Hitting The Mark In Your Outdoor Resort Marketing

When it comes to your social and digital media, results are what matters. Money spent must be converted into real dollars, good bookings, deposits placed, and guests satisfied.

When AOS manages your marketing, KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are part of the weekly reports you get in your packet.

Why is this important?

Because far too often, resort or park owners spend money on marketing, but never really know if their dollars are converting to bookings. With AOS, not only do you get reports such as the one below, but we give you hard data on how many bookings came through as compared to what was spent.

Our marketing team is equipped with all the certifications and knowledge needed to attack marketing in this day and age. Here are just a few of the skills sets under our roof:

Google Adwords Certification

Facebook Blueprint Certification

Google Analytics Certifications

Adobe Creative Cloud Expert Level

SEO and Keyword Certification

Certified Content Managers

Final Cut Pro and Zillow Real Estate Certificates

FAA Drone Licenses

Make sure you vet your marketing team and demand KPI reports and verification that they are up to date on all things digital. If you need a more experienced leader, check us out and let us show you what we can do.

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Sneak Peak-Glamping Show USA

This week was a BUSY one. We held our annual “Thinking Outside The Tent,” training seminar with our entire staff in our SW Florida offices. We held regular work sessions and six intense work sessions focusing on Client Expectations, Marketing for Success, SWOT Analysis, Work Flow Procedures, and many Q&A sessions. We wrapped up with a BBQ and Dance Party with our very own Papi Roisterous at the helm. Photos are forthcoming…

This week I also taped two promos for the upcoming Glamping Show USA. This year, COVID has us virtual, but they have over 900 participants signed up to attend this online event.

I am honored to be a Keynote and my topic is, “Turning Dreams into Destinations.” Here is a sneak peak at what will be discussed during my event.

You do not want to miss attending this informative and cutting edge industry training and virtual show. You can sign up here to attend and learn from leaders in our industry. The virtual show will connect you to vendors uniquely situated to help you succeed in the space.

Last years event was BUSY..we had a two day booth and we had lines or both days. We are super excited to once again be virtual and look forward to seeing and hearing everyone who will be in attendance.

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Rate Yielding By Location

When I speak across the US about managing and yielding rate, I am still shocked at how most people in this industry are reluctant to even consider the possibility.

I have shown park owners over and over again how just manipulating rate a few dollars here or there can result in thousands of additional dollars to the bottom line.

After having led seminars across the US on this very subject, even I was surprised where I found rate yielding this week…..based not on supply and demand, but demographic and having to do with medication.

I was in Bethany Beach DE spending time with family when I realized I had run out of my asthma inhaler. Through my insurance, I have an app showing me the cost at the different local pharmacies (see below.) My inhaler was almost $10 more at my location than a location 10 miles inland and in a less prosperous area. You see, Bethany Beach is a bedroom community for wealthy Washingtonians, and the pharmacies in the area know this..so if you are in Bethany and you need medication, you are going to pay more than if you were a local living inland.

Some might consider this an unfair practice, but the market considers it the simple rule of supply and demand. If this product is demanded in the wealthy vacation spot, then the consumer will pay the price. It all goes back to this very basic principle of business:

Key points

  • The law of demand states that a higher price leads to a lower quantity demanded and that a lower price leads to a higher quantity demanded.
  • Demand curves and demand schedules are tools used to summarize the relationship between quantity demanded and price (Khan University)

The price locals are charged inland has been determined to be the price they will pay-the same rule applies to Bethany Beach.

When considering your perishable inventory item, “Site Nights Sold,” consider the rule of supply and demand and what the market is-at any given time- willing to pay for your inventory. This will help your rate, occupancy, and overall revenue stream by matching market price and demand with your guests willingness to pay.

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Go Away-Ye Who Wish To Spend Money With Me

“What Not To Do Wednesday” is back with a vengeance. After traveling for the past month, I have a whole new arsenal of hospitality, “No No’s.”

Today, police state signage. Below is an actual sign at a “Welcome Center,” check in station:

I am middle aged, married and and by no means a “Party Animal,” but if I rolled up on this, I would be out. No talking after 11 PM?? I cannot sit by my fire and have a glass of wine and converse?? Really!!

The best part is the bottom line, “If this is not your style, please leave now and save us both the hassle.” Just when I think I have seen it all, I see this.

I met the folks who run this park, they are nice people, but you would not know it from the sign. Instead of a welcoming entrance, this is what you are greeted with at the check in area.

Don’t get me wrong, we have rules in all our parks, but we never lead with the negative. Instead, we have clear rules on our websites, make sure everyone agrees to them at booking or checkin, and then we address the very few incidents as needed.

Here is how AOS would have worded this sign:

“Welcome to our park! We are so glad you have chosen to stay with us.” Then we would have had a separate rules sign stating:

“We know you are here on vacation and we want you to enjoy your stay, for everyone’s safety and pleasure, please keep in mind:

Others are trying to sleep after 11 PM, so please use inside voices when outside on your site. Refrain from playing music or outdoor TV after 11.

Please keep your kids safe on site after dark for their protection.

The responsible use of alcohol is permitted at your site. Please keep all alcohol in cozies or plain cups and do not walk with open containers.

Respect your neighbors-they may not have the same agenda as your group, so please abide by all guidelines.

If we receive complaints, you may be asked to leave without a refund..and that would just be a bummer!

Let us know if you have questions and PLEASE enjoy your stay!

What a difference, and yet the same message. Remember, your guests keep you in business and many of them are on vacation. Running your park like a police state is not the way to create lasting memories for those who want to relax and enjoy their time at your park. Make sure you are not saying, “Go Away,” before they every get in the door.

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Cha Cha Cha Changes

Let’s face it, most people do not like change. However, sometimes change is in our best interest, particularly when it comes to our parks.

We visit a lot of parks in a year-and I mean A LOT! Most of the time, the trips are in conjunction with a client due diligence trip. We are looking, investigating, and recommending for or against the purchase.

What is most interesting to me are the parks that are being run one way, but should be running in a completely different manner. I am always astounded at the mismatch.

Consider a recent park we visited, we shall call it Campers Delight. Campers Delight is a 378 site park and is full….of seasonal guests. Campers Delight should NEVER have been set up as a long term site. It is near rivers, streams, parks, horseback riding, bike trails, river rafting, hiking, and boating areas. Campers Delight should be teeming with daily and weekly guests paying a high average daily rate of around $75 per night. However, Campers Delight is full of long term guests paying an average daily rate of $15 per day. WHY DO YOU ASK??

I asked, and I was told, “Well, even though we know we could make more, we did not want the headache of transient guests.” What!! First of all, if you consider guests a headache, you should not be in hospitality. Secondly, the staff you need for short term stays is well worth the additional revenue generated. Campers Delight should have been alive with families, and campfires, and fun…but rather it is full of guests who live like squatters, trash their sites, and pay rock bottom prices.

The audit report we prepare for this park will show the vast amount of money that is being lost by putting a square peg in a round hole.

When you are purchasing or running a park-KNOW YOUR MARKET. Missing the mark by having the wrong guests, the wrong pricing, and the wrong targets mean sub par operations and sub par revenue. Neither makes a Campers or a Campground Owners Delight.

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Missing the Mark

As I stated in my last blog, I have been traveling the US looking at parks and preparing audit reports for clients. It has been an interesting trip.

Recently, I toured a spectacular property. The roads were wide and paved, sites were level with concrete or pavers, it had a pool and a hot tub, the grounds were immaculate, and the price was right. All sites were full hookup, the sewer and electric were new, and the exterior elevations of the buildings were stunning. The husband and wife that owned it clearly took pride in what they had built, and they were sinking.

This park was the perfect example of missing the mark. I was there in Mid-July. This was peak season in this area of the country and the lack of energy was palpable. No kids, very few adults, no one in the pool or the grand clubhouse.

The owners were well intended, but totally mis-calculated the amenties needed, and the market. This is a family friendly area, and the park had no playground or summer activities program. There was nothing to attract a family with youngsters to the location. Money spent on some luxuries could have been spent on a splash pad, a jump pillow, mini golf or something to attract the type of visitors who come to that area.

It was also in an area that a bit too far off the beaten path-just far enough away from the attractions that it was a difficult drive. There was a competitive set that was closer to the resorts and catered more to the type of market that visits the area. It lacked guests, an identity, and as funds ran out, some of the last touches were left underwhelming.

The bathhouses for example, looked like they belonged at a YMCA. After the, “Wow,” of the entrance and grounds, one would have expected tiled floors and walls, upgraded countertops, and nice roomy showers. None of this materialized once you entered the bath house. The pool furniture was subpar, and a clubhouse that looked like it belonged in a five star resort, was filled with plastic furniture.

I left there very sad for the owners. Their intentions were good, and their park beautiful, but it is going to take a large investment to put in the amenities needed to draw the right people to that park. Missing the mark and not building to the market can cause even a well capitalized park to come to a screeching halt, or worse yet, fail to launch in the first place.

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Overpromising and Underdelivering

Recently I went on a road trip to view parks for clients to purchase. Some were just WOW and others, well, overpromised and undelivered.

At one of the parks, I obtained the site map prior to arrival. I was excited to see it as it had a fitness center, kitchen, group catering area, group fire pit, and a restaurant on the map. These are great amenities and when guests see them on a site map, it encourages them to book.

When I arrived to tour the park, it was NOTHING like I had imagined. I am sure the guests felt the same way. I had to do a double take to make sure I was at the right location.

The fitness center was old and dusty with equipment that appeared to be twenty years old. The group catering kitchen was filthy and most of the appliances look like they had not been cleaned in some time. No group I know would cook in that kitchen.

The funniest part was the “Group Fire Pit.” It was a rusty old fire ring with two lawn chairs.

When my 2 PM diet coke attack hit, I was so taken back by the condition of the facilities I would not even purchase a canned drink from the store. I wanted OUT of there.

I can only imagine what guests thought when they, like me, downloaded the map only to arrive and find these conditions. Do yourself a favor, take good photos and market properly, but do not try to pretend all is well when things are falling apart. Make sure if you have amenities, they are clean and in good operating condition, and if you do not have them, do not pretend you do. This park was a franchise park and it should never have been permitted to fly the franchise flag.

Overpromising and underdelivering is a sure fire way to create a negative guest experience from the start.

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“Drink Because You Are Happy, But Never Because You Are Miserable.” G.K. Chesterton

Liquor Licenses at parks are a hot topic, and one size does not fit all.

The first rule of thumb is to know your guest. If you are a family oriented park where most folks are there to go hiking or do activities off site, there may be very little upside to having a bar on site. You may wish to do carry out at your store, but having a full fledged bar may not be in the cards.

However, if your park caters to families or adults and they spend most of their time around your pool or inside your park, you may do well to think of a pool side bar or serving alcohol along with your standard food fare. This allows the adults to enjoy an adult beverage while spending time with the kids, family, and friends.

If you are a resort campground, you should almost certainly consider this amenity to your amenity mix. A true resort will have this as an option.

We have bars at many if not most of our parks. They can be highly profitable and safe if run properly. First and foremost, this starts with your bartenders.

Make sure you hire mature, responsible bartenders who have been trained in either the TIPS or TAM certification classes. These certifications teach bartenders how to spot fake ID’s, see the warning signs of intoxication, and how to handle those who refused service. No bartender should be behind your bar without TIPS or TAM certification.

Secondly, make sure the setting and hours do not interfere with the overall enjoyment of the park. Try to set it off in a common area or a secluded ares where guests will not have their recreation hindered by the bar. Make sure the bar is shut down before quiet hours begin and guests leaving the bar do not interfere with those who are sitting around their fire or having a late dinner.

Lastly, run a tight ship! We make sure our guests know our bars are a place to have a drink or two in a responsible manner. They are not the local club or the place to get your groove on. They are there for the simple pleasure of having a few drinks with friends. Also, language is an issue. Make sure your bartenders know that cursing or rough language is not to be used since a child or non-bar going family may be right outside and should not have to deal with this kind of talk.

By adhering to these few simple guidelines, a bar inside your park may be the additional revenue stream you need to add to your bottom line.

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Taking The Easy Way Out

In the course of a week, I read a lot industry news and blogs.

This past week, I was reading a thread regarding reservation systems. Different people were commenting on the ones they like, and a reoccuring theme on one was it is, “Easy.” I would never target a particular system, but I will say, “Easy is not always better.”

Yes, a system should be easy to use, but the problem is, the easier systems often come with less functionality. Therefore, things backend functionality often suffers for the sake of ease of front of house use.

There are numerous systems in the market that provide both ease of booking and robust back end functionality. Pay attention the the following when checking out a system:

  • Reporting-is it solid, does it do both cash and accrual accounting, and is it easy to read on screen and by day, week, month and year
  • Rate Yielding- it easy to manipulate rate based on supply and demand
  • OTA Connectivity (especially if you have Cabins)-does it connect to Air BB, Booking.com and Expedia
  • Online booking-does it do online booking and what is the cost per online reservation
  • Does it allow you to option to book by site type rather than specific site
  • Does it allow you to use your credit card provider of choice, or does it force you to use their provider
  • How easy is it to do group and split bookings

These are just a few of the criteria you should consider when choosing a reservation system. Most are pretty easy up front and booking a site is simple, pay attention to group and split booking functions. Some are better than others.

AOS is NOT a software developer. We look at all systems and we recommend what is best for the client. We know all systems in the market and have worked on almost all of them. Trust us when we say, “Easy is not always better.”

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Let Freedom Ring

When I entered college, I was torn between three majors-English, Accounting, and American History.

I eventually chose accounting because I felt it gave me the best chance to make a living. All in all I was correct, but there is still a little part of me that would have loved to teach American History.

As an elementary school student I remember reading every blue cloth covered biography written about our founders and early American heroes. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, James Madison, all came alive in the pages of those books. It gave me an enduring love for my country and the sacrifice it took to bring about freedom and liberty.

All these years later, I still prefer history books and the History Channel to fiction and sit coms. I still get goosebumps when I watch documentaries on the American Revolution or WW II. I listen to old speeches and read impassioned pleas about courage and patriotism.

Therefore, I love the 4th of July!

So this July 4th-take time to remember the sacrifices of our founders, and in this day and age of dissent, remember we are still the proud residents of what is still the greatest nation on earth.

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