Filed under: Destination Camping & RV Resorts, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, RV Campgrounds, Tent Campgrounds
How Campers Can Help Camping & RV Parks Rebound from the Tough Year Behind
The impact of the recession on campgrounds has been bitter-sweet. On one hand some folks that once stayed in hotels for family vacations are saving money by camping, while other occasional campers are staying at home due to rising fuel prices, being out of work or just deciding the recreational cost is too much in the current economy.
We have watched as some really big names in RV manufacturing have closed their doors while others laid off workers and slowed production. Gone are RV marques like Fleetwood, Alfa Leisure, Bigfoot, Chinook, Dolphin, King of the Road, Pilgrim International, Sunline Coach and Teton Homes. Some brand names are coming back, but not necessarily from the original company.
Campgrounds have struggled to survive as well. Sadly, several have closed their gates to campers or changed their policies to accommodate only seasonal or membership campers. Others have simply sold their land to big developers wanting to put condos, cluster homes or even hotels on the land.
Similar to what many of us are experiencing at home, campground owners are being confronted with the higher cost of garbage disposal, electricity, water, employee benefits and property taxes.
Changes in Health Department regulations regarding sewage treatment have more than quadrupled the cost of new septic systems for rural campgrounds. Skyrocketing increases imposed by municipalities for sewage treatment have become a major expense issue for suburban campgrounds.
Damage to campground equipment and facilities by irresponsible campers adds to the headaches and bills. Broken and burned picnic tables, stolen property, damaged trees and shrubs, trashed bath houses, and litter increase maintenance and labor cost significantly.
Yet, the owners of campgrounds feel compelled to hold rates down since in a recession increasing their camping fees could easily keep campers away or shorten their stay.
One of our favorite private campgrounds has kept there camping rate for a full hook-up RV site unchanged since 2005. The cost is $35.00 per night for two adults. For that $35.00 we are provided with a 50 amp electrical connection, water, sewage disposal and twice daily trash pick-up. Additionally, we have use of the campground entertainment facilities, including a nice swimming pool, game room, clubhouse, heated and air conditioned bath houses, organized recreational activities for the kids, and access to bike and hiking trails. When you stop to think about it, the cost is really low for all the amenities included.
The owner has told me he must raise the camping fee this year to cover his rising expenses. Yet, he is afraid that the fee increase will keep campers away or shorten their visit. Using his own words: He feels like he is “between a rock and a hard place” but he has no choice as he is no longer making a profit.
None of us want to see camping rates increase or campgrounds close. But a rate increase is inevitable if the private campgrounds are going to survive. No one can continue to operate a business that looses money.
As campers, we can do a lot to help both private and public campgrounds reduce their operational cost.
Too many campers consider the un-metered electricity included in the campsite cost like an “all you can eat” buffet. They run their air conditioners or electric heaters even when the RV is unoccupied. Behavior similar to what we practice at home by turning off lights and lowering thermostats could save campground owners thousands of dollars in annual electrical cost.
Not littering, perhaps taking the daily trash to a dumpster yourself, cleaning up the shower or sink in a bath house after use, and just being a responsible camper can add to the reduction in expenses a campground incurs.
The bottom line to all of this is we want nice campgrounds with big sites, full hookups and low rates. If we want this combination to continue, we must do everything possible to help the campground owners keep their expenses down.