Outdoor Hospitality News

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

MC Fireside Chats – January 3rd, 2024 

Episode Summary

The first episode of MC Fireside Chats this 2024 presents a comprehensive discussion on the outdoor hospitality industry. The episode features insightful contributions from industry experts Mike Harrison, Sandy Ellingson, and Scott Bahr, each bringing a unique perspective to the table. Host Brian Searl sets the stage for the conversation, emphasizing the show’s focus on providing valuable insights for business success in the outdoor hospitality sector. He introduces the panel, highlighting their expertise and the value they bring to the discussion. The conversation begins with a look at the current state of the RV and camping industry, with each guest sharing their observations and experiences. Mike Harrison, with his extensive background in luxury RV resorts, offers insights into the trends and challenges facing the industry. He discusses the impact of external events, such as election years, on travel and camping patterns. Mike’s analysis provides a nuanced understanding of how luxury travel and camping are influenced by broader societal trends. Sandy Ellingson brings a wealth of experience in campground operations and marketing. She highlights the challenges campgrounds face in adapting to changing market conditions, especially in the realm of digital marketing. Sandy’s perspective is particularly valuable in understanding the need for effective online presence and marketing strategies in the industry. Scott Bahr, an expert in market research, delves into the data-driven aspects of the industry. He shares insights from his research on guest reviews and behavior, emphasizing the importance of understanding customer feedback. Scott’s contribution is crucial in highlighting how data analysis can inform better business practices in outdoor hospitality. The conversation also touches on the evolving preferences of campers and RVers. The panel discusses the shift from traditional RV camping to alternatives like glamping, and how this impacts the industry. This part of the discussion underscores the need for campgrounds to adapt and cater to a diverse range of customer preferences. A significant portion of the discussion is dedicated to the role of technology in enhancing the camping experience. The panelists explore the potential of AI and other technological advancements in improving convenience and efficiency for both campers and campground operators. Brian, in particular, shares his enthusiasm for the possibilities that AI presents in revolutionizing the industry. The panelists also discuss the importance of education and knowledge sharing within the industry. They emphasize the need for tailored educational efforts to address the varying levels of experience and knowledge among campground owners and operators. This part of the conversation highlights the ongoing need for professional development in the industry. Another key topic is the trend of bundling offerings and hosting events in campgrounds. The panelists explore how this approach, inspired by the cruise industry, can enhance customer retention and generate recurring revenue. This discussion points to the innovative strategies campgrounds can adopt to stay competitive. The conversation concludes with a focus on future trends and predictions for the industry. The panelists share their thoughts on what 2024 might hold for outdoor hospitality, discussing potential growth areas and challenges. This forward-looking discussion provides valuable insights for industry stakeholders planning for the future. Overall, the episode offers a rich and varied discussion on the outdoor hospitality industry. The insights shared by Brian Searl, Mike Harrison, Sandy Ellingson, and Scott Bahr provide a comprehensive overview of the current state and future prospects of the industry. Their conversation is a testament to the dynamic and evolving nature of outdoor hospitality, highlighting the importance of adaptability, innovation, and customer-centric approaches in achieving business success.

Recurring Guests

An image of a person in a circle, featured in an episode.
Mike Harrison
Chief Operating Officer
CRR Hospitality
A woman with short blonde hair smiling in front of a tree during the MC Fireside Chats on December 7th, 2022.
Sandy Ellingson
RV Industry Advisor
A man in glasses standing in the snow during MC Fireside Chats on November 1st, 2023.
Scott Bahr
President
Cairn Consulting Group

Special Guests

Episode Transcript

Brian Searl: [00:01:00] Welcome everybody to the This is the first episode of MC 2024. I’m outside because it’s outdoor hospitality. The rest of these guys stayed inside for some reason, even though 

Mike Harrison: I’m outside, too. I’m on the pool deck, as you can see. 

Brian Searl: Maybe. All right. But you’re in Arizona. There’s really no excuse for you not to be outside, Mike.

I don’t know where Sandy is. It’s colder. It’s 55 degrees. 

Sandy Ellingson: Hey, but I’m actually in an RV. This isn’t a background. This is my new RV that you see.

Brian Searl: Really? 

Sandy Ellingson: Yes! 

Brian Searl: Are you in front of the kitchen? 

Sandy Ellingson: I am. 

Brian Searl: Man, how do I make enough money to buy an RV? Is that a thing? Do you want to advertise, Sandy, on the show? 

Sandy Ellingson: I’m very much loving it.

This is my new Alliance 385 FL. And it gives me a lot of space. I turned my dining area into an office. And I have a coffee bar behind me that my husband did for me, decorated it and stuff. And that’s the [00:02:00] only thing I need right now. Office and coffee, right? 

Brian Searl: I won’t say out loud that I think you’re spoiled, but 

Sandy Ellingson: I am. I totally am. 

Brian Searl: It looks nice though. So welcome to the first episode of MC Fireside Chats. Super excited to be here. We’re going to talk a little bit about research reports and things like that today. I am outside. I, I’m having a glass of whiskey because I made a resolution, I made three resolutions Mike saw on LinkedIn, but then I added one because I figured I gotta have one resolution that I actually do.

So my resolution is just to have a sip of whiskey on the show. Nice and easy, it’s done, I accomplished it. And the rest of 2024, man, boy, one for one, 100 percent of my resolutions. 

Mike Harrison: It’s gonna be great. You’re one for four, technically. The other ones might be a little harder. 

Brian Searl: Let me have this, Mike. Let me have this, okay?

Yeah, my apologies. But let’s first talk about, like, how was everybody’s holidays? Did we do anything interesting? Do you want to share? You don’t have to share. 

Scott Bahr: I prepped for the North American Camping Outdoor Hospitality survey, which we’re launching this week. Yeah, it was great. [00:03:00] No, actually my holiday was fun.

This is our, this time of year for us is always the busiest. It’s our run up. It’s actually a lot of fun. We’re pretty excited about it, 

Brian Searl: what is the key takeaway from the report? We won’t tell anybody. 

Scott Bahr: I don’t have it yet. 

Brian Searl: But you did it, anyway. 

Scott Bahr: We haven’t started. We actually gathered the day that we’re going to start this evening. Very timely. 

Brian Searl: How do I get an evening appointment with Scott Bahr? How do I get that important? 

Scott Bahr: it Takes a lot. 

Mike Harrison: Bring whiskey. 

Brian Searl: Whiskey? 

Scott Bahr: Bring, yeah, bring that good whiskey and we’ll talk. 

Brian Searl: Sold. 

This is I told you before the show, I don’t think Mike was on here, this is Jefferson. Greg Emmert?

He introduced me to this. He’s from Camp Strategy. He works at Jeff Hoffman Consulting Group. And he told me about this at the conference in Branson, the Campground Honors Expo. So I tried it. It’s like whiskey that’s aged on the sea. They keep it on ships. It’s really interesting. Anyway, so Sandy, what’d you do for the holidays?

Sandy Ellingson: We traveled. We left Washington State and went south all the way down to [00:04:00] Bakersfield and then east all the way to Georgia. Got to visit some really interesting campgrounds along the way be in some really interesting weather and made it home last Thursday. Missed Christmas with my family for the first time ever.

Brian Searl: But intentionally it sounds yes. 

Sandy Ellingson: Not necessarily intentionally, but we did. It was the weather .

Brian Searl: Was I’m not trying to slate your family, right? But you clearly planned the trip is what I mean. 

Sandy Ellingson: The weather is what happened. Honestly, we got into both of those, whatever they call atmospheric rivers.

Going south, we were being hit by a major storm, and then going east, we were hit by a storm. And, towing a brand new 42 foot fifth wheel, we were not comfortable driving very fast, and we didn’t want to drive after dark. It just took longer. We wanted to be safe. 

Brian Searl: Makes sense. I’m sorry you missed Christmas with your family, but hopefully you made up with it a little bit.

Sandy Ellingson: We did. We did this weekend. 

Brian Searl: Awesome, good to hear. Mike, what did you do? 

Mike Harrison: tOok some time off. The kids were [00:05:00] home. Went for mountain bike rides, some hiking, some pickleball, a couple escape rooms, Museum of Illusions, ate a lot. Nice. And did a little bit of work on the side, but that’s, don’t tell anybody that either.

Brian Searl: I work the whole time, 

Mike Harrison: yeah, of course you have to. But it was a great great week. Weather was pretty nice here. So it was quite enjoyable. 

Brian Searl: That’s awesome, glad to hear it. I find that the week, usually it starts earlier, but the week preceding Christmas and the week during Christmas there and New Year’s is like the quietest week, so I can buckle down and get a lot of work done.

But I like it. Like we spent Christmas Eve with the family, right? My mic catches on fire here, and the fire’s like blowing right toward it. But then we went to the Flames game on New Year’s Eve, which is pretty cool. They won, and then they set off some fireworks right on the ice, which was really cool and interesting.

I’ve never seen that before, wow. It was pretty fun, alright, so where do we want to start, guys? Is there anything that came to your attention over the course of the [00:06:00] holidays? Or, any data that you’ve seen on what might happen in 2024 with the industry? You feel like we should talk about?

Sandy Ellingson: That is actually something I’m super excited about talking about, and it’s something I’ve been having a lot of conversations in the last couple of weeks over. I’ve already picked Scott’s brain to say, hey, I have an intuition, what do you think about this? But and then I had another conversation yesterday And it’s interesting to see how 2024 is shaping up.

I just started having this intuition about 2024 a few weeks ago where I was thinking that there’s a lot of things that I perceive that are happening that I think could impact camping and whether people camp or not. But I had nothing to back it up. Nothing statistical. I couldn’t tell you, yes this does impact.

Brian Searl: That’s fine. That’s how I live my entire life, Sandy. It’s fine. I just go on the show and I say things. 

Sandy Ellingson: Exactly. So I actually called Scott and said, Hey, do you think this has anything, is this relevant? Does it have anything to do with it?[00:07:00] And then I actually confirmed through a second person who’s doing some research and everybody was saying they were feeling the same thing.

And I, I think it’s a really good thing. RVTI, I think you posted it on Modern Campground. RVIA. I think you posted it on Modern Campground, Brian, about, they’re actually talking about increased sales next year, anywhere between 8 to 13%. Increased sales over what? 

Brian Searl: Which year? 

Sandy Ellingson: Over 

Brian Searl: which year is what I’m asking?

Increased over 2022, 21, or 19? 

Sandy Ellingson: I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did see that they’re talking 

about Unit sales over last year is what I believe we’re talking about. 

Brian Searl: And I was shocked if that happened. 

Sandy Ellingson: I, it’s interesting because then I read an opposing article that said that while RBIA was saying they were, focusing on growth or predicting growth, some of the actual manufacturers were saying they weren’t necessarily [00:08:00] seeing that.

But here’s the thing that I think is very interesting is that I think when people are stressed and when a lot of things are going on, the natural inclination is I want to get outdoors, I want to get away, I want to escape. 

Brian Searl: That doesn’t include buying a $400, 000 rig. It 

Sandy Ellingson: probably, you’re right, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that, but for us, primarily with focusing on campgrounds, I think we have the potential of seeing another really good year with potentially some Additional growth, because I do think next year is set up to be a volatile year.

We’ve got unrest going on in our cities, where people want to just get away and not have to listen to the stuff that’s going on. We’ve got an election coming up, which I’m already bored out of my mind with, and I just want to get it over with. So there’s all different kinds of things that are going on that I feel are still going to encourage people to get out and camp.

I [00:09:00] think that we’re going to still see a little bit of an increase. I think we’re going to see some normalization around rates and some relaxation on the bond policies and and cancellation policies. But, and, but I do still think we’re shaping up to have some growth. And I think Forewarned is very good.

I think if we go into it understanding that, hey, we could potentially see another uptick, then we’re prepared for that. If we don’t. But if we don’t prepare for potential growth, especially on the supplier side of things, then we are in trouble. And yeah, so I think we’re seeing some really good opportunities.

I also was checking in with some of our other technology partners and we really are seeing a lot of what I call conversions of people who bought rigged. During COVID, overpaid for them, so they were upside down, couldn’t trade them, and we worked with a couple of the other companies [00:10:00] to give them a mathematical formula on what they could do with their words to bring it back in alignment with being able to trade it.

And we’re seeing a significant number of people actually take advantage of that and dealers who are now actually recommending and telling them how to do this, which we got a lot of kickback on at first. So I think we’re shaping up to be in better, in a better place in 2024 than we might think.

Brian Searl: Okay, before we get to the smart people who are Scott and Mike, actually, like I’m, obviously the RV industry, right Sandy? Huh. Before we get to the people who know the research and that actually own the RVs. Yeah. But to Here’s some more BS for you that I think I think we’re going to not back by research, right?

Sandy Ellingson: Yes! 

Brian Searl: I think what I think we’re going to have a great camping season. I’m not worried at all about the industry and people going out and going to RV resorts and glamping and stuff like that. What I am worried about are the people who have spent the last five or six years self inflicting some wounds on themselves because they felt they didn’t need to do marketing.

And they [00:11:00] were right? For the most part. They didn’t need to do a lot of marketing. And so I think there’s going to be less people camping this year, generally speaking, and you’re not going to be able to just fill up your park by opening it. But I think that if you’re able to do the fundamental basics of marketing, website design, SEO, then I think you’re going to be fine.

I think there’s going to be plenty of people who are, again, hybrid RV tent, cabin, glamping, all those people. I think there’s going to be enough to fill up the parks. Again, can master those few fundamental things and then briefly on the RV industry and I probably shouldn’t say this, I’m going to make somebody irritated, but I fully believe I don’t think that the industry, the RV industry will ever sell more rigs than they did in 2019 in a year, forever.

I really genuinely believe that because of the decline of people who like there’s a switch of people from RVing to glamping. There is, and I know how controversial this is and that’s fine. I’m willing to be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. This is what I believe based on what I’ve seen and heard and [00:12:00] talked to in the industry, which is not as far in depth as you are, Sandy, right?

But there’s too many people peeling off who can go glamping in cabins. There’s too much of this younger demographic coming in that live in major cities like Toronto that are so diverse as far as, populations. Young and old and women, male and female and black, white, Asian, all that kind of stuff who don’t have a place to store a rig.

So you’re not only talking about buying a 400, 000 to 600, 000 rig, but you have to pay for storage to figure out where it’s going to go. It’s got to be outside the city. It’s got, there’s a lot of expenses that come along with that. And I think there’s just a lower barrier entry in camping and other avenues.

Again, I don’t think camping is in trouble at all. I think that RVing specifically and narrowly is not going to have a skyrocket year like it did in 2022 ever again. 

Sandy Ellingson: I Have two comments on what you say, but I don’t want to dominate. Scott and Mike, do you guys have something to say before I rush in?

Scott Bahr: Mine is slightly different. So if you want to finish that [00:13:00] Please feel free, because I feel like what I’m going to say relates to Mike’s experiences as well, 

Sandy Ellingson: first of all, I’ve probably already talked over 200 parts in the last quarter of last year as far about marketing. And I do believe that a lot of them are afraid because they didn’t do any marketing because they didn’t need to.

And now they’re trying To find people to help them with marketing and there’s just not enough people out there We have a shortage of good marketers and when I add it differ 

Brian Searl: I have 26 of them working for me.

Sandy Ellingson: I was gonna say not marketers good marketers and.

Brian Searl: Wait.

I just said I have 26 people working for me. You said not 

Sandy Ellingson: Awesome. I love what you do Brian. You were in that good. You don’t love my 26 people no, I do love your 26 people. When I say you, I’m talking about your company. But so it’s interesting that I’ve seen a lot of people move towards working in our industry and they’re not getting the [00:14:00] results they need.

And so that’s where I think it’s been very difficult is we need more good marketing people and we need you to grow more, Brian. Because we do need people that know our industry, I personally believe. thE second thing when you were talking about the industry and sales, I don’t know if we could do better than we did 2019 specifically because of what happened, with the pandemic and all that afterwards.

One of the things I do know is that growth highlighted a lot of the issues inside the industry as a whole, and that group that bought, or a fickle group, because they’re not necessarily the people that, they didn’t buy a camping, they bought a camper ’cause they wanted to escape. And so everything, the expectations they set are very high, and it was very hard for us to reach those expectations with the supply chain the way it was.

So we’ve got a [00:15:00] lot of advancing we need to do in the next year to try and reach that level again. And that, to me, is one of the barriers. But those are my comments. 

Brian Searl: And one thing I think will contribute to this discussion we’re about to have, too, is I just, when I say self inflected wounds, I don’t just mean marketing.

I was on the phone with a guy yesterday, who, whose self inflicted wound was he hired a manager and didn’t pay attention to what they were doing, and she was talking to them on the phone and saying, we’re full all the time, and he was at 10 percent occupancy because she didn’t want to do any work, right?

But he wasn’t paying attention. He wasn’t as hands on as he needed to be because he just assumed, right? And so there’s all kinds of different self inflicted wounds other than just marketing. But go ahead, Scott, Mike, take it wherever you want. 

Scott Bahr: I was just going to say that the, Kind of taking that global look again, that where you started about the year ahead, if there’s anything interesting that’s out there.

One of the things that we’ve been looking at is the impact of external events major upheavals, stuff like that. And one of the easiest things for us to look at is election years. [00:16:00] And in the hotel industry, they’ve actually done a lot of this research in the past and looking forward. And what we see typically in an election year is that luxury travel declines.

Not hugely, but seven, eight, seven, eight percent. But no one has really done that analysis on the outdoors, except I went because I can get historical information from the National Park Service. And I looked at every year of park visitation from 1960 to present. And I looked at the election years.

And what happens is visits to the national parks increase by about a third in the year preceding the election. And stay consistent at that level, low down slightly in the year after. And overall, it’s incredibly consistent by millions of unique visitors. It’s happened every election cycle since 1960.

What that tells [00:17:00] me is that if you’re a high end purveyor of outdoor hospitality. You probably want to look at your marketing a little bit more intensely and seeing what messaging you’re doing, because the reason this happens is in an election year, we all know, Sandy already said it, people get sick of it.

It’s stressful. And they go, they look at the outdoors to relieve that stress and vacations. So if I was a, an owner or manager at A higher end resort glamping. I would look at my messaging and I would say, you know what I need to, I might need to change it up a little bit because I could take a little bit of a hit this year because people pull back.

They want a little bit more of an outdoor experience. They want to relax. They want to be, have that kind of relief. They’re tense. All it takes is a little bit of tension to, to suppress behavior. 

Brian Searl: I’m sorry, just to clarify. So you’re saying luxury RV travelers will decline in their willing, but they, where are they going?

They’re going to the National Park instead of a [00:18:00] luxury RV resort? 

Scott Bahr: thAt, no that they’re separate there. When I say luxury travel, staying at luxury resorts, high end. Cause we don’t have that history for RV resorts. I’m just, I’m making, showing this relationship just.

Brian Searl: No, I was just, I’m half following you. I just want to Mike owns several luxury RV resorts, right? 

Scott Bahr: thAt’s what I said, but I said we’d relate to Mike probably a little bit more because that’s, and that’s the pattern. It’s it’s fairly consistent. I actually have that, the National Park data if anyone ever wants to look at it.

It’s cool. 

Brian Searl: Maybe we can do a deeper dive in it too, but yeah, that’s definitely interesting. Mike? You have anything? 

Mike Harrison: Yeah, I think there’s a lot to unpack. There was like five different topics in that whole discussion. 

Brian Searl: I’ll probably address the factual ones from Scott and Sandy first before you touch mine.

Mike Harrison: You said this is probably BS, and I think BS means beyond Searl, I think is what that [00:19:00] relates to. 

Brian Searl: It means I have no data, like to back up anything 

Mike Harrison: I’m saying. Yeah, beyond Searl. And so I think a few things. If we start with kind of what does 2024 look like? I Am on the line of, the industry is going to continue to show a little bit of decline in 24 but that’s, relative, right?

If we look at pre COVID numbers, the numbers will still be up in 24, but if you look at it versus 23, 22, 21, and not to mention, and the hotel business experienced this in numerous cycles. is, when there’s these booms, there’s considerable supply that comes into the market and the industry has to absorb the supply.

And that’s going to dilute some of the data. So while visitations and travelers may be up, if you look at, national occupancy, etc., that has to go through a year or two of that cyclical behavior to absorb all the new sites that are going to come in. And that’s not just RV, but it’s also storage and, some of the other related industries that’s going to have this exact same trend that’s going to it.

And if you look at Q3 and [00:20:00] Q4, and look at some of the, and it’s interesting because Scott can look at a lot of the national and park that is, and then Camp Spot looks at a lot of the private data. And if you combine the two you get a better picture of kind of what, because they’re two different travelers and two different segments.

And I think Q1 and Q2 are going to be a real indicator. For what the year is going to be, and I like to say, a lot of our parks are in the snowbird y destination, so we have a better glimpse than a lot of these, the majority of the industry that is a summer travel, because we’re going to see it first so we’ll know what the year is going to bring after Q1 so we are cautiously optimistic, we certainly did not budget eight to ten to twelve percent up year on year but to your point, I think, going to the next topic is marketing.

And I think if anybody’s looking for a superior marketer, they should look at Insider Perks. They’re 26 people are amazing. So I think that’s, they, and they can take as much business as anybody wants to give them. Please reach out to Insider Perks if you need marketing, but I think that’s where the real hole is.

When I used to work at some of the hotels, [00:21:00] we would compete against the 900 pound gorilla, right? The convention hotel that just got the business because, right? Their phone rang. We always used to say, our phone would never ring unless somebody was calling us back. And, when you’re in those situations, you have to outwork, outsmart, out hustle, out thank all your competitors.

And I think, while there’s this normalization and stabilization of all the new supply, and the supply that’s coming in. is far more sophisticated and educated, and that’s a general statement. I don’t mean that negatively, than what the historical industry has been. So they’re coming in with marketing strategies and the right amenities, and they’ve done their research.

And To not market and to not understand, how to go after clients and understand your mix may change, whether it’s seasonal versus transient or how much season you took last year versus transient is to, I think, a property’s deficit. So they absolutely have to look at their marketing spend.

And marketing is a lot of things. It’s not just digital. It’s also obviously collateral and media and et cetera, et cetera. To your third point about 

Brian Searl: Can I touch on that briefly? Will I distract you? 

Mike Harrison: What’s that? 

Brian Searl: Can I touch on [00:22:00] that briefly or will I distract you from your third point? No, go ahead. 

Mike Harrison: I remember my third point.

I’m, I don’t have any whiskey. 

Brian Searl: I’m good. You’re right. There are a lot of new people coming in this industry. We’ve had a lot of conversations with people, but we’ve had people come in with misconceptions, like Sandy was saying too, about the RV industry, both either from a marketing firm or from an ownership standpoint.

I’ve talked to probably three people in the last three weeks that are coming into this industry, developing brand new RV resorts, and have come from a branding background of a larger corporation. And their sole entire focus, the entire call they talk to us, is on their logo and colors and font. Cool, right?

But so I don’t, so just because they’re coming in with a marketing background, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right marketing background for our industry either. 

Mike Harrison: aNd that’s where the education comes in as well, I think, as we continue to talk about. And there’s new players into the industry that are different than what has been before.

And to your right, a lot of the phone calls we field are from different vertical asset types. There are from other industries like multifamily or, [00:23:00] hospitality and they’re smart in the real estate world, but maybe they don’t understand the RV or outdoor hospitality world and they know that.

And to your point about the glamping, I am spot on. It doesn’t mean people are not going to RV. Of course they are. But the glamping is the, if you look at all the growth indicators, triple digit growth in glamping and, will remain to be double digit growth, I think, going forward.

And that’s a lot of the conversations we’re having with folks is You know, if you don’t have Lamping Units on your plan, you need to. It drives IRR, it drives margin, it drives your cachet, it drives your renown and you can make it work within an RV property. It doesn’t have to be the five RV spots that are sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, overlooking the stars at 500 a pop.

You can, make it work into your RV park. As well, and many of them are including that in their their plans and pro formas and development instructions. So I agree wholeheartedly, with what you said, Brian and I think we’ve got to be prepared to be [00:24:00] multi tiered in our knowledge and education about how we approach our deliverables in 2024 to make sure we’re maximizing all the revenue opportunities.

Brian Searl: Yeah, timing is everything, right? In all aspects realizing that this glamping trend, like you’re saying, is going up, is timing and timing works negatively against you, too, right? I talked to a brilliant gentleman on December 26th, he booked on Christmas Day, because he was from Israel, starting a glamping company over there.

Brilliant guy they have lots of huge plans, they have tons of capital behind them. But again, like we were talking about, right? Maybe not the best time to try to convince Americans to come to Israel. Beautiful country, maybe wait a couple months, right? So yeah, I think a lot of that is identifying the trends and research and data that Scott’s pulling out and KOA and Camp Spot and all this kind of people, but yeah.

Sandy Ellingson: I do think, too, that when we come to the conversations of glamping versus camping, that there’s going to have to be some real strategic decisions and some direction. Because I think to put a glamping [00:25:00] unit inside of a campground is absolutely hands down a great decision because you’re always going to have people.

who are camping that has somebody in their family who may not have a camper that may want to glamp. Or somebody who would not know about glamping, but because they saw it when they were camping, they may want to try it. Versus some of the locations that are set up as strictly all glamping sites, or the glamping that we’re seeing happening, which is really most of the glamping, which is where private individuals have glamping units on private land.

I did not realize until the glamping show this year that was most of the glamping market is still individuals having glamping units on their land. I think they’re two completely different things. I think they’re two completely different markets that happen to cross over occasionally. I glamp occasionally, but I also have a huge investment in my RV, so you’re not going to get me to glamp more than I RV.

Brian Searl: [00:26:00] But the people who don’t have that huge investment already. You probably are going to have an easier path. 

Sandy Ellingson: Absolutely. So therein how the industry as a whole is going to have to still look at how do they steal those people that are glamping and pull them into camping. I don’t need to though.

Brian Searl: I think it’s all, I think it’s all camping. 

Mike Harrison: It is. It’s the same. You don’t need to steal anything. You collaborate and collect them together. Unless you’re an 

Brian Searl: RV manufacturer, and then maybe you do, but.

Sandy Ellingson: If you’re a man I’m talking about the manufacturing side. They’re going to have to figure out how to get those people that are glamping to buy the unit into the camping world.

But I also think we still have a lot of work to do just on our language, because there’s still a lot of people who believe that glamping is what I do. I camp in this rig and they call me a glamper. Everybody’s going camping. 

Brian Searl: Solved. 

Sandy Ellingson: No, I don’t really consider some of the glamping units that I’ve stayed in and seen. I don’t consider that camping. 

Brian Searl: But that’s, like, all due respect, you’re right, but [00:27:00] you also it’s just an opinion, right? Yeah. You can’t be wrong because I’m not saying I’m right either, right? I’m just saying that’s my opinion. 

Sandy Ellingson: It’s a unique stay experience. In fact, most of the glamping that I’ve done, I equate it more with the Airbnb experience, staying in somebody’s home than I do camping.

Scott Bahr: In general, we would take, and how we define it in our work, because we have to define it for people, because for exactly the reasons you’re talking about right now is our umbrella is camping. And then underneath that, We segmented into glamping, RVing, tenting, backcountry camping, and so on.

But camping still remains that umbrella that we use in our work anyway, as a way to bring people in. But yeah, there are all those sectors within there. 

Brian Searl: And to be fair, one of the larger problems with camping generally is that a lot of people view it as lower end, [00:28:00] generally speaking, outside of the industry.

Mike Harrison: I would say new to the industry, the answer to that is yes. And I think, what we’re dealing with and what we’ll continue dealing with is all the new people to outdoor hospitality over the several years. As Sandy mentioned, language, but, this is going to take years for what that common lingo is going to be. because you’ve got a couple different segments that are all combining together. You got the people who’ve been camping or RVing for 30 40 years, the parks that have been in existence for 30 40 years, and you got the new ones who are new to it, and then you got folks who are camping, and they’re all Your point, defining it differently because they’re not sure, right?

If you ask people what glamping is, you’ll get five different definitions. And so our job as owners, our job as managers, our job as vendors, our job as partners is to be inclusive, right? And so how do we figure out how to get. All the different segments, and help them and educate them and have them stay in our properties and buy our products, [00:29:00] etc.

And that’s through translation. And you can’t be naive to think that it’s just because you said something 20 years ago is going to be the same thing or just because I said something 20, and I don’t mean this towards anybody, it’s just in general, because the terms mean different things to different people and especially with the new travelers.

I think things like this, the show we’re doing, Scott’s work, as it becomes more feminine that will help. 

Brian Searl: But I think ultimately it still has to be the camping branch. And then there’s luxury camping, and there’s whatever. You want to take glamping and branch it off in seven different directions, but at the top, I still think it has to be camping.

Mike Harrison: Or outdoor hospitality, right? Because outdoor hospitality is really the top. And then there’s, all the different offshoots of it. Because it isn’t just camp, if you talk to 10 different park owners, right? If you talk to a Jellystone owner, a lot of them are going to say they’re in the entertainment business, right?

If you talk to the franchise, that’s their, They’re deliverable as they’re in the entertainment business. It’s still outdoor hospitality, they’re driving their revenue. So they’re all under the large umbrella. They’re different than the hospitality and under hospitality is hotels and [00:30:00] restaurants, and under hotels could be full service, select service, resort, and I think that’s where we’re heading.

Brian Searl: And I guess I think I should clarify in saying I believe it’s all outdoor hospitality from a public consumer perspective. I think the messaging for camping is far easier than ever will be this to create. What is basically a newish term, outdoor hospitality, just like glamping, right? Everybody knows camping, everybody searches for camping, we can see the Google and all that kind of stuff.

So I think that’s just an easier 

Mike Harrison: But the people who are looking for those RV share opportunities, the rentals, and the ones who are looking for glamping, they may not necessarily be searching for camping, right? Because to your point earlier.

Brian Searl: But there’s more of a question of camping underneath it versus above it for outdoor hospitality is what I’m saying, I think.

Mike Harrison: Yeah, I think it’s different because to your point, I think camping too, especially to the layman. BS! Camping for Brian Searl. Camping is firewood in a tent in the woods. 

Sandy Ellingson: Exactly. That’s what I was going to say. There’s, and one of our part of our audience mentioned this too. To me, camping, every, when I hear camping, I think of [00:31:00] a tent.

When I think of RVing, I think of where I go in my wig. Because I’m so old school, I grew up camping. And camping was pitching a tent with a fire somewhere. What I found really interesting, too, though, was on this trip from Washington to Georgia, taking the long route, we stayed in 10 different campgrounds.

Two of those campgrounds were still had no online presence, no website, you, when you got there, there was a thing that said pick your site, put 20 in the envelope. And one of these parks, I’m telling you, it was right off the interstate. I knew that based on the searches and doing some of the things that I could look at through Google, that there were people looking for campgrounds in this area.

And yet, no website, no presence whatsoever. And this was a great poinsettia park. I don’t [00:32:00] know what the current ratio is, but we still have a ton of really good parts that are not known because they’re not on the web anywhere. And we need those spaces. We need to know who they are. So of course, 

Brian Searl: if you’re not one to 10 on Google search results, you don’t exist.

Sandy Ellingson: If you don’t have a website or a Google business, listing, you really don’t exist, except for I find you, but that’s only because that’s the game for me. 

Brian Searl: But yeah, there’s so many perks that show up for their keywords that are like, 12. Yeah. They don’t exist. That’s cool that you’re 12, but you literally don’t exist.

No one’s going to page two of Google. So anyway, where else are we going, guys? 

Sandy Ellingson: But anyway, it was interesting that 20 percent of the parks I stayed in have no digital presence whatsoever. Still 20%. 

Brian Searl: I Would be, I would not be surprised if you threw out like a 40 [00:33:00] percent of small businesses in general have a terrible internet presence, maybe higher.

Because you know what you know, right? There are a lot of really brilliant these are brilliant campground owners and operators at operating a campground, but operations doesn’t necessarily extend the market. iT’s not a..

Mike Harrison: It’s not only that, it’s to your point, if they’ve always been full, or if they haven’t had to, why would you have a spender, why would you and if this has been going on for 10 or 15 years, why would You know, if you’ve been using a rotary phone, and it works, why would you go to a cell phone, only because the rotary phone is discontinued, right?

And I think that’s the situation, and we were looking at a campground in the Northwest, that was exactly that. They had a great reputation, and a great park, and they got dated and old, and their numbers continued to decline, and we were looking at the Performa from an acquisition standpoint, and their marketing dollars were like under 10, 000, right?

And you’re like no kidding, right? They have not kept up and and as more supply has come in and as they degraded their reputation [00:34:00] so it is a big need. And that’s a session I spoke at RVIC is about branding and marketing and sorry, OHI pardon me. Exactly.

Brian Searl: You’re lending people a dollar every time you say RVIC, just so you know.

Mike Harrison: That’s got five bucks to my name then. Given or left, I’m not sure.

Brian Searl: Sorry, go ahead. Did I distract you? 

Mike Harrison: No, that was it. They just, you know 

Brian Searl: Did you the third point, by the way? Or did we never get back to that? 

Mike Harrison: No, it was the glamping. I agree with you that the glamping is going to continue to expand. And existing campsites are going to continue to look at converting some of their spots to glamping, 

Brian Searl: Yeah, there’s almost I think, it’s really just that we talk about data so much on this show, right?

Mike Harrison: And Scott’s into it, and Mike’s into it, and Sandy’s into it, and lots of people that are watching this show are into it, too. But I think that’s just the fundamental gap, is this guy I was talking to, a couple days ago, who I was telling you had the problem with the manager or whatever else.

He was talking to me about I really need help with SEO. It’s terrible. And we looked him [00:35:00] up on SEO. He’s been a park has been there for 15, 16 years, right? And he’s ranking fifth and sixth and fourth for his keywords without doing anything. And so he’s ranking high for the exact market that he’s already trying to get.

So that’s not his problem. Like sure, he could expand that. He can do better. He could do whatever, right? But he doesn’t even know. He didn’t even have any idea where he was ranking or what keywords he was showing up for or anything like that. And that basic fundamental, like, where do I start? Because it’s not the same answer for everybody.

It’s something that people need to investigate. Yeah, 

and I think that’s the difference between small parks and large parks, right? And sometimes the small parks, again, if they’ve been doing the same thing for years, they don’t need to know. And it’s education, right? And hopefully the, national and state associations are providing the educational opportunities.

I know through Modern Campground, you guys provide Your, tips and hot tricks. And, we’re doing a session at Vic you know the Carolinas on third party management at what, Sierra what’s that? 

Brian Searl: You’re doing a [00:36:00] session wave, Vic? 

Mike Harrison: The North and South Carolina.

What’s that at? 

Brian Searl: What not arv? 

Mike Harrison: No, it’s called Vic. It’s not Cohi. You owe me a buck’s Cohi. It’s not Kohai yet. But it’s exactly that, right? How do you operate and market and leverage your property for maximization? So there just needs to be more education and Sandy continues to You know champion this education of parks, large or small, to learn and to improve.

Yeah, I don’t, I wish I had an answer for it. I wish I had a magic bullet, because, obviously, I’d sit here and talk on the phone to every single person I can who wants to listen if I had the time, and some I do, right? But I don’t know what that mass education answer is, because it doesn’t seem to be the classes at the conventions.

Certainly they’re good, right? They’re better than nothing. But that doesn’t seem to be reaching people at the volume and scale that we need it to. 

Sandy Ellingson: And I think one of the biggest problems, and it was really very apparent this past year at [00:37:00] all the different conferences, is that we’ve had so many new people come into the market that we really need two tracks on education, because you’ve got a lot of brand new people that they may be coming from another industry, and they really don’t get our industry.

And so we’ve got, they need the one on one session. And then you’ve got the people that have been doing this a long time, but things are changing. There’s new emerging trends, and they want to know about that, and they’re not getting that. We’re not meeting the educational needs. I do believe 2024 is going to be the year for technology.

There’s quite a few things coming out that I think are going to start to solve some of this, but I don’t think I think they will completely take place of actual in person marketing, in person networking and learning. 

Brian Searl: I don’t think they need to, I don’t think they need to replace it at all. I think they need to supplement it.

Sandy Ellingson: That’s what I mean. It needs to be divided and expanded. It’s too much one [00:38:00] track and it’s not, it’s too much for the newbies and it’s too little for the seasoned. 

Brian Searl: Alright, I gotta mention our sponsor because everybody’s yelling at me in the private chat. It wasn’t Jefferson Whiskey. Anyway, our sponsor of this month is Fireside Accounting, which actually, I feel like I can say this, and if I can’t say this, then I’m sorry, Scott Fooze.

But Fireside Accounting is actually the accounting arm, Lindsey Foose owns it, of Horizon Outdoor Hospitality. They’re actually going to combine entities together. So this is actually the last month that Fireside Accounting is hosting Episode 1, or sponsoring Episode 1 of this show. I feel like maybe I’m helping Scott by giving him a plug here.

But so Fireside County is great they’ve been around for a long time. Lindsay Foose and her team have done all kinds of great things specific to the outdoor hospitality industry, campgrounds, RV parks, I know those deductions and things like that. So her team is fantastic, but they’re going to be more closely integrated with Horizon Outdoor Hospitality going forward.

Excited to see that happen and to see Horizon continue to evolve. Thank you to our sponsor, Lindsay, and perhaps Lindsay and Scott? I don’t know how that works. And [00:39:00] if I gave away a big secret, I’m sorry, they didn’t tell me to keep it quiet. Okay what do we got? Where are we at?

That’s it? I just, the sponsor killed the whole vibe and momentum of the show? 

Scott Bahr: Just lost the train. 

Sandy Ellingson: Yeah, one of the other things I’ve been really looking at, and Scott alluded to it in one of his comments earlier, was it flows together, was events. And I believe that’s gonna be something that we see a growing trend for is doing events inside your park and hosting different kinds of events.

But I read an article and I can’t remember where it came from now, but it was funny because it talked about. The, how the hospitality industry leads, and the RV, outdoor hospitality industry kind of follows, and it was bringing in the idea of the cruise work, cruise industry started out with these flat rate, RVs.

RVs. Come cruise with us and it covers everything. It covers [00:40:00] your food, your alcohol your cabin, very, almost everything except for a few ancillary things are covered. And they’re saying that more and more of the larger larger campgrounds beginning to do some of this, they’re bundling things together.

And that’s a great idea moving into 2024 because I’ve already recommended to quite a few of my parks to start doing some of these bundled weekends and what they’re finding is, these people will pay X amount a month for however many months they’re booking in advance, whether it’s 12 or 10 or 15, it gets divided, they pay it, and then if they have a good time, then they’ll resign for next year for the next same thing, and so they retain these people coming, and they also get this recurring revenue every month.

They’re also not discounting. their rates, their cost for food or whatever they’re providing. Now, not every campground can do this at a huge level, but [00:41:00] every campground can do it at some level. And so I think that along with events, that’s going to become a big trend in 2024. 

Brian Searl: Okay. Let’s pivot to that, right?

What are trends in 2024 now? That’s an interesting topic. 

Scott Bahr: There’s, I could talk about this all day and we’re, but. There’s a couple of things that.

Brian Searl: We got 15 minutes. Everybody else can drop off. And if you want to stay on

Scott Bahr: This is I mean we’re looking into a lot of new trends and things we’re looking at in the coming year we’ve we’re the hospitality industry overall the hotel industry and resorts have already done some research in this area We’ve been looking at what they’re doing to see how much of this Spills over, but one of the things I’m personally, I always pull out what I personally kind of see things that start to pop up that I feel could be relevant is look for the convenience traveler at a higher rate [00:42:00] this year than we’ve seen previously.

We know that they’re already out there. We know that exists, but in some of the work that we’ve done to look at why people are changing behaviors a little bit, convenience comes in a lot. Last year, we saw a lot of road tripping. I’ll use this as an example. People wanted to take road trips. They wanted to take long road trips.

They’ll do all these things. In many cases, they didn’t include camping in the road tripping. And the reason for that was convenience. They just want to stop, go, they wanted to be, have, be less involved. I feel like this, and we did some ethnographies, by the way, too, a while back with families.

I’ve seen it at campgrounds. And we did, we followed the whole. Half of them prepping for their trip all the way to coming home. We had ’em do videos, pictures, whatever. And the utter chaos that’s involved is unbelievable. And you can see why those people might not go out quite often and they’re seeking anything [00:43:00] that, that gives them a more convenient experience.

And I feel like right now where we’re at, we start like layering down some of these other issues that we’ve been talking about. And I feel like. I don’t know. You’re the convenience camper. 

Brian Searl: I agree with you, but the problem is that convenience has always been there throughout history across all demographics and everything else, and it will always trump everything else.

Always. Convenience. Ease of use. How easy can I pull into the site? How close is it to the highway? How, where is it near to where I want to go and where I want to stay? And convenience is everything. From technology, to ease of use, to online websites, to using it, to literally every facet of society, convenience will always trump everything.

Which is why I’m a big proponent of technology and ease of use, right? And I think this is a big part of why AI is going to see just fast adoption, especially with trip planning, as you’ve already seen. is it’s convenient. 

Sandy Ellingson: I agree. And. 

Scott Bahr: What are the solutions? That’s the issue. I guess that’s what I’m [00:44:00] trying to get at here.

What does the industry provide in terms of solutions? I think there’s a lot of creativity and innovation that needs to still occur to deal with that. 

Brian Searl: But we also need to do the messaging behind why it’s convenient, too. 

Sandy Ellingson: And if you, it’s really the two different types of campers as well, because if you’ve got your power campers, the people that camp at least once a month, they’re out there all the time, we keep our campers stocked.

We have clothes in there, our plates are in there, there’s food in there. When we just walk into our camper and go, versus the person that owns a camper that may only camp four times a year, they have to load and unload every single time. That’s not convenient. If I had to load and unload this thing every time, I probably wouldn’t camp.

But I tell you, during part of the time on this last trip, we were having to book a hotel. It was horrible. I was complaining so bad just because I had to take my suitcase out of the car into [00:45:00] the hotel. I was like, I can’t stand this. I just want my house back. So that is a part of it is how often are you going to camp?

And I think encourage people to camp more and to set things up so that they can keep it loaded. Also, it encourages more camping, but it also makes it more convenient. 

Brian Searl: So does glamping. Not to start a rabbit hole, but 

Scott Bahr: No, it does. Glamping is huge. It’s a big factor in why.

Brian Searl: You can save 400, 000 for an extra closet.

Scott Bahr: Yeah. And I guess to wrap up that point is that there’s, in the market right now, among our universe of potential guests, there are more people who want that low maintenance experience. They want greater convenience and they’re looking for us and the industry to provide that level of convenience to them.

It’s just more that you go back, a long time ago, camping that the [00:46:00] inconvenience was part of, you’ve packed everything up. 

Brian Searl: Because as we go through, we figure things out and we make them more convenient and society, we will continue to do that. So by its very nature being 40 or 50 years ago, we had less knowledge than we did to make things as convenient as they are today or less technology or less, whatever.

Mike Harrison: I Think it’s. It’s also understanding, your demographic, and, at Ojai, New Book did an excellent session, Innovator Panel and they, obviously highlighted some trends, and, the Baby Boomers used to be the number one segment, and now it’s become very diverse, and it’s going to quickly move towards the, Gen Xers, Millennials, and then soon the Gen Zers, but, if you look at the Gen Xers and clearly the Gen Zers technology.

I want an online check in experience, right? Maybe I don’t even have to talk to anybody, at the front desk. I want to be able to, pull into my site and maybe there’s directions using an online app. I want to be able to [00:47:00] cancel and change my reservation. And so the PMS companies are having to evolve quickly.

to a lot of these trends, whether it’s the new technology that the properties are demanding, that need to be integrated with the PMS systems, whether it’s the guest experience that they need to modernize and I think those are the trends that, as we continue to head into 24 and 25, absolutely need to be simplified and acknowledged.

And the properties that aren’t leveraging technology are going to be left behind, whether it’s the texting or, like you said, whether it’s the AI integration and chatbot, or whether it’s online check in, all those things have to happen. Or these influx, which is now more than 50 percent of the travelers, will choose to stay somewhere else, where it’s easier, more convenient, as you say.

Brian Searl: Yeah, convenience wins everything. Okay, so I want to give the last couple minutes of the show to Scott, because I told him I would. To talk about, so this, we delayed it a couple months, but this year we’re going to launch our MC Hospitality Highlights. Talked about and announced previously, and the first one we’re going to do [00:48:00] is focused on guest reviews.

Mike Harrison: And so we did a study of how many reviews? 70, 000? Guest reviews are 70, 000. Plus years we’ll analyze this report after it comes out. Probably next week if we can get our ducks in a row and together. But briefly, do you want to touch on some of the highlights that you found throughout, Scott? And then we’ll go deep dive next month.

Sure. 

Scott Bahr: Yeah, I think it was a real Interesting exercise to go through. It’s something that I’ve been interested in for a while. 

We’ve in, in market research comments are sometimes the bane of our existence. So we decided let’s turn the tables on this and take a look and dive into what people say. And as has been said several times already today, words matter.

The words people use matter a lot. And. foR us and going through all this and looking, trying to quantitate, quant, look at, quantify, somehow easy for me to say[00:49:00] some of the things that we found was what, it was a fascinating exercise going through what is typically qualitative information, which is what people say in context and tying that to their ratings.

And the importance of that. And, in this report, I feel like what you’ll be able to see is, for someone who is a provider of outdoor hospitality, that the words people use, how important those are, and how they view their experience. Overall, the words that someone uses, if you’re talking to that guest, whether it’s before or after the stay, so especially after, the words that they use when they speak to you.

Just how important that is, and how for the providers of outdoor hospitality, the words they use, and how those words are used in their positioning, how important those will be. And that’s when we get into the weeds a bit on this, probably in the weeds [00:50:00] more than a lot of people will be.

Brian Searl: It is a long report, we were dealing with it with the design, right?

Scott Bahr: Yeah, a lot longer than I thought it would be. But that’s okay. Like I think in part of what we’re going to do for everybody who is new to MC Hospitality Highlights is we’re going to give you that long report if you want to read it. We’re also going to cut it down into bite sized pieces on social, on different podcasts, on things like that, right?

So you can consume it in different means and methods and to the point that you want to consume it at. So we understand not everybody is the 20 page research report person, but it is, it was very interesting to read some of that stuff. I’m still going through it, but the design team is finalizing it right now, 

yeah, I think there’s something in there for anyone who works in hospitality. I feel like there’s at least something in there that you’re going to look at, and you’re either going to, you’re probably going to nod your head in agreement with, or at least it’ll make you think about it a little bit more.

And who knows, maybe you’ll disagree with some of it, but that’s okay too. I accept all that. Just reach out to Brian at any [00:51:00] point if you have those, no, I’m just kidding. No, I actually invite people to reach out to me all the time. I think it’ll be a conversation starter, I really do. For 

Brian Searl: sure, and again, we call it MC Hospitality Highlights, obviously none of it’s possible without Karen Consulting Group and Scott and all the great things that they’re doing both as part of that and KOA and all the other things they do with Consulting for Parks, so even though you’re not a sponsor of the show, I should say that reach out to Scott if you’re interested.

I wore my shirt, conducting any of that stuff. Absolutely. I don’t know, it’ll be interesting. Look, we’ll dive, next show, once we get one of these under our belts and it’s out and the public has had a chance to consume it, we’ll dive into some of the exact findings that was really high level and potentially on purpose.

You guys will have this PDF in your hands, you’ll have it, statistics being posted on social for Modern Campground and figure out some other ways to disseminate it and things like that. But yeah, we’re excited to see where this goes and we’ve already got, what, two more that are already being worked on?

I Think one’s done already for, February’s done already, isn’t it? [00:52:00] You’re pretty close? 

Scott Bahr: Not this is up. We’re pretty close. We’re pretty close. We’re wrapping it up. Yeah. 

Brian Searl: Cool. Anything you guys think we should report on, Sandy, Mike, or analyze for 2024, you’d like to see?

Sandy Ellingson: Do we have anything else? You’re muted, Mike. We can’t hear you. 

Mike Harrison: I’m not sure I understand what your deliverable is yet, or what you can do until I see the first report to weigh in on what else I’d like to see. 

Brian Searl: What would you say our overall goal would be, Scott? Because we’ve talked about this, right? Versus what KOA is producing. 

Scott Bahr: I think, our goal here is to look at some other and slash existing data sources and dig into those and provide information from a different point of view than what people may have now to take a deeper dive into some of this information. The work that we do with KOA, the Camping and Outdoor Hospitality Report is done.

It’s a [00:53:00] bottom up approach. It’s mostly attitudinal stuff. We ask people questions about their behavior, intentions, all those things. This is more of looking at actual behaviors, things that we, information we have, data we get from these other sources, integrating that with some and complementing some of it as well.

For example, the next report, we’re going to complement with some interviews and stuff like that on the topic because we felt like that would really prop up some of the other 

stuff that we’re seeing. Yeah, so instead of from a statistic, is it fair to say instead of from a statistical, this is what the camper feels and camper thinks and camper is doing?

Or of a data analysis of things that we feel are important? To the owners of Outdoor Hospitality Accommodations. Not that camping stats aren’t. Of course they are, right? But if we’re not, we’re doing something different. 

It’s a different audience. We’re taking this from a point of view of a different audience.

Brian Searl: So [00:54:00] anyway, you can let us know then, next month. 

Mike Harrison: I’ll give you my BS opinion. 

Brian Searl: Brian Searl, that’s what it is. 

Sandy Ellingson: I do have something else that we need to do for 2024, Brian, and it goes on your plate. I don’t know anybody who’s done more of a deeper dive and who’s more passionate about AI and how we use it in our industry.

And I get asked literally every single day in some conversation with a campground, What do you think about AI? What should we be doing? Is it dangerous? And I always tell them, go talk to Brian Searl. He’s the one that I know that knows the most about it. But I think it would be really interesting if you had an AI tip of the week or an AI tip of the month or something like that because I think people are looking for simple ways that you can at least get started or review using AI for their campground.

Brian Searl: [00:55:00] So I know this isn’t what you mean, and I agree with that. I’ve actually thought about that before if I had enough time. And Mike, thank you, I appreciate it for being here. I think that’s something we’ve thought about doing. It’s only a restriction on basically my time of being able to do that.

Like we’ve even talked about, I’ve talked about doing it once a week or once every two weeks. As a separate, just LinkedIn Live, super quick to talk about AI and stuff, but I think that it’s really interesting where, and Mike distracted me a little bit with my thoughts, so I’m trying to cover them quickly and frantically in my head, even though I look calm on the screen as I continue to talk to you.

I I think, what were you, what was your point, maybe briefly summarize it? 

Sandy Ellingson: Just that there’s such a desire for information and still such a fear about it. that I feel like somebody needs to start covering that and giving some tips. And I certainly don’t feel qualified to do that.

Brian Searl: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting to me, like the way people perceive it. And I don’t know that there’s enough data there, certainly. I don’t think there’s enough data. In fact, I know there isn’t to do a research report on it yet of [00:56:00] anything of that level. But I think sharing those tips and tricks, I think that there’s a lot of uncertainty around it, but it’s interesting to me that I still have conversations with all the people and half of them are joking and half of them aren’t.

And if anybody needs to go, by the way, I know we’re running a little bit over, so feel free to leave. I can talk to myself if I need to. But briefly, there’s so many people who will get on the phone and jokingly or seriously be like, this is Terminator. This AI is going to kill us all. We just need to put that to bed once and for all.

You need to have a healthy respect for AI. AI is not going to kill us all. Think about it. 

Sandy Ellingson: AI is just like a firearm. It’s a tool. And a firearm can kill you in the right hands, and it can save you in the other. And I started out as being afraid of AI. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be involved in it.

And you kept trying to win me over. And now I found a lot of ways where I feel like it can really help us in the industry. There’s things we’re going to be able to do next year because of AI that we could have never done before if we couldn’t afford it. 

Brian Searl: That’s [00:57:00] what I was going to talk about. Two things.

Okay, that’s what I was going to talk about. Thank you. So we, Scott and I have had these conversations, and I talked about it on January 20th, about not as MC hospitality, completely separate. But you, we’ve actually, Scott and I were playing around this on a call where we actually used AI. To create a fake study, completely fake, right?

Totally BS. Brian Searl, right? Of we had it create and say create 25 different personalities who typically would stay at, I think it was winter camping Scott? Yep. And what would be their pain points and reasons for going and reasons they wouldn’t go. And it was really interesting. It came back and filled out all the columns.

And so we’re not going to call this highlights. We’re going to, if we do anything like this, and it’s an if. If we do anything like this, it will be very clearly this is BS, whatever data, right? But look at how close it actually is to the real thing, and maybe we’ll compare and contrast it with data that Scott actually has.

But that’s really interesting to me, to do something like [00:58:00] that, because I think that’s one way that AI might be able to give us some granular insights, if we take it with a grain of salt, into things that we could just never do with an individual research team. No matter how big they are, calling and researching and doing all that stuff, right?

It’s just not scalable to drive down into we can drive into local markets like Phoenix and Arizona and wherever, right? Those are things that I don’t think we can do. And so I’m excited about that, to see where that goes in 2024. And there’s probably one other point that I forgot to, oh, where we were going. Like the crazy, the, I was going to finish the thought before you said the thing about the AI, where it’s going. Everybody who watches the show, including you two, are probably going to think I’m nuts when I say this. AI is very quickly in a couple of years going to be smarter than all of us as human beings, right?

It’s going there. So when it gets there, and as it continues to grow far beyond that, this is why you don’t have to be worried about AI ever killing us. Because it’s gonna be the same thing as us and ants.[00:59:00] 

I’m serious. Do you know, and I know you think I’m crazy right now, and everybody does, and that’s fine. But do you know of a single person on planet Earth whose sole mission is to annihilate every single ant on the face of the Earth? 

Sandy Ellingson: Every five year old with a magnifying glass. 

Scott Bahr: I was going to say something along those lines.

Brian Searl: We’re not going to realistically succeed, right? This is the thing. Like, all of the dystopian movies that you see are played off of human beings start wars, and AI decides it needs to eliminate them, or human beings pollute, or human beings whatever. AI’s gonna invent things that if you want to pollute, it’s just gonna evaporate your trash in five seconds.

It’s not gonna have any reason to kill us. We’re gonna be inconsequential to what is happening with AI. 

Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not saying. I’m not 

saying that’s good. I’m just saying that’s the way it’s gonna be. 

Sandy Ellingson: Yes, you’re still crazy, Brian, but that’s why we love you. 

Brian Searl: It’s alright. All the ideas that have come to pass in the future [01:00:00] from anybody who’s talked about them were crazy when somebody first uttered them.

Again, I’m not saying that’s the future I want, or I believe should happen, but I believe that right now we are on track for that future to happen. Anyway, any final thoughts before we go? We’re super over five minutes. 

Sandy Ellingson: Yep. Nope, I gotta run. It was great being here. See you guys later. 

Brian Searl: Appreciate it.

We’re looking forward to our first MC Hospitality Highlights. Thank you so much, Scott, for all the work you do. Sandy, for recurring. And all the work you do too. As a guest, Mike, go ahead and drop off early, and we will see you next week for another episode of MC Fireside Chats. Take care, guys. 

Sandy Ellingson: Bye. 

Mike Harrison: Take care.

[01:01:00] 

Brian Searl: [00:01:00] Welcome everybody to the This is the first episode of MC 2024. I’m outside because it’s outdoor hospitality. The rest of these guys stayed inside for some reason, even though 

Mike Harrison: I’m outside, too. I’m on the pool deck, as you can see. 

Brian Searl: Maybe. All right. But you’re in Arizona. There’s really no excuse for you not to be outside, Mike.

I don’t know where Sandy is. It’s colder. It’s 55 degrees. 

Sandy Ellingson: Hey, but I’m actually in an RV. This isn’t a background. This is my new RV that you see.

Brian Searl: Really? 

Sandy Ellingson: Yes! 

Brian Searl: Are you in front of the kitchen? 

Sandy Ellingson: I am. 

Brian Searl: Man, how do I make enough money to buy an RV? Is that a thing? Do you want to advertise, Sandy, on the show? 

Sandy Ellingson: I’m very much loving it.

This is my new Alliance 385 FL. And it gives me a lot of space. I turned my dining area into an office. And I have a coffee bar behind me that my husband did for me, decorated it and stuff. And that’s the [00:02:00] only thing I need right now. Office and coffee, right? 

Brian Searl: I won’t say out loud that I think you’re spoiled, but 

Sandy Ellingson: I am. I totally am. 

Brian Searl: It looks nice though. So welcome to the first episode of MC Fireside Chats. Super excited to be here. We’re going to talk a little bit about research reports and things like that today. I am outside. I, I’m having a glass of whiskey because I made a resolution, I made three resolutions Mike saw on LinkedIn, but then I added one because I figured I gotta have one resolution that I actually do.

So my resolution is just to have a sip of whiskey on the show. Nice and easy, it’s done, I accomplished it. And the rest of 2024, man, boy, one for one, 100 percent of my resolutions. 

Mike Harrison: It’s gonna be great. You’re one for four, technically. The other ones might be a little harder. 

Brian Searl: Let me have this, Mike. Let me have this, okay?

Yeah, my apologies. But let’s first talk about, like, how was everybody’s holidays? Did we do anything interesting? Do you want to share? You don’t have to share. 

Scott Bahr: I prepped for the North American Camping Outdoor Hospitality survey, which we’re launching this week. Yeah, it was great. [00:03:00] No, actually my holiday was fun.

This is our, this time of year for us is always the busiest. It’s our run up. It’s actually a lot of fun. We’re pretty excited about it, 

Brian Searl: what is the key takeaway from the report? We won’t tell anybody. 

Scott Bahr: I don’t have it yet. 

Brian Searl: But you did it, anyway. 

Scott Bahr: We haven’t started. We actually gathered the day that we’re going to start this evening. Very timely. 

Brian Searl: How do I get an evening appointment with Scott Bahr? How do I get that important? 

Scott Bahr: it Takes a lot. 

Mike Harrison: Bring whiskey. 

Brian Searl: Whiskey? 

Scott Bahr: Bring, yeah, bring that good whiskey and we’ll talk. 

Brian Searl: Sold. 

This is I told you before the show, I don’t think Mike was on here, this is Jefferson. Greg Emmert?

He introduced me to this. He’s from Camp Strategy. He works at Jeff Hoffman Consulting Group. And he told me about this at the conference in Branson, the Campground Honors Expo. So I tried it. It’s like whiskey that’s aged on the sea. They keep it on ships. It’s really interesting. Anyway, so Sandy, what’d you do for the holidays?

Sandy Ellingson: We traveled. We left Washington State and went south all the way down to [00:04:00] Bakersfield and then east all the way to Georgia. Got to visit some really interesting campgrounds along the way be in some really interesting weather and made it home last Thursday. Missed Christmas with my family for the first time ever.

Brian Searl: But intentionally it sounds yes. 

Sandy Ellingson: Not necessarily intentionally, but we did. It was the weather .

Brian Searl: Was I’m not trying to slate your family, right? But you clearly planned the trip is what I mean. 

Sandy Ellingson: The weather is what happened. Honestly, we got into both of those, whatever they call atmospheric rivers.

Going south, we were being hit by a major storm, and then going east, we were hit by a storm. And, towing a brand new 42 foot fifth wheel, we were not comfortable driving very fast, and we didn’t want to drive after dark. It just took longer. We wanted to be safe. 

Brian Searl: Makes sense. I’m sorry you missed Christmas with your family, but hopefully you made up with it a little bit.

Sandy Ellingson: We did. We did this weekend. 

Brian Searl: Awesome, good to hear. Mike, what did you do? 

Mike Harrison: tOok some time off. The kids were [00:05:00] home. Went for mountain bike rides, some hiking, some pickleball, a couple escape rooms, Museum of Illusions, ate a lot. Nice. And did a little bit of work on the side, but that’s, don’t tell anybody that either.

Brian Searl: I work the whole time, 

Mike Harrison: yeah, of course you have to. But it was a great great week. Weather was pretty nice here. So it was quite enjoyable. 

Brian Searl: That’s awesome, glad to hear it. I find that the week, usually it starts earlier, but the week preceding Christmas and the week during Christmas there and New Year’s is like the quietest week, so I can buckle down and get a lot of work done.

But I like it. Like we spent Christmas Eve with the family, right? My mic catches on fire here, and the fire’s like blowing right toward it. But then we went to the Flames game on New Year’s Eve, which is pretty cool. They won, and then they set off some fireworks right on the ice, which was really cool and interesting.

I’ve never seen that before, wow. It was pretty fun, alright, so where do we want to start, guys? Is there anything that came to your attention over the course of the [00:06:00] holidays? Or, any data that you’ve seen on what might happen in 2024 with the industry? You feel like we should talk about?

Sandy Ellingson: That is actually something I’m super excited about talking about, and it’s something I’ve been having a lot of conversations in the last couple of weeks over. I’ve already picked Scott’s brain to say, hey, I have an intuition, what do you think about this? But and then I had another conversation yesterday And it’s interesting to see how 2024 is shaping up.

I just started having this intuition about 2024 a few weeks ago where I was thinking that there’s a lot of things that I perceive that are happening that I think could impact camping and whether people camp or not. But I had nothing to back it up. Nothing statistical. I couldn’t tell you, yes this does impact.

Brian Searl: That’s fine. That’s how I live my entire life, Sandy. It’s fine. I just go on the show and I say things. 

Sandy Ellingson: Exactly. So I actually called Scott and said, Hey, do you think this has anything, is this relevant? Does it have anything to do with it?[00:07:00] And then I actually confirmed through a second person who’s doing some research and everybody was saying they were feeling the same thing.

And I, I think it’s a really good thing. RVTI, I think you posted it on Modern Campground. RVIA. I think you posted it on Modern Campground, Brian, about, they’re actually talking about increased sales next year, anywhere between 8 to 13%. Increased sales over what? 

Brian Searl: Which year? 

Sandy Ellingson: Over 

Brian Searl: which year is what I’m asking?

Increased over 2022, 21, or 19? 

Sandy Ellingson: I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did see that they’re talking 

about Unit sales over last year is what I believe we’re talking about. 

Brian Searl: And I was shocked if that happened. 

Sandy Ellingson: I, it’s interesting because then I read an opposing article that said that while RBIA was saying they were, focusing on growth or predicting growth, some of the actual manufacturers were saying they weren’t necessarily [00:08:00] seeing that.

But here’s the thing that I think is very interesting is that I think when people are stressed and when a lot of things are going on, the natural inclination is I want to get outdoors, I want to get away, I want to escape. 

Brian Searl: That doesn’t include buying a $400, 000 rig. It 

Sandy Ellingson: probably, you’re right, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that, but for us, primarily with focusing on campgrounds, I think we have the potential of seeing another really good year with potentially some Additional growth, because I do think next year is set up to be a volatile year.

We’ve got unrest going on in our cities, where people want to just get away and not have to listen to the stuff that’s going on. We’ve got an election coming up, which I’m already bored out of my mind with, and I just want to get it over with. So there’s all different kinds of things that are going on that I feel are still going to encourage people to get out and camp.

I [00:09:00] think that we’re going to still see a little bit of an increase. I think we’re going to see some normalization around rates and some relaxation on the bond policies and and cancellation policies. But, and, but I do still think we’re shaping up to have some growth. And I think Forewarned is very good.

I think if we go into it understanding that, hey, we could potentially see another uptick, then we’re prepared for that. If we don’t. But if we don’t prepare for potential growth, especially on the supplier side of things, then we are in trouble. And yeah, so I think we’re seeing some really good opportunities.

I also was checking in with some of our other technology partners and we really are seeing a lot of what I call conversions of people who bought rigged. During COVID, overpaid for them, so they were upside down, couldn’t trade them, and we worked with a couple of the other companies [00:10:00] to give them a mathematical formula on what they could do with their words to bring it back in alignment with being able to trade it.

And we’re seeing a significant number of people actually take advantage of that and dealers who are now actually recommending and telling them how to do this, which we got a lot of kickback on at first. So I think we’re shaping up to be in better, in a better place in 2024 than we might think.

Brian Searl: Okay, before we get to the smart people who are Scott and Mike, actually, like I’m, obviously the RV industry, right Sandy? Huh. Before we get to the people who know the research and that actually own the RVs. Yeah. But to Here’s some more BS for you that I think I think we’re going to not back by research, right?

Sandy Ellingson: Yes! 

Brian Searl: I think what I think we’re going to have a great camping season. I’m not worried at all about the industry and people going out and going to RV resorts and glamping and stuff like that. What I am worried about are the people who have spent the last five or six years self inflicting some wounds on themselves because they felt they didn’t need to do marketing.

And they [00:11:00] were right? For the most part. They didn’t need to do a lot of marketing. And so I think there’s going to be less people camping this year, generally speaking, and you’re not going to be able to just fill up your park by opening it. But I think that if you’re able to do the fundamental basics of marketing, website design, SEO, then I think you’re going to be fine.

I think there’s going to be plenty of people who are, again, hybrid RV tent, cabin, glamping, all those people. I think there’s going to be enough to fill up the parks. Again, can master those few fundamental things and then briefly on the RV industry and I probably shouldn’t say this, I’m going to make somebody irritated, but I fully believe I don’t think that the industry, the RV industry will ever sell more rigs than they did in 2019 in a year, forever.

I really genuinely believe that because of the decline of people who like there’s a switch of people from RVing to glamping. There is, and I know how controversial this is and that’s fine. I’m willing to be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. This is what I believe based on what I’ve seen and heard and [00:12:00] talked to in the industry, which is not as far in depth as you are, Sandy, right?

But there’s too many people peeling off who can go glamping in cabins. There’s too much of this younger demographic coming in that live in major cities like Toronto that are so diverse as far as, populations. Young and old and women, male and female and black, white, Asian, all that kind of stuff who don’t have a place to store a rig.

So you’re not only talking about buying a 400, 000 to 600, 000 rig, but you have to pay for storage to figure out where it’s going to go. It’s got to be outside the city. It’s got, there’s a lot of expenses that come along with that. And I think there’s just a lower barrier entry in camping and other avenues.

Again, I don’t think camping is in trouble at all. I think that RVing specifically and narrowly is not going to have a skyrocket year like it did in 2022 ever again. 

Sandy Ellingson: I Have two comments on what you say, but I don’t want to dominate. Scott and Mike, do you guys have something to say before I rush in?

Scott Bahr: Mine is slightly different. So if you want to finish that [00:13:00] Please feel free, because I feel like what I’m going to say relates to Mike’s experiences as well, 

Sandy Ellingson: first of all, I’ve probably already talked over 200 parts in the last quarter of last year as far about marketing. And I do believe that a lot of them are afraid because they didn’t do any marketing because they didn’t need to.

And now they’re trying To find people to help them with marketing and there’s just not enough people out there We have a shortage of good marketers and when I add it differ 

Brian Searl: I have 26 of them working for me.

Sandy Ellingson: I was gonna say not marketers good marketers and.

Brian Searl: Wait.

I just said I have 26 people working for me. You said not 

Sandy Ellingson: Awesome. I love what you do Brian. You were in that good. You don’t love my 26 people no, I do love your 26 people. When I say you, I’m talking about your company. But so it’s interesting that I’ve seen a lot of people move towards working in our industry and they’re not getting the [00:14:00] results they need.

And so that’s where I think it’s been very difficult is we need more good marketing people and we need you to grow more, Brian. Because we do need people that know our industry, I personally believe. thE second thing when you were talking about the industry and sales, I don’t know if we could do better than we did 2019 specifically because of what happened, with the pandemic and all that afterwards.

One of the things I do know is that growth highlighted a lot of the issues inside the industry as a whole, and that group that bought, or a fickle group, because they’re not necessarily the people that, they didn’t buy a camping, they bought a camper ’cause they wanted to escape. And so everything, the expectations they set are very high, and it was very hard for us to reach those expectations with the supply chain the way it was.

So we’ve got a [00:15:00] lot of advancing we need to do in the next year to try and reach that level again. And that, to me, is one of the barriers. But those are my comments. 

Brian Searl: And one thing I think will contribute to this discussion we’re about to have, too, is I just, when I say self inflected wounds, I don’t just mean marketing.

I was on the phone with a guy yesterday, who, whose self inflicted wound was he hired a manager and didn’t pay attention to what they were doing, and she was talking to them on the phone and saying, we’re full all the time, and he was at 10 percent occupancy because she didn’t want to do any work, right?

But he wasn’t paying attention. He wasn’t as hands on as he needed to be because he just assumed, right? And so there’s all kinds of different self inflicted wounds other than just marketing. But go ahead, Scott, Mike, take it wherever you want. 

Scott Bahr: I was just going to say that the, Kind of taking that global look again, that where you started about the year ahead, if there’s anything interesting that’s out there.

One of the things that we’ve been looking at is the impact of external events major upheavals, stuff like that. And one of the easiest things for us to look at is election years. [00:16:00] And in the hotel industry, they’ve actually done a lot of this research in the past and looking forward. And what we see typically in an election year is that luxury travel declines.

Not hugely, but seven, eight, seven, eight percent. But no one has really done that analysis on the outdoors, except I went because I can get historical information from the National Park Service. And I looked at every year of park visitation from 1960 to present. And I looked at the election years.

And what happens is visits to the national parks increase by about a third in the year preceding the election. And stay consistent at that level, low down slightly in the year after. And overall, it’s incredibly consistent by millions of unique visitors. It’s happened every election cycle since 1960.

What that tells [00:17:00] me is that if you’re a high end purveyor of outdoor hospitality. You probably want to look at your marketing a little bit more intensely and seeing what messaging you’re doing, because the reason this happens is in an election year, we all know, Sandy already said it, people get sick of it.

It’s stressful. And they go, they look at the outdoors to relieve that stress and vacations. So if I was a, an owner or manager at A higher end resort glamping. I would look at my messaging and I would say, you know what I need to, I might need to change it up a little bit because I could take a little bit of a hit this year because people pull back.

They want a little bit more of an outdoor experience. They want to relax. They want to be, have that kind of relief. They’re tense. All it takes is a little bit of tension to, to suppress behavior. 

Brian Searl: I’m sorry, just to clarify. So you’re saying luxury RV travelers will decline in their willing, but they, where are they going?

They’re going to the National Park instead of a [00:18:00] luxury RV resort? 

Scott Bahr: thAt, no that they’re separate there. When I say luxury travel, staying at luxury resorts, high end. Cause we don’t have that history for RV resorts. I’m just, I’m making, showing this relationship just.

Brian Searl: No, I was just, I’m half following you. I just want to Mike owns several luxury RV resorts, right? 

Scott Bahr: thAt’s what I said, but I said we’d relate to Mike probably a little bit more because that’s, and that’s the pattern. It’s it’s fairly consistent. I actually have that, the National Park data if anyone ever wants to look at it.

It’s cool. 

Brian Searl: Maybe we can do a deeper dive in it too, but yeah, that’s definitely interesting. Mike? You have anything? 

Mike Harrison: Yeah, I think there’s a lot to unpack. There was like five different topics in that whole discussion. 

Brian Searl: I’ll probably address the factual ones from Scott and Sandy first before you touch mine.

Mike Harrison: You said this is probably BS, and I think BS means beyond Searl, I think is what that [00:19:00] relates to. 

Brian Searl: It means I have no data, like to back up anything 

Mike Harrison: I’m saying. Yeah, beyond Searl. And so I think a few things. If we start with kind of what does 2024 look like? I Am on the line of, the industry is going to continue to show a little bit of decline in 24 but that’s, relative, right?

If we look at pre COVID numbers, the numbers will still be up in 24, but if you look at it versus 23, 22, 21, and not to mention, and the hotel business experienced this in numerous cycles. is, when there’s these booms, there’s considerable supply that comes into the market and the industry has to absorb the supply.

And that’s going to dilute some of the data. So while visitations and travelers may be up, if you look at, national occupancy, etc., that has to go through a year or two of that cyclical behavior to absorb all the new sites that are going to come in. And that’s not just RV, but it’s also storage and, some of the other related industries that’s going to have this exact same trend that’s going to it.

And if you look at Q3 and [00:20:00] Q4, and look at some of the, and it’s interesting because Scott can look at a lot of the national and park that is, and then Camp Spot looks at a lot of the private data. And if you combine the two you get a better picture of kind of what, because they’re two different travelers and two different segments.

And I think Q1 and Q2 are going to be a real indicator. For what the year is going to be, and I like to say, a lot of our parks are in the snowbird y destination, so we have a better glimpse than a lot of these, the majority of the industry that is a summer travel, because we’re going to see it first so we’ll know what the year is going to bring after Q1 so we are cautiously optimistic, we certainly did not budget eight to ten to twelve percent up year on year but to your point, I think, going to the next topic is marketing.

And I think if anybody’s looking for a superior marketer, they should look at Insider Perks. They’re 26 people are amazing. So I think that’s, they, and they can take as much business as anybody wants to give them. Please reach out to Insider Perks if you need marketing, but I think that’s where the real hole is.

When I used to work at some of the hotels, [00:21:00] we would compete against the 900 pound gorilla, right? The convention hotel that just got the business because, right? Their phone rang. We always used to say, our phone would never ring unless somebody was calling us back. And, when you’re in those situations, you have to outwork, outsmart, out hustle, out thank all your competitors.

And I think, while there’s this normalization and stabilization of all the new supply, and the supply that’s coming in. is far more sophisticated and educated, and that’s a general statement. I don’t mean that negatively, than what the historical industry has been. So they’re coming in with marketing strategies and the right amenities, and they’ve done their research.

And To not market and to not understand, how to go after clients and understand your mix may change, whether it’s seasonal versus transient or how much season you took last year versus transient is to, I think, a property’s deficit. So they absolutely have to look at their marketing spend.

And marketing is a lot of things. It’s not just digital. It’s also obviously collateral and media and et cetera, et cetera. To your third point about 

Brian Searl: Can I touch on that briefly? Will I distract you? 

Mike Harrison: What’s that? 

Brian Searl: Can I touch on [00:22:00] that briefly or will I distract you from your third point? No, go ahead. 

Mike Harrison: I remember my third point.

I’m, I don’t have any whiskey. 

Brian Searl: I’m good. You’re right. There are a lot of new people coming in this industry. We’ve had a lot of conversations with people, but we’ve had people come in with misconceptions, like Sandy was saying too, about the RV industry, both either from a marketing firm or from an ownership standpoint.

I’ve talked to probably three people in the last three weeks that are coming into this industry, developing brand new RV resorts, and have come from a branding background of a larger corporation. And their sole entire focus, the entire call they talk to us, is on their logo and colors and font. Cool, right?

But so I don’t, so just because they’re coming in with a marketing background, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right marketing background for our industry either. 

Mike Harrison: aNd that’s where the education comes in as well, I think, as we continue to talk about. And there’s new players into the industry that are different than what has been before.

And to your right, a lot of the phone calls we field are from different vertical asset types. There are from other industries like multifamily or, [00:23:00] hospitality and they’re smart in the real estate world, but maybe they don’t understand the RV or outdoor hospitality world and they know that.

And to your point about the glamping, I am spot on. It doesn’t mean people are not going to RV. Of course they are. But the glamping is the, if you look at all the growth indicators, triple digit growth in glamping and, will remain to be double digit growth, I think, going forward.

And that’s a lot of the conversations we’re having with folks is You know, if you don’t have Lamping Units on your plan, you need to. It drives IRR, it drives margin, it drives your cachet, it drives your renown and you can make it work within an RV property. It doesn’t have to be the five RV spots that are sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, overlooking the stars at 500 a pop.

You can, make it work into your RV park. As well, and many of them are including that in their their plans and pro formas and development instructions. So I agree wholeheartedly, with what you said, Brian and I think we’ve got to be prepared to be [00:24:00] multi tiered in our knowledge and education about how we approach our deliverables in 2024 to make sure we’re maximizing all the revenue opportunities.

Brian Searl: Yeah, timing is everything, right? In all aspects realizing that this glamping trend, like you’re saying, is going up, is timing and timing works negatively against you, too, right? I talked to a brilliant gentleman on December 26th, he booked on Christmas Day, because he was from Israel, starting a glamping company over there.

Brilliant guy they have lots of huge plans, they have tons of capital behind them. But again, like we were talking about, right? Maybe not the best time to try to convince Americans to come to Israel. Beautiful country, maybe wait a couple months, right? So yeah, I think a lot of that is identifying the trends and research and data that Scott’s pulling out and KOA and Camp Spot and all this kind of people, but yeah.

Sandy Ellingson: I do think, too, that when we come to the conversations of glamping versus camping, that there’s going to have to be some real strategic decisions and some direction. Because I think to put a glamping [00:25:00] unit inside of a campground is absolutely hands down a great decision because you’re always going to have people.

who are camping that has somebody in their family who may not have a camper that may want to glamp. Or somebody who would not know about glamping, but because they saw it when they were camping, they may want to try it. Versus some of the locations that are set up as strictly all glamping sites, or the glamping that we’re seeing happening, which is really most of the glamping, which is where private individuals have glamping units on private land.

I did not realize until the glamping show this year that was most of the glamping market is still individuals having glamping units on their land. I think they’re two completely different things. I think they’re two completely different markets that happen to cross over occasionally. I glamp occasionally, but I also have a huge investment in my RV, so you’re not going to get me to glamp more than I RV.

Brian Searl: [00:26:00] But the people who don’t have that huge investment already. You probably are going to have an easier path. 

Sandy Ellingson: Absolutely. So therein how the industry as a whole is going to have to still look at how do they steal those people that are glamping and pull them into camping. I don’t need to though.

Brian Searl: I think it’s all, I think it’s all camping. 

Mike Harrison: It is. It’s the same. You don’t need to steal anything. You collaborate and collect them together. Unless you’re an 

Brian Searl: RV manufacturer, and then maybe you do, but.

Sandy Ellingson: If you’re a man I’m talking about the manufacturing side. They’re going to have to figure out how to get those people that are glamping to buy the unit into the camping world.

But I also think we still have a lot of work to do just on our language, because there’s still a lot of people who believe that glamping is what I do. I camp in this rig and they call me a glamper. Everybody’s going camping. 

Brian Searl: Solved. 

Sandy Ellingson: No, I don’t really consider some of the glamping units that I’ve stayed in and seen. I don’t consider that camping. 

Brian Searl: But that’s, like, all due respect, you’re right, but [00:27:00] you also it’s just an opinion, right? Yeah. You can’t be wrong because I’m not saying I’m right either, right? I’m just saying that’s my opinion. 

Sandy Ellingson: It’s a unique stay experience. In fact, most of the glamping that I’ve done, I equate it more with the Airbnb experience, staying in somebody’s home than I do camping.

Scott Bahr: In general, we would take, and how we define it in our work, because we have to define it for people, because for exactly the reasons you’re talking about right now is our umbrella is camping. And then underneath that, We segmented into glamping, RVing, tenting, backcountry camping, and so on.

But camping still remains that umbrella that we use in our work anyway, as a way to bring people in. But yeah, there are all those sectors within there. 

Brian Searl: And to be fair, one of the larger problems with camping generally is that a lot of people view it as lower end, [00:28:00] generally speaking, outside of the industry.

Mike Harrison: I would say new to the industry, the answer to that is yes. And I think, what we’re dealing with and what we’ll continue dealing with is all the new people to outdoor hospitality over the several years. As Sandy mentioned, language, but, this is going to take years for what that common lingo is going to be. because you’ve got a couple different segments that are all combining together. You got the people who’ve been camping or RVing for 30 40 years, the parks that have been in existence for 30 40 years, and you got the new ones who are new to it, and then you got folks who are camping, and they’re all Your point, defining it differently because they’re not sure, right?

If you ask people what glamping is, you’ll get five different definitions. And so our job as owners, our job as managers, our job as vendors, our job as partners is to be inclusive, right? And so how do we figure out how to get. All the different segments, and help them and educate them and have them stay in our properties and buy our products, [00:29:00] etc.

And that’s through translation. And you can’t be naive to think that it’s just because you said something 20 years ago is going to be the same thing or just because I said something 20, and I don’t mean this towards anybody, it’s just in general, because the terms mean different things to different people and especially with the new travelers.

I think things like this, the show we’re doing, Scott’s work, as it becomes more feminine that will help. 

Brian Searl: But I think ultimately it still has to be the camping branch. And then there’s luxury camping, and there’s whatever. You want to take glamping and branch it off in seven different directions, but at the top, I still think it has to be camping.

Mike Harrison: Or outdoor hospitality, right? Because outdoor hospitality is really the top. And then there’s, all the different offshoots of it. Because it isn’t just camp, if you talk to 10 different park owners, right? If you talk to a Jellystone owner, a lot of them are going to say they’re in the entertainment business, right?

If you talk to the franchise, that’s their, They’re deliverable as they’re in the entertainment business. It’s still outdoor hospitality, they’re driving their revenue. So they’re all under the large umbrella. They’re different than the hospitality and under hospitality is hotels and [00:30:00] restaurants, and under hotels could be full service, select service, resort, and I think that’s where we’re heading.

Brian Searl: And I guess I think I should clarify in saying I believe it’s all outdoor hospitality from a public consumer perspective. I think the messaging for camping is far easier than ever will be this to create. What is basically a newish term, outdoor hospitality, just like glamping, right? Everybody knows camping, everybody searches for camping, we can see the Google and all that kind of stuff.

So I think that’s just an easier 

Mike Harrison: But the people who are looking for those RV share opportunities, the rentals, and the ones who are looking for glamping, they may not necessarily be searching for camping, right? Because to your point earlier.

Brian Searl: But there’s more of a question of camping underneath it versus above it for outdoor hospitality is what I’m saying, I think.

Mike Harrison: Yeah, I think it’s different because to your point, I think camping too, especially to the layman. BS! Camping for Brian Searl. Camping is firewood in a tent in the woods. 

Sandy Ellingson: Exactly. That’s what I was going to say. There’s, and one of our part of our audience mentioned this too. To me, camping, every, when I hear camping, I think of [00:31:00] a tent.

When I think of RVing, I think of where I go in my wig. Because I’m so old school, I grew up camping. And camping was pitching a tent with a fire somewhere. What I found really interesting, too, though, was on this trip from Washington to Georgia, taking the long route, we stayed in 10 different campgrounds.

Two of those campgrounds were still had no online presence, no website, you, when you got there, there was a thing that said pick your site, put 20 in the envelope. And one of these parks, I’m telling you, it was right off the interstate. I knew that based on the searches and doing some of the things that I could look at through Google, that there were people looking for campgrounds in this area.

And yet, no website, no presence whatsoever. And this was a great poinsettia park. I don’t [00:32:00] know what the current ratio is, but we still have a ton of really good parts that are not known because they’re not on the web anywhere. And we need those spaces. We need to know who they are. So of course, 

Brian Searl: if you’re not one to 10 on Google search results, you don’t exist.

Sandy Ellingson: If you don’t have a website or a Google business, listing, you really don’t exist, except for I find you, but that’s only because that’s the game for me. 

Brian Searl: But yeah, there’s so many perks that show up for their keywords that are like, 12. Yeah. They don’t exist. That’s cool that you’re 12, but you literally don’t exist.

No one’s going to page two of Google. So anyway, where else are we going, guys? 

Sandy Ellingson: But anyway, it was interesting that 20 percent of the parks I stayed in have no digital presence whatsoever. Still 20%. 

Brian Searl: I Would be, I would not be surprised if you threw out like a 40 [00:33:00] percent of small businesses in general have a terrible internet presence, maybe higher.

Because you know what you know, right? There are a lot of really brilliant these are brilliant campground owners and operators at operating a campground, but operations doesn’t necessarily extend the market. iT’s not a..

Mike Harrison: It’s not only that, it’s to your point, if they’ve always been full, or if they haven’t had to, why would you have a spender, why would you and if this has been going on for 10 or 15 years, why would You know, if you’ve been using a rotary phone, and it works, why would you go to a cell phone, only because the rotary phone is discontinued, right?

And I think that’s the situation, and we were looking at a campground in the Northwest, that was exactly that. They had a great reputation, and a great park, and they got dated and old, and their numbers continued to decline, and we were looking at the Performa from an acquisition standpoint, and their marketing dollars were like under 10, 000, right?

And you’re like no kidding, right? They have not kept up and and as more supply has come in and as they degraded their reputation [00:34:00] so it is a big need. And that’s a session I spoke at RVIC is about branding and marketing and sorry, OHI pardon me. Exactly.

Brian Searl: You’re lending people a dollar every time you say RVIC, just so you know.

Mike Harrison: That’s got five bucks to my name then. Given or left, I’m not sure.

Brian Searl: Sorry, go ahead. Did I distract you? 

Mike Harrison: No, that was it. They just, you know 

Brian Searl: Did you the third point, by the way? Or did we never get back to that? 

Mike Harrison: No, it was the glamping. I agree with you that the glamping is going to continue to expand. And existing campsites are going to continue to look at converting some of their spots to glamping, 

Brian Searl: Yeah, there’s almost I think, it’s really just that we talk about data so much on this show, right?

Mike Harrison: And Scott’s into it, and Mike’s into it, and Sandy’s into it, and lots of people that are watching this show are into it, too. But I think that’s just the fundamental gap, is this guy I was talking to, a couple days ago, who I was telling you had the problem with the manager or whatever else.

He was talking to me about I really need help with SEO. It’s terrible. And we looked him [00:35:00] up on SEO. He’s been a park has been there for 15, 16 years, right? And he’s ranking fifth and sixth and fourth for his keywords without doing anything. And so he’s ranking high for the exact market that he’s already trying to get.

So that’s not his problem. Like sure, he could expand that. He can do better. He could do whatever, right? But he doesn’t even know. He didn’t even have any idea where he was ranking or what keywords he was showing up for or anything like that. And that basic fundamental, like, where do I start? Because it’s not the same answer for everybody.

It’s something that people need to investigate. Yeah, 

and I think that’s the difference between small parks and large parks, right? And sometimes the small parks, again, if they’ve been doing the same thing for years, they don’t need to know. And it’s education, right? And hopefully the, national and state associations are providing the educational opportunities.

I know through Modern Campground, you guys provide Your, tips and hot tricks. And, we’re doing a session at Vic you know the Carolinas on third party management at what, Sierra what’s that? 

Brian Searl: You’re doing a [00:36:00] session wave, Vic? 

Mike Harrison: The North and South Carolina.

What’s that at? 

Brian Searl: What not arv? 

Mike Harrison: No, it’s called Vic. It’s not Cohi. You owe me a buck’s Cohi. It’s not Kohai yet. But it’s exactly that, right? How do you operate and market and leverage your property for maximization? So there just needs to be more education and Sandy continues to You know champion this education of parks, large or small, to learn and to improve.

Yeah, I don’t, I wish I had an answer for it. I wish I had a magic bullet, because, obviously, I’d sit here and talk on the phone to every single person I can who wants to listen if I had the time, and some I do, right? But I don’t know what that mass education answer is, because it doesn’t seem to be the classes at the conventions.

Certainly they’re good, right? They’re better than nothing. But that doesn’t seem to be reaching people at the volume and scale that we need it to. 

Sandy Ellingson: And I think one of the biggest problems, and it was really very apparent this past year at [00:37:00] all the different conferences, is that we’ve had so many new people come into the market that we really need two tracks on education, because you’ve got a lot of brand new people that they may be coming from another industry, and they really don’t get our industry.

And so we’ve got, they need the one on one session. And then you’ve got the people that have been doing this a long time, but things are changing. There’s new emerging trends, and they want to know about that, and they’re not getting that. We’re not meeting the educational needs. I do believe 2024 is going to be the year for technology.

There’s quite a few things coming out that I think are going to start to solve some of this, but I don’t think I think they will completely take place of actual in person marketing, in person networking and learning. 

Brian Searl: I don’t think they need to, I don’t think they need to replace it at all. I think they need to supplement it.

Sandy Ellingson: That’s what I mean. It needs to be divided and expanded. It’s too much one [00:38:00] track and it’s not, it’s too much for the newbies and it’s too little for the seasoned. 

Brian Searl: Alright, I gotta mention our sponsor because everybody’s yelling at me in the private chat. It wasn’t Jefferson Whiskey. Anyway, our sponsor of this month is Fireside Accounting, which actually, I feel like I can say this, and if I can’t say this, then I’m sorry, Scott Fooze.

But Fireside Accounting is actually the accounting arm, Lindsey Foose owns it, of Horizon Outdoor Hospitality. They’re actually going to combine entities together. So this is actually the last month that Fireside Accounting is hosting Episode 1, or sponsoring Episode 1 of this show. I feel like maybe I’m helping Scott by giving him a plug here.

But so Fireside County is great they’ve been around for a long time. Lindsay Foose and her team have done all kinds of great things specific to the outdoor hospitality industry, campgrounds, RV parks, I know those deductions and things like that. So her team is fantastic, but they’re going to be more closely integrated with Horizon Outdoor Hospitality going forward.

Excited to see that happen and to see Horizon continue to evolve. Thank you to our sponsor, Lindsay, and perhaps Lindsay and Scott? I don’t know how that works. And [00:39:00] if I gave away a big secret, I’m sorry, they didn’t tell me to keep it quiet. Okay what do we got? Where are we at?

That’s it? I just, the sponsor killed the whole vibe and momentum of the show? 

Scott Bahr: Just lost the train. 

Sandy Ellingson: Yeah, one of the other things I’ve been really looking at, and Scott alluded to it in one of his comments earlier, was it flows together, was events. And I believe that’s gonna be something that we see a growing trend for is doing events inside your park and hosting different kinds of events.

But I read an article and I can’t remember where it came from now, but it was funny because it talked about. The, how the hospitality industry leads, and the RV, outdoor hospitality industry kind of follows, and it was bringing in the idea of the cruise work, cruise industry started out with these flat rate, RVs.

RVs. Come cruise with us and it covers everything. It covers [00:40:00] your food, your alcohol your cabin, very, almost everything except for a few ancillary things are covered. And they’re saying that more and more of the larger larger campgrounds beginning to do some of this, they’re bundling things together.

And that’s a great idea moving into 2024 because I’ve already recommended to quite a few of my parks to start doing some of these bundled weekends and what they’re finding is, these people will pay X amount a month for however many months they’re booking in advance, whether it’s 12 or 10 or 15, it gets divided, they pay it, and then if they have a good time, then they’ll resign for next year for the next same thing, and so they retain these people coming, and they also get this recurring revenue every month.

They’re also not discounting. their rates, their cost for food or whatever they’re providing. Now, not every campground can do this at a huge level, but [00:41:00] every campground can do it at some level. And so I think that along with events, that’s going to become a big trend in 2024. 

Brian Searl: Okay. Let’s pivot to that, right?

What are trends in 2024 now? That’s an interesting topic. 

Scott Bahr: There’s, I could talk about this all day and we’re, but. There’s a couple of things that.

Brian Searl: We got 15 minutes. Everybody else can drop off. And if you want to stay on

Scott Bahr: This is I mean we’re looking into a lot of new trends and things we’re looking at in the coming year we’ve we’re the hospitality industry overall the hotel industry and resorts have already done some research in this area We’ve been looking at what they’re doing to see how much of this Spills over, but one of the things I’m personally, I always pull out what I personally kind of see things that start to pop up that I feel could be relevant is look for the convenience traveler at a higher rate [00:42:00] this year than we’ve seen previously.

We know that they’re already out there. We know that exists, but in some of the work that we’ve done to look at why people are changing behaviors a little bit, convenience comes in a lot. Last year, we saw a lot of road tripping. I’ll use this as an example. People wanted to take road trips. They wanted to take long road trips.

They’ll do all these things. In many cases, they didn’t include camping in the road tripping. And the reason for that was convenience. They just want to stop, go, they wanted to be, have, be less involved. I feel like this, and we did some ethnographies, by the way, too, a while back with families.

I’ve seen it at campgrounds. And we did, we followed the whole. Half of them prepping for their trip all the way to coming home. We had ’em do videos, pictures, whatever. And the utter chaos that’s involved is unbelievable. And you can see why those people might not go out quite often and they’re seeking anything [00:43:00] that, that gives them a more convenient experience.

And I feel like right now where we’re at, we start like layering down some of these other issues that we’ve been talking about. And I feel like. I don’t know. You’re the convenience camper. 

Brian Searl: I agree with you, but the problem is that convenience has always been there throughout history across all demographics and everything else, and it will always trump everything else.

Always. Convenience. Ease of use. How easy can I pull into the site? How close is it to the highway? How, where is it near to where I want to go and where I want to stay? And convenience is everything. From technology, to ease of use, to online websites, to using it, to literally every facet of society, convenience will always trump everything.

Which is why I’m a big proponent of technology and ease of use, right? And I think this is a big part of why AI is going to see just fast adoption, especially with trip planning, as you’ve already seen. is it’s convenient. 

Sandy Ellingson: I agree. And. 

Scott Bahr: What are the solutions? That’s the issue. I guess that’s what I’m [00:44:00] trying to get at here.

What does the industry provide in terms of solutions? I think there’s a lot of creativity and innovation that needs to still occur to deal with that. 

Brian Searl: But we also need to do the messaging behind why it’s convenient, too. 

Sandy Ellingson: And if you, it’s really the two different types of campers as well, because if you’ve got your power campers, the people that camp at least once a month, they’re out there all the time, we keep our campers stocked.

We have clothes in there, our plates are in there, there’s food in there. When we just walk into our camper and go, versus the person that owns a camper that may only camp four times a year, they have to load and unload every single time. That’s not convenient. If I had to load and unload this thing every time, I probably wouldn’t camp.

But I tell you, during part of the time on this last trip, we were having to book a hotel. It was horrible. I was complaining so bad just because I had to take my suitcase out of the car into [00:45:00] the hotel. I was like, I can’t stand this. I just want my house back. So that is a part of it is how often are you going to camp?

And I think encourage people to camp more and to set things up so that they can keep it loaded. Also, it encourages more camping, but it also makes it more convenient. 

Brian Searl: So does glamping. Not to start a rabbit hole, but 

Scott Bahr: No, it does. Glamping is huge. It’s a big factor in why.

Brian Searl: You can save 400, 000 for an extra closet.

Scott Bahr: Yeah. And I guess to wrap up that point is that there’s, in the market right now, among our universe of potential guests, there are more people who want that low maintenance experience. They want greater convenience and they’re looking for us and the industry to provide that level of convenience to them.

It’s just more that you go back, a long time ago, camping that the [00:46:00] inconvenience was part of, you’ve packed everything up. 

Brian Searl: Because as we go through, we figure things out and we make them more convenient and society, we will continue to do that. So by its very nature being 40 or 50 years ago, we had less knowledge than we did to make things as convenient as they are today or less technology or less, whatever.

Mike Harrison: I Think it’s. It’s also understanding, your demographic, and, at Ojai, New Book did an excellent session, Innovator Panel and they, obviously highlighted some trends, and, the Baby Boomers used to be the number one segment, and now it’s become very diverse, and it’s going to quickly move towards the, Gen Xers, Millennials, and then soon the Gen Zers, but, if you look at the Gen Xers and clearly the Gen Zers technology.

I want an online check in experience, right? Maybe I don’t even have to talk to anybody, at the front desk. I want to be able to, pull into my site and maybe there’s directions using an online app. I want to be able to [00:47:00] cancel and change my reservation. And so the PMS companies are having to evolve quickly.

to a lot of these trends, whether it’s the new technology that the properties are demanding, that need to be integrated with the PMS systems, whether it’s the guest experience that they need to modernize and I think those are the trends that, as we continue to head into 24 and 25, absolutely need to be simplified and acknowledged.

And the properties that aren’t leveraging technology are going to be left behind, whether it’s the texting or, like you said, whether it’s the AI integration and chatbot, or whether it’s online check in, all those things have to happen. Or these influx, which is now more than 50 percent of the travelers, will choose to stay somewhere else, where it’s easier, more convenient, as you say.

Brian Searl: Yeah, convenience wins everything. Okay, so I want to give the last couple minutes of the show to Scott, because I told him I would. To talk about, so this, we delayed it a couple months, but this year we’re going to launch our MC Hospitality Highlights. Talked about and announced previously, and the first one we’re going to do [00:48:00] is focused on guest reviews.

Mike Harrison: And so we did a study of how many reviews? 70, 000? Guest reviews are 70, 000. Plus years we’ll analyze this report after it comes out. Probably next week if we can get our ducks in a row and together. But briefly, do you want to touch on some of the highlights that you found throughout, Scott? And then we’ll go deep dive next month.

Sure. 

Scott Bahr: Yeah, I think it was a real Interesting exercise to go through. It’s something that I’ve been interested in for a while. 

We’ve in, in market research comments are sometimes the bane of our existence. So we decided let’s turn the tables on this and take a look and dive into what people say. And as has been said several times already today, words matter.

The words people use matter a lot. And. foR us and going through all this and looking, trying to quantitate, quant, look at, quantify, somehow easy for me to say[00:49:00] some of the things that we found was what, it was a fascinating exercise going through what is typically qualitative information, which is what people say in context and tying that to their ratings.

And the importance of that. And, in this report, I feel like what you’ll be able to see is, for someone who is a provider of outdoor hospitality, that the words people use, how important those are, and how they view their experience. Overall, the words that someone uses, if you’re talking to that guest, whether it’s before or after the stay, so especially after, the words that they use when they speak to you.

Just how important that is, and how for the providers of outdoor hospitality, the words they use, and how those words are used in their positioning, how important those will be. And that’s when we get into the weeds a bit on this, probably in the weeds [00:50:00] more than a lot of people will be.

Brian Searl: It is a long report, we were dealing with it with the design, right?

Scott Bahr: Yeah, a lot longer than I thought it would be. But that’s okay. Like I think in part of what we’re going to do for everybody who is new to MC Hospitality Highlights is we’re going to give you that long report if you want to read it. We’re also going to cut it down into bite sized pieces on social, on different podcasts, on things like that, right?

So you can consume it in different means and methods and to the point that you want to consume it at. So we understand not everybody is the 20 page research report person, but it is, it was very interesting to read some of that stuff. I’m still going through it, but the design team is finalizing it right now, 

yeah, I think there’s something in there for anyone who works in hospitality. I feel like there’s at least something in there that you’re going to look at, and you’re either going to, you’re probably going to nod your head in agreement with, or at least it’ll make you think about it a little bit more.

And who knows, maybe you’ll disagree with some of it, but that’s okay too. I accept all that. Just reach out to Brian at any [00:51:00] point if you have those, no, I’m just kidding. No, I actually invite people to reach out to me all the time. I think it’ll be a conversation starter, I really do. For 

Brian Searl: sure, and again, we call it MC Hospitality Highlights, obviously none of it’s possible without Karen Consulting Group and Scott and all the great things that they’re doing both as part of that and KOA and all the other things they do with Consulting for Parks, so even though you’re not a sponsor of the show, I should say that reach out to Scott if you’re interested.

I wore my shirt, conducting any of that stuff. Absolutely. I don’t know, it’ll be interesting. Look, we’ll dive, next show, once we get one of these under our belts and it’s out and the public has had a chance to consume it, we’ll dive into some of the exact findings that was really high level and potentially on purpose.

You guys will have this PDF in your hands, you’ll have it, statistics being posted on social for Modern Campground and figure out some other ways to disseminate it and things like that. But yeah, we’re excited to see where this goes and we’ve already got, what, two more that are already being worked on?

I Think one’s done already for, February’s done already, isn’t it? [00:52:00] You’re pretty close? 

Scott Bahr: Not this is up. We’re pretty close. We’re pretty close. We’re wrapping it up. Yeah. 

Brian Searl: Cool. Anything you guys think we should report on, Sandy, Mike, or analyze for 2024, you’d like to see?

Sandy Ellingson: Do we have anything else? You’re muted, Mike. We can’t hear you. 

Mike Harrison: I’m not sure I understand what your deliverable is yet, or what you can do until I see the first report to weigh in on what else I’d like to see. 

Brian Searl: What would you say our overall goal would be, Scott? Because we’ve talked about this, right? Versus what KOA is producing. 

Scott Bahr: I think, our goal here is to look at some other and slash existing data sources and dig into those and provide information from a different point of view than what people may have now to take a deeper dive into some of this information. The work that we do with KOA, the Camping and Outdoor Hospitality Report is done.

It’s a [00:53:00] bottom up approach. It’s mostly attitudinal stuff. We ask people questions about their behavior, intentions, all those things. This is more of looking at actual behaviors, things that we, information we have, data we get from these other sources, integrating that with some and complementing some of it as well.

For example, the next report, we’re going to complement with some interviews and stuff like that on the topic because we felt like that would really prop up some of the other 

stuff that we’re seeing. Yeah, so instead of from a statistic, is it fair to say instead of from a statistical, this is what the camper feels and camper thinks and camper is doing?

Or of a data analysis of things that we feel are important? To the owners of Outdoor Hospitality Accommodations. Not that camping stats aren’t. Of course they are, right? But if we’re not, we’re doing something different. 

It’s a different audience. We’re taking this from a point of view of a different audience.

Brian Searl: So [00:54:00] anyway, you can let us know then, next month. 

Mike Harrison: I’ll give you my BS opinion. 

Brian Searl: Brian Searl, that’s what it is. 

Sandy Ellingson: I do have something else that we need to do for 2024, Brian, and it goes on your plate. I don’t know anybody who’s done more of a deeper dive and who’s more passionate about AI and how we use it in our industry.

And I get asked literally every single day in some conversation with a campground, What do you think about AI? What should we be doing? Is it dangerous? And I always tell them, go talk to Brian Searl. He’s the one that I know that knows the most about it. But I think it would be really interesting if you had an AI tip of the week or an AI tip of the month or something like that because I think people are looking for simple ways that you can at least get started or review using AI for their campground.

Brian Searl: [00:55:00] So I know this isn’t what you mean, and I agree with that. I’ve actually thought about that before if I had enough time. And Mike, thank you, I appreciate it for being here. I think that’s something we’ve thought about doing. It’s only a restriction on basically my time of being able to do that.

Like we’ve even talked about, I’ve talked about doing it once a week or once every two weeks. As a separate, just LinkedIn Live, super quick to talk about AI and stuff, but I think that it’s really interesting where, and Mike distracted me a little bit with my thoughts, so I’m trying to cover them quickly and frantically in my head, even though I look calm on the screen as I continue to talk to you.

I I think, what were you, what was your point, maybe briefly summarize it? 

Sandy Ellingson: Just that there’s such a desire for information and still such a fear about it. that I feel like somebody needs to start covering that and giving some tips. And I certainly don’t feel qualified to do that.

Brian Searl: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting to me, like the way people perceive it. And I don’t know that there’s enough data there, certainly. I don’t think there’s enough data. In fact, I know there isn’t to do a research report on it yet of [00:56:00] anything of that level. But I think sharing those tips and tricks, I think that there’s a lot of uncertainty around it, but it’s interesting to me that I still have conversations with all the people and half of them are joking and half of them aren’t.

And if anybody needs to go, by the way, I know we’re running a little bit over, so feel free to leave. I can talk to myself if I need to. But briefly, there’s so many people who will get on the phone and jokingly or seriously be like, this is Terminator. This AI is going to kill us all. We just need to put that to bed once and for all.

You need to have a healthy respect for AI. AI is not going to kill us all. Think about it. 

Sandy Ellingson: AI is just like a firearm. It’s a tool. And a firearm can kill you in the right hands, and it can save you in the other. And I started out as being afraid of AI. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be involved in it.

And you kept trying to win me over. And now I found a lot of ways where I feel like it can really help us in the industry. There’s things we’re going to be able to do next year because of AI that we could have never done before if we couldn’t afford it. 

Brian Searl: That’s [00:57:00] what I was going to talk about. Two things.

Okay, that’s what I was going to talk about. Thank you. So we, Scott and I have had these conversations, and I talked about it on January 20th, about not as MC hospitality, completely separate. But you, we’ve actually, Scott and I were playing around this on a call where we actually used AI. To create a fake study, completely fake, right?

Totally BS. Brian Searl, right? Of we had it create and say create 25 different personalities who typically would stay at, I think it was winter camping Scott? Yep. And what would be their pain points and reasons for going and reasons they wouldn’t go. And it was really interesting. It came back and filled out all the columns.

And so we’re not going to call this highlights. We’re going to, if we do anything like this, and it’s an if. If we do anything like this, it will be very clearly this is BS, whatever data, right? But look at how close it actually is to the real thing, and maybe we’ll compare and contrast it with data that Scott actually has.

But that’s really interesting to me, to do something like [00:58:00] that, because I think that’s one way that AI might be able to give us some granular insights, if we take it with a grain of salt, into things that we could just never do with an individual research team. No matter how big they are, calling and researching and doing all that stuff, right?

It’s just not scalable to drive down into we can drive into local markets like Phoenix and Arizona and wherever, right? Those are things that I don’t think we can do. And so I’m excited about that, to see where that goes in 2024. And there’s probably one other point that I forgot to, oh, where we were going. Like the crazy, the, I was going to finish the thought before you said the thing about the AI, where it’s going. Everybody who watches the show, including you two, are probably going to think I’m nuts when I say this. AI is very quickly in a couple of years going to be smarter than all of us as human beings, right?

It’s going there. So when it gets there, and as it continues to grow far beyond that, this is why you don’t have to be worried about AI ever killing us. Because it’s gonna be the same thing as us and ants.[00:59:00] 

I’m serious. Do you know, and I know you think I’m crazy right now, and everybody does, and that’s fine. But do you know of a single person on planet Earth whose sole mission is to annihilate every single ant on the face of the Earth? 

Sandy Ellingson: Every five year old with a magnifying glass. 

Scott Bahr: I was going to say something along those lines.

Brian Searl: We’re not going to realistically succeed, right? This is the thing. Like, all of the dystopian movies that you see are played off of human beings start wars, and AI decides it needs to eliminate them, or human beings pollute, or human beings whatever. AI’s gonna invent things that if you want to pollute, it’s just gonna evaporate your trash in five seconds.

It’s not gonna have any reason to kill us. We’re gonna be inconsequential to what is happening with AI. 

Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not saying. I’m not 

saying that’s good. I’m just saying that’s the way it’s gonna be. 

Sandy Ellingson: Yes, you’re still crazy, Brian, but that’s why we love you. 

Brian Searl: It’s alright. All the ideas that have come to pass in the future [01:00:00] from anybody who’s talked about them were crazy when somebody first uttered them.

Again, I’m not saying that’s the future I want, or I believe should happen, but I believe that right now we are on track for that future to happen. Anyway, any final thoughts before we go? We’re super over five minutes. 

Sandy Ellingson: Yep. Nope, I gotta run. It was great being here. See you guys later. 

Brian Searl: Appreciate it.

We’re looking forward to our first MC Hospitality Highlights. Thank you so much, Scott, for all the work you do. Sandy, for recurring. And all the work you do too. As a guest, Mike, go ahead and drop off early, and we will see you next week for another episode of MC Fireside Chats. Take care, guys. 

Sandy Ellingson: Bye. 

Mike Harrison: Take care.

[01:01:00] 

Modern subscribe campground logo.

Stay Updated
Outdoor Hospitality News