment register for payment.

Credits and Refunds-at AOS, we watch credits and refunds like a hawk. When we reconcile night audit reports, credits and or refunds are an automatic red flag. We look at the bookings associated with the credit or refund and we make sure there are legitimate reasons whey these occurred.

Storage-It is very easy to have RV’s, boat trailers, and the like in your storage unit and not even know they are there. We ask our parks to run a storage audit once a month-listing the number of units in the storage lot, the make, model, tag number and then compare it against guests who are being charged for storage.

Extra Charges and Fees-for a park that charges for extra people, vehicles, and pets, this can be a gold mine. At one of my parks, we swept the park twice a day looking for these offenders. If a site registered (2) guests, but there were (6)chairs around the fire ring-chances are-we had missing revenue. At a busy park with hundreds of sites, a sweep through the park looking for unregistered guests, vehicles or pets can net several hundred dollars.

These are just a few ways to tighten your belt, close the loopholes, and gain some much needed revenue.

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Welcome to the AOS Family

As we close 2019 and look toward 2020, we are excited to welcome two great parks into our portfolio.

Lakeview RV in Tennessee is a beautiful property located in Bluff City TN near the Bristol Motor Speedway. This property boasts 151 full hookup sites, a swimming pool, playground, pavilion, store and laundry.

The new owners and the AOS team are looking to bring some exciting changes to this park. Stay tuned for the new website, online booking, and exciting upgrades.

Our second new park this month is Hidden Ponds RV in South Haven Michigan. We look forward to working with the team there to make this a true destination property -minutes from the shores of Lake Michigan and an easy commute from many of the major populations center of the Midwest.

The AOS team is looking forward to working with these and many more clients in the upcoming year.

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A Very Merry Christmas to All

We at AOS want to take the time to wish each and every one of you a blessed and Merry Christmas!

In the day in and day out hustle and bustle of the year, we fail to mention how much we appreciate the trust that you have placed in us and our team members. We understand how hard you have worked to make your resorts a success, and we want you to know this is not lost on us. We take this seriously and large or small-we treat your parks as if they were our own.

We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2020 to make it a prosperous and successful year.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.

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Seeing Into The Future

I am not prophetic, and I hold no mystical powers. However, my team and I stay up to date on industry news, trends, and market analysis. Thus, I have been saying for years-stop rolling out the “You’re Not Welcome Carpet,” to younger travelers and families with kids. Some have listened; some have not.

This week, WSJ put out an interesting article dealing with the over production by the manufacturers. Hidden within that article were the following statements:

The recreational-vehicle sector has been highly cyclical, but recently ‘glamping’ has brought in younger buyers. A Jackson Center, Ohio, production plant for Thor Industries’ Airstreams. PHOTO: ANDREW SPEAR FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

BySpencer JakabDec. 13, 2019 5:30 am ET

“—younger, more diverse buyers have embraced glamping and #vanlife in the past decade, helping to boost interest in RVs—especially lightweight, towable models.:

‘Once inventories are back to normal, the industry’s marketing dreams could play out. A recent report by Kampgrounds of America shows an ongoing demographic shift. Between 2015 and 2018, for example, the share of households new to camping who were Hispanic doubled and the overall share of nonwhite households new to camping rose to 51% from 40%. The share of campers with children rose to 52% in 2018 from 35% in 2012. Campers who prefer the comfort of an RV or a cabin over a tent rose to nearly half from one-third between 2015 and 2018, says KOA.’

In a blog post earlier this year-and at my 2019 Glamping Conference Speech-I highlighted the importance of these changing trends. We went a step further and shared “Man on the Street” video interviews we had done with younger travelers and got a glimpse into glamping/camping adventures.

While manufacturers overproduced in order to meet demand, they did so at the peak of sales-and now inventory must find balance again. This is expected to happen in 2020-with again more intense focus on the glamping sector and younger buyers.

Stay put if you want-put the trends are changing and you and your park must be willing to change with them.

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What Not To Do Wednesday-Trust and Not Verify

Ronald Regan had a wonderful saying, “Trust but Verify.” This is the motto he lived by when dealing with Cold War Russia. It was a motto that led to the eventual fall of communism across the globe.

This is a motto we live by when dealing with the finances at our AOS managed parks. We trust our park’s staff, but we verify they are doing things correctly.

This week we are helping a client who is buying two parks. At both parks, the owners suffered at the hands of staff embezzlement.

Since we watch our clients numbers daily, we catch “odd” behaviors-sadly, many parks do not catch nefarious activity until is it way too late.

When we came upon our second park in one week with this issue, I said to my team, “How does this happen?”

One of my staff quickly replied, “They do not run their parks like a business, but rather as some sort of social club.” She could not have been more correct.

The owners of both parks mentioned above looked upon their staff as, “Family,” and never reviewed the books each day. This is where AOS takes a different approach. We immediately catch things like ongoing refunds, management credits, and excessive number of cancellations. When we notice oddities, we dig deep to discover the details and verify the legitimacy of the action. This is paramount to running a well oiled machine.

Most owners do not have time to look over the staff’s shoulders. They are too busy running their business to run their business. 3rd party mangement companies have the time to dig deep, and pay for themselves by catching such errors or ommissions.

Whether you run your park, or hire 3rd party management-make sure you look at your number daily!

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What Not To Do Wednesday-Argue With Market Price

I am originally from the Eastern Shore-“The Delmarva Peninsula,” as we call it. This stands for the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia Peninsula. Delmarva is known for agriculture, amazing beaches and Maryland Blue Crabs! If you are from Delmarva-and Maryland specifically-you most likely LOVE crab and know how to pick them.

When you buy crabs at any time of year in Maryland, you are going to pay, “Market Rate.” There is no set price-the rate is based off daily supply and demand. Marylanders know it, don’t argue with it, and if they want crabs, they pay it. If the crab industry gets this concept-why are we still so backward in the Outdoor Hospitality Space?

Too often, we hear owners say to us, “Our rate is too high; we are not worth this.” I remind them, the market is telling them otherwise. Their revenue is up and the market is paying the rate.  The market is telling them they will pay that rate and they are worth it.

They seem to be very scared to allow rate to be pushed. I say to them what I say to my staff…“Numbers don’t lie.” Numbers will tell us when the market has not been pushed enough or when it has been pushed to the limit. Yet, daily we have park staff or owners want to buck the market and go rouge.

I find this to be a battle unique to this industry. Never did we have Marriott micromanage our revenue managers. They cared about the rate and occupancy balance, and if these were working, they never drilled down into what we were charging or the occupancy percentages. They just wanted revenue managed.

Here at AOS we find it takes very savvy owners and investors to understand Revenue Management. Some are just never going to get it-and that is the struggle we see this industry when managing revenue. The familial relationships they form with their guests, and the contra-market thinking lead them to lose revenue every day because they are not willing to agree with the market and charge market rate. 

Take a lesson from the mighty crab industry, allow us to set your prices at market rate and make you money while doing it. By doing so, you will see overall revenue increase even if occupancy falls. This is the magic that happens when the market is heard.

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