Another busy season is underway for campgrounds and RV parks across the United States. Reservations are filling up, with more extended stays anticipated due to high gas prices. Managers are yet again playing campground cupid to match campers with the site that would accommodate their needs.
In a perfect world, campgrounds no longer have to move bookings around to fill reservations. So much so that when all but a 65-foot pull-thru site has been booked, a huge group in a fifth wheel suddenly comes rolling into the campground to fill the last available occupancy, and everything falls into place.
But such is not the case; reality is quite different. Instead, most campgrounds find themselves solving a jigsaw puzzle or just to make sure campers fit the site. They also have to consider those who have a strict preference.
To avoid upsetting the guests, more campgrounds are offering site lock fees. This non-refundable fee guarantees campers that they can secure the exact site they want, whether it’s something that they use every year or if they simply want a spot near the camp store.
If a reservation has been made sans the lock fee, campgrounds have the right to transfer campers to a different site with the same particulars and amenities.
To learn more about site lock fees and their implications for campgrounds, Modern Campground reached out to reservation software companies like Let’s Camp to share commentary on the pros and cons of such a feature.
In an email, Let’s Camp Founder Michael Yasieniuk said that the company is considering adding site lock fees for reservations in the future. Yet, he said that only a few campgrounds have been requesting the feature for now.
This does not come as a surprise because some campground owners are just not prepared to risk flexibility. With the lock fee settled, they no longer have the right to shuffle sites. Furthermore, it might seem like a cash-grab from the camper’s perspective, putting campgrounds at risk of receiving flak.
“[The] downside is the complaints the campground would face, which is enough for some campgrounds to say they don’t ever want this feature,” Yasieniuk said.
For campers, some may find themselves competing against those willing to spend more money to get special treatment, he said.
“So it seems right now that campers who stay at smaller, quieter parks would be negatively impacted by a feature like this, while campers who stay at larger, busier parks would be positively impacted,” Yasieniuk shared.
From a campground’s perspective, even while some shy away from lock fees, the founder of the Saskatchewan-based campground reservation system said that “a feature like this is win-win.”
“They get more money from campers that want to choose, and they have more flexibility to fill more spots if campers don’t pay a lock fee.”
Another win for campgrounds is an increase in revenues due to lock fees.
Firefly Reservations Founder Bradly Adams, who also owns a campground, echoed this.
“Yes, lock fees are one of the easiest ways to boost revenue,” Adams told Modern Campground.
“[W]hen I set up lock fees, I was amazed at the number of people that chose to pay the extra lock fee to guarantee the specific site they chose,” he added.
Campground reservation system Firefly allows parks to create dynamic lock fees that charge a different lock fee depending on the reservation type or length.
He shared that all the sites at his campground are identical in the sense that each comes with an amazing view. What sets each site apart, he said, was a feature or two that campers consider an advantage like: a site being in the back corner with only one neighbor, sites in close proximity to the laundry facility, and more.
“It seems these are good enough reasons for folks to pay an extra 15% or more,” Adams said, adding that his campground usually doesn’t shuffle people around that much, “so this is just straight profit for us.”
Nathan Mayfield, the vice president of ResNexus, also claimed that the lock fee option could help boost the revenues of campgrounds. In an article published on Forbes.com, he listed lock fees as one of the industry trends that campgrounds should be aware of.
“When they select a spot on the map to reserve, they’re not actually reserving that specific site unless they pay the lock fee. This allows you to use site optimization to make room for more campers and provides your guests with more options to customize their stay,” he wrote.
In the end, paying the lock fee is not mandatory. Even if all campgrounds choose to adopt the concept, campers still have a choice not to pay the fee.
“Once a property adds lock fees, usually a majority of campers will elect to pay the lock fee, from what we have seen, so there is really no reason for campgrounds to at least try out the lock fee for a while and see how customers respond,” Adams said.
With higher costs looming and camping remaining a cheap travel option, it may or may not be a possibility for parks to see more campers. Wherever things lead, trying this feature might be worth the shot
“Camping is on the rise in general, so we may see those quieter campgrounds start to fill up more quickly and lean in the direction of lock fees before too long,” Yasieniuk ended.