Outdoor Hospitality News

For owners, operators, team members, and anyone else interested in camping, glamping, or the RV industry.

MC Fireside Chats – December 20th, 2023

Episode Summary

In the special episode of MC Fireside Chats, hosted by Brian Searl, a panel of outdoor hospitality experts gathered to discuss their experiences and future plans. The panel included Ali and Eric Rasmussen from Spacious Skies Campgrounds, Joann Delvescio from the New Jersey Campground Owners And Outdoor Lodging Association, Joshua Turner from Blackstrap Glamping Resort, Steve Rappleyea from Drivehome RV, and Greg Emmert, Co-founder and Senior Consultant at Camp Strategy. Ali and Eric Rasmussen shared insights into their journey with Spacious Skies Campgrounds. They emphasized their focus on operations and enhancing the guest experience across their campgrounds. The Rasmussens discussed the importance of brand development and market presence. A significant new hire, a Director of Operations, was highlighted as a key step in their strategic growth. They also reflected on the sacrifices made in their personal lives for the business and expressed a desire to balance family time more effectively in the coming year. Joann Delvescio provided an overview of the camping industry in New Jersey. She highlighted the strong demand for seasonal sites and the impact of weather on camping trends. Delvescio mentioned their active participation in consumer shows and the importance of these events in driving interest and reservations for New Jersey campgrounds. She also touched upon the regulatory challenges in New Jersey and the efforts to support campground owners in navigating these challenges. Joshua Turner from Blackstrap Glamping Resort discussed his experience building the resort and his plans for the upcoming year. He emphasized the learning curve involved in transitioning from construction to operation. Turner expressed his ambition to create unique guest packages and experiences, aiming to position Blackstrap as a top destination in Canada. He also mentioned managing the growth of his other business ventures, including a tiki bar and a clothing line. Steve Rappleyea shared his journey with Drivehome RV, focusing on the challenges and opportunities of managing a rapidly growing RV rental business. He discussed the importance of setting customer expectations, especially for first-time RV users. Rappleyea also shared his goal of retiring from his day job to focus full-time on RV rentals, highlighting the potential of the rental market in the context of changing RV sales trends. Greg Emmert spoke about his transition from working with smaller clients to forming Camp Strategy with Jeff Hoffman. He emphasized their focus on providing consulting services to individual owners or smaller groups of parks, steering clear of large-scale management. Emmert also shared his personal and professional resolutions for the coming year, including promoting the importance of conservation in campgrounds. Each guest shared their New Year’s resolutions, reflecting a mix of personal and professional goals. These resolutions ranged from improving health and work-life balance to specific business objectives like expanding services, enhancing operational efficiency, and achieving recognition in the industry. The episode highlighted the diverse challenges and opportunities within the outdoor hospitality industry. The panelists’ experiences underscored the importance of adapting to market demands, focusing on guest experiences, and the need for continuous learning and improvement. The discussion also touched upon the importance of data in understanding industry trends and making informed decisions. Brian Searl shared plans to explore new methods of data collection and analysis to provide deeper insights into campground operations and market dynamics. Overall, the episode of MC Fireside Chats offered valuable perspectives from various corners of the outdoor hospitality industry. The panelists’ stories and plans for 2024 provided a glimpse into the ongoing evolution of the camping and RV industry, highlighting the need for innovation, adaptability, and a focus on quality guest experiences.

Recurring Guests

A man smiling in front of an RV during Fireside Chats.
Greg Emmert
Co-founder and Senior Consultant
Camp Strategy

Special Guests

An image of a person in a circle, featured in an episode.
Ali and Eric Rasmussen
Co-founders
Spacious Skies Campgrounds
An image of a person in a circle, featured in an episode.
Joann Delvescio
Executive Director
New Jersey Campground Owners And Outdoor Lodging Association
An image of a person in a circle, featured in an episode.
Joshua Turner
Owner
Blackstrap Glamping Resort
On July 26th, 2023, a bald man in a green jacket captures the moment by taking a selfie during the MC Fireside Chats.
Steve Rappleyea
CEO and President
Drivehome RV

Episode Transcript

Brian Searl: [00:01:00] Welcome everybody to another episode of MC Fireside Chats. Apologies for being a couple of minutes late this morning. We had all kinds of problems with our software. And so we’re up and running now, so hopefully you all stuck around for a few minutes, and we’re excited to bring our last episode of the year to you here on December 20th before we all break for Christmas and New Year’s excited to spend time with our families, loved ones, all that kind of stuff, so we brought back a couple guests who have been on throughout the year just to talk about, a little bit about how their year’s gone, how they, how 2023 shaped or mismatched with their expectations, what they’re expecting for 2024, so who knows where this conversation’s gonna go, hopefully it’ll involve as little as me.

As possible, so it is a good show but where do we want to start, guys? I want to go around and introduce everybody, right? I think, actually Greg has not been on the show before, from Camp Strategy. Let’s start with Greg, and then we can go around, and whoever wants to talk next. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, that’s right, man. Today’s my maiden voyage, and thanks for having me on, Brian. I’ve watched you guys for a while, and excited to be part of it moving forward. Yeah [00:02:00] no. Yes, probably. I always get nervous talking in front of people. It doesn’t matter if I can see them or not. 

Brian Searl: Yeah, go ahead. Sorry. 

Greg Emmert: No, that’s okay.

Yeah Camp Strategy is my new venture. I’ve been consulting now since we sold Actually today is the three year anniversary of the sale of our campground. It’s three years today since we said goodbye. And I’ve been doing consulting since, but recently was approached by the the one and only Jeff Hoffman to to team up.

I guess I’m the Robin to his Batman, I think is probably the how, the way he would describe it. And yeah, we have very good complimentary skill sets. Looking forward to a new year with the new company, Camp Strategy. And yeah, hopefully helping lots of owners or investors maximize their operations, make more money and live happier lives.

Brian Searl: All right. I want to dive into a little bit of that later on during our show, because I know you guys, like there’s lots of companies who are coming into the space doing similar things, but I think you guys are a little bit different in who you want to target and what you want to actually do, which is not management, which [00:03:00] I think is the one thing that immediately sets you apart.

All right. Who wants to go next? 

Joann Delvescio: Okay. 

Brian Searl: All right, Joanne. 

Joann Delvescio: I’m Joanne Del Vecchio. I am the Executive Director of the New Jersey Campground and Outdoor Lodging Association representing all of the campgrounds in the great state of New Jersey. 

Hi, Allie! And Allie’s one of our campground owners in New Jersey, and Eric.

Brian Searl: We better have Allie go next and then 

Ali Rasmussen: Yes, we are Allie and Eric Rasmussen, co founders of Spacious Skies Campground with a home state campground in the great state of New Jersey. It’s where we are headquartered as well. We have 15 campgrounds all along the east coast from Maine to Georgia and we’re excited to be back on the show.

Brian Searl: But why are they all not in New Jersey? If Joanne runs such a good state, why would you ever expand beyond that? 

Ali Rasmussen: We were, [00:04:00] 

Joann Delvescio: we’re trying, exactly. 

Ali Rasmussen: Joanne knows, we’re trying, the efforts don’t stop. We love New Jersey. We love Joanne. 

Brian Searl: Eric, do you want to introduce yourself? I know she just introduced you.

Eric Rasmussen: But I think ally covered much of it. I guess I’m the other half of space disguise, Eric. 

Ali Rasmussen: I usually do all the talking. 

Brian Searl: Alright, we’ll pick your brain a little bit later, Eric. And then, last but not least, Steve. 

Steve Rappleyea: Hey, how is everybody? I am Steve Raplia. I’m president and CEO of Drive Home RV. We are a growing RV rental company, an RV outfitter.

I, together with my son, Alec, and my wife, Mary, run the company. We started out with one unit last year, we’re up to eight units this year and are looking at continuing a pretty rapid growth. We specialize in not just renting RVs, but setting people up for their first adventure in outdoor [00:05:00] travel, it’s pretty, pretty exciting work. 

Brian Searl: Yeah. I think this is going to be an interesting sector. And we had you obviously on the show before. And I told you before we started the show that I don’t remember what I had for breakfast, but I do remember what you do in the industry and all that kind of stuff.

And so I think that there’s a, we’ve had conversations with dealers about where’s the industry headed as we go maybe into an economic downturn, maybe not, but are people going to buy RVs in the same level that they used to, or, use or rent or whatever else. And so I think there’s an interesting conversation to be had there for sure.

Maybe since we had you on the show last time, but so let’s break this. Let’s do this in three, two ways here, right? Let’s start about, we’ll go around the room, right? What did 2023 look like for you both from a high level, but also from, if you remember, what did you expect from 2023 going into it? Did it live up to your expectations?

Did things play out like you thought better, worse, whatever you want to share, like intentionally being broad, take it whatever direction you’d like. And then maybe we’ll carve up the middle with Greg from Camp Strategy since he’s new on the show. And then we can do [00:06:00] what we expect for 2024 at the end.

Does that sound okay with everybody? Oh, Joshua did not intro, did he? Where’s Joshua? 

Joshua Turner: I did not. 

Brian Searl: Joshua, I’m sorry. 

Joshua Turner: Josh Turner here, one of the owners here at Blackstrap Glamping Resort. We are located about 25 minutes out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. We In phase one, right now we’ve just built four luxury themed glamping domes.

Each one’s got a different theme. We can talk about a little bit later, and yeah, we’ve just opened up. Our first guest slept here last night, so it’s pretty cool to be on this on the show today. 

Brian Searl: Congratulations. Yeah, welcome back. We’re excited to, we’re going to talk about that too. Congrats. Yeah, that’s great.

Do you want to start with us, Joshua? Let’s talk about, because I feel like there’s an interesting story there, right? Coming into 2023, where were you at? Take it, take us through 2023, your expectations, how they lived up or didn’t. 

Joshua Turner: We started when I was first on the show, it was mid summer, we have a tiki bar that’s located close by here as well, so we were mid tiki bar [00:07:00] and there was some construction going on in the Glamping Resort, so 

Brian Searl: Oh yeah, I remember this now, yeah, so were you driving in the beginning?

Joshua Turner: Yeah, I was driving because I had ice cream melting, my phone overheated, I had to put it in the freezer to get back on the last little, it was a disaster. 

Brian Searl: This is the trick Steve, if you’re paying attention, you just have to do something crazy like this and then it’s marked in my memory, and I’ll never forget you.

Joshua Turner: I yeah, so I’m very happy that you welcomed me back on the show. 

Anyhow, I’ve made myself a little bit more secure and not driving this time in a nice quiet geodome. The whole year has been just us learning each phase of construction, how to build these things. The fact that we are building something completely different in a cold climate like Canada, we want to offer, we are offering year round glamping.

There was a lot of Extra little pieces that we had to put into this and learn on the go. Going into 2024, now all the hard work’s done, but now the job just starts. Don’t do that yet. No, that’s the second half of the show. You can’t ruin that already. 

Brian Searl: Alright. Okay, so 2023, [00:08:00] what did it look like?

January 1st, when you were, and I know not everybody sets resolutions, right? But when you were coming into 2023, where were you at with Blackstrap? Did it exist? Was it conceived? Were you seeking funding? 

Joshua Turner: Oh yeah, we were, we’ve been about two years two years working with, because we’re within a provincial park, right?

So it comes with its own. The park is, SAS Parks is absolutely amazing but it comes with its own trial and tribulations when you’re dealing with government entities and stuff. We had some, trials and tribulations on things, different things about water usage and land location and stuff like that.

But we worked all those out and then we were able to break ground 

In the spring. 

Brian Searl: wOuld you, is it fair to say that you were planning on two years and you’re right on track or were you delayed a little bit or? 

Joshua Turner: Oh yeah, we were delayed like a year and a bit. Not on construction, just on hold up and permitting and and financing too.

Brian Searl: Alright, so tell us about guest number one last night. How excited were you? 

Joshua Turner: So nervous. I stayed up late and I woke [00:09:00] up early just in case my phone was ringing, that something happened. And it did. What happened? We lost power. We knew it was a plan, there was a planned power outage that they were going to do.

Brian Searl: On your first night? Who are these power people? 

Joshua Turner: And so we let the guests know we actually own a pizza place about 15 minutes away, so we went and brought them, we had a brought them pizza last night and said, hey listen, there’s going to be a generator that’s parked down the road that’s going to be a little loud, but it’s going to provide you power.

And then so they turned it on, and it worked, and then it stopped working, so they’re just on their way right now to go get a bigger generator to power the resort so we can get our guests up and going. Our guests are so cool, laid back Saskatchewan people and they kinda, we, they kinda knew, so we’ll make up for it somehow, maybe a nice charcuterie board tonight or something like that.

Brian Searl: I think that’s the key is setting the expectations as we’ve talked about many different times on the show like things happen But if you’re setting the expectation that this is going to be this or loud or whatever and then honestly if anything happens And you bring me pizza like you’re all [00:10:00] is forgiven right pizza seems to solve a lot.

Joshua Turner: Yeah everything all right, we’re gonna come back to you. I want to know what 2024 was like who wants to go next? Who wants to volunteer? 

Joann Delvescio: Okay, I’ll go since nobody else is speaking up. In New Jersey we have just a little over 90 campgrounds and our season is typically from April 1st through October 31st is when the campgrounds are open.

Obviously high season for us is Memorial Day through Labor Day, but we had a really good season again this past in 2023. We’re leveling out and becoming more realistic with our expectations as to what we’re going to be seeing in the future. 20, 21, 22 were some really high, we hit some really high marks and, the end of 22, we saw it leveling out a little bit and 23, like I said, we’re seeing that we’re probably more where I think we’re going to be going forward, but it’s still very [00:11:00] strong.

Our the phone still, the phone was just ringing again. People are still looking to, to camp. They’re looking to plan 2024 and speaking to the members. Some of the reservations already for 20, 24 up, folks that stayed in 2023 made the reservations for 2024. We’ve had, campgrounds that are putting in new amenities.

And Pickleball seems to be a big thing with the campgrounds now, Splash Pads. People are looking for the different types of amenities that campgrounds are putting in and are booking them. New Jersey so far, we are knock on wood. Like I said, it was a good season.

Obviously, we always have permitting issues in New Jersey. We are one of the most Overregulated states in the country, so it’s not easy to expand a campground, or we haven’t seen a new campground built in New Jersey from bottom up, shoveling to the ground, and I’ve been here for 11 years, and the 11 [00:12:00] years that I’ve been here, and we’ve seen some of the heartache that some of the campground owners have gone through trying to do expansion, we certainly do our best going to planning and zoning meetings and Speaking with some of our folks at the state level to try to mitigate some of those, the issues that they’re seeing and try to make for a more smooth incorporation of any expansion that they’re trying to do.

But like I said, 2023 was a good year for us in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: Do you see a lot of the glamping developments running into the same issues with permitting and expansion and building that the campgrounds are? 

Joann Delvescio: We don’t, if you’re talking about the hip camp and those that they’re putting in on the wineries and the breweries.

Brian Searl: No. I think, you can talk about them if you want. But I think I was going for more towards the campgrounds that are adding glamping or the glamping only like the, 

Joann Delvescio: oh, so outdoor, we call them outdoor adventure. Okay. Sites or outdoor adventure lodging, outdoor lodging.

We don’t necessarily, we’re not into the big glamping. New [00:13:00] Jersey, we don’t have a lot of glamping we don’t have, restaurants and bars and indoor pools at our campgrounds, but we have outdoor lodging and we have a lot of fun outdoor lodging. We have teepees and yurts and covered wagons and, tree houses.

Those are the things that our folks are looking at. Obviously cabins, full service cabins now, not just the rest of cabins. So yes, we are seeing that our members are definitely investing in those types of units, but not necessarily, what we’re calling, some people are calling glamping units.

We call them outdoor adventure units, the safari tents, those kinds of things. It’s just more for what, how we speak in New Jersey. And what we think people are looking for when they’re looking for a campground in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: Okay. Yeah. It’s all the same thing, right? I don’t think there’s a predefined term.

But I think I’m curious, KOA recently came out and maybe you don’t know any enough about this that you haven’t had [00:14:00] enough time to study it, but I’m just curious what you think as New Jersey being a northern state that has, that tends to have a big seasonality with the campgrounds. Is that fair to say?

Joann Delvescio: Absolutely. 

Brian Searl: Do you feel that window is extending at all with the glamping or like KOA recently reported on they’ve seen a rise in wintertime camping? 

Joann Delvescio: I mean we’ve seen you know like I said we most of the campgrounds close starting probably around October 31st they might go into November 15th.

A lot of it is the infrastructure, Brian. It gets cold here in New Jersey and once the pipes start to freeze, there’s not a whole lot that you can do. So if you’re looking to do winter camping in New Jersey, you can. We do have some campgrounds, especially in the Northwest corner of the state and the mountains that do have winter camping available, but you need to come in prepared, because you’re not going to have access to water.

You’re not going to have access to bath houses. You need to have a generator. You really do need to come in self contained. So for us to extend the season, it’s a little bit difficult only because of the infrastructure that’s in the campgrounds. 

Brian Searl: But in [00:15:00] theory, if you knew you had enough demand, is it possible?

Not saying that it’s reasonable or should be done by most people.

But yeah, and I mean I think over the years We’ve seen some of the campgrounds remain open a little bit further than they have in years past because of that But yeah, definitely. I mean for those that the demand that were in the areas where the demand is there Yes, I see it happening.

Do I see it happening along the shoreline? Not so much along the shoreline, but probably Inside New Jersey and up in the Northwest corner, like where Allie is, where Spacious Skies Country Oaks is, they’re that area where they’re located. Yes, I can see them expanding into the season. 

You can’t promise for her. You gotta let her talk. 

Ali Rasmussen: We are doing exactly that right now, Joanne, with Spacious Skies Country Oaks. We are experimenting and we decided this on the. Last day of the [00:16:00] planned season our general manager felt so confident that we had the demand to test it out that we just toggled the switch over and said we are offering sites throughout the winter, limited sites, and with all the caveats that you were just describing, like you are coming in and we cannot guarantee that the infrastructure is going to be, perfectly functional, just like it is in the middle of the summer.

But we have, so far, in this very last minute experiment, seen demand in inland, New Jersey for winter camping. And it’s wild, but we’ll take it. 

Brian Searl: Yeah, I think it’s out there, especially given the smaller subset of parks who are actually willing to do it, or do it. I think the demand that is there is certainly enough if you market it right to be able to fill up certainly a limited subset of sites but and that’s not just in New Jersey I think [00:17:00] that’s everywhere but it’s interesting we don’t have data to prove it that hampers, I think, many people from trying it. 

Eric Rasmussen: Brian, I could add to that briefly, if that’s okay. Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Into a recap of our year. I’m just adding that briefly, that comment. We have one other location, open year round in New Hampshire, that we have 45 winter sites, and they are full all winter long.

The demand is very robust and when you pre plan and market it, you can, there’s a lot of demand to capture we have found thinking through, our 2023 Brian we obviously, we have 15 campgrounds in, in a lot of different geographic locations. We saw a lot of variety inside of our portfolio for sure.

We have a, we also have a lot of variety in terms of product type and just where they’re at in the evolution and their transition from a campground into the Spacious Guides program and also varying levels of improvements, CapEx, et cetera, going on in the in, in, in various locations.

So we, we had, across the board, I think our, we, we just did our kind of year end update [00:18:00] to the whole company this morning. So I’m a little bit well versed, on the topic the general theme is we saw good growth. Across the portfolio, we saw our base investment thesis in the asset class, and that we could come in and professionalize the operations and add value through marketing and revenue management, just professionalizing and putting it under the spacious guy’s brand.

We’ve seen that proven out pretty well throughout the course of 2023. That was a milestone year for us in seeing that, I would say. And then, across the board, we have we have locations that have exceeded expectations for 2023. We’ve had campgrounds that have not exceeded expectations for 2023.

On revenue or expenses or some other kind of KPI or key metric that we’re tracking, but by and large, the momentum has been positive. We saw double digit growth across the portfolio and just a good reinforcement that we’re seeing good demand in the industry and in most areas where we.

Where we went off track in terms of expectations, most of it was self induced, where we changed course on, on the game plan for whatever reason we mis executed on something. So just a good [00:19:00] reinforcement that, again, to the beginning of the question good demand tailwinds we’re still seeing.

I’m sure Allie has a lot of color to fill in the blanks there. 

Ali Rasmussen: Yeah, I think that let’s take our New Jersey campground just because it’s It’s applicable here we came in to Spacious Skies Country Oaks as the new owners of the Start of last season and that, rather than ride the 2022 wave of, everyone’s screaming demand and success, like we were overhauling sort of everything.

On the campground we were doing property improvements, we were changing up operations in a big way. And so what we’re now seeing at, locations like that where we have done, all of this work ahead of time, like our 2023 Insidious Guide, this country of was so improved to 2022 and the growth is, still continuing there.

So that’s really exciting. And we feel pretty [00:20:00] confident that the space that we occupy is like a Goldilocks. kind of experience. We to keep our campgrounds as campgrounds and offer like a pretty middle of the road offering so that like the biggest pool of, camping customers can come and find something to enjoy.

At a stage of Skyscan Friends we retain that 80 percent RV tent site mix we have the lodgings as, like added bonus, as far as what our glamping units in the portfolio contain, we have a, a couple sites that have yurts and then a few sites that have some cute retro RV Rental type things, but otherwise we’re solidly in that RV space in that affordable vacation for, the majority of camping, guests and camping families.

We’re excited about next year too. 

Brian Searl: So I’m here, I’m curious to [00:21:00] question to either you or Eric, whoever wants to answer, or you can both abstain if you don’t want to answer this question, but there’s a lot of we’ve been through a tumultuous kind of last few years, both good and bad up and down, the numbers really don’t match up with what they were in 2019 or what they were year over year, 21 to 22, 22, 23.

So of the things that Eric was talking about, of the Missed expectations, right? For a couple of properties. Do you feel like those are just really valuable learning experiences that will help you as you continue to grow Spacious Skies and not go through that stuff again? Do you feel like that was just something that was a one off because of COVID or coming out of it?

Or how do you view those things? There’s a lot of owners struggle with it. And that’s why I’m asking you guys, right? 

Eric Rasmussen: Yeah. I think the general answer, we view those as really great opportunities to whatever mistake we can make at one campground, what we’ve learned and can take out of that. Can go across the other 14 campgrounds and we find that to be really impactful and powerful and we’re able to really, where we do miss or misstep yeah, there, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of positive [00:22:00] that transcends through the broader portfolio as a result.

I think, looking at our portfolio like in terms of like missed expectations, we have, I can think of maybe one, one and a half instances where like where we were, we’re off from like just original expectations and it’s just something. different as opposed to something that we can identify and course correct and fix.

And again, they apply that throughout the rest of the portfolio as well. 

Brian Searl: And I think that’s what I’m going after, right? Is your guys expertise with operating so many different campgrounds. There are a lot of people who just do the one and maybe if their expectations are wrong, they panic and over correct or don’t know how to use this data in the best way possible and 

Eric Rasmussen: yes. Yep. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

Brian Searl: Alright Steve, you want to go? 

Steve Rappleyea: Sure. I feel like I’m taking a lot of notes because I feel like the combined knowledge of all these entrepreneurs and industry leaders is really valuable to me as an entrepreneur. 

Brian Searl: It’s literally the only reason I do the show. To pick all of their brains. 

Steve Rappleyea: A couple things you mentioned I just want to, Connect to is [00:23:00] one, when you mentioned that idea of setting expectations, and I think that in, in my experience, renting RVs to people, many of whom are in an RV for the first time, that is the most important thing that we do in our pre rental walkthrough.

And one of the things that I say, and I’m teaching my employees to say is to tell people to expect something to go horribly wrong. And at some point, something’s going to go wrong, and it’s not going to be the end of the trip, it’s not going to be the end of the earth, and we’re going to solve it, and you have resources to solve it, and that’s part of the adventure.

And universally, people report back to me, Oh, this thing happened and I’m so glad you said that. Because it’s so new and people have such high expectations of this experience. And they’ve fantasized, many people that we rent to have fantasized about doing this for years before they finally start the process.

So it’s really important that we do that work with them. So a nod to that. You you asked about what the, if our expectations during the year were,[00:24:00] how they turned out essentially, and one of the things that, that we experienced being very new to this, to, to, to the, to this business is managing sort of explosive growth is very difficult, right?

So we went, our rentals from one unit to the, to leaders. Now, we increased our revenue by, excuse me, 10x this year, and increased rentals by about 10x. We had about 120 rentals go out. And managing the rental work on one RV is fairly simple and straightforward. RVs and the maintenance, multiple systems to remember.

It’s very, it’s impossible for one person to do it. So then you have to hire people. So through the year we started out, it was just me doing most of the operations work. My son in the back end and my wife as well. [00:25:00] And we hired, someone to clean, was the first person that was the most valuable player.

And then someone to do deliveries, and then multiple people to do deliveries, and then multiple people to clean. So managing employees, and managing operations, and then managing marketing. Every week, every day seemed like there’s a new you can call it an obstacle, you can call it an opportunity, a problem to solve, a small way that you could improve upon the work.

And I have to say, I was having a conversation with somebody from, an executive from RV Share a few days ago. And they said, they were asking about our work and they said, I told them where we were and they said, oh that’s great because the rental industry, this is from their perspective, I don’t know if it’s industry wide is true or not, but from their perspective, rentals were down last year.

for this past year. And I thought, wow, that’s, that is not at all my experience, right? Of course, going from, 10x growth is, you’re not feeling like things are in any way going down. [00:26:00] And then the next thing I thought was, if it is a bit of a rebound period after the COVID explosion, okay, so what should I be pushing towards next year?

What would be, what’s the be staring at. So that feels great to me because that feels if I was able to do, if we were able to do this year, the next year could be even more could be even more growth in front of us and more opportunities in that respect. I also have one, one other thing I wanted to add That we ended up adding on was, it was, we’re talking about glamping.

We actually acquired a a beautiful Airstream motorhome, the big silver bullet looking motorhome in an engine based unit that we will use, but we’re not going to rent it out for driving, but we set up a glamping location. And it’s just like just a beautiful little thing. But I wonder as a business, is it, we set it up and we were renting it, we’re making money from it, but I kind of wonder, is it.

Is it, too much of a dilution? Should we just focus on rentals? Or is it, [00:27:00] these additional sort of opportunities? Should we focus more or less? I don’t know, that was my wondering. 

Joann Delvescio: I’m sorry, I interrupted you. I have a question for you, Steve. You have a fleet that you rent out, and then you also have those that you deliver to the campground, and you have there, and for people to already go in?

Okay. For the ones at you right now, and a lot of times obviously those are newbies that are coming in and running for the first time, do you know where they’re going camping? Do you ask them where they’re going? What campground they’re going to? Do you ever call the campground owner out of town and say, hey listen, I’ve got a newbie coming into your campground and maybe you just need to treat them with a little bit more tender loving care?

I think it would go a long way for both. The campground owner to know that there may be somebody coming in that they may need to spend a little extra time with and maybe for the renter to say, wow, at least they know I don’t really know everything and how to hook up all the hoses and they’re going to give me a little extra help.

Brian Searl: Especially that’s quoting them to the site so they [00:28:00] don’t back into your bathhouse. 

Steve Rappleyea: A couple of points. Excellent idea about, I would say about. 50 percent of our delivery rentals are going to campgrounds, maybe even less. The other 50 or 60 percent going to residences for some extra space for relatives visiting for for that sort of thing, for the ones that we do, we’re right between a Jellystone and a KOA.

I know some of the staff there, but there’s a manager in between. Are there managers running these outfits that are in between me and the owner per se? So getting a relationship with the right people, I find in those situations, it’s the folks at the front desk, who are most important because the manager is really Back of the house operations distracted by things, but if I can speak to somebody, like I speak to Sarah at the front desk who’s going to be checking them in, that’s great.

The other thing is when we deliver to campgrounds, we set it up, do all the connections, put the landing gear down, make sure it’s all set up. Then what ends up happening is we have a [00:29:00] shorter Walkthrough that’s more focused on their enjoyment rather than on the mechanics of setting up and breaking down an RV.

Brian Searl: Great idea, though. I’m just waiting to see if Joanne wanted to say 

Greg Emmert: anything else. 

Joann Delvescio: No, I’m, like I said, I just, because I hear it all the time from the, from the owners. Obviously, especially in the height of the season when, folks are coming in, they’ve never rented an RV before.

If there was a heads up to whoever, the front desk, the owner, the manager, that you’ve got some people coming in that you may need to spend a little extra time, I think that would go a long way to promote the renters and the others. 

Steve Rappleyea: Sometimes what I do, what I will do in that is I do make a call just to make sure that they’ve selected the right site because generally speaking they’re booking a site and they’re renting an RV for me.

And I want to be sure that if there’s a problem with the site, that we can resolve it as, as quickly as possible, rather than get there and find out, oh, this 34 foot motorhome is not going to fit in this [00:30:00] 20 foot this 20 foot pad. 

Brian Searl: I think the New Jersey Association and this is a revenue maker for you, Joanne.

You should make like giant bumper stickers that say student driver and you can give them out. Student camper. They could be branded New Jersey, right? NewJerseyCamping. com. Good idea, Brian. Win. oKay. Let’s go to Greg from Camp Strategy, who maybe Didn’t exist in Camp Strategy at the beginning of the year, so this would be an interesting story perhaps, and then you can weave in here and tell us what Camp Strategy is to you, Greg.

I’d love to hear about it and how you’re different. 

Greg Emmert: I’m certainly different. I don’t know if that’s a positive or a negative. It depends on which side you look at it. For me, it’s a negative. Fair enough. 

Can I first say that this is the first MC Fireside Chats that I’m on. It’s also the first one that I’ve ever seen a guest speaker with antlers.

Joshua has the coolest set of antlers. I’m wondering, do you shed those once a year, or are those [00:31:00] permanently affixed? That’s really good, man. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s perfectly done. So yeah sorry, I have a hard time with, oh, chicken. Yeah, so we the beginning of the year really my expectations were to continue working for, I have, Sort of some smaller clients that I do work for here and there, but I have one bigger client that most of my time gets allocated to.

And I had hoped to pick up some additional work and I did. I even, I got to do a little bit for Eric and Allie, which was a lot of fun. But yeah, my, my. Clients rolling on and things are going alright. And I’m looking at my numbers and going this year’s I’m a little bit ahead of last year.

So that’s good. And then just out of nowhere in April, I got a call from Jeff Hoffman. And yeah, it was, we had touched base about trading ideas and things before because he was And he has a lot more industry contacts and street cred than I do very, he’s a very recognizable face and name. He just said I’ve got this other [00:32:00] guy, Justin Brady, and he’s really good with accommodations.

And I think the three of us could put something together. And. Yeah, next thing you know we’re trying to hash out an operating agreement and come up with a way to, to put this together. And since then, Justin has dropped out, which is unfortunate because he is really Both he and Jeff the part that I like about this the most is that those two even though Justin is not a part of it now, I can still say this about him, but I feel like I learn something from them every time I have a conversation with them.

They’re just really smart. And yeah the partnership for me was a no brainer. I’m still working with my client with Roadville Campgrounds and But now, added on Camp Strategy, and yeah, we’re, I can’t believe we’re closing out the year already, really, because we our conversations about forming the group started in April, so it’s it’s amazing that we’re, 11 days away from the end of the year and looking ahead to next year wait, am I jumping the shark?

Brian Searl: Yeah, you can’t look ahead to 2024 yet. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about Camp Strategy, though generally speaking. Since it’s your first time on the show, Greg’s going to be a recurring guest for us on the [00:33:00] Campground on the show. Once a month in 2024 and just talk a little bit about, because there’s so many of these groups popping up, at least that’s my perception.

And maybe just because I attend so many of the different shows, everybody wants to do RV park management and everybody wants to consult and everybody wants to, but I feel like they’re typically all going after the larger, higher end of the market, wanting to be all things to all people. I want to be a management group that hires all the people and does all the things, but that’s not what you want to do.

And I think that’s a compelling story and it’s an underserved market. So I’d like to hear about that. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, absolutely. We and we did have that conversation about going after Mark management in the beginning and just decided that, especially as we tried to form the group and get things together, that was something that we would stray away from.

It’s just such a heavy lift. If we could pick up a park here locally or something in Northeast Ohio, we might make a run at it. But we really want to be, so background on me I mentioned at the beginning of the show, I owned a campground that was for [00:34:00] 26 years, worked as an owner operator with my mom and dad.

And if anybody who’s ever done it. knows that when you’re an owner operator, you’ve got every hat on possible. There’s everything from a baseball cap to 10 gallon hat, and you’re doing all the jobs, and feeling really overwhelmed, and at times anyway. And so that’s the position that we approach our consulting from.

And Jeff has also been an owner operator of multiple campgrounds. And so we really want to just be a consulting and professional advisory firm. That doesn’t mean that we can’t help with things like design or layout or development or due diligence, but we don’t want to wade into the into the management side because we really want to focus our efforts on, even smaller like we were mom and pop owners.

Not that we don’t have conversations with. Capital groups and and VC guys who are looking to acquire 50 of them in a year but we really want to [00:35:00] focus on the individual owners or the groups, that are maybe 15 to 20 parks like Spacious Guys where we can be more effective on a one to one basis, and we both really believe in leading with our beliefs Jeff is very We’re both very pragmatic, but he’s the numbers guy.

Like I’ve never seen anyone get excited over an Excel sheet before, but he does. I don’t know how that’s possible, but he sees numbers and it’s just. His eyes light up. So he enjoys that side. I really enjoy the philosophical side. And getting owners to think about their why and their vision.

Because this isn’t mine, it’s not proprietary or anything, but just in general, people don’t buy. What you do or sell, they buy why you do it, and getting people to think about their business from that perspective, especially if they are owner operators wearing all those hats, it can be really challenging, especially if they’re their left brain really I’m sorry, right brain, really analytical thinkers and not creative side.

That [00:36:00] can be really difficult. But once you bridge that, then it opens everything up for us. Then we can really affect change and help somebody because we can determine their vision. And move them forward into that vision rather than trying to develop their park for them. That’s not something we’re interested in doing.

Brian Searl: Alright. Yeah, that’s what, that, that kind of, you and Jeff both I’ve known for a very long time, right? And like we were at all the conventions and I kept Jeff right beside me because he already always says something intelligent. He can balance me out, but people want to sit down with me and talk to me too.

bUt yeah I’m really excited to see where you guys go. I think we’re doing a website for you, so that’ll be tonight, hopefully. And then I’m excited. Yeah. But the new logo, the new pieces, the strategy. And again, I think that’s a really big underserved market is the people that, yes, like you said, you’re having conversations with the big people.

You will work with the big people, but the willingness to work with also the small people is something that I feel like maybe is there for a lot of people or some people, but they don’t necessarily have the flexibility to do that given [00:37:00] the structure of whatever company they’re working for. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, exactly right. Exactly right. And we’re really interested in having those conversations with people. It’s really easy to sit across the table from someone and listen to the story and go, Wow, I used to be in that chair. It’s so easy to relate to those folks and to help them succeed. That’s just, it’s so rewarding to watch someone go from frustrated or overworked.

To success moving them into a space maybe mentally or personally that, that then affects the business. It just, there’s, it’s so gratifying. It’s so rewarding. So yeah, that is definitely something that we’re interested in. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Thank you, Greg, and feel free to pitch in. We’re going 2024 in a second here, actually right now, but I want to start and just say one thing from my perspective right now.

I have, I normally don’t talk on this show very often about myself and I don’t intend to now, but a little bit about our plans for 2024. Like we have hundreds of them, and But I think one of the important things we’ve heard on this show again today, and on several shows, many that we’ve done throughout the year, is this lack of data [00:38:00] and understanding of the ability to have the information.

And in some cases it exists. It’s in a KOA report. It’s in an OHI report. I almost said RVIC. It’s in an OHI report. I got it right. Jeff was going to find me every time I said that. I Think that data exists out there and certainly there are park owners who are trying their best to collect it, they’re aggregating it, CampSpot’s doing a good job of it in their analytics platform, but I think there’s still a big gap that, that maybe in some ways is unsolvable the way we’ve been currently collecting data, and feel free to weigh in if you guys have thoughts on this after I’m done.

I don’t want to take a long time. But just, the old school method, right? We have to email X number of people and wait for a response with a survey link, or we have to call them on the phone and we have to catch them during a busy day or a not busy time and ask them a bunch of questions that they may or may not be truthful with us on.

That data can only carry us so far. And one of the things we’re going to work on in 2024 with Scott Baer as part of our MC Hospitality Highlights is trying to uncover more of that data from a let’s look at things that, like I think KOA typically looks at the camper [00:39:00] perspective. We want to look at campground perspective.

How can we pull out the data that we have from a marketing agency standpoint, from everything that’s on, with our tools and automation and AI and use that to help campground owners understand what is impacting the campgrounds, not just the camper side of the experience, which I think KOA does a great job for.

And so here’s the crazy idea that I have, and you guys can tell me I’m crazy. It’s going to sound nuts, right? But Scott and I did this on a call. So as in the sub addition to MC Hospitality Highlights, what we want to look at And we want to be very transparent when we’re doing this, right? Totally separate from MC Hospitality Highlights.

We’ve actually built a tool to do synthetic user research with AI, where we can actually have AI create 50 to 500 personalities of people based on what it knows of the entire world. Create a Sarah and a Tom and whatever else, their age range, everything else. And then we can give them survey questions and respond to them and actually get a data set that Scott said was fairly accurate for winter [00:40:00] camping, which kind of shocked us.

But, I feel like this is an interesting, again, as long as we’re disclosing it and we’re saying it’s not real people and separating it from the real surveys, is this something that could give us more granular data? Because we can do that at scale. We can do winter camping in Arizona. We can do winter camping in Texas.

We can do, that’s never going to get done unless we hire hundreds of people to call thousands and thousands of people. That’s one of the things I’m interested in 2024, is seeing if maybe we can use that. To help owners and operators, but I’d love to hear from you guys about what your 2024 plans are to you.

So who would like to go first? 

Steve Rappleyea: I’d go, I’d be happy to go first. The the 2024 plans for us, we have a, an expansion bottleneck. So I’m looking at that and thinking about, we’re having discussions about how to manage that, being that on the, on our current geographic location, limited, and we’re looking at 14 units.

Rather than get to 13 and then make a [00:41:00] decision, we’re thinking about, okay, what would happen at this point? That’s one thing is exploring three or four different options for that. The other thing, and this goes to your conversation about data, the RV rentals at the moment are my side hustle.

In a year or two, it’ll turn into my only hustle, but my day job is I work as an educational consultant, and I work in the area of continuous improvement in education, which is all about turning data into actionable steps, and we have we, everywhere, we’re drowning in information. We have lots of information available to us, and we tend to As a result, look for the biggest thing to solve the biggest problem, and people get lost in that, because that ends up, us trying to find a one shot deal, and really the most mileage can be gained by lining up your lowest hanging fruit, your easiest solutions, and picking them off one by one, [00:42:00] right?

So if you have, how can you get a little bit more profitable? How can you have a little less breakage? How can you have a little less, a little more? Or queries coming in. Those things are really attainable. You just have to pay attention to your data. And that’s something, we’ll have a, after this year we’ll have a year’s data on multiple units with user profiles, or excuse me, rental profiles.

We’re also as a member of RVDA, we have access to the to the

GoRVing database where folks, inquire about rentals and have those data. And our, my job as the operations guy is to think, okay, how can I make the RVs a little healthier so they’re a little bit, they’re a little bit less downtime? How can I get a little bit more information to consumers so that they rent a little bit longer rather than try to keep it the shortest amount of time?

How can I, get one more day? How can I make sure that when we do [00:43:00] check ins and and departures that we give the right amount of information so we don’t end up having to We’re going to have to, charge for additional fees at the end, which generally speaking, we don’t make money from it’s, we’re covering ourselves.

So it’s really lost time for us. Things like filling up gas and that sort of thing. All those little things will stack up and it’s true for any of the folks in any of the chicklets around the screen, those little valuable changes and additions are where you can really, create some great mileage.

That’s what I’m looking forward to next year. The other thing is, getting to the end of next year, at this point next year, I want to be able to say very definitively I’m ready to retire from my day job and do this full time. So that’s where I am. 

Brian Searl: I think you’ll get there. We have faith in you.

I really think, I really believe rentals has a very bright future ahead of us. And we talked a little bit about this on the dealer, with the dealer show from RVDA and both Canada and the United States. And I think there’s a lot of [00:44:00] unknowns, but I think that as RV sales come down, I think there’s still going to be a lot of people who want to go camping who don’t have rigs.

And so I think that’s where rentals really is an interesting, I really want to see where that goes, so. 

Steve Rappleyea: There’s a breakeven point for folks that if you are, there’s lots of folks who want to own a rig, but don’t use it a lot. And there’s lots of folks who own a rig and use it a lot, but somewhere in that mix, we have folks who are experienced RVers who’ve chosen not to purchase a rig because they realize if they’re going out for two or three weeks a year maintaining the rig.

Storing the rig is more costly to them than just having a high quality rental. And in fact, you get lot rot on rigs if you’re not taking care of your unit. We had a unit that came in as a consignment and we had problems with the generator because generator has to either be drained or have fuel stabilizer in it or be run once a month.

And they left it for a year, so that, that destroys the pump and the filter. Little things like that, not everyone knows. Tires age out before they [00:45:00] wear out. There’s all these items that make ownership a bit of a project. And if you’re prepared for it and you like it, that’s fine. But lots of people aren’t.

They’ll use a rig a lot one year, and then peter off. So rentals are a really great opportunity for people to be in the lifestyle and do what we love. But to not have the hassle of ownership. 

Brian Searl: And I think that’s that’s something that the industry, I feel like needs to see more of, and some people certainly get it, but like the RV rental companies are fantastic for campgrounds.

It’s just bringing people into the market that would not otherwise be willing to drop 100, 000 to 500, 000 on a rig. Or who, if you sit down and you, and I know Allie, you know this, right? If you sit down with Earl from Black Folks Camp 2, we were drinking with him for three days straight in Ontario earlier this year.

You’re just talking about the different markets that are untapped and underserved and aren’t outreached to enough. And some of that obviously includes what Earl is doing in that great work and some of the other work that you’re doing too, Allie, with your groups. We still have to have that conversation, by the way.

I’m going to forget about that about Ojai, [00:46:00] about reaching some of those people. But even in the urban people who live in the Torontos, there’s such a huge different demographic of Black, Asian, male, female, young, old, everywhere. They don’t have anywhere to park a rig in Toronto. And so then you have the expense of basically buying another house, storing it, like you were saying, all the upkeep.

So I feel like if there’s different methods of entry, depending on what your wants and needs are as a consumer, boy, that helps campgrounds a lot. Doesn’t it? 

Steve Rappleyea: Absolutely. All right. Who wants to go next?

Ali Rasmussen: It or Outlet for 2024. Yeah. I think that we are putting more focus, or continued focus, on operations. We got to 15 campgrounds in a really short period of time. And the last one joined the collection this past April. Comparatively to the two years prior buying two, two campgrounds was really slow as far [00:47:00] as acquisitions go, but that was intentional based on, reacting to a lot of things, including like the macro environment but also just like what we had to focus on as a company.

And so we have been Eric and I have been in particular. Spent a lot of time examining what we were doing and how we were operating this past year. Eric and I did a really rare trip together throughout the whole collection. And we actually, post all that on social media this past summer and a lot of things.

And we were so lucky to have had that opportunity to really take a microscope, microscope, look at everything. And so 2024 is a continuation of just like improving how we are running our campgrounds, the experience that we are offering our guests. We have a brand new Director of Operations that is joining our team who, comes with a lot of experience.

She is really like the most significant new hire that Spacious Skies has had [00:48:00] in a really long time. We’re really excited to have her. On board. And just to take this foundation that we have built and really hone it and make sure that staying in a Spacious Guides Campgrounds and being employed by Spacious Guides Campgrounds is, It’s just, it was enjoyable as possible so that when it makes sense to, to add to the collection again and to start acquiring more campgrounds that we have everything really buttoned up and just ready to plug in.

Brian Searl: So is it fair to say, obviously operations is a piece of where you’re expecting to go in 2024 and continue to improve on that. Are there other things that excite you about 2024 besides operations or like where you think the most exciting thing that happens in 2024 for Spacious Skies is? 

Ali Rasmussen: Gosh, there’s so much just continuing to grow and develop the brand and our presence is also really paramount and a big focus for us.

So what that, look like, [00:49:00] looks like and how, what, other channels we might be exploring or, what other systems changes or improvements or whatnot to be seen. CI skies, we never rest. We are always reinventing and making sure that we are in constant evolution.

Brian Searl: I don’t want to skip over you Eric, so do you have anything to add? 

Eric Rasmussen: No! No, no additions. I think it’s just, we the capital markets and the broader economy has dealt the hand that it has and we’re going to lean into that and really hone operation. Our goal is, when the market turns, when that foundation, as Ali has described, as we, put that work into it.

To be ready when the market is ready to acquire 

At scale. 

Brian Searl: It almost seems like the timing of the market is very much in your favor for what you guys needed to do based on what you’re saying, right? Like it all seems to work out perfectly. 

Ali Rasmussen: Yes, we, I think it had achieved the scale that we needed to achieve to [00:50:00] make the company run just in time.

Yeah, a little bit of faith. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. We look forward to checking back with you in 2024 to see how things are going. Joshua, you want to go next? Yeah, for sure. 

Joshua Turner: So like I said, I jumped a little ahead before, but we just got built now, so we’re just at our first guest, so 2024 is going to be learning absolutely everything about running the resort and learning all the things that I don’t know right now.

It was hard, it was a very hard endeavor to build the resort itself and now the real hard part starts of operating it the fun part of operating the business. So 2024 is going to be that. I really want to look at building out a lot of our packages and experiences for people here. I think that’s going to be one of the bigger parts that we can do now that we’ve got the cool structures up and going and stuff like that, but it’s going to be what can people do within the parks.

Our tiki bar and park itself is just, has been poised [00:51:00] for such amazing growth. We we saw the biggest year that we’ve ever had at the tiki bar. Our park was up 25%. In daily passes and was one of the highest parks in the province, so it was a really big year for that, and I don’t expect that momentum to be slowing down, especially with a project like this that’s in the area.

So I think 2024 is just going to be an amazing year. I don’t want to see any more growth, per se, right now. We just really need to manage the operations that we have, and maybe tune out a couple of the smaller operations that we have in our Portfolio. Really want to concentrate on this glamping experience and creating those amazing packages for our guests.

Brian Searl: I’m really glad there are smart people out there to balance what I want. I just want to grow and do all the crazy things all at once. So I’m really glad there are smarter people than me out there who are helping the industry kind of balance out.

Joshua Turner: Yeah, we did. We did. We we acquired. Two, three restaurants summertime restaurants, and [00:52:00] then with the Tiki Bar, and then we decided to build a glamping resort, and I have a a bunny hugger clothing line as well.

And it’s just, it’s just too much for people to do. So we really want to concentrate on what’s the big profit ones and which ones mean the most to us and concentrate on those and do a better job of those ones. Cause you’re only, you can only do so much. 

Brian Searl: So what do you think in an ideal world, 20, like the end of 2024, either you’re back on the show or right where we’re having a conversation or whatever, what do you think you have to look back on in 2024 to say was truly successful for you?

Joshua Turner: I’ve set some goals for myself with my business coach and one of the big ones that I would love to see is being ranked one of the top five places to stay in Canada. I didn’t name the publication, so it can be any publication. I think hitting some of those milestones for us is going to be is going to be good.

Because I feel like as entrepreneurs, we never really Step back and pat ourselves on the back and say we achieved those things that we wanted to, unless we set some hard milestones and goals. That’s one of them that I’d [00:53:00] really like to see, and then I’d really like to see this park grow even above the 25%, make it the top park in Saskatchewan again.

And and again, have some more of these cool packages. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. I might have to come out and visit you. We’ll see. I’m not too far from you. Yeah, you’re not. Yeah, it’s not too far. There’s a nice whiskey distillery out there that I really love. Yeah, Black Fox. And yes, is that the Seven Whiskey or whatever?

Joshua Turner: Yeah. Yeah, it’s not too far from us here. There’s some really 

Brian Searl: cool distilleries. It’s probably my top five whiskey in the whole world. Yeah. Which is weird because it’s in Canada. 

Joshua Turner: There’s some cool, there’s some really cool places around here and some of the packages that we’ve put together, I’m really happy we just got to announce it yesterday.

I believe we are, I’ve seen that we’re the world’s only glamping resort that you can actually rent a tank along with your special, with your stay. So we added on a package. It’s a Ukrainian built Sherp. And we took it out on the ice here with, we had some influencers out. We went [00:54:00] out on the ice and ripped around in it.

Foot falls through, it’s amphibious. We’re planning on some tours to take our guests with. Pretty proud to say that you can rent a tank when you stay at Blackstrap Provincial blackstrap Camping Resort. 

Brian Searl: I think we should come to a show from that. 

Joshua Turner: I think so. If you go on our Instagram and our Facebook, you’ll see the tank ride with the influencers and stuff like that.

Brian Searl: Awesome. Thank you. I appreciate being here. And I just want to say we are a couple minutes over because we got a couple minutes late to start. So if anybody needs to leave, please feel free to do so or hang out if you want. We’re just going to do Joanne and Greg and then we’ll wrap up the show. Joanne, what do you 

Joann Delvescio: yeah for 2024, as I said we’re looking for it to be a good year for us.

I will tell you that the demand for our, for seasonal sites is very strong in New Jersey. We do six to eight consumer shows, camping and RV consumer shows every year. And, that is where a lot of folks get their information on the seasonal sites. and where they want to stay. And, for the rental market, we see that there’s a lot of [00:55:00] folks in the last two to three years who have come to these RV shows who don’t necessarily want to purchase an RV, but they are looking to either rent an RV and take it into a campground, so there might be an opportunity, Steve, for you to, get your information out to some of the RV and camping shows across the country for folks who are looking to rent.

But we are, we’re looking for a good year. The consumer shows last year were very strong in attendance. And I think going into 2024, we’re probably going to see the numbers of the consumer shows increase again. And, we’ll be back in Montreal, Canada. Montreal’s a big area for us in New Jersey.

We get a lot of folks that come down from Montreal. down to around the shore areas each and every year. We do, we spread ourselves out as much as we can, making sure that we personally have booths at six to eight shows, but we have our brochures through Anderson Distribution at 27 shores around the, 27 shows around the country.

We’re exposed [00:56:00] out there as much as we can about camping in New Jersey. And I’ll just put a plug in real quick. We’ve got our conference coming up, our 33rd Annual Camping Conference for our campground owners and managers, February 21st in Orlando. So anyone looking to go to a camping show it’s nine educational sessions a trade show feel free to go to our website for that.

It’s called www. campgroundconference. com. So I’m looking forward to having another successful conference in 2024. 

Brian Searl: So what do you think, same question to you that I asked Joshua what do you think has to happen for the New Jersey camping industry as a whole for 2024 to say that was great? 

Joann Delvescio: Weather, Brian.

We are definitely very weather, unfortunately dependent in New Jersey. Obviously in other states too, when we have good weather, we see our numbers go up. When we get rainy weather and cold weather, whether it’s summer or the fall or, the springtime, obviously it has a [00:57:00] huge impact on our numbers.

We’re always praying to the the weather gods for good weather, sunshine in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: So weather control is not, see, so I’m not that ambitious compared to that. She wants to control the weather. 

Joann Delvescio: Weather is probably our biggest, that’s really what drives it a lot of the time.

Obviously advanced reservations are one thing, but those last minute kind of reservations. It’s all about the weather that’s coming up for the weekend. And I, I don’t think, fees as far as fees go. I think in New Jersey, our fees are on the average of where they are for most of our surrounding states.

It is a, you do get a nice bang for your buck when you camp in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: For sure. All right, Greg, last but not least. Yes, of course. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, so 2024 for us, being new it’s really about trying to get our, get our operation defined a little bit better. We know what our roles are.

But we want to make things work, [00:58:00] obviously, very smoothly for anybody that takes us on. We’re really excited because we just signed we’re waiting for the signed contract, but we did pick up a new glamping park here in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park here in Ohio. They’ve got it’s a family owned property.

They scored an amazing piece of land. In the National Park, but they were able to acquire it. They’ve got six cabins, 11 canvas tents in a gorgeous location on a hillside in the valley. We’re gonna, we’re gonna put in five more tents. They’ve got a brick cabin that they are rehabbing. And so right now we’re Tactical planning for this year and executing and then building some strategic planning for them moving forward 25 to 26, 27.

They’ve got a lot of really good ideas there, including adding maybe 20 to 25 RV spaces. So we’re excited about that one. And just, no, no tanks. I was, when he said that, I was like, you gotta be kidding me. I don’t know what reason it is, but I’m going to find a reason to come up there and see the tank.

That’s ridiculous. [00:59:00] He’s got antlers and a tank. The guy’s got it all. Completely jealous of that and speaking of jealous Joanne, if you have any parks near Cape May, say October, that need me for about a week or so, have them call me. I’m a giant bird nerd. I’d be happy to go. I love the festival. 

Joann Delvescio: We certainly have lots of parks down there in the Birding area, and let me just say this to Allie and Eric real quick, don’t even think about the tank in New Jersey, it is never going to fly.

Greg Emmert: No permitting for that. 

Ali Rasmussen: We trust you are the expert on what can fly.

Brian Searl: Sorry, go ahead, Greg. Please, I didn’t mean to interrupt. 

Greg Emmeert: Yeah, no, that’s it. That’s all right. Like I said, man, you throw a chicken out there and I’m like, oh, look, I’m just gone. But yeah that’s really it. We’re gonna, we’re gonna hit some state association shows. Because again, we feel like those.

Ali Rasmussen: Bring it. I know you, you and I have had this conversation, Brian. I think a lot of people consultants and others in the industry, they overlook those state shows. It is difficult, obviously, to try to hit, shows all [01:00:00] over the place. They tend to be grouped together around the same season.

Maybe you don’t have a big enough staff to get out and hit a bunch of them, but it just the conversations that you can have at those state level shows are so much more intimate, one on one, so much more substantive. Then maybe we’ll add it at the Arvick Expo and not the Ojai Expo. And that’s not to, to put that down.

It’s just, it’s a different crowd and it’s a different level of engagement. Yeah, we’re going to just try to get out, get the camp strategy name out and try to help folks across the country succeed. I’m excited for it. Awesome. 

Brian Searl: We’re looking forward to more conversations in 2024. Let’s go around the room real quick.

Before we close up, do we wanna just, what’s your New Year’s resolution? I’m gonna put you all on the spot, Steve. You wanna go first? 

Steve Rappleyea: I don’t really have a New Year’s resolution, but just a lot of pressure here. Here’s the thing. We’ll be returning, we’ll be flying back to the United States on New Year’s Eve.

Right now we’re in Amsterdam and we’re renting an rv, and we’re gonna be traveling through Belgium, France, [01:01:00] Spain, and Portugal in a rented rv Wow. That we’re renting ourselves. So that’s I, my New Year’s resolution is to come back from that. Excited about the new year. 

Brian Searl: I don’t think you’ll have any trouble doing that, sir.

Maybe I would want to stay longer in Holland driving RVs. Anyway. All right. Who’s next? All right. I’m going to pick Eric. Oh, 

Eric Rasmussen: Allie was just about to speak. 

Brian Searl: We’re going to take Allie off and then we’re just going to compare your answers and make sure.

Ali Rasmussen: I think that my New Year’s resolution is to really lean into the new. Team members, not to put too much pressure on, any one person, but Eric and I have really made a lot of sacrifices over these last couple of years at the expense of, our family life and attention and I really look forward to taking more time with our children and, taking just time together as a family because it’s been [01:02:00] really missing.

In these last, couple of years as we’ve been in just crazy building up mode, so I really look forward to that. 

Brian Searl: That almost has to be your answer now, Eric. There’s nothing else. 

Eric Rasmussen: Yeah, yes.

Brian Searl: Thanks for being a guest, Eric. 

Greg Emmert: Very wise answer. That’s a very wise answer.

Brian Searl: If you have anything to add, Eric, you can, but otherwise, Joshua? 

Joshua Turner: Yeah some of our goals is going to be being named one of the top five places to stay in Canada in a publication. That one’s a goal that I set for myself that I’ve Definitely pop a bottle of champagne after that happens and I’ve been on this podcast, another podcast that I really would like to be on is Glamp, the Glamp Tech podcast.

So if anyone knows Nick and the team over there, maybe shoot him a little message or something like that, a little referral. And [01:03:00] then I’ll introduce you guys. Nick runs a great show. Yeah, he does. I love that. Perfect. And then another one is just now that a lot of the chaos is over and we’re getting back into is find a good work life balance being consistent in the gym and healthier, healthy habits in my lifestyle to make myself a better business owner, leader, and entrepreneur.

Brian Searl: Awesome. Joanne and Greg, New Year’s Resolutions and we’ll wrap it up. 

Greg Emmert: Go ahead, Joanne. 

Joann Delvescio: Oh, I knew you were going to ask that. My New Year’s Resolution is, get myself more healthy, coming into the new year. Hopefully have the campgrounds in New Jersey and have a fabulous, a great, successful, profitable year.

And really Another one is to get the campground execs from across the country, camp, the Campground Association of Management Professionals get us together again, two times, twice a year in 2024 and collaborate on things that are happening in our individual states across the country and work together on moving forward.[01:04:00] 

Greg Emmert: Right on. Personal, I’m going to Columbia on a birding tour, really nerdy thing, in, in February. And despite it being a birding tour, I’m gonna, I’m gonna My resolution is to find we’ve never seen a fer de lance. It’s like deadliest snake in South America. I would love to see. I’m a snake geek too, so that’s resolution one on the personal side.

On the business side, I hope that I can, I’m resolving to try To get the folks that we talk with to see the conservation side of what they do. I think a lot of folks don’t realize how important campgrounds are in conservation and how profitable promoting conservation at your parks can be. And so that’s that’s my personal crossing over into the business side.

I’ve I’m loaded with ideas on that and I really hope to share that and help owners see that they can be both green and profitable. And yeah, that’s just something that’s really important to me, always has been, so I’m really gonna try to push that without pushing it. [01:05:00] 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Let us know how Columbia is.

I’ve been thinking about Central America, but South America too, but I thought of you the other day, I was looking, I buy a lot of my goods for people for Christmas off of uncommon goods or weird sites like that, and there’s like a bird call set. I was like, oh, that’s Greg. Right on, man. 

Greg Emmert: But I’ve got with next time we’ll do a quiz.

I can do somewhere between 150 and 200 by calls alone So we can do like you play the call would just put your whole audience to sleep At least one bird call right now, 

I don’t mean I can do I can identify them so Okay, I can Bardow there you go. 

Woohoo! 

Woohoo! Woohoo! Woohoo! That’s pretty good, I think.

Brian Searl: That’s maybe, but we don’t know enough to be sure if it’s accurate. That’s 

how you know it’s 

Steve Rappleyea: good. I will say it is accurate. There we go. Alright. 

Greg Emmert: Thank you. 

Brian Searl: Thank you guys. I appreciate another, again, we’ve had so many good shows this year. I think, [01:06:00] I don’t really set New Year’s resolutions.

I think mine was just be, to go to the gym. That way I know I break it on the first day and I can concentrate on what really needs done. I’m super excited to have, again, all of you on this show, all of the guests that we’ve had throughout 2024. I’M just a talking head without intelligent people to talk to and communicate with and hear their stories and help everybody else.

Just super grateful for all of you who have, who’ve been here and helped support the show. And we’ll see you in 2024 for another exciting season for the outdoor hospitality sector. Thanks guys, I really appreciate 

Greg Emmert: it. Right on, thank you Brian. 

Steve Rappleyea: Nice to meet you.

[01:07:00] 

Brian Searl: [00:01:00] Welcome everybody to another episode of MC Fireside Chats. Apologies for being a couple of minutes late this morning. We had all kinds of problems with our software. And so we’re up and running now, so hopefully you all stuck around for a few minutes, and we’re excited to bring our last episode of the year to you here on December 20th before we all break for Christmas and New Year’s excited to spend time with our families, loved ones, all that kind of stuff, so we brought back a couple guests who have been on throughout the year just to talk about, a little bit about how their year’s gone, how they, how 2023 shaped or mismatched with their expectations, what they’re expecting for 2024, so who knows where this conversation’s gonna go, hopefully it’ll involve as little as me.

As possible, so it is a good show but where do we want to start, guys? I want to go around and introduce everybody, right? I think, actually Greg has not been on the show before, from Camp Strategy. Let’s start with Greg, and then we can go around, and whoever wants to talk next. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, that’s right, man. Today’s my maiden voyage, and thanks for having me on, Brian. I’ve watched you guys for a while, and excited to be part of it moving forward. Yeah [00:02:00] no. Yes, probably. I always get nervous talking in front of people. It doesn’t matter if I can see them or not. 

Brian Searl: Yeah, go ahead. Sorry. 

Greg Emmert: No, that’s okay.

Yeah Camp Strategy is my new venture. I’ve been consulting now since we sold Actually today is the three year anniversary of the sale of our campground. It’s three years today since we said goodbye. And I’ve been doing consulting since, but recently was approached by the the one and only Jeff Hoffman to to team up.

I guess I’m the Robin to his Batman, I think is probably the how, the way he would describe it. And yeah, we have very good complimentary skill sets. Looking forward to a new year with the new company, Camp Strategy. And yeah, hopefully helping lots of owners or investors maximize their operations, make more money and live happier lives.

Brian Searl: All right. I want to dive into a little bit of that later on during our show, because I know you guys, like there’s lots of companies who are coming into the space doing similar things, but I think you guys are a little bit different in who you want to target and what you want to actually do, which is not management, which [00:03:00] I think is the one thing that immediately sets you apart.

All right. Who wants to go next? 

Joann Delvescio: Okay. 

Brian Searl: All right, Joanne. 

Joann Delvescio: I’m Joanne Del Vecchio. I am the Executive Director of the New Jersey Campground and Outdoor Lodging Association representing all of the campgrounds in the great state of New Jersey. 

Hi, Allie! And Allie’s one of our campground owners in New Jersey, and Eric.

Brian Searl: We better have Allie go next and then 

Ali Rasmussen: Yes, we are Allie and Eric Rasmussen, co founders of Spacious Skies Campground with a home state campground in the great state of New Jersey. It’s where we are headquartered as well. We have 15 campgrounds all along the east coast from Maine to Georgia and we’re excited to be back on the show.

Brian Searl: But why are they all not in New Jersey? If Joanne runs such a good state, why would you ever expand beyond that? 

Ali Rasmussen: We were, [00:04:00] 

Joann Delvescio: we’re trying, exactly. 

Ali Rasmussen: Joanne knows, we’re trying, the efforts don’t stop. We love New Jersey. We love Joanne. 

Brian Searl: Eric, do you want to introduce yourself? I know she just introduced you.

Eric Rasmussen: But I think ally covered much of it. I guess I’m the other half of space disguise, Eric. 

Ali Rasmussen: I usually do all the talking. 

Brian Searl: Alright, we’ll pick your brain a little bit later, Eric. And then, last but not least, Steve. 

Steve Rappleyea: Hey, how is everybody? I am Steve Raplia. I’m president and CEO of Drive Home RV. We are a growing RV rental company, an RV outfitter.

I, together with my son, Alec, and my wife, Mary, run the company. We started out with one unit last year, we’re up to eight units this year and are looking at continuing a pretty rapid growth. We specialize in not just renting RVs, but setting people up for their first adventure in outdoor [00:05:00] travel, it’s pretty, pretty exciting work. 

Brian Searl: Yeah. I think this is going to be an interesting sector. And we had you obviously on the show before. And I told you before we started the show that I don’t remember what I had for breakfast, but I do remember what you do in the industry and all that kind of stuff.

And so I think that there’s a, we’ve had conversations with dealers about where’s the industry headed as we go maybe into an economic downturn, maybe not, but are people going to buy RVs in the same level that they used to, or, use or rent or whatever else. And so I think there’s an interesting conversation to be had there for sure.

Maybe since we had you on the show last time, but so let’s break this. Let’s do this in three, two ways here, right? Let’s start about, we’ll go around the room, right? What did 2023 look like for you both from a high level, but also from, if you remember, what did you expect from 2023 going into it? Did it live up to your expectations?

Did things play out like you thought better, worse, whatever you want to share, like intentionally being broad, take it whatever direction you’d like. And then maybe we’ll carve up the middle with Greg from Camp Strategy since he’s new on the show. And then we can do [00:06:00] what we expect for 2024 at the end.

Does that sound okay with everybody? Oh, Joshua did not intro, did he? Where’s Joshua? 

Joshua Turner: I did not. 

Brian Searl: Joshua, I’m sorry. 

Joshua Turner: Josh Turner here, one of the owners here at Blackstrap Glamping Resort. We are located about 25 minutes out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. We In phase one, right now we’ve just built four luxury themed glamping domes.

Each one’s got a different theme. We can talk about a little bit later, and yeah, we’ve just opened up. Our first guest slept here last night, so it’s pretty cool to be on this on the show today. 

Brian Searl: Congratulations. Yeah, welcome back. We’re excited to, we’re going to talk about that too. Congrats. Yeah, that’s great.

Do you want to start with us, Joshua? Let’s talk about, because I feel like there’s an interesting story there, right? Coming into 2023, where were you at? Take it, take us through 2023, your expectations, how they lived up or didn’t. 

Joshua Turner: We started when I was first on the show, it was mid summer, we have a tiki bar that’s located close by here as well, so we were mid tiki bar [00:07:00] and there was some construction going on in the Glamping Resort, so 

Brian Searl: Oh yeah, I remember this now, yeah, so were you driving in the beginning?

Joshua Turner: Yeah, I was driving because I had ice cream melting, my phone overheated, I had to put it in the freezer to get back on the last little, it was a disaster. 

Brian Searl: This is the trick Steve, if you’re paying attention, you just have to do something crazy like this and then it’s marked in my memory, and I’ll never forget you.

Joshua Turner: I yeah, so I’m very happy that you welcomed me back on the show. 

Anyhow, I’ve made myself a little bit more secure and not driving this time in a nice quiet geodome. The whole year has been just us learning each phase of construction, how to build these things. The fact that we are building something completely different in a cold climate like Canada, we want to offer, we are offering year round glamping.

There was a lot of Extra little pieces that we had to put into this and learn on the go. Going into 2024, now all the hard work’s done, but now the job just starts. Don’t do that yet. No, that’s the second half of the show. You can’t ruin that already. 

Brian Searl: Alright. Okay, so 2023, [00:08:00] what did it look like?

January 1st, when you were, and I know not everybody sets resolutions, right? But when you were coming into 2023, where were you at with Blackstrap? Did it exist? Was it conceived? Were you seeking funding? 

Joshua Turner: Oh yeah, we were, we’ve been about two years two years working with, because we’re within a provincial park, right?

So it comes with its own. The park is, SAS Parks is absolutely amazing but it comes with its own trial and tribulations when you’re dealing with government entities and stuff. We had some, trials and tribulations on things, different things about water usage and land location and stuff like that.

But we worked all those out and then we were able to break ground 

In the spring. 

Brian Searl: wOuld you, is it fair to say that you were planning on two years and you’re right on track or were you delayed a little bit or? 

Joshua Turner: Oh yeah, we were delayed like a year and a bit. Not on construction, just on hold up and permitting and and financing too.

Brian Searl: Alright, so tell us about guest number one last night. How excited were you? 

Joshua Turner: So nervous. I stayed up late and I woke [00:09:00] up early just in case my phone was ringing, that something happened. And it did. What happened? We lost power. We knew it was a plan, there was a planned power outage that they were going to do.

Brian Searl: On your first night? Who are these power people? 

Joshua Turner: And so we let the guests know we actually own a pizza place about 15 minutes away, so we went and brought them, we had a brought them pizza last night and said, hey listen, there’s going to be a generator that’s parked down the road that’s going to be a little loud, but it’s going to provide you power.

And then so they turned it on, and it worked, and then it stopped working, so they’re just on their way right now to go get a bigger generator to power the resort so we can get our guests up and going. Our guests are so cool, laid back Saskatchewan people and they kinda, we, they kinda knew, so we’ll make up for it somehow, maybe a nice charcuterie board tonight or something like that.

Brian Searl: I think that’s the key is setting the expectations as we’ve talked about many different times on the show like things happen But if you’re setting the expectation that this is going to be this or loud or whatever and then honestly if anything happens And you bring me pizza like you’re all [00:10:00] is forgiven right pizza seems to solve a lot.

Joshua Turner: Yeah everything all right, we’re gonna come back to you. I want to know what 2024 was like who wants to go next? Who wants to volunteer? 

Joann Delvescio: Okay, I’ll go since nobody else is speaking up. In New Jersey we have just a little over 90 campgrounds and our season is typically from April 1st through October 31st is when the campgrounds are open.

Obviously high season for us is Memorial Day through Labor Day, but we had a really good season again this past in 2023. We’re leveling out and becoming more realistic with our expectations as to what we’re going to be seeing in the future. 20, 21, 22 were some really high, we hit some really high marks and, the end of 22, we saw it leveling out a little bit and 23, like I said, we’re seeing that we’re probably more where I think we’re going to be going forward, but it’s still very [00:11:00] strong.

Our the phone still, the phone was just ringing again. People are still looking to, to camp. They’re looking to plan 2024 and speaking to the members. Some of the reservations already for 20, 24 up, folks that stayed in 2023 made the reservations for 2024. We’ve had, campgrounds that are putting in new amenities.

And Pickleball seems to be a big thing with the campgrounds now, Splash Pads. People are looking for the different types of amenities that campgrounds are putting in and are booking them. New Jersey so far, we are knock on wood. Like I said, it was a good season.

Obviously, we always have permitting issues in New Jersey. We are one of the most Overregulated states in the country, so it’s not easy to expand a campground, or we haven’t seen a new campground built in New Jersey from bottom up, shoveling to the ground, and I’ve been here for 11 years, and the 11 [00:12:00] years that I’ve been here, and we’ve seen some of the heartache that some of the campground owners have gone through trying to do expansion, we certainly do our best going to planning and zoning meetings and Speaking with some of our folks at the state level to try to mitigate some of those, the issues that they’re seeing and try to make for a more smooth incorporation of any expansion that they’re trying to do.

But like I said, 2023 was a good year for us in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: Do you see a lot of the glamping developments running into the same issues with permitting and expansion and building that the campgrounds are? 

Joann Delvescio: We don’t, if you’re talking about the hip camp and those that they’re putting in on the wineries and the breweries.

Brian Searl: No. I think, you can talk about them if you want. But I think I was going for more towards the campgrounds that are adding glamping or the glamping only like the, 

Joann Delvescio: oh, so outdoor, we call them outdoor adventure. Okay. Sites or outdoor adventure lodging, outdoor lodging.

We don’t necessarily, we’re not into the big glamping. New [00:13:00] Jersey, we don’t have a lot of glamping we don’t have, restaurants and bars and indoor pools at our campgrounds, but we have outdoor lodging and we have a lot of fun outdoor lodging. We have teepees and yurts and covered wagons and, tree houses.

Those are the things that our folks are looking at. Obviously cabins, full service cabins now, not just the rest of cabins. So yes, we are seeing that our members are definitely investing in those types of units, but not necessarily, what we’re calling, some people are calling glamping units.

We call them outdoor adventure units, the safari tents, those kinds of things. It’s just more for what, how we speak in New Jersey. And what we think people are looking for when they’re looking for a campground in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: Okay. Yeah. It’s all the same thing, right? I don’t think there’s a predefined term.

But I think I’m curious, KOA recently came out and maybe you don’t know any enough about this that you haven’t had [00:14:00] enough time to study it, but I’m just curious what you think as New Jersey being a northern state that has, that tends to have a big seasonality with the campgrounds. Is that fair to say?

Joann Delvescio: Absolutely. 

Brian Searl: Do you feel that window is extending at all with the glamping or like KOA recently reported on they’ve seen a rise in wintertime camping? 

Joann Delvescio: I mean we’ve seen you know like I said we most of the campgrounds close starting probably around October 31st they might go into November 15th.

A lot of it is the infrastructure, Brian. It gets cold here in New Jersey and once the pipes start to freeze, there’s not a whole lot that you can do. So if you’re looking to do winter camping in New Jersey, you can. We do have some campgrounds, especially in the Northwest corner of the state and the mountains that do have winter camping available, but you need to come in prepared, because you’re not going to have access to water.

You’re not going to have access to bath houses. You need to have a generator. You really do need to come in self contained. So for us to extend the season, it’s a little bit difficult only because of the infrastructure that’s in the campgrounds. 

Brian Searl: But in [00:15:00] theory, if you knew you had enough demand, is it possible?

Not saying that it’s reasonable or should be done by most people.

But yeah, and I mean I think over the years We’ve seen some of the campgrounds remain open a little bit further than they have in years past because of that But yeah, definitely. I mean for those that the demand that were in the areas where the demand is there Yes, I see it happening.

Do I see it happening along the shoreline? Not so much along the shoreline, but probably Inside New Jersey and up in the Northwest corner, like where Allie is, where Spacious Skies Country Oaks is, they’re that area where they’re located. Yes, I can see them expanding into the season. 

You can’t promise for her. You gotta let her talk. 

Ali Rasmussen: We are doing exactly that right now, Joanne, with Spacious Skies Country Oaks. We are experimenting and we decided this on the. Last day of the [00:16:00] planned season our general manager felt so confident that we had the demand to test it out that we just toggled the switch over and said we are offering sites throughout the winter, limited sites, and with all the caveats that you were just describing, like you are coming in and we cannot guarantee that the infrastructure is going to be, perfectly functional, just like it is in the middle of the summer.

But we have, so far, in this very last minute experiment, seen demand in inland, New Jersey for winter camping. And it’s wild, but we’ll take it. 

Brian Searl: Yeah, I think it’s out there, especially given the smaller subset of parks who are actually willing to do it, or do it. I think the demand that is there is certainly enough if you market it right to be able to fill up certainly a limited subset of sites but and that’s not just in New Jersey I think [00:17:00] that’s everywhere but it’s interesting we don’t have data to prove it that hampers, I think, many people from trying it. 

Eric Rasmussen: Brian, I could add to that briefly, if that’s okay. Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Into a recap of our year. I’m just adding that briefly, that comment. We have one other location, open year round in New Hampshire, that we have 45 winter sites, and they are full all winter long.

The demand is very robust and when you pre plan and market it, you can, there’s a lot of demand to capture we have found thinking through, our 2023 Brian we obviously, we have 15 campgrounds in, in a lot of different geographic locations. We saw a lot of variety inside of our portfolio for sure.

We have a, we also have a lot of variety in terms of product type and just where they’re at in the evolution and their transition from a campground into the Spacious Guides program and also varying levels of improvements, CapEx, et cetera, going on in the in, in, in various locations.

So we, we had, across the board, I think our, we, we just did our kind of year end update [00:18:00] to the whole company this morning. So I’m a little bit well versed, on the topic the general theme is we saw good growth. Across the portfolio, we saw our base investment thesis in the asset class, and that we could come in and professionalize the operations and add value through marketing and revenue management, just professionalizing and putting it under the spacious guy’s brand.

We’ve seen that proven out pretty well throughout the course of 2023. That was a milestone year for us in seeing that, I would say. And then, across the board, we have we have locations that have exceeded expectations for 2023. We’ve had campgrounds that have not exceeded expectations for 2023.

On revenue or expenses or some other kind of KPI or key metric that we’re tracking, but by and large, the momentum has been positive. We saw double digit growth across the portfolio and just a good reinforcement that we’re seeing good demand in the industry and in most areas where we.

Where we went off track in terms of expectations, most of it was self induced, where we changed course on, on the game plan for whatever reason we mis executed on something. So just a good [00:19:00] reinforcement that, again, to the beginning of the question good demand tailwinds we’re still seeing.

I’m sure Allie has a lot of color to fill in the blanks there. 

Ali Rasmussen: Yeah, I think that let’s take our New Jersey campground just because it’s It’s applicable here we came in to Spacious Skies Country Oaks as the new owners of the Start of last season and that, rather than ride the 2022 wave of, everyone’s screaming demand and success, like we were overhauling sort of everything.

On the campground we were doing property improvements, we were changing up operations in a big way. And so what we’re now seeing at, locations like that where we have done, all of this work ahead of time, like our 2023 Insidious Guide, this country of was so improved to 2022 and the growth is, still continuing there.

So that’s really exciting. And we feel pretty [00:20:00] confident that the space that we occupy is like a Goldilocks. kind of experience. We to keep our campgrounds as campgrounds and offer like a pretty middle of the road offering so that like the biggest pool of, camping customers can come and find something to enjoy.

At a stage of Skyscan Friends we retain that 80 percent RV tent site mix we have the lodgings as, like added bonus, as far as what our glamping units in the portfolio contain, we have a, a couple sites that have yurts and then a few sites that have some cute retro RV Rental type things, but otherwise we’re solidly in that RV space in that affordable vacation for, the majority of camping, guests and camping families.

We’re excited about next year too. 

Brian Searl: So I’m here, I’m curious to [00:21:00] question to either you or Eric, whoever wants to answer, or you can both abstain if you don’t want to answer this question, but there’s a lot of we’ve been through a tumultuous kind of last few years, both good and bad up and down, the numbers really don’t match up with what they were in 2019 or what they were year over year, 21 to 22, 22, 23.

So of the things that Eric was talking about, of the Missed expectations, right? For a couple of properties. Do you feel like those are just really valuable learning experiences that will help you as you continue to grow Spacious Skies and not go through that stuff again? Do you feel like that was just something that was a one off because of COVID or coming out of it?

Or how do you view those things? There’s a lot of owners struggle with it. And that’s why I’m asking you guys, right? 

Eric Rasmussen: Yeah. I think the general answer, we view those as really great opportunities to whatever mistake we can make at one campground, what we’ve learned and can take out of that. Can go across the other 14 campgrounds and we find that to be really impactful and powerful and we’re able to really, where we do miss or misstep yeah, there, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of positive [00:22:00] that transcends through the broader portfolio as a result.

I think, looking at our portfolio like in terms of like missed expectations, we have, I can think of maybe one, one and a half instances where like where we were, we’re off from like just original expectations and it’s just something. different as opposed to something that we can identify and course correct and fix.

And again, they apply that throughout the rest of the portfolio as well. 

Brian Searl: And I think that’s what I’m going after, right? Is your guys expertise with operating so many different campgrounds. There are a lot of people who just do the one and maybe if their expectations are wrong, they panic and over correct or don’t know how to use this data in the best way possible and 

Eric Rasmussen: yes. Yep. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

Brian Searl: Alright Steve, you want to go? 

Steve Rappleyea: Sure. I feel like I’m taking a lot of notes because I feel like the combined knowledge of all these entrepreneurs and industry leaders is really valuable to me as an entrepreneur. 

Brian Searl: It’s literally the only reason I do the show. To pick all of their brains. 

Steve Rappleyea: A couple things you mentioned I just want to, Connect to is [00:23:00] one, when you mentioned that idea of setting expectations, and I think that in, in my experience, renting RVs to people, many of whom are in an RV for the first time, that is the most important thing that we do in our pre rental walkthrough.

And one of the things that I say, and I’m teaching my employees to say is to tell people to expect something to go horribly wrong. And at some point, something’s going to go wrong, and it’s not going to be the end of the trip, it’s not going to be the end of the earth, and we’re going to solve it, and you have resources to solve it, and that’s part of the adventure.

And universally, people report back to me, Oh, this thing happened and I’m so glad you said that. Because it’s so new and people have such high expectations of this experience. And they’ve fantasized, many people that we rent to have fantasized about doing this for years before they finally start the process.

So it’s really important that we do that work with them. So a nod to that. You you asked about what the, if our expectations during the year were,[00:24:00] how they turned out essentially, and one of the things that, that we experienced being very new to this, to, to, to the, to this business is managing sort of explosive growth is very difficult, right?

So we went, our rentals from one unit to the, to leaders. Now, we increased our revenue by, excuse me, 10x this year, and increased rentals by about 10x. We had about 120 rentals go out. And managing the rental work on one RV is fairly simple and straightforward. RVs and the maintenance, multiple systems to remember.

It’s very, it’s impossible for one person to do it. So then you have to hire people. So through the year we started out, it was just me doing most of the operations work. My son in the back end and my wife as well. [00:25:00] And we hired, someone to clean, was the first person that was the most valuable player.

And then someone to do deliveries, and then multiple people to do deliveries, and then multiple people to clean. So managing employees, and managing operations, and then managing marketing. Every week, every day seemed like there’s a new you can call it an obstacle, you can call it an opportunity, a problem to solve, a small way that you could improve upon the work.

And I have to say, I was having a conversation with somebody from, an executive from RV Share a few days ago. And they said, they were asking about our work and they said, I told them where we were and they said, oh that’s great because the rental industry, this is from their perspective, I don’t know if it’s industry wide is true or not, but from their perspective, rentals were down last year.

for this past year. And I thought, wow, that’s, that is not at all my experience, right? Of course, going from, 10x growth is, you’re not feeling like things are in any way going down. [00:26:00] And then the next thing I thought was, if it is a bit of a rebound period after the COVID explosion, okay, so what should I be pushing towards next year?

What would be, what’s the be staring at. So that feels great to me because that feels if I was able to do, if we were able to do this year, the next year could be even more could be even more growth in front of us and more opportunities in that respect. I also have one, one other thing I wanted to add That we ended up adding on was, it was, we’re talking about glamping.

We actually acquired a a beautiful Airstream motorhome, the big silver bullet looking motorhome in an engine based unit that we will use, but we’re not going to rent it out for driving, but we set up a glamping location. And it’s just like just a beautiful little thing. But I wonder as a business, is it, we set it up and we were renting it, we’re making money from it, but I kind of wonder, is it.

Is it, too much of a dilution? Should we just focus on rentals? Or is it, [00:27:00] these additional sort of opportunities? Should we focus more or less? I don’t know, that was my wondering. 

Joann Delvescio: I’m sorry, I interrupted you. I have a question for you, Steve. You have a fleet that you rent out, and then you also have those that you deliver to the campground, and you have there, and for people to already go in?

Okay. For the ones at you right now, and a lot of times obviously those are newbies that are coming in and running for the first time, do you know where they’re going camping? Do you ask them where they’re going? What campground they’re going to? Do you ever call the campground owner out of town and say, hey listen, I’ve got a newbie coming into your campground and maybe you just need to treat them with a little bit more tender loving care?

I think it would go a long way for both. The campground owner to know that there may be somebody coming in that they may need to spend a little extra time with and maybe for the renter to say, wow, at least they know I don’t really know everything and how to hook up all the hoses and they’re going to give me a little extra help.

Brian Searl: Especially that’s quoting them to the site so they [00:28:00] don’t back into your bathhouse. 

Steve Rappleyea: A couple of points. Excellent idea about, I would say about. 50 percent of our delivery rentals are going to campgrounds, maybe even less. The other 50 or 60 percent going to residences for some extra space for relatives visiting for for that sort of thing, for the ones that we do, we’re right between a Jellystone and a KOA.

I know some of the staff there, but there’s a manager in between. Are there managers running these outfits that are in between me and the owner per se? So getting a relationship with the right people, I find in those situations, it’s the folks at the front desk, who are most important because the manager is really Back of the house operations distracted by things, but if I can speak to somebody, like I speak to Sarah at the front desk who’s going to be checking them in, that’s great.

The other thing is when we deliver to campgrounds, we set it up, do all the connections, put the landing gear down, make sure it’s all set up. Then what ends up happening is we have a [00:29:00] shorter Walkthrough that’s more focused on their enjoyment rather than on the mechanics of setting up and breaking down an RV.

Brian Searl: Great idea, though. I’m just waiting to see if Joanne wanted to say 

Greg Emmert: anything else. 

Joann Delvescio: No, I’m, like I said, I just, because I hear it all the time from the, from the owners. Obviously, especially in the height of the season when, folks are coming in, they’ve never rented an RV before.

If there was a heads up to whoever, the front desk, the owner, the manager, that you’ve got some people coming in that you may need to spend a little extra time, I think that would go a long way to promote the renters and the others. 

Steve Rappleyea: Sometimes what I do, what I will do in that is I do make a call just to make sure that they’ve selected the right site because generally speaking they’re booking a site and they’re renting an RV for me.

And I want to be sure that if there’s a problem with the site, that we can resolve it as, as quickly as possible, rather than get there and find out, oh, this 34 foot motorhome is not going to fit in this [00:30:00] 20 foot this 20 foot pad. 

Brian Searl: I think the New Jersey Association and this is a revenue maker for you, Joanne.

You should make like giant bumper stickers that say student driver and you can give them out. Student camper. They could be branded New Jersey, right? NewJerseyCamping. com. Good idea, Brian. Win. oKay. Let’s go to Greg from Camp Strategy, who maybe Didn’t exist in Camp Strategy at the beginning of the year, so this would be an interesting story perhaps, and then you can weave in here and tell us what Camp Strategy is to you, Greg.

I’d love to hear about it and how you’re different. 

Greg Emmert: I’m certainly different. I don’t know if that’s a positive or a negative. It depends on which side you look at it. For me, it’s a negative. Fair enough. 

Can I first say that this is the first MC Fireside Chats that I’m on. It’s also the first one that I’ve ever seen a guest speaker with antlers.

Joshua has the coolest set of antlers. I’m wondering, do you shed those once a year, or are those [00:31:00] permanently affixed? That’s really good, man. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s perfectly done. So yeah sorry, I have a hard time with, oh, chicken. Yeah, so we the beginning of the year really my expectations were to continue working for, I have, Sort of some smaller clients that I do work for here and there, but I have one bigger client that most of my time gets allocated to.

And I had hoped to pick up some additional work and I did. I even, I got to do a little bit for Eric and Allie, which was a lot of fun. But yeah, my, my. Clients rolling on and things are going alright. And I’m looking at my numbers and going this year’s I’m a little bit ahead of last year.

So that’s good. And then just out of nowhere in April, I got a call from Jeff Hoffman. And yeah, it was, we had touched base about trading ideas and things before because he was And he has a lot more industry contacts and street cred than I do very, he’s a very recognizable face and name. He just said I’ve got this other [00:32:00] guy, Justin Brady, and he’s really good with accommodations.

And I think the three of us could put something together. And. Yeah, next thing you know we’re trying to hash out an operating agreement and come up with a way to, to put this together. And since then, Justin has dropped out, which is unfortunate because he is really Both he and Jeff the part that I like about this the most is that those two even though Justin is not a part of it now, I can still say this about him, but I feel like I learn something from them every time I have a conversation with them.

They’re just really smart. And yeah the partnership for me was a no brainer. I’m still working with my client with Roadville Campgrounds and But now, added on Camp Strategy, and yeah, we’re, I can’t believe we’re closing out the year already, really, because we our conversations about forming the group started in April, so it’s it’s amazing that we’re, 11 days away from the end of the year and looking ahead to next year wait, am I jumping the shark?

Brian Searl: Yeah, you can’t look ahead to 2024 yet. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about Camp Strategy, though generally speaking. Since it’s your first time on the show, Greg’s going to be a recurring guest for us on the [00:33:00] Campground on the show. Once a month in 2024 and just talk a little bit about, because there’s so many of these groups popping up, at least that’s my perception.

And maybe just because I attend so many of the different shows, everybody wants to do RV park management and everybody wants to consult and everybody wants to, but I feel like they’re typically all going after the larger, higher end of the market, wanting to be all things to all people. I want to be a management group that hires all the people and does all the things, but that’s not what you want to do.

And I think that’s a compelling story and it’s an underserved market. So I’d like to hear about that. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, absolutely. We and we did have that conversation about going after Mark management in the beginning and just decided that, especially as we tried to form the group and get things together, that was something that we would stray away from.

It’s just such a heavy lift. If we could pick up a park here locally or something in Northeast Ohio, we might make a run at it. But we really want to be, so background on me I mentioned at the beginning of the show, I owned a campground that was for [00:34:00] 26 years, worked as an owner operator with my mom and dad.

And if anybody who’s ever done it. knows that when you’re an owner operator, you’ve got every hat on possible. There’s everything from a baseball cap to 10 gallon hat, and you’re doing all the jobs, and feeling really overwhelmed, and at times anyway. And so that’s the position that we approach our consulting from.

And Jeff has also been an owner operator of multiple campgrounds. And so we really want to just be a consulting and professional advisory firm. That doesn’t mean that we can’t help with things like design or layout or development or due diligence, but we don’t want to wade into the into the management side because we really want to focus our efforts on, even smaller like we were mom and pop owners.

Not that we don’t have conversations with. Capital groups and and VC guys who are looking to acquire 50 of them in a year but we really want to [00:35:00] focus on the individual owners or the groups, that are maybe 15 to 20 parks like Spacious Guys where we can be more effective on a one to one basis, and we both really believe in leading with our beliefs Jeff is very We’re both very pragmatic, but he’s the numbers guy.

Like I’ve never seen anyone get excited over an Excel sheet before, but he does. I don’t know how that’s possible, but he sees numbers and it’s just. His eyes light up. So he enjoys that side. I really enjoy the philosophical side. And getting owners to think about their why and their vision.

Because this isn’t mine, it’s not proprietary or anything, but just in general, people don’t buy. What you do or sell, they buy why you do it, and getting people to think about their business from that perspective, especially if they are owner operators wearing all those hats, it can be really challenging, especially if they’re their left brain really I’m sorry, right brain, really analytical thinkers and not creative side.

That [00:36:00] can be really difficult. But once you bridge that, then it opens everything up for us. Then we can really affect change and help somebody because we can determine their vision. And move them forward into that vision rather than trying to develop their park for them. That’s not something we’re interested in doing.

Brian Searl: Alright. Yeah, that’s what, that, that kind of, you and Jeff both I’ve known for a very long time, right? And like we were at all the conventions and I kept Jeff right beside me because he already always says something intelligent. He can balance me out, but people want to sit down with me and talk to me too.

bUt yeah I’m really excited to see where you guys go. I think we’re doing a website for you, so that’ll be tonight, hopefully. And then I’m excited. Yeah. But the new logo, the new pieces, the strategy. And again, I think that’s a really big underserved market is the people that, yes, like you said, you’re having conversations with the big people.

You will work with the big people, but the willingness to work with also the small people is something that I feel like maybe is there for a lot of people or some people, but they don’t necessarily have the flexibility to do that given [00:37:00] the structure of whatever company they’re working for. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, exactly right. Exactly right. And we’re really interested in having those conversations with people. It’s really easy to sit across the table from someone and listen to the story and go, Wow, I used to be in that chair. It’s so easy to relate to those folks and to help them succeed. That’s just, it’s so rewarding to watch someone go from frustrated or overworked.

To success moving them into a space maybe mentally or personally that, that then affects the business. It just, there’s, it’s so gratifying. It’s so rewarding. So yeah, that is definitely something that we’re interested in. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Thank you, Greg, and feel free to pitch in. We’re going 2024 in a second here, actually right now, but I want to start and just say one thing from my perspective right now.

I have, I normally don’t talk on this show very often about myself and I don’t intend to now, but a little bit about our plans for 2024. Like we have hundreds of them, and But I think one of the important things we’ve heard on this show again today, and on several shows, many that we’ve done throughout the year, is this lack of data [00:38:00] and understanding of the ability to have the information.

And in some cases it exists. It’s in a KOA report. It’s in an OHI report. I almost said RVIC. It’s in an OHI report. I got it right. Jeff was going to find me every time I said that. I Think that data exists out there and certainly there are park owners who are trying their best to collect it, they’re aggregating it, CampSpot’s doing a good job of it in their analytics platform, but I think there’s still a big gap that, that maybe in some ways is unsolvable the way we’ve been currently collecting data, and feel free to weigh in if you guys have thoughts on this after I’m done.

I don’t want to take a long time. But just, the old school method, right? We have to email X number of people and wait for a response with a survey link, or we have to call them on the phone and we have to catch them during a busy day or a not busy time and ask them a bunch of questions that they may or may not be truthful with us on.

That data can only carry us so far. And one of the things we’re going to work on in 2024 with Scott Baer as part of our MC Hospitality Highlights is trying to uncover more of that data from a let’s look at things that, like I think KOA typically looks at the camper [00:39:00] perspective. We want to look at campground perspective.

How can we pull out the data that we have from a marketing agency standpoint, from everything that’s on, with our tools and automation and AI and use that to help campground owners understand what is impacting the campgrounds, not just the camper side of the experience, which I think KOA does a great job for.

And so here’s the crazy idea that I have, and you guys can tell me I’m crazy. It’s going to sound nuts, right? But Scott and I did this on a call. So as in the sub addition to MC Hospitality Highlights, what we want to look at And we want to be very transparent when we’re doing this, right? Totally separate from MC Hospitality Highlights.

We’ve actually built a tool to do synthetic user research with AI, where we can actually have AI create 50 to 500 personalities of people based on what it knows of the entire world. Create a Sarah and a Tom and whatever else, their age range, everything else. And then we can give them survey questions and respond to them and actually get a data set that Scott said was fairly accurate for winter [00:40:00] camping, which kind of shocked us.

But, I feel like this is an interesting, again, as long as we’re disclosing it and we’re saying it’s not real people and separating it from the real surveys, is this something that could give us more granular data? Because we can do that at scale. We can do winter camping in Arizona. We can do winter camping in Texas.

We can do, that’s never going to get done unless we hire hundreds of people to call thousands and thousands of people. That’s one of the things I’m interested in 2024, is seeing if maybe we can use that. To help owners and operators, but I’d love to hear from you guys about what your 2024 plans are to you.

So who would like to go first? 

Steve Rappleyea: I’d go, I’d be happy to go first. The the 2024 plans for us, we have a, an expansion bottleneck. So I’m looking at that and thinking about, we’re having discussions about how to manage that, being that on the, on our current geographic location, limited, and we’re looking at 14 units.

Rather than get to 13 and then make a [00:41:00] decision, we’re thinking about, okay, what would happen at this point? That’s one thing is exploring three or four different options for that. The other thing, and this goes to your conversation about data, the RV rentals at the moment are my side hustle.

In a year or two, it’ll turn into my only hustle, but my day job is I work as an educational consultant, and I work in the area of continuous improvement in education, which is all about turning data into actionable steps, and we have we, everywhere, we’re drowning in information. We have lots of information available to us, and we tend to As a result, look for the biggest thing to solve the biggest problem, and people get lost in that, because that ends up, us trying to find a one shot deal, and really the most mileage can be gained by lining up your lowest hanging fruit, your easiest solutions, and picking them off one by one, [00:42:00] right?

So if you have, how can you get a little bit more profitable? How can you have a little less breakage? How can you have a little less, a little more? Or queries coming in. Those things are really attainable. You just have to pay attention to your data. And that’s something, we’ll have a, after this year we’ll have a year’s data on multiple units with user profiles, or excuse me, rental profiles.

We’re also as a member of RVDA, we have access to the to the

GoRVing database where folks, inquire about rentals and have those data. And our, my job as the operations guy is to think, okay, how can I make the RVs a little healthier so they’re a little bit, they’re a little bit less downtime? How can I get a little bit more information to consumers so that they rent a little bit longer rather than try to keep it the shortest amount of time?

How can I, get one more day? How can I make sure that when we do [00:43:00] check ins and and departures that we give the right amount of information so we don’t end up having to We’re going to have to, charge for additional fees at the end, which generally speaking, we don’t make money from it’s, we’re covering ourselves.

So it’s really lost time for us. Things like filling up gas and that sort of thing. All those little things will stack up and it’s true for any of the folks in any of the chicklets around the screen, those little valuable changes and additions are where you can really, create some great mileage.

That’s what I’m looking forward to next year. The other thing is, getting to the end of next year, at this point next year, I want to be able to say very definitively I’m ready to retire from my day job and do this full time. So that’s where I am. 

Brian Searl: I think you’ll get there. We have faith in you.

I really think, I really believe rentals has a very bright future ahead of us. And we talked a little bit about this on the dealer, with the dealer show from RVDA and both Canada and the United States. And I think there’s a lot of [00:44:00] unknowns, but I think that as RV sales come down, I think there’s still going to be a lot of people who want to go camping who don’t have rigs.

And so I think that’s where rentals really is an interesting, I really want to see where that goes, so. 

Steve Rappleyea: There’s a breakeven point for folks that if you are, there’s lots of folks who want to own a rig, but don’t use it a lot. And there’s lots of folks who own a rig and use it a lot, but somewhere in that mix, we have folks who are experienced RVers who’ve chosen not to purchase a rig because they realize if they’re going out for two or three weeks a year maintaining the rig.

Storing the rig is more costly to them than just having a high quality rental. And in fact, you get lot rot on rigs if you’re not taking care of your unit. We had a unit that came in as a consignment and we had problems with the generator because generator has to either be drained or have fuel stabilizer in it or be run once a month.

And they left it for a year, so that, that destroys the pump and the filter. Little things like that, not everyone knows. Tires age out before they [00:45:00] wear out. There’s all these items that make ownership a bit of a project. And if you’re prepared for it and you like it, that’s fine. But lots of people aren’t.

They’ll use a rig a lot one year, and then peter off. So rentals are a really great opportunity for people to be in the lifestyle and do what we love. But to not have the hassle of ownership. 

Brian Searl: And I think that’s that’s something that the industry, I feel like needs to see more of, and some people certainly get it, but like the RV rental companies are fantastic for campgrounds.

It’s just bringing people into the market that would not otherwise be willing to drop 100, 000 to 500, 000 on a rig. Or who, if you sit down and you, and I know Allie, you know this, right? If you sit down with Earl from Black Folks Camp 2, we were drinking with him for three days straight in Ontario earlier this year.

You’re just talking about the different markets that are untapped and underserved and aren’t outreached to enough. And some of that obviously includes what Earl is doing in that great work and some of the other work that you’re doing too, Allie, with your groups. We still have to have that conversation, by the way.

I’m going to forget about that about Ojai, [00:46:00] about reaching some of those people. But even in the urban people who live in the Torontos, there’s such a huge different demographic of Black, Asian, male, female, young, old, everywhere. They don’t have anywhere to park a rig in Toronto. And so then you have the expense of basically buying another house, storing it, like you were saying, all the upkeep.

So I feel like if there’s different methods of entry, depending on what your wants and needs are as a consumer, boy, that helps campgrounds a lot. Doesn’t it? 

Steve Rappleyea: Absolutely. All right. Who wants to go next?

Ali Rasmussen: It or Outlet for 2024. Yeah. I think that we are putting more focus, or continued focus, on operations. We got to 15 campgrounds in a really short period of time. And the last one joined the collection this past April. Comparatively to the two years prior buying two, two campgrounds was really slow as far [00:47:00] as acquisitions go, but that was intentional based on, reacting to a lot of things, including like the macro environment but also just like what we had to focus on as a company.

And so we have been Eric and I have been in particular. Spent a lot of time examining what we were doing and how we were operating this past year. Eric and I did a really rare trip together throughout the whole collection. And we actually, post all that on social media this past summer and a lot of things.

And we were so lucky to have had that opportunity to really take a microscope, microscope, look at everything. And so 2024 is a continuation of just like improving how we are running our campgrounds, the experience that we are offering our guests. We have a brand new Director of Operations that is joining our team who, comes with a lot of experience.

She is really like the most significant new hire that Spacious Skies has had [00:48:00] in a really long time. We’re really excited to have her. On board. And just to take this foundation that we have built and really hone it and make sure that staying in a Spacious Guides Campgrounds and being employed by Spacious Guides Campgrounds is, It’s just, it was enjoyable as possible so that when it makes sense to, to add to the collection again and to start acquiring more campgrounds that we have everything really buttoned up and just ready to plug in.

Brian Searl: So is it fair to say, obviously operations is a piece of where you’re expecting to go in 2024 and continue to improve on that. Are there other things that excite you about 2024 besides operations or like where you think the most exciting thing that happens in 2024 for Spacious Skies is? 

Ali Rasmussen: Gosh, there’s so much just continuing to grow and develop the brand and our presence is also really paramount and a big focus for us.

So what that, look like, [00:49:00] looks like and how, what, other channels we might be exploring or, what other systems changes or improvements or whatnot to be seen. CI skies, we never rest. We are always reinventing and making sure that we are in constant evolution.

Brian Searl: I don’t want to skip over you Eric, so do you have anything to add? 

Eric Rasmussen: No! No, no additions. I think it’s just, we the capital markets and the broader economy has dealt the hand that it has and we’re going to lean into that and really hone operation. Our goal is, when the market turns, when that foundation, as Ali has described, as we, put that work into it.

To be ready when the market is ready to acquire 

At scale. 

Brian Searl: It almost seems like the timing of the market is very much in your favor for what you guys needed to do based on what you’re saying, right? Like it all seems to work out perfectly. 

Ali Rasmussen: Yes, we, I think it had achieved the scale that we needed to achieve to [00:50:00] make the company run just in time.

Yeah, a little bit of faith. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. We look forward to checking back with you in 2024 to see how things are going. Joshua, you want to go next? Yeah, for sure. 

Joshua Turner: So like I said, I jumped a little ahead before, but we just got built now, so we’re just at our first guest, so 2024 is going to be learning absolutely everything about running the resort and learning all the things that I don’t know right now.

It was hard, it was a very hard endeavor to build the resort itself and now the real hard part starts of operating it the fun part of operating the business. So 2024 is going to be that. I really want to look at building out a lot of our packages and experiences for people here. I think that’s going to be one of the bigger parts that we can do now that we’ve got the cool structures up and going and stuff like that, but it’s going to be what can people do within the parks.

Our tiki bar and park itself is just, has been poised [00:51:00] for such amazing growth. We we saw the biggest year that we’ve ever had at the tiki bar. Our park was up 25%. In daily passes and was one of the highest parks in the province, so it was a really big year for that, and I don’t expect that momentum to be slowing down, especially with a project like this that’s in the area.

So I think 2024 is just going to be an amazing year. I don’t want to see any more growth, per se, right now. We just really need to manage the operations that we have, and maybe tune out a couple of the smaller operations that we have in our Portfolio. Really want to concentrate on this glamping experience and creating those amazing packages for our guests.

Brian Searl: I’m really glad there are smart people out there to balance what I want. I just want to grow and do all the crazy things all at once. So I’m really glad there are smarter people than me out there who are helping the industry kind of balance out.

Joshua Turner: Yeah, we did. We did. We we acquired. Two, three restaurants summertime restaurants, and [00:52:00] then with the Tiki Bar, and then we decided to build a glamping resort, and I have a a bunny hugger clothing line as well.

And it’s just, it’s just too much for people to do. So we really want to concentrate on what’s the big profit ones and which ones mean the most to us and concentrate on those and do a better job of those ones. Cause you’re only, you can only do so much. 

Brian Searl: So what do you think in an ideal world, 20, like the end of 2024, either you’re back on the show or right where we’re having a conversation or whatever, what do you think you have to look back on in 2024 to say was truly successful for you?

Joshua Turner: I’ve set some goals for myself with my business coach and one of the big ones that I would love to see is being ranked one of the top five places to stay in Canada. I didn’t name the publication, so it can be any publication. I think hitting some of those milestones for us is going to be is going to be good.

Because I feel like as entrepreneurs, we never really Step back and pat ourselves on the back and say we achieved those things that we wanted to, unless we set some hard milestones and goals. That’s one of them that I’d [00:53:00] really like to see, and then I’d really like to see this park grow even above the 25%, make it the top park in Saskatchewan again.

And and again, have some more of these cool packages. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. I might have to come out and visit you. We’ll see. I’m not too far from you. Yeah, you’re not. Yeah, it’s not too far. There’s a nice whiskey distillery out there that I really love. Yeah, Black Fox. And yes, is that the Seven Whiskey or whatever?

Joshua Turner: Yeah. Yeah, it’s not too far from us here. There’s some really 

Brian Searl: cool distilleries. It’s probably my top five whiskey in the whole world. Yeah. Which is weird because it’s in Canada. 

Joshua Turner: There’s some cool, there’s some really cool places around here and some of the packages that we’ve put together, I’m really happy we just got to announce it yesterday.

I believe we are, I’ve seen that we’re the world’s only glamping resort that you can actually rent a tank along with your special, with your stay. So we added on a package. It’s a Ukrainian built Sherp. And we took it out on the ice here with, we had some influencers out. We went [00:54:00] out on the ice and ripped around in it.

Foot falls through, it’s amphibious. We’re planning on some tours to take our guests with. Pretty proud to say that you can rent a tank when you stay at Blackstrap Provincial blackstrap Camping Resort. 

Brian Searl: I think we should come to a show from that. 

Joshua Turner: I think so. If you go on our Instagram and our Facebook, you’ll see the tank ride with the influencers and stuff like that.

Brian Searl: Awesome. Thank you. I appreciate being here. And I just want to say we are a couple minutes over because we got a couple minutes late to start. So if anybody needs to leave, please feel free to do so or hang out if you want. We’re just going to do Joanne and Greg and then we’ll wrap up the show. Joanne, what do you 

Joann Delvescio: yeah for 2024, as I said we’re looking for it to be a good year for us.

I will tell you that the demand for our, for seasonal sites is very strong in New Jersey. We do six to eight consumer shows, camping and RV consumer shows every year. And, that is where a lot of folks get their information on the seasonal sites. and where they want to stay. And, for the rental market, we see that there’s a lot of [00:55:00] folks in the last two to three years who have come to these RV shows who don’t necessarily want to purchase an RV, but they are looking to either rent an RV and take it into a campground, so there might be an opportunity, Steve, for you to, get your information out to some of the RV and camping shows across the country for folks who are looking to rent.

But we are, we’re looking for a good year. The consumer shows last year were very strong in attendance. And I think going into 2024, we’re probably going to see the numbers of the consumer shows increase again. And, we’ll be back in Montreal, Canada. Montreal’s a big area for us in New Jersey.

We get a lot of folks that come down from Montreal. down to around the shore areas each and every year. We do, we spread ourselves out as much as we can, making sure that we personally have booths at six to eight shows, but we have our brochures through Anderson Distribution at 27 shores around the, 27 shows around the country.

We’re exposed [00:56:00] out there as much as we can about camping in New Jersey. And I’ll just put a plug in real quick. We’ve got our conference coming up, our 33rd Annual Camping Conference for our campground owners and managers, February 21st in Orlando. So anyone looking to go to a camping show it’s nine educational sessions a trade show feel free to go to our website for that.

It’s called www. campgroundconference. com. So I’m looking forward to having another successful conference in 2024. 

Brian Searl: So what do you think, same question to you that I asked Joshua what do you think has to happen for the New Jersey camping industry as a whole for 2024 to say that was great? 

Joann Delvescio: Weather, Brian.

We are definitely very weather, unfortunately dependent in New Jersey. Obviously in other states too, when we have good weather, we see our numbers go up. When we get rainy weather and cold weather, whether it’s summer or the fall or, the springtime, obviously it has a [00:57:00] huge impact on our numbers.

We’re always praying to the the weather gods for good weather, sunshine in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: So weather control is not, see, so I’m not that ambitious compared to that. She wants to control the weather. 

Joann Delvescio: Weather is probably our biggest, that’s really what drives it a lot of the time.

Obviously advanced reservations are one thing, but those last minute kind of reservations. It’s all about the weather that’s coming up for the weekend. And I, I don’t think, fees as far as fees go. I think in New Jersey, our fees are on the average of where they are for most of our surrounding states.

It is a, you do get a nice bang for your buck when you camp in New Jersey. 

Brian Searl: For sure. All right, Greg, last but not least. Yes, of course. 

Greg Emmert: Yeah, so 2024 for us, being new it’s really about trying to get our, get our operation defined a little bit better. We know what our roles are.

But we want to make things work, [00:58:00] obviously, very smoothly for anybody that takes us on. We’re really excited because we just signed we’re waiting for the signed contract, but we did pick up a new glamping park here in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park here in Ohio. They’ve got it’s a family owned property.

They scored an amazing piece of land. In the National Park, but they were able to acquire it. They’ve got six cabins, 11 canvas tents in a gorgeous location on a hillside in the valley. We’re gonna, we’re gonna put in five more tents. They’ve got a brick cabin that they are rehabbing. And so right now we’re Tactical planning for this year and executing and then building some strategic planning for them moving forward 25 to 26, 27.

They’ve got a lot of really good ideas there, including adding maybe 20 to 25 RV spaces. So we’re excited about that one. And just, no, no tanks. I was, when he said that, I was like, you gotta be kidding me. I don’t know what reason it is, but I’m going to find a reason to come up there and see the tank.

That’s ridiculous. [00:59:00] He’s got antlers and a tank. The guy’s got it all. Completely jealous of that and speaking of jealous Joanne, if you have any parks near Cape May, say October, that need me for about a week or so, have them call me. I’m a giant bird nerd. I’d be happy to go. I love the festival. 

Joann Delvescio: We certainly have lots of parks down there in the Birding area, and let me just say this to Allie and Eric real quick, don’t even think about the tank in New Jersey, it is never going to fly.

Greg Emmert: No permitting for that. 

Ali Rasmussen: We trust you are the expert on what can fly.

Brian Searl: Sorry, go ahead, Greg. Please, I didn’t mean to interrupt. 

Greg Emmeert: Yeah, no, that’s it. That’s all right. Like I said, man, you throw a chicken out there and I’m like, oh, look, I’m just gone. But yeah that’s really it. We’re gonna, we’re gonna hit some state association shows. Because again, we feel like those.

Ali Rasmussen: Bring it. I know you, you and I have had this conversation, Brian. I think a lot of people consultants and others in the industry, they overlook those state shows. It is difficult, obviously, to try to hit, shows all [01:00:00] over the place. They tend to be grouped together around the same season.

Maybe you don’t have a big enough staff to get out and hit a bunch of them, but it just the conversations that you can have at those state level shows are so much more intimate, one on one, so much more substantive. Then maybe we’ll add it at the Arvick Expo and not the Ojai Expo. And that’s not to, to put that down.

It’s just, it’s a different crowd and it’s a different level of engagement. Yeah, we’re going to just try to get out, get the camp strategy name out and try to help folks across the country succeed. I’m excited for it. Awesome. 

Brian Searl: We’re looking forward to more conversations in 2024. Let’s go around the room real quick.

Before we close up, do we wanna just, what’s your New Year’s resolution? I’m gonna put you all on the spot, Steve. You wanna go first? 

Steve Rappleyea: I don’t really have a New Year’s resolution, but just a lot of pressure here. Here’s the thing. We’ll be returning, we’ll be flying back to the United States on New Year’s Eve.

Right now we’re in Amsterdam and we’re renting an rv, and we’re gonna be traveling through Belgium, France, [01:01:00] Spain, and Portugal in a rented rv Wow. That we’re renting ourselves. So that’s I, my New Year’s resolution is to come back from that. Excited about the new year. 

Brian Searl: I don’t think you’ll have any trouble doing that, sir.

Maybe I would want to stay longer in Holland driving RVs. Anyway. All right. Who’s next? All right. I’m going to pick Eric. Oh, 

Eric Rasmussen: Allie was just about to speak. 

Brian Searl: We’re going to take Allie off and then we’re just going to compare your answers and make sure.

Ali Rasmussen: I think that my New Year’s resolution is to really lean into the new. Team members, not to put too much pressure on, any one person, but Eric and I have really made a lot of sacrifices over these last couple of years at the expense of, our family life and attention and I really look forward to taking more time with our children and, taking just time together as a family because it’s been [01:02:00] really missing.

In these last, couple of years as we’ve been in just crazy building up mode, so I really look forward to that. 

Brian Searl: That almost has to be your answer now, Eric. There’s nothing else. 

Eric Rasmussen: Yeah, yes.

Brian Searl: Thanks for being a guest, Eric. 

Greg Emmert: Very wise answer. That’s a very wise answer.

Brian Searl: If you have anything to add, Eric, you can, but otherwise, Joshua? 

Joshua Turner: Yeah some of our goals is going to be being named one of the top five places to stay in Canada in a publication. That one’s a goal that I set for myself that I’ve Definitely pop a bottle of champagne after that happens and I’ve been on this podcast, another podcast that I really would like to be on is Glamp, the Glamp Tech podcast.

So if anyone knows Nick and the team over there, maybe shoot him a little message or something like that, a little referral. And [01:03:00] then I’ll introduce you guys. Nick runs a great show. Yeah, he does. I love that. Perfect. And then another one is just now that a lot of the chaos is over and we’re getting back into is find a good work life balance being consistent in the gym and healthier, healthy habits in my lifestyle to make myself a better business owner, leader, and entrepreneur.

Brian Searl: Awesome. Joanne and Greg, New Year’s Resolutions and we’ll wrap it up. 

Greg Emmert: Go ahead, Joanne. 

Joann Delvescio: Oh, I knew you were going to ask that. My New Year’s Resolution is, get myself more healthy, coming into the new year. Hopefully have the campgrounds in New Jersey and have a fabulous, a great, successful, profitable year.

And really Another one is to get the campground execs from across the country, camp, the Campground Association of Management Professionals get us together again, two times, twice a year in 2024 and collaborate on things that are happening in our individual states across the country and work together on moving forward.[01:04:00] 

Greg Emmert: Right on. Personal, I’m going to Columbia on a birding tour, really nerdy thing, in, in February. And despite it being a birding tour, I’m gonna, I’m gonna My resolution is to find we’ve never seen a fer de lance. It’s like deadliest snake in South America. I would love to see. I’m a snake geek too, so that’s resolution one on the personal side.

On the business side, I hope that I can, I’m resolving to try To get the folks that we talk with to see the conservation side of what they do. I think a lot of folks don’t realize how important campgrounds are in conservation and how profitable promoting conservation at your parks can be. And so that’s that’s my personal crossing over into the business side.

I’ve I’m loaded with ideas on that and I really hope to share that and help owners see that they can be both green and profitable. And yeah, that’s just something that’s really important to me, always has been, so I’m really gonna try to push that without pushing it. [01:05:00] 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Let us know how Columbia is.

I’ve been thinking about Central America, but South America too, but I thought of you the other day, I was looking, I buy a lot of my goods for people for Christmas off of uncommon goods or weird sites like that, and there’s like a bird call set. I was like, oh, that’s Greg. Right on, man. 

Greg Emmert: But I’ve got with next time we’ll do a quiz.

I can do somewhere between 150 and 200 by calls alone So we can do like you play the call would just put your whole audience to sleep At least one bird call right now, 

I don’t mean I can do I can identify them so Okay, I can Bardow there you go. 

Woohoo! 

Woohoo! Woohoo! Woohoo! That’s pretty good, I think.

Brian Searl: That’s maybe, but we don’t know enough to be sure if it’s accurate. That’s 

how you know it’s 

Steve Rappleyea: good. I will say it is accurate. There we go. Alright. 

Greg Emmert: Thank you. 

Brian Searl: Thank you guys. I appreciate another, again, we’ve had so many good shows this year. I think, [01:06:00] I don’t really set New Year’s resolutions.

I think mine was just be, to go to the gym. That way I know I break it on the first day and I can concentrate on what really needs done. I’m super excited to have, again, all of you on this show, all of the guests that we’ve had throughout 2024. I’M just a talking head without intelligent people to talk to and communicate with and hear their stories and help everybody else.

Just super grateful for all of you who have, who’ve been here and helped support the show. And we’ll see you in 2024 for another exciting season for the outdoor hospitality sector. Thanks guys, I really appreciate 

Greg Emmert: it. Right on, thank you Brian. 

Steve Rappleyea: Nice to meet you.

[01:07:00] 

Modern subscribe campground logo.

Stay Updated
Outdoor Hospitality News