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How Campers Can Help Camping & RV Parks Rebound from the Tough Year Behind

April 21, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

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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.

Many private campgrounds have been forced to close due to rising cost.

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.

Comments

5 Responses to “How Campers Can Help Camping & RV Parks Rebound from the Tough Year Behind”
  1. Bob says:

    Ref: campground price increases………It has always astonished me when I hear people complain about the price of a site at some campgrounds. They will pay 100,000.00 to 300,000.00 for their rigs and then complain about a 2 or 5 dollar increase at a place they will park their lavish rigs for several nights.
    I can’t help but look at Disney World’s way of handling things. They simply figure out the cost, put it in the budget and charge accordingly. It will now cost over 100.00 per night to camp there, sometimes a little cheaper with Florida resident discounts or special promotions, but the place is always full.
    I find it hard to believe that this one campground owner would not increase his fee over the last 5 years because he feared the loss of campers. Ask the camper if he turned down any pay raises over the last 5 years to keep his company afloat. The simple fact is that costs are increasing and the good old middle class of this country will flip the bill. Here in Florida, our tolls increased. It certainly did not cut down on the cars and trucks on the road. If a campground has good facilities and makes people feel welcome, all of us understand the increase in costs. The Campground owners have to get innovated on how they can fill the spaces up. Reach out to the new folks trying out the RV world with specials that will attract them while still being attractive to the old timers.
    During a recession, many people get hurt, but the really innovative people, the one’s that go out and give something that people really want, end up getting rich.
    I hope to see some really innovative special during this period. On place in Lakeland Florida is offering three days and 2 nights of camping with unlimited golf at a beautiful course and unlimited use of a golf cart for both golf and use in the campground for only $99.00. Whether you play golf or not, it is worth it for burying yourself in their beautiful nature trails with the golf cart and staying at a nice campground. If you do play golf, What a deal!!!.
    I hope to see more and more innovation like this and for those of us looking for a place to stay for a day, weekend or weeks on end, we reach out to these owners and take them up on their deals. And if they get rich doing it, God Bless them for their hard work and innovation.

  2. Maurice Nichols says:

    Article sounds like it was written by a campground owner. As for Disney charging over $100 a night for camping I say stay far away from that place. I have reservations for a Corps of Engineer park very near the DFW area for $8.00 a night for 8 nights. No WiFi or sewer hookups but it is near the water so I can be near my boat. There are deals to be had and lots of places to see all for a lot less that $100 a night.

  3. ME Mullen says:

    If u own an rv that has extras that use excessive electricity, perhaps it wd be a fair practice to have fees that reflect those costs.
    I have a class b with
    a tv and a/c. I would be very willing to pay a fee that reflects those to campground owners who are providing excellent custer service & cleanliness.
    Thanks

  4. Professor95 says:

    Maurice – HA HA – No, I am NOT a campground owner. Just a camper that listens.

    ME Mullen – One of our favorite destinations, Emerald Isle Holiday Trav-L-Park, charges an additional $5 a day for 50 amp service. I remember when most campgrounds asked if you had A/C and charged $3 extra if you did. Now I guess they just figure it in regardless. Most CGs we visit charge the same for a site no matter what you plug into. Either a good deal for big rigs or a bad one for small PUs or class B van campers like yours.

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