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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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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“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,, 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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Take a Listen

We were excited this week to have our Founder and CEO, Kathleen Walsh, featured on the “Fireside Chat,” series hosted by Brian Searl of Insider Perks and Cara Braeutigam of the Canadian Campground Association.

You can listen the the Podcast here.

They discussed 3rd Party Management for RV Parks and Campgrounds, who is and is not a good fit for 3rd Party Management, and why AOS is the fastest growing company in this space.

Take a listen to this informative discussion and let us know if we can answer YOUR questions regarding 3rd party management of your assets.

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