This event, running from November 6 to 9, has set the stage for a convergence of minds in the campground, outdoor hospitality, glamping, and RV park industry.
OHCE2023 offers an invaluable opportunity for industry professionals to engage in collaborative learning, networking, and professional growth. With a laser focus on the unique needs of campground and RV park owners, the conference aims to unlock a wealth of strategies tailored to optimize businesses in the outdoor hospitality sector.
Erin Stevenson, chief operations officer of Newbook, shared insights on optimizing the outdoor hospitality and campground industry during her session. Stevenson discussed the concept of the “billboard effect” and its importance in attracting and retaining customers, especially millennial travelers.
Stevenson began by highlighting how modern travelers use online travel agencies (OTAs) and websites to find the perfect outdoor experience. The “billboard effect” comes into play when campgrounds and outdoor hospitality operators align their presence with OTAs, allowing them to capture a broader audience. However, the key is to back this up with a strong online presence, addressing the specific needs of millennial travelers.
Millennials, known for seeking discounts, faster bookings, and personalized experiences, often visit a campground’s website after initially exploring OTAs. Stevenson emphasized the importance of offering attractive deals and a hassle-free booking experience on the website to convert these visitors into customers.
In recent years, social media has also become a significant factor in the billboard effect. Stevenson revealed that 75% of travelers who engage with OTAs end up booking directly through a campground’s website.
“So what we need to do is think about your website. Is it personalised? Is it clear? Is it directional? Is it easy? So this is what we need to look at when we’re looking through the billboard effect and making sure that we’re meeting the needs of this millennial traveller,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson stressed the importance of direct connections, which enable property management providers to sync rates and availability across multiple platforms seamlessly. This streamlines the booking process, eliminates manual work, and allows campgrounds to benefit from OTAs’ marketing budgets.
For social media strategies, Stevenson recommended creating punchy and concise content that appeals to the short attention spans of Gen Z and millennials.
Implementing the COPE method, where content is created once and distributed across various platforms, can help reach a wider audience. She also encouraged the use of user-generated content, encouraging guests to share their experiences on social media and tag the campground, providing authentic, trustworthy content that resonates with potential guests.
She also delved into operational initiatives for direct online bookings that can significantly impact the success of campground and outdoor hospitality businesses. These strategies aim to offer campground owners and operators practical solutions to enhance revenue and guest experiences.
The chief operations officer emphasized the importance of crafting appealing package deals that can attract more guests. She pointed out that while some campgrounds offer standard breaks during low, medium, and high seasons, there is a significant opportunity for growth by creating packages.
She also highlighted the growing trend of pet-friendly accommodations and how campgrounds can capitalize on it. Research shows that 71% of travelers prefer to travel with their pets. By charging a reasonable pet fee and supplementing it with amenities such as pet food, doggy bags, and off-leash areas, campgrounds can enhance the guest experience and significantly boost their revenue.
Stevenson acknowledged the reservations some campground owners have about implementing sitelock fees. However, she suggested that this strategy can be used to increase revenue, particularly during off-peak or low seasons. Campgrounds can charge guests extra fees for selecting specific sites, mirroring the concept of choosing seats on flights. Stevenson encouraged campground owners to experiment with sitelock fees to gauge their potential impact on revenue.
By implementing these strategies, campground and outdoor hospitality operators can expand their market reach and drive additional revenue. Stevenson’s data-driven insights provided a roadmap for optimizing businesses in the outdoor hospitality industry.
With these strategies, campgrounds can adapt to the evolving travel landscape and cater to the preferences of modern travelers, ultimately ensuring the growth and success of their businesses.
Newbook’s COO encouraged campground operators to consider adding rental items and extras to enhance the guest experience. These could include items like bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, fishing equipment, or even special packages such as breakfast kits and bottles of champagne. These add-ons not only provide guests with more options but also contribute to the overall revenue of the campground.
Stevenson continued her presentation with several more strategies and tips to optimize revenue and enhance the guest experience in the outdoor hospitality industry:
During the presentation, she also introduced RFID wristbands as a trend in the industry. These wristbands can be loaded with funds and used for various payments and purchases within the campground, such as retail items, activities, and more. The convenience of tapping and paying encourages guests to spend more without actively thinking about the costs, contributing to increased revenue.
Stevenson shared what she considered her “number one revenue-generating tool.” She explained that campgrounds can offer guests the option to extend their stay for an additional fee, particularly if there are empty nights following their initial booking. NewBook offers an “Upgrade Stay Extensions” feature that allows campgrounds to automatically send SMS messages to guests, inviting them to extend their stay. Offering extended check-out times can also be a lucrative upsell opportunity, as many guests may be willing to pay to enjoy their stay longer.
Stevenson emphasized the importance of building guest loyalty, as 92% of people trust recommendations from friends or family more than any other source. Positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals are highly influential. She suggested that campgrounds should aim to create repeat and loyal customers who will spread the word about their positive experiences.
The COO closed her presentation by emphasizing the importance of data-led decisions. Understanding and analyzing data is crucial for making informed business decisions. By utilizing data effectively, campground operators can optimize their operations, enhance guest experiences, and increase revenue.
“Data-led decisions are a super important part of your business.”
Featured image from Modern Campground.