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The Green Blueprint: Stewardship & Sustainability in Outdoor Hospitality

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The April 2024 report by Modern Campground and Cairn Consulting Group reviews the use of sustainable practices in campgrounds and their impact on guest experience and campground operations. Through research and analysis, the report finds that about half of leisure travelers say they would choose a campground with sustainability practices over one without, and a majority say these practices enhance their experience. However, some guests view the practices neutrally or negatively, especially if they cause inconvenience.

Common categories of sustainable practices include waste management, energy and water conservation, land stewardship, education and outreach, sustainable infrastructure, and community engagement. Some of the easiest practices to implement are recycling programs, low-flow water fixtures, energy-efficient lighting, native landscaping, educational signage, and offering reusable products.

To get more guest participation, campgrounds should focus on education, lead by example, offer incentives, organize activities, solicit feedback, foster social norms, and be transparent. Potential downsides include upfront costs, limited sustainable resources, an adjustment period, perceived inconvenience, performance tradeoffs, regulatory burden, supply chain complexity, variable consumer demand, and competitive pressure.

Whether additional staff is needed depends on the scope of initiatives, training requirements, ongoing maintenance, outreach efforts, partnerships, and budget. Many sustainable practices can be cost-effective in the long-run through improved efficiency, resource savings, risk reduction, innovation, brand enhancement, and regulatory compliance. The first steps are conducting a sustainability audit, setting goals, developing a plan, allocating resources, piloting projects, engaging stakeholders, and monitoring performance. Overall, embracing sustainable practices can provide campgrounds with financial, environmental and reputational benefits.


Key Insights:

  • While quality, price, and service typically rank above sustainability in brand selection criteria among leisure travelers, about half of these travelers would opt for accommodations with sustainable practices when given the choice.
  • Over half of guests believe that sustainable practices enhance their experience, although 16% view these practices as detrimental. A considerable percentage remains neutral or indifferent, highlighting the importance of careful implementation.
  • Most sustainability initiatives are seen positively, but even minor inconveniences can affect guests’ perceptions negatively. Timed showers, for example, are noted for their inconvenience by a significant portion of guests.
  • Waste management, energy conservation, water conservation, land stewardship, education and outreach, sustainable infrastructure, and community engagement are prevalent sustainable practices in campgrounds.
  • Simple initiatives like recycling, water and energy conservation measures, eco-friendly landscaping, and educational outreach are among the easiest to adopt.
  • Educating guests, leading by example, offering incentives, and engaging them in sustainability efforts can significantly increase participation.
  • Challenges of employing sustainable practices include initial costs, resource availability, transition periods, perceived inconvenience, performance trade-offs, regulatory compliance, supply chain complexity, and fluctuating consumer preferences.
  • The necessity for additional staff depends on the scope of the sustainability initiatives and the current capacity and expertise of the existing staff.
  • Despite initial investments, sustainable practices often lead to long-term cost savings and operational efficiencies, making them cost-effective.
  • Campground owners should start with a thorough assessment of their current operations and environmental impact to identify and prioritize sustainable initiatives.

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