We recently released an article based upon our analysis and findings regarding the state of the RV park industry. (you can read it here) The response to this post has been overwhelming and essentially started a bonfire of discussion and engagement. The responses completely supported everything laid out in the article and told us we were right over target. Based upon the comments and emails received the following in depth discussion will analyze some of the deeper questions raised.
The original articles were directed at park owners but due to the nature of the content they quickly went viral to our general audience. For park operators this is the audience you are most concerned with; guests and what they think. In Part 1 we have transcribed and analyzed their feedback for you.
We will engage the customer first. These are the guests that can potentially stay at your parks. The article went viral and was widely shared on social media. As with all things social media related a few people actually absorbed the content and engaged while a larger majority simply read a headline (ie It is time for RV parks to raise their rates) and commented from there. I personally took the time to wade in to the discussion to gather some pertinent facts and ask some pointed questions and here are the findings and feedback:
1. DO NOT RAISE YOUR RATES IF…
The overwhelming feedback was that guests do not want you to simply raise your rates because you can. This is an obvious finding but needs to be fleshed out. No where in our article did we suggest raising your rates simply because you can. Instead we argued, and guests agreed, that raising your rates needs to be supported with amenity or service improvements that justify the increase. Your guests talk, track and know what you are doing. If you arbitrarily raise your rates they will not only notice but they will communicate it around. Across the social media dialogue the main point was that your guests want value for their money. If you are raising your rates you need to provide a reason for the increase (and a reason that they value).
2. YOUR GUESTS ARE MOBILE…
Another obvious finding but this was pointed out by guests who would shop around. This is where smart use of discounts and deals comes in to play (highlighted in part 2 of the original series). If your park is located in a non-peak area where you have to work to get people in to your sites being smart with your use of discounts can be a huge business driver. While parks that have excess demand can readily increase their rates and amenities you may be able to increase your income by using discounts to lower your final rate. This can be used as a win-win as long as your rate is above your break-even point and campers are able to save money.
3. GUESTS REALLY ARE NOTICING THE CROWDS…
This finding was most surprising but even on social media campers were willing to recognize and admit that parks are becoming more crowded. It is most obvious when campers try to access and make reservations for public parks. It was commented that they were having to reserve months in advance and even then they were unlikely to lock in a site. For private park owners this is an opportunity to potentially increase your occupancy by appealing to guests that may be adverse to staying at private locations. How can you provide what they are seeking?
The most shocking thing about this article was how widely shared and engaged it became. For guests their single biggest fear is not getting a reasonable return for their money spent. They do not want to pay for something they see no value in paying for. With the rapid growth of the RV industry and the huge increases in demand this trend is most prevalent in the major travel destinations where parks can charge a significant premium without really improving amenities and service. While this short term gain will benefit the bottom lines of those parks the long term impact is murkier. If it is no longer economical nor satisfying to stay at a RV park or campground these guests can easily sell their RVs and stay at local hotels in the future. Want to read what other park operators had to say? Click here
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