Mobile Is The New Normal

If you have parks with any demand drivers at all, you know this year is off the charts. Like…mind blowing off the charts. Particularly at parks that have transient availability. Transient guests are driving occupancy and revenue numbers into the stratosphere, and the graph below may give us some insight.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Americans are trending away from traditional housing into a more nomadic lifestyle. In fact, according to this 2021 data, spending on mobile living (RV’s and Houseboats included) has more than doubled.

It may take years to understand the seismic shift created by COVID. But in this industry, I can tell you it has been felt since day one. It was a mixed bag at first. Canadians left the south and southwest early last winter and have still not been permitted back. However, northern US guests stayed longer in the south, somewhat evening out the harm. Transient guests have swooped in this summer causing even aggressive budget numbers to be blown past. Some parks have reached their annual revenue by Mid-July.

There is no end in sight for the “New Normal,” as young and old alike take to the roads and work from their RV’s. This industry is playing catchup to make sure their amenities are fit for these new tech savvy and demanding clientele. Stay tuned….it is a fun ride.

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Five Feet Five Words

In hotel training, we learned that if we were within five feet of a guest, we should say five words. These could be any number of sentences, but most often were things like:

“How are you doing today?”

May I help with anything?”

“Are you enjoying your stay?”

This week, I visited a park where the owner exemplfied this practice. I spent a full two days with him, and anytime he saw a guest, he said,

“Thank you for staying with us.”

Ok, yes, this is six words, but they conveyed a strong message of appreciation. Most guests replied, “Thank you for having us,” or “This is our third time this year.”

I noticed as soon as he said this to a guest, they perked up and felt valued. They knew he noticed and wanted to honor their choice to stay with him.

He also wore a name tag with just his name. No label stating he was the owner and he wore the same uniform shirt as all other staff.

This allowed guests to speak to him freely and address any issues they might be having. However, I never heard one complaint.

My week with him was a strong reminder that, “Five Feet Five Words,” can be a great tool in letting our guests know that we know we would not survive without them.

Try this at your park and watch your guests shine back at you.

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Math You Can Trust………Amenities=Rate+Occupancy

One of the questions we are asked most often is, “What amenities should I build at my park,” It is a great question and one that needs to be pondered before embarking on any major cap ex upgrades.

The answer is, “It depends.” The truth is, the right amenities increases both rate and occupancy.

One of the amenities that is most requested in a park is a pool. It does not matter if you are on the ocean, a lake, or a pond, people want a pool. If an owner tells me guests are not asking for one, most often they are not telling me the truth or they are not speaking to the front desk staff.

My very first park was close to an ocean beach with a private bay beach on site. People still demanded a pool. Then a second pool. Then a splash pad. And now, they want another pool.

A pool, conservatively speaking, adds about $5 per night to a site night and increases occupancy about 5%. If you are a park of 150 sites, and you spend $150,000 on a pool, this is what is looks like:

No Pool 150 sites 50% annual occupancy $50 ADR = $1,368,000

Pool 150 Sites, 55% annual occupancy $55 ADR = $1,656,000

Year one return on pool $288,000

Other coveted amenities such as 5 star bathrooms, splash pads, screaming fast Wifi, and concrete pads can also provide ADR and Occupancy boosts.

Never plan to go into a park with sites only and then expect to add amenities from cash flow. It is a bad idea. You will depress your ADR, attract a demographic looking for a lower ADR, and struggle to become something else in the future.

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The Myth That Everyone Is Replaceable

I have always hated the saying, “Everyone is replaceable.” First of all, because it devalues people. Secondly, because it is simply not true.

It is with very heavy hearts we say, “Goodbye,” to one of our dear team members and night auditors, Jerry Chalmers.

Jerry was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in early 2021 and he passed this week. Jerry has not been and will not be replaced.

Jerry was the sort of person everyone wants on their team. He was a “No Drama,” kind of guy. He just came to work, put his head down, and worked. He was a great team member, learned quickly, and was a behind the scenes kind of employee who sniffed out irregularities on daily postings and chased them down with a vengeance. Our clients will never know the savings he realized by finding things before they happened.

He also printed more than anyone I know, used more paper than all of us combined, and we had many laughs with him over this subject. He loved his family, his car, and the Baltimore Orioles.

He also loved working at AOS and never failed to tell us this. He, Lori, and Jody were a fierce threesome, and I know they have missed him since he left for treatment. He knew we were a special place and he promised to be back once he beat cancer. Sadly, this dream will not become a reality.

We are praying for his dear wife and sons. He is gone way to early from us and those near and dear to him.

Rest in Peace dear friend, you have not been and never will be replaced. G-d Speed.

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“A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” John F. Kennedy

Having just left Moab, Niagara Falls and Acadia National Parks, I could have written this article, but here it is from a verified publication.

The title is, as follows and the link is below.


US national parks’ growing popularity prompts warning
Read all about it

The “Warning” bodes well for private parks. Namely, the US National Parks are seeing record numbers of guests. Utah parks are up as much as 30% over last year, with most others up double digits as well.

“Some parks are even requiring reservations just to drive down roads or journey along trails. Park rangers across the nation are all issuing the same warning: be mindful of when you visit a national park amid this surge of park guests.

Day passes for the parks are often sold out by 9 AM. Campsites are even more limited. What are the options? YOUR PARKS! Instead of viewing national park campgrounds as “Competitors,” embrace them as a place that drives business to your park! Offering more sites, more amenities, and more creature comforts allow park guests to visit them by day, but enjoy your park at night.

Records are being shattered this year as COVID introduced people a new subset to outdoor hospitality, and a year of quarantine brought cabin fever to all of us. We are now mid-summer, and the best is yet to come!

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To OTA or Not OTA-This Is The Question

Every week there seems to be a debate over the value of list inventory on OTA (Online Travel Agencies) channels. The blogs are replete with owners and managers arguing the topic. Park owners look with suspicion on the Expedia, Booking.com, and Air BB’s of the world.

Let me try to settle the debate once and for all~ OTA’s work-period!! They book sites and they introduce an audience to you that may not otherwise know you exist.

The following graph is a true representation of a true AOS park. As noted, OTA and Online Bookings beat traditional call in or walk in bookings by almost two to one.

Bookings by Type
Orange Call or Walk In Bookings
Yellow Online Bookings
Lime Green OTA Bookings

If brands such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt believe in the OTA model, why does the Outdoor Hospitality industry fight it tooth and nail?? To do so is at your own peril and you miss the vast amount of revenue produced via OTA channels. You also allow your competitors an advantage as most of their inventory is most likely listed.

Stop treating OTA’s a foe and start embracing them…your enemy will soon be your friend.

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Reputation Is Earned

AOS team members across the country had a high level training this week on Reputation Management.

Rao, a part of our revenue management team led the training. As is the case with all AOS revenue managers, Rao knows his way around revenue, OTA’s and reputation management.

This week, He specifically focused on NPS “Net Promotor Scores” and how to improve them.

His training this week included the following:

  • Our current status vs NPS
  • How to increase surveys and return ratio
  • How can we increase NPS ? 
  • Future of Reputation Management and its impact on RevPOS. 

Most interesting is how NPS affects revenue. The following data, provided by Cornell University School of Hospitality Management confirms the importance of NPS.

If you are an AOS client, you know we train weekly on guest services, revenue management, budgeting, PMS systems reporting, and HR issues. No other team in the industry trains as much as we do. You can be sure your GM’s and Regionals are attending trainings and calls weekly to get them trained and moving in the right direction.

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Seismic Shift

If you have been paying attention at all to the industry, you know there are monumental changes occuring.

I am not talking small changes, I am talking disruptive changes. Some are common knowledge, some are about to be revealed later this year.

Change is inevitable, and this article from RV Travel highlights the changes occurring in Outdoor Hospitality.

Like it or not, change is coming and it is not a trickle, it is a raging river. Getting with the program, taking advantage of new technologies, and adjusting to the changes will be an exciting adventure for all.

I have been in the industry for 20 years, and I have never witnessed so much change happening so quickly. Mom and Pops are selling, corporate investors are flooding in, software MUST change to meet the demands, and cutting edge ways to travel are about to be revealed. AOS is keeping up with all of it, and is looking forward to being at the forefront of the shift!

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Getting Comfy in Buying Parks

We have noticed an interesting phenomeon in the buyer and seller relationships this past year. Our clients are most often the buyers, and the sellers are most often couples or family groups.

While 90 percent of the processes are easy and all parties are on the same page, 10 percent of the time we see things become rocky. Typically, it has to do with one spouse being excited to sell and the other spouse wanting to hold the asset. The same with family groups. Some of the members wish to sell; others are not sure what life will look like outside of running a park.

When the latter occurs, it can make the due diligence period painful. One way to protect yourself during this phase is to have a “Comfort Clause,” or “Letter of Comfort,” as part of your agreement.

Will Kenton, Writer for Investopia writes:

Two parties in a business deal can use a letter of comfort to put in writing the outline of the terms of their deal. Most major business transactions require a lot of time on management’s part to perform due diligence before they can finalize a deal. A letter of comfort can summarize the steps each party agrees to take to ensure the successful completion of the transaction. A well-written letter of comfort can assure each party that the time spent on completing these tasks will be well worth the effort.

This clause calls for access and data to be shared in an open and accessible way. It prevents sellers from holding out on important information until the day of settlement. It calls for transparency regarding files, figures, permits, site access, and inspections.

Many times, the sellers are reluctant to allow buyers on site to take photos needed for a new website or to gain access to their PMS system in order to pull reports needed for budgeting and forecasting. This hinders our clients and puts them at least a month behind where one should be on opening day. An important corollary to this occurs in connection with paid reservations. The buyer wants to know what payments will be delivered to them at the time of settlement.

Adding a “Letter of Comfort,” to your LOI’s or Purchase Agreements can ensure you get the data and the access you need to make informed decisions well before the day of settlement.

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