High Fives All Around

We would like to be one of the first to say, “Congratulations,” to our clients the Knapp family on the news their AOS/OHG designed park, “Cabana Club,” has been acquired by Margaritaville Resorts.

We first met this wonderful family at FARVC and we quickly went from consultants to friends. Designing their former blueberry farm into a stunning five star resort was a labor of love.

We worked together for two years drawing and reworking the plan, the market, the rates, the technology and finally opening the doors.

AOS could not have asked for a better group of siblings. It is bittersweet to see it sold, but we are thrilled for the family.

We know Margaritaville will be a stellar addition to Central Florida and guests will continue to enjoy the luxurious amenities at this fine park.

Congratulations to all!

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Red Flags In Your Parks-Domestic Issues

With more and more families taking to the full time lifestyle, a brand new set of issues are arising at parks across the nation.

While full timing is an attractive lifestyle, it can also be a pressure cooker. Small spaces mean small issues can erupt into full blown domestic disputes.

Just this week, a female is missing after she and her boyfriend started their full timing “Van Life,” adventure. To date, she has not been found. However, the body cam footage from a police encounter revealed the small disagreements that can explode when couples and their differences are confined to a space the size of a van.

What does this mean for your parks? It means having to alert and train staff at fully transient parks how to deal with domestic disputes. Formerly, this training was mostly required at long term or seasonal parks. Those days are gone.

AOS is always at the front of tackling these issues. With a full time attorney on staff, we have the muscle to train our staff, and at times the local police, on the rules and regulations of a transient park.

Domestic issues and disputes are dangerous. We train our staff how to get the police involved and engaged from the start. We train the police on state laws and the difference between an RV Park “Guest,” and a “Tenant.” You would think it would be clear to law enforcement, trust. me, it is not.

With the full timing trend growing, your staff must be prepared to deal with difficult guests and know how to work with local authorities to tackle problems before they become emergencies.

With these issues, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a thousand pounds of cure!

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Training At The Beach-Yes Please!!

Once again, the AOS regional managers have gathered for their annual conference.

This time, the conference is being held in beautiful Bethany Beach Delaware.

This conference is an important tool in keeping our regional managers up to date on all things Outdoor Hospitality.

The goal, as always, is to equip our RM’s with the tools to equip your parks. 

Training topics will include:

  • Budgeting for Success
  • How to remove guests safely and legally from a park
  • Managing and exceeding expectations
  • Activities for your parks
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Guests’ guidelines versus Tenant Law
  • Road trip to nearby resort parks-designed by AOS and flipped to Sun

All RM’s in the AOS portfolio will also spend time in Roundtable discussions-learning from each other about what makes their parks tick.

Lastly, off hours will be spent with some beach time and meals together. 

Our RM’s work hard to make sure your parks meet and exceed the goals set forth. Each Monday the week is kicked off with RM meetings and Wednesdays are RM trainings. However, this annual in person conference gives them the opportunity to dive deep with leaders in the industry.

Here’s to a great week!!

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Thank You Team Members

As we celebrate Labor Day, we want to say a heartfelt, “Thank you,” the the AOS team members across the US.

These wonderful folks welcomed thousands of guests this season and helped create a lifetime of memories for friends, families, and adventure travelers.

Often short staffed and overworked, our team members were committed to their parks and exemplified customer service to those entering their campgrounds.

As the second season begins in the North, Northeast, West, and Midwest, those in the South and Southwest are gearing up for their peak season. We know they too will carry on the proud AOS tradition of customer centric service and welcoming atmosphere at your parks.

Not to be forgotten are the hardworking folks at AOS corporate. I work along side these fine people every day, and I am honored that they chose AOS as their work home.

Every week our AOS staff holds calls with the park team members to assist in everything from revenue strategy, risk mitigation, marketing, and operations. I see their dedication each and every day and they are a very important part of what makes us tick.

As Americans enjoy a day off, we want to honor you for your work and dedication. Thank you from your guests and us!!

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Welcome To The Team

We are thrilled to Welcome these (4) new properties into the AOS portfolio.

By the River RV in Kerrville Texas is a wonderful property along the Guadalupe River. It is part of the HTR Brand of properties and our third property in this growing portfolio. Our team members Ilana and Brent will be leading this riverfront park.

Added as well is Branches at Niagara, a gem outside the Niagara Falls National Park. Again, this is an HTR Brand property and is a stunning park with RV sites, cabins, zip lines, lakes, and a stellar staff. The entire staff is staying on board and will be running this beautiful property. Welcome Diana, Marcia, Elaine, Corey and the entire staff of Branches.

Last but not least, our friends from Canada have purchased Shady Shores RV and FairPoint RV and Marina on Lake Ontario in Sterling NY. It is hard to describe the beauty of this location and the commitment of the staff to continue the legacy built by Tim and Cheryl. Welcome to Megan, Nick, Ryan, John, Richard, and the entire staff.

We are always humbled by the trust our clients place in us to run their parks and run them well. We love working with the on site team to make these parks hum.

Thank you and welcome to team AOS!

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Rethinking Deposits and Cancellations

At AOS, we manage our cancellation policies, deposit policies, and fees the same way we manage rate. This is becoming increasingly important in today’s high demand markets.

This article by RV Travel is the perfect example of why you may want to rethink your booking strategies.

In parts of the country where demand is higher than supply, parks are seeing more no shows as travelers book numerous sites to make sure they get one. Additionally, nightly guests are reselling their sites at higher rates, even at private parks. Buying sites and subletting used to be a problem only at seasonal parks-this is no longer the case.

Recently, we changed one our high demand parks to 100% due at booking with a very strict refund policy. We watched to see if it would have an impact on bookings-and bookings continued to soar!

Here is snapshot of just one week after the switch. We made 141 bookings in the week. A full 122 were through our website or OTA, and only 19 were by phone.

Not only did we not slow down, online and OTA bookings shot off the charts. In addition, no shows were no longer a worry as we had 100% of the fee up front. At checkin, drivers licenses are requested to make sure the booker is the guest. Lime green is our website, orange is OTA, and yellow is walkin or call in bookings.

Why did we do this? A few reasons. First of all, it prevents all the woes outlined in the RV Travel article. It also allows our staff to step outside the office and engage with guests. They are paid in full so the office work is minimal at checkin.

We plan to move all of our in season high demand parks to this policy. We have also added “No Subletting” language into our daily and weekly guest forms.

The times are changing and we are making sure our parks do not suffer with the changes.

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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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