As per a report, initiative is set to benefit campgrounds, an industry historically dominated by smaller, family-run operations, ushering in a new era of digital proficiency.
Tessa McCrackin, chief marketing officer at Northgate, compares the current state of the campground sector to the agricultural industry, highlighting its need for digital advancement. “The campground industry is kind of like the ag industry: It always seems like it’s 10 years behind,” McCrackin stated, underscoring the gap in technological adoption.
Established in 1993 by James Bossenbroek, Northgate Holdings LLC, currently led by James, his son Zach Bossenbroek, and partner Caleb Hartung, has been at the forefront of transforming the camping experience.
In 2013, they launched Northgate Resorts, which now boasts a portfolio of 28 luxury campground and RV resorts, including renowned brands like Jellystone Park, Margaritaville, and Camp Fimfo.
One of Northgate’s notable achievements is the introduction of Campspot in 2016. This online booking platform, akin to Expedia but for campgrounds, features an Airbnb-like interface, enabling campers to easily find and book sites across the U.S. This innovation provides a crucial digital tool for travelers, enhancing the camping experience through technology.
In 2021, Northgate broadened its technological horizon by investing in White Pine Digital, a Grand Rapids-based firm led by Sam Berry, a former lead software engineer at Campspot.
This partnership aims to modernize campground websites, many of which appear outdated, by integrating search-optimized features and booking capabilities.
White Pine Digital’s platform has already attracted over three dozen clients, including Northgate Resorts, signifying a growing interest among campground owners in embracing digital tools.
Expanding its services, Northgate recently formed Northgate Resorts Management, a division offering third-party management services for campgrounds. This move enables Northgate to extend its expertise beyond its own properties, providing operational support and management options to a broader range of outdoor hospitality operators. Lucas Jones, vice president of Operations at Northgate Holdings, explained, “This is a new avenue (for) us to serve a need that we saw growing in the industry.”
The company’s diverse portfolio extends beyond the camping sector, encompassing ventures like Tommy’s Express car washes, multifamily housing, and various tech-based businesses. Through these investments, Northgate provides comprehensive leadership, guidance, and management services, drawing parallels with its resorts division.
Since 2013, Northgate has invested approximately $1 billion in resort construction and expansion, with significant growth observed in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. McCrackin reflected on this growth, “Since the camping boom from the pandemic, we’ve actually doubled in size (by number of resorts).”
Northgate’s initiatives represent a transformative step for the campground and outdoor hospitality industry.
By integrating digital tools and management expertise, the firm is not only enhancing the camping experience for travelers but also empowering campground owners to thrive in the digital age. This strategic approach positions Northgate as a key player in shaping the future of outdoor hospitality, setting a benchmark for innovation in an industry ripe for transformation.