Discount Double Take

This really should have been a, “What Not To Do Wednesday,” blog post, but since I was traveling Wednesday, I decided to blog about this major, “No No,” today.

In the world of outdoor hospitality, discounts are handed out like candy. You would never find hotels, restaurants, or airlines handing out discounts the way many in our industry feel compelled to offer. Just this week, I spoke to an owner (NOT an AOS park) and pointed out how much money he lost by offering discounts during a highly coveted football weekend. Not hundreds, but thousands of dollars. This is bad business!

The very first park I ever ran as GM, we offered no discounts. However, we trained the staff how to handle this in a very savvy way. When someone would ask, “Do you take (fill in the blank) discount, we would say, “The best discount we offer is on a stay seven nights or more. May we extend your booking to seven nights or more in order to offer you this discount?”

Not only did this stop the conversation over discounts, but it often turned a 4 or 5 night booking into a week long booking. It also prevented the staff from having to say, “No,” to the “Do you offer discounts,” question.

The other way we avoided giving discounts during peak season is by setting aside special weeks for firefighters, military, and policemen. We would offer special rates to them at a time when they could enjoy the park and we needed the occupancy. We would create special events just for them-free of charge.

Offering flat discounts regardless of time period is a bad practice. When demand is high and supply is low, discounts can cut deeply into revenue. Offer your guests a fantastic guest experience and great accommodations and you will not get pushback when you do not cut your rates with discounts during peak periods.

Read more

What Not To Do Wednesday-The Old Bait and Switch

When setting expectations for your guests, it is important to be realistic about what they will experience once they get to your property. Setting unrealistic expectations may get them to your property, but it will not turn them into satisfied, long term guests. You may win the battle, but you will lose the war.

A few years ago, we booked a condo in Lake Tahoe for a family getaway. My husband booked it on VRBO and it looked great. It slept 8 people and was just off the lake. We arrived with high hopes, only to check in to a unit that was a fraction of what was promised. The deck was old and peeling, the porch furniture consisted of one ratty old chair, and the coffee pot was a small little four cup coffeemaker for a unit that slept 8. The lake are near the unit, shown as full of water and waters sports enthusiasts in the photos, had been dry for years.

Park owners can easily make the same mistakes. Just recently we were working with someone who suggested they were not going to use the photos of their site when setting up their online booking page. We were stunned and suggested they NOT take this approach. In fact, the only time we do this is when a park is under construction. We use true to life stock photos and we make the change as soon as the park is open and we can take real photos of the functioning sites.

First of all-this is a sure sign that something is amiss about your sites. It is like looking at a real estate listing of a home, but they never show the interior.

Secondly, if you do get the guest to book, you are surely going to hear about it once they arrive. Furthermore, in this day and age of social media-the whole world will hear about it as well. As soon as I returned from my Lake Tahoe trip, you better believe I let any future renters know that this condo was not all it was cracked up to be.

Lastly, it you know your park is sub-par, do something about it. A little paint, soap, water, and tightly held rules and regulations can go a long way in putting “Lipstick on a Pig.” In our condo’s case, a $100 set of porch furniture, some deck stain, and a $12 coffeemaker could have made up for many of the ills we had with this unit. Showing accurate pictures of the lake area would have allowed us to make a more informed choice.

When setting guest expectations, be clear, be accurate, and take care of the little things that can go a long way!

Read more

Millennials-A Hot Topic

The Millennial market is a hot topic in the Outdoor Hospitality industry. So much so, that we have been invited to speak to this at two separate conferences this fall.

As a mother to five of them, and a boss to many of them, I can tell you I have a great deal of respect for millennials. They are tech savvy, hard working, and up to date on current events.

We have also met and interviewed a great number of them who are either full time RV’ing or doing some serious traveling around the country. Some are single, some are married no kids, some are married and home schooling their kids, and others are extended vacationers who can work remotely. All are in love with the outdoor lifestyle and the many advantages of traveling light.

Most of these modern day vagabonds are college educated, make triple digit salaries, and work during their trips. They are adventure seeking and are more about the overall experience.

In the days and weeks to come, we will be sharing some video clips of interviews we have done with young RV’ers who want nothing more than to get out and stay at one of your parks. They come with enthusiasm, money to spend, and a list of things that are important to them. Stay tuned as we introduce you to your new Snowbird, Winter Texas, or Full Timer. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Read more

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow..or Maybe Not

One of the hardest things I have had to learn in business is that not everyone is my client. In an ideal world, this would not be the case. But in the real world, sometimes the fit is just not right. The larger our portfolio, the more we realize who fits within our mission statement and who is not an AOS client.

The same goes with your guests. As hard as parks want to be all things to all people, there are times when it is in your best interest to pass on a guest.

Most of the time, this parting of the ways occurs over rate. If you have a five star park; you should be charging five star prices. You cannot, nor should you, price yourself to compete with the one and two star parks. If you allow guests to brow beat you-or guilt trip you- into cutting your rates-you decrease your value and invite a clientele that may not blend in with those who are more than willing to pay the higher price.

Another guest to pass on is the guest who will not abide by rules and regulations. We have always had a, “Three Strikes You’re Out,” at our AOS parks. Once we have warned you twice, the third time is the end. When a guest has ignored two warnings-chances of them changing are slim to none. No matter how long they have been coming, or how intimate the relationship, this type of guest is going to be a bad apple.

Finally, the guest you will never please-not matter how hard you try-is one that needs to be cut loose. I learned this very early on in my career. We had a guest book a waterfront cottage at $325 a night every single season. It was good money-but it was a nightmare. The whole week she was there the staff was on edge, the other guests heard the complaints, and we had passed on others who would have rented that same unit with less headache. After three seasons of this, we blacklisted this particular family and did not allow them to return. No matter how hard we tried, something was always wrong and we finally had to face the hard truth that we would never make this guest happy.

Passing on these guests will allow your park to operate a peak efficiency without the distractions these above guests can bring. It is hard to say no to a paying guest, but sometimes parting with them is that way to turn that corner to a more rewarding park operation.

Read more

An AOS Austin Texas Gem

We are so excited about our newest park in Austin Texas. Open Air Resorts is a up and coming market brand, and their flagship, Open Air Spicewood, is open and welcoming all Winter Texans.

Investors Joe and Joel have been a delight to work with and have been committed to excellence from day one. What an honor we have to be a part of the process and manage this stunning park in a picturesque location.

Wineries, rolling hills, Lake Travis are just a few of the area attractions. On site you will find spacious RV and tiny home sites, vintage RV rentals, a beautiful pool and lawn game area, as well as stocked catch and release pond.

We are filling up fast for the upcoming season, so roll on in and stay a while.

Special thanks also to our lender Amplify Credit Union, our contractor HB Construction, Shelton Architecture, civil engineers Optimized Engineering, our attorney Mike McGovern and especially our operating partner Advanced Outdoor Solutions
Read more

What Not To Do Wednesday-Fear Based Decision Making

Whether it be keeping employees who should have been gone long ago, catering to guests who are sub-standard and wreaking havoc on your park, or spending money that needs to be spent in order to increase revenue, we see fear based decisions not only keeping parks back, but often times running them and their revenue into the ground.

More than any other industry in which I have worked, the outdoor hospitality world runs off emotion. I think most of it comes from something that seems very endearing-the blurring of the lines between business relationships and familial ones.

Because the industry is so tight knit, guests tend to become like family, and many park owners are afraid to make business based decisions in fear of hurt feelings or broken relationships. This seems to be admirable, and it can be, but if it gets in the way of running a solid business or a successful park, park owners could end up struggling and unable to run what should be a profitable business.

The same holds true with employees. At AOS, we have been nothing short of amazed when owners have been reluctant to counsel or release employees who are doing real damage to the park. Sometimes, it is as bad as embezzlement, and yet, fear of damaging a relationship prevents them from wanting to move forward with removing the staff member.

Finally-not spending money that needs to be spent is one of the biggest fear based decisions we see owners make. The old saying, “You have to spend money to make money,” is true. Subpar marketing, old and ineffective websites, bad photos, and a lack of attention to rate are just a few of the places where owners struggle to see the value in spending money. When you spend money on good, solid marketing, and pay attention to managing your revenue, the money spent is going to return several times over. In this digital age when everyone can and will shop online, these are funds you cannot ignore when developing a budget.

Cutting corners in today’s market is going to cost you. There are too many savvy shoppers out there-and if you are not reaching them and making good decisions with your money, your guests, and your employees, it will come back to bite you.

Read more

Staying Ahead Of The Competition

The RV industry is growing, and there are new players coming into the market everyday. With this growth, many of our clients are getting concerned about the big boys building or buying parks near them. They wonder how they can stay ahead of the curve and stay profitable and growing in this ever competitive environment.

I learned this lesson early on in my career. I was still working as a CFO with my former firm when they became interested in building a park. The location was close to a very well run, and highly popular vacation resort park. Everyone thought we were crazy. They did not think the market was deep enough or that our amenities and location would work so close to this behemoth of a competitor.

They were wrong.

By creating our own niche, working rates, intense revenue management, and marketing focused on OUR target market, not only did we do well, but in three years we were surpassing the revenue of the competitor park. It took work, daily focus, and savvy decision making, but it was a huge success. After four years of operation, it became an acquisition and sold at a 14 million dollar profit.

Since I was the one responsible for making it happen, I was intensely involved in each step along the way. Now armed with these tools- our AOS team helps our parks in the crunch of competition learn how to not only survive, but thrive in today’s market. Creative marketing, niche attractions, revenue management, and data driven decision making helps our parks not only build better mousetrap, but can help them become an attractive option for investors in hot markets.

Read more

AOS On The Road

Fall is quickly approaching, and for us, that means we are hitting the road for the state and national shows.

Kathleen will be a keynote speaking at the Glamping Summit USA taking place in Aurora Colorado on October 22nd and 23rd. We are honored to have been chosen to lead a seminar and look forward to meeting the folks in this exciting arm of outdoor hospitality. Kathleen will be speaking on:

Winning Over the Millennial Customer

Who is the customer of the future and how do you capture them while maximizing revenue? The rules of engagement are changing and this session talks you through the nuts and bolts in the areas of booking systems, rate yielding and how to market using the millennial language.

Learn: How to utilize revenue management and rate yielding to capitalize on the younger generation of campers, and why ease of booking online is important when targeting this market.

Kathleen Walsh, CEO, Advanced Outdoor Solutions

Next up is ARVC in November in Knoxville TN. Two very talented AOS team members have been chosen to lead sessions at National ARVC.

Daina Behe, our Director of Marketing, and Rachel Godbout, our Director of Operations will be leading, “Social Media 201”

Social Media Marketing 201 
Speaker: Rachel Godbout and Daina Behe

Are you already comfortable with creating posts for your social media pages? Do you catch yourself scrolling through feeds to see what competitors are doing? Learn how to drill down your content, as well as create defined audiences and targeted ads so your posts are seen by the right people to get the most out of your marketing dollars. We’ll also be talking about the importance of creating a visual brand across social media channels.

Rachel will also be leading

Targeting Your Marketing to the Millennial Camper 
Speaker: Rachel Godbout

The Millennial Generation is the fastest growing segment of the consumer sector today. We will teach you how to effectively market to them, explain some of the modern myths and what they really want in a producer-consumer relationship. We will give you practical, easy to follow steps to increase your market share among that consumer group and most importantly we will explain why marketing specifically to this generation is a MUST for a successful business!

We hope to see you on the road. Make sure you attend our seminars and stop by our booths during this very busy seminar season!

Read more

Words Matter

Today’s “What Not To Do Wednesday,” comes from a recent trip out of the Tampa Airport. It was way too early for any reasonable person to be flying, but in the midst of my morning fog, I caught a glimpse of this sign:

Who Ever Remembers Who Came In 4th????

I am sure this ad campaign cost a pretty penny, and yet the wording is all wrong. How much better would it have been to say, “One of the Top Beaches in the US as ranked by TripAdvisor,” or maybe, “Consistently ranked a Top Ten Beach in the US.”

Number 4, YAWN!!

St. Pete Beach is nice, and Tampa is a great town, but this ad campaign is not working for them. Remember, in your marketing-words matter. Not only do they matter front facing, but they also matter on the back end of your digital marketing. As your mother always told you, “Choose your words carefully!”

Read more

Temper Tantrums and Other Things Caused by AOS

One thing you can count on when you hire AOS to resurrect your substandard park-employee temper tantrums.

When AOS takes over a sick park, the first thing we do is diagnose what made it sick to begin with, or in medical terms, we perform triage.

Is it the management? The employees? The owners? The amenities-or lack thereof?

Is it poor cash procedures or lack of revenue management?

I can tell you-it is rarely-if ever-the market. Most often, it is a combination of poor leadership, lackluster employees, and owners who have long since given up. This is where we come in. We arrive on site, roll up our sleeves, and let everyone know there is a new sheriff in town. We get into the trenches and audit the books, assess the maintenance, and start training on how the park will run from this point forward.

Usually within a week of our arrival, all current employees have thrown temper tantrums, quit, threatened to quit, or yelled and screamed the life is not fair. The ones who wanted change will be relieved, but these folks usually left long ago and what you are left with is what got you there to begin with.

If the owners will hang in there, they will come out on the other end with a park they can be proud of, employees who are all in, and books that are audited and reconciled daily. They will find revenue that was missing, and guests that appreciate a well-run, professional environment.

Read more