“Contentment” In Glamping and Outdoor Hospitality

Sometimes, things are just meant to be. This is how we feel about this project, “Contentment at Beaver Lake.” It is another stellar project between Advanced Outdoor, their partner Clockwork, and the Nicholas Family.

A serendipitous meeting led to this project. AOS was speaking at the Glamping Conference in Denver. While having breakfast in the hotel lobby, Kathleen was approached by a lady in desperate need of a Claritin. Kathleen apparently looked like someone who would travel with such, and the lady approached her asking is she had one and could spare one. That led to conversations about why we were all attending the conference. Later in the day, this couple stopped by the AOS booth and “Contentment” was birthed.

Once AOS and the team sat down with the Nicholas team, we knew their land, passion and skills would marry exceedingly well with our design, counsel, and industry knowledge. The results speak for themselves.

This one of a kind Glamping Resort is set on Beaver Lake in Arkansas. It will be the premier Glamping venue in Arkansas and will fulfill the dream of this family and how their land can serve generations of guests. Built with the environment in mind, guests will enjoy the bucolic setting while the design preserved the natural beauty.

We are beyond exciting to be a part of this project and working hand in hand with this family. Apart from being a stunning design, the clients are wonderful people who let us do our thing, while keeping with their budget and vision. We look forward to the doors opening and the guests who will build memories that will last a lifetime.

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OTA Booking Trends In The Digital Age

Traditional hospitality has always had a love/hate relationship with OTA’s. Outdoor Hospitality is no different. I cannot count the number of times parks have resisted connecting to OTA’s because of the commission they take from each booking. They do not take into account the number of nights they sell. Our data proves, they are well worth their commissions.

Outdoor hospitality has long been able to book Cabins and Roofed Accommodations on OTA’s. All AOS properties take full advantage of this capability. The new OTA’s coming for RV sites, such as Book Outdoors, will now allow RV enthusiasts to book RV sites via an OTA channel. AOS is ready to board their parks onto this exciting platform.

Still thinking of bucking the trend to OTA’s? Think again.

A new report by Amy Hinote of VRM Intel reports the following data from the vacation rental space:

New US data shows direct booking is down 19% YOY for professional vacation rentals in 2021. Airbnb is up 29%, and Vrbo is up 17% as a percentage of revenue. Is it due to more OTA marketing, less PM marketing, a new customer base, consolidation, or a lack of consumer education . . . or something else?”

Direct versus OTA Booking

What does this mean for you?

Make sure you connect to a PMS which allows you to a direct connect to multiple OTA channels, NOT just their channel. If a PMS only connects to their booking channel, they are NOT an OTA. They are a PMS with a website. There is a huge difference.

Secondly, stop bucking the trend. OTA’s are here to stay and you need to get on the train or you will indeed be left behind. If Marriott and Hilton believe there is value in OTA’s, trust me, there is value in OTA’s.

Finally, make sure you have good photos to use when you list your properties. Hire a local photographer to take well staged shots of your accommodations. Pictures sell sites.

These few helpful hints will get you selling nights and giving up the fight against the market leaders paving the way to your profitability.

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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!

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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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Pivot for Profits

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at AOS is the ability to quickly respond to the market. Pivoting our marketing, rates, and strategy on a dime allows us to respond to changes in demand in minutes.

Case in point-hurricanes. AOS has many parks in coastal areas, thus we respond quickly to threats. Not only are we able to get our guests out of harms way, but we are able to get them to other AOS managed parks quickly. We strategically pinpoint those in evacuation areas, and send them to AOS parks right outside the danger zone.

Another case in point is COVID. When COVID came on the radar in March, we immediately changed our marketing strategies to reach guests who were traveling, wanting to stay in place, traveling nurses, and those headed to state and national parks that were closed. This resulted in enormous revenue increases for our clients. Overall, our portfolio is up about 30% YOY.

The AOS team is large enough to get it done, but small enough to be able to move and move quickly. It does not hurt that our team in under one roof and when we see trends, we get into high gear.

If you are not getting results with your current management company. Try us-I promise-no one will work harder to earn and keep your business.

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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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“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” Fred R. Barnard

Fred R. Barnard is the advertising executive who first spoke these famous words. He said this he was referring to book jackets, and how the graphic on the front of a book could be the very thing that entices people to purchase it.

Little did he know how advertising would change and how much more true these words are now than ever before.

We sent our in house team out to shoot some of our parks this past week. The images they shot will completely revitalize these parks websites and show the bucolic nature and settings of each.

Case in point, the two photos below.

The first photo below is from the old website. It is dark, pixelated, and unwelcoming.

The second photo is from our recent shoot. It is focused, the lighting is right, and it invites the viewer to come and sit a spell by a lovely pond. Same location-vastly different look and feel.

Pixelated, Dark and Unwelcoming

When it comes to your property, DO NOT cut corners on good photos and video. Today’s outdoor enthusiasts shop and book online. Your photos are their first impression of your park. Make sure it is an inviting one.

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Worker Bee Parks

When we have parks in our portfolio who cater to workers, we refer to them affectionatly as “Worker Bee Parks.”

This is a disparaging term, rather it defines the target market and how we approach rate and occupancy. There are a few things to remember about AOS Worker Bee Parks:

They are NOT work down trailer parks! We run our worker parks with the same set of guidelines with which we run our transient parks. Clean, comfortable, and NO junky sites allowed!

Secondly, they do not play second fiddle to transient parks. Worker Bee parks can be highly profitable since the teams are often paid generous per diem housing rates and will pay a nice price for nice accommodations.

Rarely are these parks just one industry. They may be wind farm workers, solar farm teams, or oil industry contractors, but throughout there are always sprinklings of traveling nurses, families, those who are building homes in the area and need a short term rental, or just folks on the road traveling through the area.

We love working with these parks and connecting our parks to the jobs happening in the area. We do this through our digital communications, connecting with the industries, and partnering with the local chambers.

We also manage revenue in these parks the same way we manage revenue at transient parks. In fact, it is more important in these parks since the ADR is lower overall and we need to eek out every penny we can.

If you own a worker bee park, it is worth your time to speak to one of our team members about how we can help build your success .

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