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.

Read more

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!!

Read more

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.

Read more

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.”

Read more

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!

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

HOT Trends-School In The Great Outdoors

A few years ago, our AOS parks were starting to see a growing trend, homeschool families staying in our parks over the winter-especially in traditional snowbird states.

One of our Florida parks even went as far as to setup the community room as a mock school house during the day. The families enjoyed the added space where they could educate their children while on the road.

This is also one of the reasons we encouraged “Snowbird” resorts not to label themselves as, “55+,” since the trend was growing as far back as five years ago.

Now one of the latest industry publications, RVIA, has confirmed traditional education is dying.

Here are the stats….

This is not only a stunning socioeconomic trend, this is a stunning statistic for outdoor hospitality.

What does this mean to you and your resort? The implications are numerous and varied:

  • Spaces for schooling should be considered at all newly built resorts
  • Blazing fast WiFi is a must
  • Child friendly spaces should be added to all designs
  • Partnering with Homeschoolers by providing group activities and educational programs should be added

This trend will not go away. Families are fleeing traditional education for many reasons, and have been for decades. However, they are now fleeing traditional education and hitting the road. THIS will have positive ramifications for YOUR resort if you plan ahead now!

Read more

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!

Read more

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.

Read more