During the Texas Association of Campground Owners‘ (TACO) annual Spring Meeting and Trade Show, top industry experts discussed tips on increasing revenue and reducing labor costs.
According to industry expert Kathleen Walsh, choosing the right reservation software system for your campground or RV park can profoundly impact your bottom line.
Walsh of Advanced Outdoor Solutions, who manages over 60 RV parks and resorts, emphasized the critical role that a reservation management system plays in setting the tone for your business.
According to the talk, a good reservation system goes beyond simply managing reservations in today’s competitive landscape.
It has the capability to increase revenue and reduce labor costs through features such as revenue management, which allows park operators to adjust rates based on supply and demand for campsites and rental accommodations at different times.
Moreover, the most sophisticated reservation management systems offer real-time, two-way connectivity to Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com and Airbnb.com, directing business to a park operator’s website and expanding their reach to a broader audience.
Despite potential concerns about partnering with OTAs and sharing inventory, Walsh highlighted the benefits of leveraging their marketing power. “85% of something is better than $0 any day of the week,” she said, emphasizing that OTAs invest in marketing efforts that park operators may not be able to afford on their own.
Walsh also noted that OTAs typically charge a fee only when a site or rental unit is booked, making it a cost-effective strategy to increase bookings and revenue. She revealed that Advanced Outdoor Solutions uses ten different OTAs, including BookOutdoors, TheDyrt, Spot2Nite, Hipcamp, GlampingHub, and a UK-based OTA called Pitchup, to maximize their exposure and bookings.
When selecting a reservation software program, Walsh advised park operators to look for systems that offer robust revenue management tools that are fast and easy to use, along with excellent customer support.
She emphasized the importance of avoiding systems that require time-consuming online request forms for customer service or changes to the reservation system. Efficiency and responsiveness are critical factors in providing excellent guest experiences and maintaining a competitive edge in the market.
Another crucial consideration is the ability to choose your own credit card processor. Walsh highlighted that being able to select your credit card processor is essential to avoid overpaying and potential conflicts with lenders if they prefer a different processor. Many lenders prefer to receive deposits and income from park reservations directly, and having the flexibility to select a credit card processor that aligns with your business needs can save costs and streamline operations.
In addition to optimizing the reservation system, Jayne Cohen of Campground Consulting Group recommended upgrading at least a few RV sites to high-end options with premium amenities like 10- by 20-foot patios and outdoor kitchens with propane barbecues.
Cohen emphasized that these luxury options often command higher prices and tend to sell out first, providing a lucrative revenue stream for park operators. She also urged park operators to establish guidelines or “site appearance rules” for extended-stay guests to maintain a clean and attractive park environment. Additional services like installing decks around extended stay RVers’ sites can generate additional income while enhancing the overall guest experience.
Cohen also encouraged park operators to consider the potential of tent campers, noting that today’s tent campers often require amenities such as electrical connections, WiFi, and dishwashing facilities, making tent sites comparable to RV sites in terms of pricing. She cited data showing that camping is increasingly popular among families with higher income levels, and offering amenities for tent campers can drive store sales as they tend to purchase supplies from on-site stores.
Featured image from Jeff Crider/TACO.