Tracking the Trends

We have been writing a lot this week regarding revenue management strategies and how me implement these at AOS Parks.

One very important factor is to track demand for future dates. We all know holidays and special events create demand, but there are many other factors that affect demand. How to gauge it has been tough, until now.

January 2022, AOS is launching an exciting new technology to assist us with our already stellar revenue management services.

Below is a screenshot from a sample park showing demand for key future dates. By getting in front of high demand dates, we can start yielding rate aggressively and early. We can also set these features to show demand for different accommodation types, not treating everything with one broad stroke.

This new technology can be implemented anywhere in the US, with real time data points. Cutting edge, to say the least.

As always, AOS is ahead of the industry in new and exciting ways. “Thinking Outside The Tent,” is not just a tagline, it is how we manage our parks every day.

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What a Difference Some Days Make: Variable MLOS Targets

2022 budgets are in the books! We are now excited to rock this coming year and make it happen for our client parks!!

While reviewing OTB numbers for 2022 (On the Books) we noticed a great trend-one we implemented this year for next. Namely, our variable MLOS requirements for high demand parks.

The data tells the tale:

We inherited this park in May 2021 and most of the years bookings had been placed.

Average Length of Stay was 2.72 nights in 2021.

With targeted MLOS rules, AOS more than doubled thus number with our 2022 ALOS at just shy of 7 nights. See below

2021 Average Length of Stay
2022 Average Length of Stay

Our Average Length of Stay went from less than 3 nights to almost 7 nights!!! These results happen when our revenue managers, GM’s, and Regionals work together to manipulate days, rates, and policies. Trends will dictate when to drop our MLOS to 3 nights, but for now, we are BOOKING!!

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Pulling Ahead of the Competition

When looking at parks, the comp set is always part of the equation. However, it is not the end all be all in decision making.

When we developed our first park, people thought we were crazy. We were developing 1/4 mile from a park which offered a full waterpark and theme park FREE with the camping experience. Our park did not include such amenities.

Everyone wondered, “How are they going to make this work?”

Not only did we make it work, we blew past them within a few years. How? By focusing on what we did better. By appealing to people who wanted an outdoor experience, but not inside an amusement park. By focusing on a more adult oriented experience rather than kid centric.

It was an aggressive strategy, and it worked.

More recently, we took on an acquisition property near a national REIT’s signature property. With the right marketing mix, marketing dollars, great owners and staff, we blew past previous numbers to have their best year ever.

Results like this take work. They do not happen overnight, but they are possible when AOS is in charge and owners trust us to do the right thing. Targeted marketing, an increase in the marketing budget, great staff, and reworking some of the amenities proved to be the winning formula.

Competition challenges us to think “Outside the Tent,” and to figure out how to pull ahead and leave them in the dust.

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.

As we head into Thanksgiving, we realize how very blessed we are to have traveled once more around the Sun.

This has been a year of victory and also one of loss. We lost a dear staff member to Pancreatic Cancer. We miss him daily.

It has also been a year of victory and growth. We are forever humbled by clients who have placed their trust in us. We can assure you, no one works harder to make your parks a success.

As we head into the Christmas season, we are excited to partner with non-profits across the US via our AOS Roots360 program. Each of our parks will be choosing a local charity to bless this season.

AOS corporate will be partnering with Thrive Women’s Ministry. Thrive mentors young single moms, teaches them job skills, houses them for a year, and puts them on the road to self-sufficiency. We are excited about being a part of their program.

We are forever grateful for our bounty and want to wish all partners, clients, team members, and vendors a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

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Tooting Our Horn

We would like to say, “Congratulations,” to our General Managers Terri Todak and Becky Barnhouse and the entire AOS team!

Our KOA parks in Uniontown PA and Homerville Ohio were recently honored with both Founders Award and Presidents Award at the 2021 KOA annual convention.

Why is this such a big deal? Read below:

WHAT IS THE KOA PRESIDENT’S AWARD

The KOA President’s Award is proudly presented to KOA campgrounds that excel in providing great camping facilities and consistently high levels of guest service. Chosen by KOA’s camping guests through satisfaction surveys and KOA’s own stringent quality inspection, recipients of the President’s Award are dedicated to providing great KOA camping.

WHAT IS THE KOA FOUNDER’S AWARD

Dave Drum, founder of Kampgrounds of America, was an extraordinary visionary and dreamer. The recipients of KOA’s premiere achievement, the KOA Founder’s Award, share Dave’s dream of providing the highest quality camping facilities while exceeding KOA guests’ expectations. As leaders in outdoor hospitality, KOA Founder’s Award recipients embody Dave’s vision of a KOA Nation providing excellence for generations of campers.

Recognizing KOA campgrounds for quality and excellence, this year KOA is pleased to award many of our locations with awards for the upcoming year. Campgrounds that qualify for our Founder’s Award also receive the President’s Award for their outstanding service an commitment to our campers.

Thank you to all team members who worked hard this year to make it happen. Like they say, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”

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Pain Points-Staffing

The AOS team just returned from ARVC. We had a wonderful show and met many new friends, vendors, and clients.

It was clear from our conversations that EVERYONE faced staffing shortages this year. As one owner/operator told us, “I learned how much Red Bull you can drink before it becomes dangerous.”

Another told us some of their most popular ancillary revenue streams had to close mid week due to lack of staff. Of course, revenue suffered due these amenities being shuttered.

Though AOS faced staffing shortages, our pain was much less severe. Not once did our popular revenue streams go down due to lack of staffing.

The reason? Volume! AOS employs over 400 team members across the US. When one AOS park needs staff, we shift from another AOS park to meet the need. When we do this, we send a team member trained in our systems and procedures to support another AOS park in need.

Another benefit of working with AOS is the support and training we can offer team members. This year, AOS rolled out substantial trainings to teach staff how to engage guests, keep risk mitigated, and manage rate and occupancy at the park level.

Finally, we are elated to bring new and exciting features in 2022. Expanded benefit options for team members, AOS Pathways trainings for GM and Ambassadors, and our Roots360 for philanthropy and community involvement.

Training, support, flexibility, and empowerment are all a part of what it means to be “Team AOS.”

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Value Add Adventures

If you know the story of “My Fair Lady,” it is the story of taking the rough and tumble Eliza Doolittle and turning her into the epitome of class and sophistication. At AOS, we are replete with stories of transformation at the resort level

One of our specialties at AOS is Value Add. We have been doing it in the Outdoor Space for 20 Years.

As we say, “We like to take the ugliest girl at the dance and dress her up to be the “Belle of the Ball.”

We have many “Rags to Riches” stories, where location and demand were present, but poor management led to a parks demise.

One of our first was a run down MH park on a waterfront lot. Sewer was above ground, pipes were burst, cabins had years of deferred maintenance, and the staff did not care.

Add to this pool being shut down due to code violations, bath houses running water onto the ground, and leeching septic tanks. This park had stopped caring about guests or the environment years before it came across our radar.

With the right owners and AOS management, this park sold for top dollar within 4 years.

The turnaround was tough. The first items to be addressed were life, safety, and environmental concerns.

Hard decisions had to be made. Staff that led to and assisted in the disaster were let go. Guests were given new guidelines. Elbow grease was applied.

Power washers and paint were purchased. More 50 yard construction dumpers than I can count were hauled in and out. Tractors demoed old buildings and RV’s that could not be moved. Clearing took place and a new guest culture was expected. Bath houses were remodeled or demoed. Repairs and maintenance took place.

Finally, revenue generators such as new Wifi, cabins, upgraded sites, and new or repaired pools, activities, and food and beverage were be added.

What was a disaster has been nominated for “Park of the Year,” many times over.

This is just one of many parks in our portfolio that came to us as a “Sows Ear,” and quickly became a “Silk Purse.”

From the Florida Panhandle, to NY State, to California, the hard working AOS team has assisted our clients in these exciting adventures. When our Eliza Doolittle becomes, “My Fair Lady,” we celebrate with staff and owners who together made it happen!

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Old School Thinking In A New World

I recently toured a beautiful park in the heartland.

It was full of cabins, RV sites, and situated in a stunning location.

The owner was telling me he is sold out every weekend for 2022. This tells me a few things:

  1. The prices are too low
  2. The weekdays are empty

Of course, most owners would be thrilled to be sold out on weekends a year ahead of time.

But in our way of thinking, this has cost the owner tens of thousands of dollars.

What would we have done differently? Here are a few things

a. This far in advance, have a MLOS of at least 7 nights of the high demand units

b. As demand ratchets up, increase pricing

c. As you enter your peak booking window, lower MLOS if needed but yield rate

d. List all roofed accomdations on OTA’s at max pricing with MLOS requirements

e. Take 100% of booking fee at time of booking and have a strict (60 day) cancellation policy

By following these guidelines, the owners would have realized a tremendous bump in revenue AND weekday occupancy like never seen before.

High demand parks with great amenities need not be ghost towns on weekends.

Targeted marketing and MLOS requirements will bring those who want a longer stay at a premium price.

Before 2022 fills up at your parks, consider some of these tips to get your revenue kicked into high gear.

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Meet Us On The Road

Once again, the AOS team will be on the road. This time, the national ARVC show in Raleigh NC.

This show takes place November 8-11 in Raleigh NC.

Please take the time to stop by our booth and say, “Hello.” We are booth 501.

We will have numerous team members with us on both the Operations and Land Planning side. If you wish to discuss 3rd Party Management or building or expanding your park, we are the booth for you!

We are taking appointments now for either booth time or meeting space time. Our calendars are getting filled, so if you want to make an appointment at the booth, please email me at kwalsh@advanced-outdoor-biz. We will gladly add you to the calendar.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in Raleigh!

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Food For Thought – Site Lock Fees

A very hot topic in the outdoor space is “Site Lock Fees.” Parks are jumping on board, charging guests anywhere from $5 to $40 for site lock fees.

Good idea?

For the most part, we would say, “No.” The following illustration shows you why.

This is an AOS park. We have full hookup pull thru sites, and on the following dates (October 15-October 22) we have the following availability:

Site 48 Open three nights

Site 49 Open four nights

Site 50 Open Six Nights

Site 52 Open Three Nights

Nightly rate for Full Hookup Pull Thur Sites is $85 per night.

Say I use site lock fees, and Tom Smith wants three nights during this time. He loves site 50, so he pays a site lock fee of $40 to guarantee he gets site 50.

Mr. Smith just paid me my regular fee of $85 X 3 PLUS $40 for site locks. A Total of $295

Now Mr. Jones calls and wants six nights. I no longer have the room to take this booking since I guaranteed Mr. Smiths site for an extra $40. I have now lost revenue of $510 because I guaranteed a site for $40. A loss of $470.

Unless your site lock fee matches your nightly rate, site lock fees are most likely costing you money. Yes, they show up on your P&L as revenue, but most are not tracking the losses due to not being able to work your grid. A costly oversight!

When do site lock fees make sense? We would say when groups wish to be together. For groups under 10 sites, we would allow site lock fees. For groups over 10 sites, we would waive site lock fees altogether.

Before you jump on the site lock fee bandwagon, think about how it ties your hands to work your grid for maximum revenue. What seems like a win/win, is mostly likely a win for the guest, but a loss for your park.

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