Pelland Blog

All-Inclusive vs Resort Fees

January 25th, 2023

Several years ago I encouraged campground owners to consider the “all-inclusive” approach to guest fees, and that argument continues to make more sense than ever. I mentioned at the time how I had recently opened a box of breakfast cereal, only to find that the inner bag of contents reached about half the height of the packaging. It was a classic example of the disclaimer that warns us that “contents are sold by weight, not volume”. If the packaging properly matched the size of its contents, it would have been half the size, have far less visibility on the supermarket shelf, and I probably would have passed on a purchase that did not appear to represent a very good value. You might say that I was deceived into making the purchase. Even though I liked the cereal, I am unlikely to purchase it again. Economists have even coined a new word for this package downsizing: Shrinkflation.

Respect Your Guests’ Intelligence

People who feel that they have been somehow deceived into making a buying decision are almost never going to be return customers. When it comes to the outdoor hospitality industry, one of the biggest complaints is when guests feel like they are being “nickeled and dimed” during their stay. Although it is far preferable to avoid the imposition of add-on fees for incidentals like showers, Wi-Fi, or your planned activities, it is very important that any such fees be fully disclosed at the time of reservation. Just as offensive is the imposition of so-called “convenience fees” when making an online reservation, as well as the recently introduced concept of the “site lock” fee. In the latter instance, campers must pay a premium at the time of reservation in order to be assured of being assigned any particular site. The logic from a management perspective is that the airlines have generally been getting away with this for several years now, allowing passengers to choose an available seat rather than settling for a randomly assigned seat (often a center seat and/or in the back of the economy class section of the cabin), and there are almost always premium fees involved. These ancillary fees, which for airline seating range anywhere from $20.00 to $90.00 (according to a 2022 report by CBS News) are pure profit. There is little of no cost involved in providing this alleged service.

My best advice is to bundle as much as possible into your basic fees, promote that value within your rate structure, and stop presuming that people are comparison shopping for price without reading the fine print. Would you rather cater to guests who will complain about spending anything over $25.00 for a night of camping or guests who are more than willing to spend $250.00 for their camping experience?

Consider the All-Inclusive Approach

I suggest trying to avoid the growing practice of hotels to tack so-called “resort fees” onto their room rates. Across the hotel industry, even low-end properties have started imposing mandatory added fees for everything from poolside towels to room safes to fitness centers to on-site parking – even if a guest uses none of those services. To the contrary, I suggest offering your guests as much as possible as part of your service offerings. I believe the answer could be the all-inclusive concept, where guests are willing to pay a premium for the privilege of avoiding add-on fees. The all-inclusive concept originated with Club Med way back in 1950. It is the rule rather than the exception in some vacation destinations, and the concept has been embraced by many resort operators, cruise lines, travel agencies and online booking companies, major airlines, hotel chains, and wholesale buying clubs like Costco.

With all-inclusive pricing, as the name implies, guests willingly pay a premium fee for the privilege of vacationing without having to pull out their wallets throughout the course of their stay or when settling their tab. All-inclusive pricing is most popular with destination resorts and highly competitive, saturated tourism markets. Probably the best known and most broadly marketed of these practitioners is Sandals Resorts International, which promotes the tagline of “more quality inclusions than any other resorts on the planet”. Their all-inclusive stays include accommodations, dining, wine and spirits, golf, water sports, scuba diving, land sports, and entertainment. Even here, there are fee-based options such as spa treatments, premium wines, and scuba certification, as well as some restrictions on golf that vary from one resort or level of accommodations to another. The bottom line is that guests feel that they are being offered far more than they would otherwise expect.

Another relatively new company in the travel and tourism industry is Scenic Luxury Cruises. The company takes the all-inclusive concept to its pinnacle, where there is virtually nothing that you can pay for beyond your basic fare, unless you insist upon purchasing rare bottles of vintage wine while dining. Everything from gourmet meals, unlimited beverages, stateroom mini-bars (replenished daily), shore excursions (some of which must be reserved in advance on an availability basis), electric bicycles, onboard entertainment, laundry service, butler service, transfers and gratuities is all included.

Before you think that what applies to a luxury cruise line or luxury resort cannot possibly translate into the camping experience, think again. When I first wrote on this topic, a Google search for “all-inclusive glamping resorts” came up dry. Today, there are many compilations of luxury glamping vacations on sites such as GlampingHub, RVshare, and TripAdvisor. There are also individual campgrounds such as Camp Aramoni, in Illinois, which seem to have perfectly embraced the concept.

I have no connection whatsoever with the business other than my admiration, but I encourage readers to visit the Camp Aramoni website to discover how things can be done right. This is certainly a very viable segment within an ever-expanding outdoor hospitality industry. With the growing popularity of “glamping”, it is time to ditch extra fees for activities and recreational amenities such as mini golf, jumping pillows, canoes and kayaks, splash pads, showers, Wi-Fi, and online reservations. Then consider offering amenities and experiences that you may have never associated with traditional camping, such as the glamping tents at Camp Aramoni that feature luxury linens, central air conditioning and heat, USB charging stations, firewood bundles, and en-suite restrooms that include towels, hair dryers, and toiletries. Their basic fees also include a breakfast buffet, nightly gourmet s’mores, and dinner ordered from an extensive chef-inspired menu. In addition to the restaurant, the property includes an event space for weddings and other special events … all in a reclaimed former industrial property. The impossible has suddenly become possible. The key to growth in the family camping industry has always been to draw in a new wave of guests who do not currently consider themselves campers. To reach them, offer them the unexpected and create the perception of overwhelming value that they have come to appreciate elsewhere. An all-inclusive approach to pricing may prove to be an idea whose time has come.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Community Appeal: Originality vs Familiarity

December 28th, 2022

When it comes to promoting your business, there is always a challenge in choosing between taking a conventional or a more original approach. The choices are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and it is more likely that you need to find a balance between the two. For most small businesses, the bulk of their advertising budgets are split among online resources, broadcast media, and to an ever-declining degree, print. Campgrounds are somewhat unique in that, unlike other typical small businesses, their customer base is generally regional, national (and even international) rather than local. While the local automobile dealership, law firm or home improvement contractor will spend a significant amount of money on local radio, television and newspaper, these outlets would almost totally miss the mark in attempting to reach a campground’s less localized customer base. With campgrounds, the primary means of marketing will be a mix of online (which will likely include their own websites, third-party websites, social media, and a supplement of online advertising) and print (which will likely include collateral advertising such as brochures or rack cards, directory advertising, and occasionally direct mail.) Many campgrounds will also participate in off-season RV and travel shows.

The objective will always be the same, and that is to reach a base of both new and repeat customers in a manner where the messaging is consistent, distinctive, and cost-effective in terms of return on investment. There are decisions to be made, and one of your key decisions will be whether to take a familiar marketing posture or a more original approach. An original approach will catch attention and likely allow your business to stand out from its competition, but it must be done in a manner that nonetheless clearly identifies your business as an outdoor hospitality offering. It must work within the usual distribution channels and fit within your budget. Taking collateral advertising as an example, a rack card or brochure with an unconventional format might stand out on its own; however, a taller, wider, or die-cut piece might fail to fit within literature distribution racks, as well as being more costly to produce. The nicest piece of literature that will not work within the usual distribution channels will amount to a total failure, as will a piece of literature that leaves prospective customers confused regarding the actual identity of your business.

The online components of your marketing campaign can be even more challenging. Not only does your message need to appeal and be clear in the eyes of prospective customers, but it needs to be equally clear to search engine robots or it will never reach its intended audience – unless you want to throw a significant sum of money against the wind in online advertising. With digital marketing – websites in particular – there is that choice between the tried and true and going out on a creative limb. Let me point out that there is a difference – a big difference – between proven familiarity and a humdrum approach that comes with template-driven content and do-it-yourself website builders from companies such as Wix and GoDaddy. Unless you have the knowledge and capability to customize that content, templates provide a “one size fits all” approach at best. Yes, a template can be chosen that broadly applies to any general business classification, but just think how many diverse types of businesses all fall within the “travel” or “leisure” categories.

A proven layout and design will be both user-friendly and highly intuitive, where the key to customization lies much more within its content than the basic layout itself. Your message needs to “wow” people with high quality photography (where image quality is far more important than the quantity of images thrown onto a page), professionally produced video (that is ADA compliant and not in violation of any creative copyrights) if it is available, outstanding graphic design (that includes a distinctive logo and a coordinated color palette and carefully selected fonts that are based upon that logo), and text that is written like a Hallmark® greeting card. When everything works together, your website should be designed to fulfill a need or desire – in this case to get away from it all and spend a weekend or longer, not only in the outdoors, but at your particular park. Your website should provide your prospective guests with the type of validation that assures them that they are in the process of making the right decision by choosing your park. Elements such as those quality photos or videos and credible testimonials help to provide that validation, while spelling mistakes and unanswered questions can encourage the same guest to seek out alternative options. There may be only a single opportunity to reach that first-time guest or to persuade a return guest to look no further, and you need to make that opportunity as persuasive as possible.

Human beings are highly social creatures, and therein lies much of the appeal of the camping and outdoor hospitality experience. Just think of all of the social environments that we have created for ourselves over time. These range from the communes of the 1960s to the gated communities that might be populated today by those same people in their retirement years. Other examples include fraternal organizations, veterans’ groups, alumni clubs, church congregations, social media groups on sites such as Facebook and Meetup, and even the local tavern. We have all seen automobile rallies and cruises that are populated by proud Corvette® owners or drivers of Mazda® Miatas®, and how often have you seen a single Harley-Davidson® motorcycle riding down the highway? Familiarity ensures that we will be within our own comfort zones whenever we leave the ultimate comfort zone – home. HINT: Particularly if your campground offers pavilions and a group camping area, why not reach out directly to these types of groups and rallies? If carefully executed, your tightly coordinated marketing campaign should present your campground as just such a community, where new members feel welcome and a desire to belong. Are you meeting that objective?

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Do Some Math, Then Get Real

November 17th, 2022

My company builds websites for the campground industry. A few years ago I reached out to the manager of a campground in a Northern state whose website would appear to be in desperate need of replacement. Its 14 year old website (nearly a century in either website or dog years!) was not mobile-friendly, had zero in terms of SEO (search engine optimization), was not ADA compliant (really an unknown issue at that time), had nothing but a phone number to call for reservations, did not even list the campground’s address, and had not been updated since it was built (still promoting that the park was the “newest” in its area.) After being asked to quote on a new website, the manager responded that my company’s services were “to rich” (sic) for his campground that was only open for a 5 month season.

I explained that most campgrounds in the Northern states were only open from late spring through early fall, hardly an operating calendar that was unique to his park. Based upon the weekly rates that are published on his website, if a new professionally designed website brought in only 15 new campers who would not have otherwise chosen to stay at his campground, he would have fully recovered his investment during a single season. That investment recovery would not even include the additional income generated by those guests’ purchases in his store, laundromat, game room, or fee-based added services. I went on to ask if his park was at full occupancy throughout its 5 month season, pointing out how the satellite image on Google Earth showed that his park had 48 sites – 35 pull-thrus and 13 back-ins – only 16 of which were occupied at the moment when that most recent image was captured.

I am referencing this campground’s website as simply an example of short-sighted thinking. The campground manager could have been dismissing the cost of Wi-Fi service, reservation software, upgraded electrical service, energy efficiency upgrades, a new line of store merchandise, a new dumping station or honey wagon, new rental boats, cabin or park model rentals, yurts or teepees, branded apparel, or replacements for the worn out and inefficient washers and dryers in his laundromat. Translated from the original Latin, the adage that “you have to spend money to make money” is nothing new, originally credited to the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus a little over two millennia ago.

I can understand a short season factoring into a decision to purchase a motorcycle, snowmobile, speedboat, convertible automobile, or any other consumer good that represents an emotional want rather than a physical need. Those decisions all involve the purchase of personal goods, whereas an entirely different set of standards should apply when making well-informed business decisions.

I have always found it useful to make business decisions based upon the measurement of projected return on investment. This can apply to almost any purchase. Let me use Wi-Fi as an example, along with a few rounded numbers to simplify calculations. Let’s presume that you run a campground with 100 sites, that your average nightly site fee is $50.00, that the average guest stays two nights, you have an average occupancy rate of 50%, your season runs 150 days, and that 50% of your prospective campers demand Wi-Fi and will not stay at a park that does not offer high-speed Internet at sites. Let’s also presume that the cost of a new Wi-Fi installation at this small- to medium-sized park would be $7,500.00 (admittedly on the high side.) Although some parks charge for the service, and others offer tiered service levels, let’s presume that your park is going to treat Wi-Fi service as a utility that will be provided to its guests at no added charge as part of its overnight fee.

If the added service increases occupancy from 50% to just 60%, that means filling 10 otherwise empty campsites at $50.00 per night. Over the course of a 150 day season, this represents $7,500.00 in income, fully recovering the investment in the new Wi-Fi system, or an investment that is recouped in a single season. If your park is in a competitive market that allows it to charge for Wi-Fi service, the payback period may be even shorter. The same sort of calculations can be applied to an investment in upgraded electrical services, when your prospective guests are seeking out reliable 50-amp service when most of your sites are providing 20- or 30-amp service through rusty power pedestals with circuit breakers that trip open on a regular basis. In fact, when it comes to park utilities, problems with Wi-Fi, electrical service, roadways, water pressure and sewerage are just as likely to lead to an abbreviated stay as an obnoxious camper or barking dog on an adjacent site. The same claim may be made for restrooms or playgrounds in dire need of upgrades, a store with too many empty shelves, or a game room with too many “out of order” signs. Weaknesses in these areas can actually be driving away business, as well as inflicting harm on review sites.

When it comes to less tangible services such as a park’s website, reservation software, planned activities and advertising, it is still quite easy to calculate return on investment and to make informed decisions. In fact, these represent some of the best ways to spread the word about that new Wi-Fi or electrical service, essentially speeding the return on investment on those infrastructural improvements. Think twice – and perform some calculations – prior to dismissing a business investment out of hand. That “too costly” investment may be both easily recovered and the key to running your business more profitably than ever.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Consider Offering Customer Incentives

July 28th, 2022

It is no secret that, in general, campgrounds weathered the recent COVID-19 pandemic quite nicely. In fact, many park owners were able to raise prices in response to the combination of the low supply and higher than ever demand for campsites. While most of those customers, including many first-time campers, would like to continue their pursuit of the camping experience, another potential roadblock is now in play.

With the global economy teetering on recession, the biggest consumer headaches are skyrocketing mortgage rates, food costs and fuel costs, with fuel costs most directly impacting the desire to camp. According to a late June 2022 CBS News report, the people who purchased new RVs during the pandemic are not yet being dissuaded from engaging in their camping pursuits, though they are likely to seek refuges that are closer to home in order to trim their travel expenses. Another recent Associated Press report indicates that consumers are now facing what is referred to as “demand destruction” when it comes to filling their vehicles with gasoline or diesel at what are now all-time record high prices per gallon.

Particularly for campground owners with parks that have historically offered overnight stops for cross-country travelers, or parks that are adjacent to off-the-beaten-path tourist destinations, now might be a good time to consider taking preemptive actions to ensure a steady flow of business. According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are offering fuel incentives to their employees as they return to their office commutes after months of working from home. Why not rethink that strategy and offer minor subsidies to your customers who cannot reach you without filling their tanks? One of my suggestions is to look into the use of prepaid fuel cards as a customer incentive that will help campers to justify traveling that extra mile.

Gift Card Rewards

We are all familiar with gift cards, probably purchasing them as last-minute gifts for friends and relatives. Most are purchased for retail merchants at gift card kiosks in supermarkets, convenience stores, and shopping malls. What I am suggesting is the use of cards that are purchased in bulk, perhaps even customized with your business name or logo, that are specifically for use at the fuel pumps of a major oil company that has a station near your place of business.

Everybody responds to incentives, and there is no incentive as effective as a perceived rebate. Let’s say you have a Shell Oil station down the road. Depending upon your available inventory — and this ties in directly to dynamic pricing — you could offer a $20.00 Shell gift card to people who camp mid-week, camp on a historically slow weekend, or arrive on a Thursday night for an extended weekend. To be effective, the card must have a significant perceived value (I suggest $20.00), but that incentive can be much more effective than a corresponding drop in dynamic pricing. We all know that it costs much more than $20.00 to fill a vehicle with gasoline or diesel these days, but that incentive can go a long way toward having a camper choose your park over another, even if it means traveling that extra mile.

There are two types of bulk gift cards that may be purchased. So-called “open loop” gift cards are prepaid Visa or MasterCard cards that may be used anywhere. These, for a significant one-time fee, are the cards that can be customized with your business name or logo. What I am suggesting are “closed loop” gift cards that are specifically used at one business. There are also both digital and plastic gift cards, and my recommendation is the use of the plastic cards. Their tangibility gives them greater perceived value. Of course, you need to keep these stored in a secure location within your office, treating a stack of $20.00 gift cards the same way you would treat a stack of $20.00 bills.

How to Purchase Bulk Gift Cards

The companies that specialize in selling bulk gift cards earn their income from fees that are paid by the merchants. Merchants can afford to absorb their fees because cards that are either unused or only partially redeemed can represent a major source of income. They also realize that somebody redeeming a $20.00 gift card is likely to make an additional purchase, another source of income. Most cards will also have an expiration date, so be sure to be aware of that timeframe both when purchasing bulk cards and when distributing them to your customers. The advantage to buying these cards in bulk is to circumvent the usual 20 card limit when purchasing gift cards at the retail level. In addition, though most cards are purchased at face value, some merchants may even provide small discount incentives, although others may charge a premium (best to be avoided) and some cards may be on back order due to high demand.

Two online merchants that sell bulk gift cards are PerfectGift.com and BlackhawkNetwork.com. When it comes to oil company gift cards, both of these merchants represent the following companies: 76, ARCO, BP/Amoco, Chevron, Circle K, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Gulf, Sheetz, Shell, Sinclair, Speedway, Sunoco, Texaco, and Wawa. In addition, Blackhawk represents Marathon and Phillips 66. There are other smaller bulk card merchants, such as GiftCardPartners.com which only represents Sheetz, Shell, Speedway, and Wawa.

Take This to the Next Level

If you decide to pursue this type of incentive program, try to arrange an expanded arrangement with your local merchant. A smart gas station operator will realize that it takes more than $20.00 to fill a tank on a motorhome or a big pickup truck, and that you are essentially sending them business. Your mutual customer is likely to purchase not only more fuel but items from a full range of convenience and food items that might be offered. This local merchant whose business you are promoting should be willing to display your brochures or rack cards on his counter, and he should be a prime prospect to advertise in your guest guides. In fact, if there is more than one brand of fuel available within easy reach of your business, the willingness to participate might dictate which brand you choose to associate with your business.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Attract New Business or Turn It Away?

May 27th, 2022

On a recent trip to Pennsylvania, when I hope the prices of automotive fuel had reached their peak, I think everybody in America had become all too familiar with the term “pain at the pump.” To add insult to injury, all three of the vehicles that my wife and I own and drive are diesels. These turbo diesels are highly fuel-efficient, and we drove my car, which gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway. We saw diesel prices on the side of I-78 as high as $6.099 per gallon, and I considered myself lucky to fill up at $5.199 on the return trip, using a discount card at a convenience store chain in Scranton.

Even if the price of fuel settles a bit, two things are clear: One is that more and more campers will want to turn to either seasonal camping or incentives where they will be allowed to leave their campers on-site between weekends. The other is that campgrounds are going to be seeing more and more electric vehicles (EVs) as time goes on … and this time will be much sooner than expected. This is a market that smart campground owners will cater to, not discourage.

Few campgrounds prohibit pets because that would decimate their potential pool of campers. Instead, they allow pets and have appropriate rules and associated fees. On the same token, campgrounds should welcome drivers of EVs. I have seen some campgrounds that either foolishly prohibit EVs or charge fees that are far in excess of the actual electric usage costs of charging. On a pre-pandemic vacation in California, I rented a Tesla and went out of my way to favor restaurants and other businesses with charging stations.

If you are seeking to attract new campers, consider the statistics. According to the manufacturer, Tesla built and delivered nearly 1,000,000 vehicles in 2021, which represented an 87% increase in numbers over 2020. Compare that with only 726,000 Ford F-Series pickups, which are the best-selling vehicles in America. The Tesla Model Y and Model 3 are among the 20 top-selling vehicles in the United States today. You probably know that Ford will be introducing its 2022 F-150 Lightning within the coming days, an EV that is designed for towing a camper.

Can Your Park Handle the Load?

Before you think that EV charging is going to dim your lights and blow your circuit breakers, bear in mind that you have probably already upgraded your electrical infrastructure to accommodate big rigs with multiple air conditioning units that can draw tens of thousands of watts of power during the course of the day. When charging, a typical EV will consume a steady amount of power (unless it is plugged in at a Tesla Supercharger station) of about 7,000 watts and 32 amps. On the other hand, a single air conditioning unit in a big rig might use 3,200 watts and 27 amps at startup, then settling down to about 1,200 watts and 10 amps. Power hogs such as microwave ovens will consume their power in surges. If your park has 600-amp service and is already equipped with 50-amp pedestals, you or your electrician can do the math to determine how many EVs can be charging at any one time, along with what you can charge their owners for their use of the service and what they are willing to pay, keeping in mind that Tesla owners are used to paying 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt hour at conventional charging stations. Most EVs will charge overnight, when temperatures have cooled down and air conditioner and appliance usages are lower.

Your customer will either have the necessary NEMA 14-50 adapter for 240 volt level 2 charging or could buy one in your store, another potential profit point. Talk with your electrical products provider, but an EV and an RV can often coexist on a single 50-amp power pedestal. According to the RVIA, KOA is currently in the process of installing level 2 chargers at KOA parks across the United States and Canada, using power pedestals supplied by Jamestown Advanced Products. KOA’s decision was no doubt based in part upon its most recent study, which found that one out of five campers owns an EV, significantly higher than the statistics for non-campers and the general public.

Another option for getting on board is to see if your business qualifies for one or more free charging stations (valued at $500.00 each) from Tesla. The primary requirements are that your business has a significant volume of drive-in traffic and that you will be willing to provide the electrical work. This could accommodate customers who are not otherwise occupying a campsite with a 50-amp power pedestal – tenters, for example. If your park provides non-camping related services, such as a restaurant, swimming lake or miniature golf course, these charging stations definitely offer the potential of increasing your business revenue, both in charging fees and indirect sales. In fact, the navigation systems in Tesla vehicles will even guide drivers directly to your location. To see if you qualify, go here: https://www.tesla.com/charging-partners

It’s Time to Get on Board

Electric vehicles are not the latest pet rock. They are here to stay. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in November 2021, includes $5 billion in funding to add a network of 500,000 new charging stations along our nation’s highways, with additional funding that is earmarked for rural locations. This will help to make EVs all the more practical and affordable to own and operate, with a target that EVs will account for 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030. Remember when some park owners balked at the thought of providing WiFi to their campers? They suddenly faced the realization that WiFi was the most sought-after amenity at campgrounds. Take the lead rather than being left behind when it comes to EV charging stations at your park!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Is it Time for Rebranding?

April 25th, 2022

Have you ever eaten a Chinese gooseberry? In their country of origin, the fruit’s original name translated into ‘macaque fruit’, in reference to the monkeys that found it particularly appealing. You probably do not recall ever eating one; however, you have probably eaten kiwifruit, and they are one and the same thing. Widely planted in New Zealand in the early part of the twentieth century, marketers adopted the name of the country’s iconic flightless bird with a similar color and shape to give the fruit a bit more name recognition and appeal. This fruit is now grown in many countries around the world, including the United States, and the ones in New Zealand have been distinctively branded as ‘Zespri’ in order to identify them as the “real thing”.

Kiwi Fruit

Here in the United States, the kiwifruit was popularized by Frieda Rapoport Caplan, the marketing genius and founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce who died at the age of 96 in early 2020. Frieda also introduced Americans to such specialty produce items as spaghetti squash, purple sweet potatoes, brown mushrooms, star fruits, and over 200 other fruits and vegetables that were never previously sold in conventional supermarkets. Ironically, she was allergic to kiwifruit.

How about Patagonian tooth fish? Have you dined on that at an upscale seafood restaurant recently? Yes, you probably have, except that it has been rebranded to appear on menus as Chilean Sea Bass. Sticking with restaurant analogies, you know that you will pay more for an order of Boeuf Bourguignon than an order of beef stew, and you are more likely to consider an appetizer of escargots rather than snails. It is all about branding and in some cases rebranding.

Give Rebranding Careful Thought

There are many reasons for moving forward with name changes and rebranding. In some instances, it is time to move away from racial and ethnic stereotypes, the rationale behind the changes in the names of so many sports teams in recent years. Living in Massachusetts (admittedly one of the most politically correct states in the country) most of my life, I have seen the football team at the University of Massachusetts evolve from the UMass Redmen to the UMass Minutemen. Earlier in the school’s history, as a Land Grant college that was originally known as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the football team was known as the Mass Aggies, so change is not something that is particularly new.

When you are ready, think forward. According to Wikipedia, when the Nissan Motor Company decided to rebrand its line of export automobiles from Datsun to Nissan, the transition took 3 years (1982-1984) at a cost in excess of $500 million in the United States alone. That would be about $1.4 billion today. Just changing the signage at 1,100 dealerships cost $30 million, and 5 years after the name change was completed, Datsun still had greater name recognition than Nissan. Just think how much money could have been saved had the Nissan name been used right from the start.

A Name Makes a Difference

Many people dreadfully fear the thought of changing their business name, always dwelling on the risks involved rather than focusing on the potential benefits. When it comes to campgrounds, let’s face it: nearly every campground that joins a franchise system or is purchased under a new corporate umbrella is likely to undergo a name change and a dramatic rebranding. Of course, those situations involve influxes of both financial and marketing support, but there are plenty of sound reasons to jump-start a park’s identity under other circumstances as well.

Particularly in instances of new ownership, the benefits of rebranding will often far outweigh the risks. In many instances, a park reflects the name of its original owners but does little else to create a unique identity. For example, years ago I worked with Len and Kay DeMerritt, the owners of Len-Kay Camping Area in New Hampshire. When Len and Kay retired and sold the park, it was wisely rebranded as Barrington Shores.

There are other instances, particularly in states like New York with hundreds of campgrounds, where there are two or more parks with either the same or very similar names. Campers, particularly first-time guests, can be understandably confused, sometimes making reservations at one park and showing up at another. Like the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys, far too often the owners in these situations are too stubborn to take corrective measures to end the confusion and move forward. If you are a new owner with little or no attachment to the original name, making the change definitely involves an easier decision. There might even be instances where a park’s name either says nothing or can literally scare business away. For example, who would want to swim in the water at someplace called “Leach Lake Campsites”?

I have recently helped the new owners of Camp America in South Dakota to successfully rebrand their park as Dakota Sunsets RV Park & Campground, the new owners of Whispering Pines RV Resort in Michigan to successfully rebrand their park as Starlight Campground & RV Park, and the new owners of “AAA RV Park” in Tennessee to successfully rebrand their park as Coyote View RV Park. In the first instance, the original owners probably had grand schemes of becoming the next nationwide campground franchise, and in the last instance the previous owners probably thought that their name would get them listed first in the yellow pages of their local telephone directory.

Due Diligence

If you are considering a name change and rebranding, there are a few preliminary steps to take:

  1. Consider potential names that are memorable, unique, and help to identify your park.
  2. Check to confirm that there is not already a park or other business with the same name or a similar name in your state or a nearby state. Use the online corporate identity search tools that can be found on the website of the office of the Secretary of State in your state. Rebranding is pointless if it causes confusion or could lead to a trademark infringement lawsuit.
  3. Confirm that your final name choice followed by .com is readily available, and then register that domain name and any .com variations.
  4. Hire a professional logo artist to make that new name visually distinctive.
  5. Be prepared to budget for marketing, signage, paint, employee shirts, and other incidental expenses.

Yes, there are costs involved, but the rewards can be substantial, both in short-term business and in the long-term value of your park to subsequent buyers.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

It’s Okay to Be Antisocial

March 11th, 2021

Let me be the first to admit that I am guilty. It was not that long ago that I was presenting seminars and writing how social media advertising – Facebook, in particular – was the greatest new development since the Internet itself. As recently as four years ago, I was offering suggestions on how to beat Facebook at its own game, using guerilla marketing techniques on the platform. Sure, we all recognized that the intrusions into our personal privacy were a bit creepy, but the ability to reach targeted marketing prospects seemed to be worth the compromise. After all, when I was a child watching television in the 1950’s, Captain Kangaroo would seamlessly segue from visiting with Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose to selling Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and Schwinn Bicycles, and what was wrong with that? Actually, there was plenty wrong with it, prior to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling in 1969 that prohibited children’s show hosts from directly promoting commercial products.

In the beginning, Facebook (originally called Facemash) seemed to represent little more than an awkward attempt by nerdy Harvard undergrads with a lack of actual social skills to meet young women at neighboring colleges. When you think about it, even that original concept (an extension of the sexist freshman photo books that had been sold on college campuses for decades) violated the personal privacy of the young women whose photos were being used. From that start, it did not take long for Facebook to reinvent itself into a money making machine that would be built upon ever-increasing exploitations of personal privacy.

On a personal level, I stopped using Facebook in its entirety in early September of 2020. I actually experienced what I would describe as a 7 to 10 day period of withdrawal, missing the ability to stay in daily touch with countless friends both old and new, but my sense of newly discovered freedom afterward was absolutely refreshing. Over the course of the 10 years or so when I remained active on the platform, I would often joke about how Facebook would “coincidentally” show me advertising that was related to one of my recent posts or comments. When I, along with millions of other people, started using ad blockers, Facebook started showing paid posts in lieu of paid advertising. These paid posts represent advertising content that is being disguised as editorial comment, even when that advertising is originating with foreign governments or other unscrupulous characters. The only way this can happen is by Facebook’s algorithms monitoring every word that you type, just as craftily as the National Security Agency (NSA) monitors the telephone conversations of known terrorists.

What made me see the light was when I realized that Facebook’s business model was designed to amass huge profits by intentionally sowing discord among its subscribers. Regardless of where a person falls within an increasingly polarized political spectrum, Facebook will show that person paid content that pours fuel on the fire while demonizing those with opposing viewpoints. By being fed a one-sided diet that is often based upon disinformation, subscribers’ opinions and beliefs are reinforced in a manner that continually enhances the polarization. It should not require an insurrectionist attack upon the U.S. Capitol for reasonable people to understand that this represents a rapidly accelerating downward spiral.

Let us be clear that Facebook advertising is not a bargain. In the early days, businesses would pay to advertise on the platform in order to get users to “like” their page and then see their posts. Soon afterward, advertisers needed to pay Facebook so that even people who had already “liked” their page could actually see their posts. Think about it. This means that you are paying Facebook so you can reach your existing customers. Why would anybody pay to do that when there are countless alternate means of reaching your existing customer base at a far lesser cost? In the campground industry, some of the same people who willingly pour money into Facebook advertising question the rationale for offering Good Sam and similar discounts that they feel cut into thin profit margins. I would rather offer a customer incentive than to take that same money and pour it into Facebook’s coffers.

Yes, Facebook and the other social media may be capable of sending you customers, but at what price and in what environment? If a drug dealer approached you and said, “Yes, my main business is selling heroin, but I can also send you customers”, would you do business with that person? I doubt that many of us would enter into that sort of deal with the devil.

The Federal Trade Commission (yes, the same people who ruled that Captain Kangaroo should not be hawking breakfast cereal) is currently proposing the breakup of Facebook, a process that is long overdue. Facebook has steadily grown – with the acquisition of Instagram, WhatsApp and related platforms – and a breakup of its monopoly would be the first such action since the breakup of AT&T four decades ago. Many of my peers in the advertising industry will disagree with me, and I welcome that debate. I remember the days when tobacco products were extensively advertised on television, a practice that contributed to countless deaths. Today, I believe that many other types of advertising should be banned because they either mislead consumers or actually prey upon vulnerable segments of our population, typically the elderly. These include the advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals, advertising by class-action attorneys (think “mesothelioma”), advertising directed at children (think about Saturday mornings), and advertising directed at senior citizens (think about Medicare supplements and the aforementioned pharmaceuticals). In the meantime, it is your decision as a small business owner to decide whether or not to continue financing a business model that you may agree is inherently wrong.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Website Design Considerations

December 1st, 2020

Part 1
The Basics

I recently presented a webinar titled “Best Practices: Website Design Considerations” before members of several state campground associations. Although my company has been building campground websites since 1998, it was not my intention to promote my company in that webinar, nor is it my intention to do so in this column. What I would like to share is objective advice on how to make the right decisions when it comes to what is almost certainly the single most important tool to market your business both today and in the years ahead.

Let me start with some history. In the early days, websites were built to be viewed on computers, usually with small monitors and slow dial-up modems. Until Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, what was a smartphone? Websites were designed to fit narrow computer monitors and limited bandwidth. As time went on, cutting edge sites used Macromedia Flash, later acquired by Adobe. Flash is no longer supported on iOS (meaning any Mac or Apple device), Android devices (in other words, no mobile devices, which are two-thirds of the market), and will see the final nail driven into its coffin at the end of December. Websites now need to be built so that they present full content across all platforms and devices. If you have a narrow website that is not mobile-friendly, and perhaps uses animated GIFs and maybe Flash animation, you are probably wondering what happened to that Blockbuster store where you rented your VHS videotapes.

Mobile-Friendly

Just like we have both lifelong friends and recently made casual acquaintances, there have been many approaches to the presentation of mobile-friendly website content. In the early days (in this case, 2005), as website designers were feeling their way around in the dark, there was a proliferation of separate websites that were intended for smaller displays and limited bandwidth, typically with stripped down content and a .mobi URL. This was sort of like having a car that you drove in the summer and a separate vehicle that you could drive on snowy mountain roads in the winter. When somebody visited a website, they would encounter a link that said “Click here for a mobile version of this site.”

That was inefficient, and the search engines hated it. There were essentially two websites to maintain. Fortunately, these were soon replaced by adaptivewebsites, where the website did its best to detect the device being used and then presented one of two alternate versions of content. There were still two versions of content to maintain. This was sort of like having a big SUV where, when the roads got sloppy, you had to get out and turn the hubs on the front wheels and then engage the transfer case to drive in four-wheel drive.

Finally, responsivewebsite design came along, where one website was designed to detect the device being used and then present content that was scaled to the size of the display, whether it was a phone, a tablet, a laptop computer, or a big monitor. This is essentially the all-wheel drive of websites and could have been the brainchild of Subaru. This is the standard today, and Google and Bing love it.

There are no simple fixes or upgrades to turn an old website into a new responsive site. It is an entirely different framework, and it requires the construction of an all-new site. When a responsive site is being built, there are different approaches: Some website designers tend to first design for mobile devices then let the chips fall where they may on larger displays. Others tend to first design for larger displays, and then optimize the fluid content for smaller displays. Others yet, with no real design experience, rely on templates to do the job for them. In my opinion, due to the small display, almost any responsive website is going to look fine on a phone. Looking really impressive on a larger display, on the other hand, requires a more sophisticated level of design skills that go far beyond just making a bigger version of the content that appears on a phone.

The End User Experience

When you want a customer to get from point A (your site’s point of entry, usually its Home page) to point B (the call to action, the reservation request), you do not want to send them through a maze. This is the same reason that there is a consistent clockwise traffic pattern in almost every major supermarket, where you enter into the produce, fresh bakery, and prepared foods departments; proceed to the deli, meats, dairy and frozen foods; then find the impulse items like candy bars and the National Enquirer at the checkout stands.

Navigating the supermarket aisles is an intuitive process that has been carefully crafted and fine-tuned to maximize sales. The same sort of formulas should apply to your website. People expect to find the navigation either at the top of the page or the left-hand column, floating so they do not have to scroll back up for access. The content should be presented intuitively, organized in a logical fashion that translates into page structure, and nobody should have to search or click to access essential contact information.

The Easiest Approaches

Most small business owners have been convinced in recent years that a content management system (CMS) is essential, giving them the ability to directly maintain their website content. Most have been persuaded that CMS is their key to escaping dependence upon webmasters who charge exorbitant fees and take forever to make changes, a situation which may be far from truthful. Another temptation is to use one of the many “free” website building tools that can be found online. One claims that you will “make a website in minutes … (with) zero code or design skills required”. If you do not quite want to do-it-yourself, another company claims that it will “build you a stunning website in 48 hours” for only $400 per year, including hosting and a domain name. In both instances, try to find a “contact” link on their websites with an address in the United States (or anywhere, for that matter). Then, before getting burned, do a Google search with one of those companies’ names followed by the word “complaints”.

There isn’t a single larger-sized business in America where the owner pretends to be his own webmaster. Can you imagine Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk working on his own website? Recognize the value of having professional guidance and valid marketing advice incorporated into your website. Probably the most important factor is hiring one of the many reputable companies with both an extensive and an intimate understanding of the campground industry. Your business depends upon making the right decision.

Part 2
The Acronyms

Continuing on the theme, allow me to address some of the acronyms that you will want to implement either on your existing website or its successor. These ideas apply whether your site has been built by a company that understands your business and industry, a computer-savvy kid down the road, or that person who you see in your mirror every morning.

CTA

No, not the Chicago Transit Authority, CTA in this instance stands for call to action, a marketing term that references the next step that you want your website visitors to take in order to finalize the intended transaction. Typically, this means guiding people from their point of entry on your site’s Home page to your reservation process. Without smooth navigation and an intuitive end user experience, there can be a disconnection that breaks that intended path from point A to point B. A call to action tends to present an incentive, whether real or perceptual, that keeps people on track and focused.

In an e-commerce environment, that incentive often takes the form of a limited-time discount, a purchase bonus, or free shipping. Another e-commerce incentive that applies to campgrounds takes the form of limited inventory. When somebody wants to camp on the Fourth of July, it is a safe assumption that the demand for campsites will far exceed the available supply. Subtly stress how people should “avoid disappointment” by making their reservations early, with an accompanying “click here to reserve now” link. If they need more information or would like to communicate with you first, be sure that every means of direct contact is immediately accessible, whether they would like to call, email, or send you a private message on a social media site. Both on your website and in any direct communication help them to visualize the difference between everything that your park has to offer versus staying home and dipping their toes in the inflatable kiddie pool in their back yard.

SEO

Whether or not they really understand how it works or what it means, every website owner is at least vaguely familiar with the concept of search engine optimization. Although SEO is treated as a profit opportunity by many website development companies, it is essential if you want your website to be found and highly indexed in online searches. Beware of companies (often contacting you via spam email or telemarketing calls) who promise you #1 search engine placement on Google. 99% of those are scams. You know those telemarketing calls. The caller ID probably shows a local phone number, you answer the phone, wait a second, then hear a “bloop” sound, followed by somebody from a boiler room in Bangalore who tells you his name is Michael. The same people might be calling you another day, pretending that they are from the “Windows Help Desk” or “Apple Care”, telling you that your Windows computer or iCloud account has been compromised and that they are coming to your rescue.

There are no magic wands or shortcuts to effective SEO. Some people try to automate the process, typically using website plug-ins, but there is nothing like carefully incorporating it into the construction of the site. Important components are a carefully written page title, description, proper alt tags behind photos and graphics, open graph content, and a data feed for search engine robots. Most importantly, carefully written text where keywords are king. Many people comment that few people read text these days. Well, my answer is that the 10% of people who still care to read will appreciate the text on your site, and search engine robots devour every word. Make them count!

GMB

Another very important SEO factor is your listing on Google My Business. Your Google My Business profile is extremely important and under your full control. Start by claiming your Business Profile if you have not done so already. Then check that all of the contact information is correct. This includes the name of your business; your correct address, phone number, and website address; and your hours. Your campground is open 24 hours a day, so don’t let potential guests see the word “Closed”. Of course, update these hours in your off-season.

Choose the most appropriate category for your business, if it is not already showing, then choose appropriate secondary categories. There are over 3,000 categories to choose from, so be specific. The most obvious choices are “campground” and “RV park”. You have little control over the description that Google shows; however, you can write a “from the business” description. Select attributes (such as “free Wi-Fi” or LP gas) listing any of the full range of your park’s amenities. Be sure to add (and update!) photos on a regular basis, showcasing only the best available images. You can even add videos and Google 360 videos, all of which help to create greater engagement. Speaking of engagement, ask your best customers to write reviews; post questions and answers; and set up messaging.

KISS

Far from being unique to website, the acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” should influence most aspects of marketing. Some people seem to think that, when it comes to websites, the more pages the merrier. Not true. Keep it simple and as concise as possible, with navigation that is consistent from page to page, that is located at the top of the page or the left-hand column, and is highly intuitive. Don’t make people guess because there is a chance they will guess wrong, and that is a source of frustration. For example, if the navigation says “Map”, does that mean your park’s Site Map, travel directions on Google Maps, or the “sitemap” of your website. Don’t waste clicks and your visitors’ time. Put your contact information on every page, without forcing people to click on a “Contact Us” link to access that information. Instead of just linking to your social media content, embed it into your Home page. Understand your target market, and ensure that your website is designed to appeal to those demographics – rather than missing the mark. Think smart!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Gimme Some Truth

November 15th, 2020

“Gimme Some Truth” is one of my all-time favorite John Lennon songs, originally released in 1971 as “Give Me Some Truth” on the Imagine album. It is a song of frustration that addresses the nearly ever-present deception that was running rampant at the time. The song was produced by Phil Spector and featured a slide guitar solo by John’s fellow former Beatle, George Harrison. The song later became the subject of a 2000 documentary film Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine Album. Perhaps even more relevant today than it was in 1971, Gimme Some Truth is the title of a new deluxe box set of 36 remastered recordings that was released on October 9, 2000 – what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday.

I have been thinking the words “Gimme Some Truth” to myself quite a bit lately, not only when I watch the news or when I am presented with online or television advertising, but when I read press releases right here within the campground industry. I have always been a believer in the glass being half full, rather than half empty, and there is certainly nothing wrong with presenting things in a positive light. The problem is when the positive light crosses the spectrum into the realm of absolute deception. Having spent my career in advertising, I know the importance of putting a positive spin on things, but there is a chasm – not a fine line – between a positive spin and alternative facts. Keep this in mind when promoting your own business.

It has always been my belief that with the exception of an occasional run-down park with owners who are overdue for retirement, there are very few undesirable campgrounds, despite what might be suggested by sometimes negative reviews. There are simply instances where, perhaps due to the way that a park has been marketed, the wrong campers choose to book a stay at the wrong campground. Every campground has its ideal clientele, and it is important that your park is not marketed in a way that presents itself as something that it is not, encouraging reservations by the “wrong” campers. It is far better to be booked at less than full capacity than to book even a single guest who will spell trouble.

There is a long list of characteristics that determine the types of campers to which any particular park will appeal. Determine where your park fits within these parameters, then formulate how to positively but accurately portray your park to the masses of campers who are seeking out a park exactly like yours.

  • Is your park considered large, or is it small?
  • Is your park located near major attractions, or is it in a remote setting?
  • Does your park offer non-stop activities, or does it offer guests an opportunity to relax and “get away from it all”?
  • If your park is next to a busy highway, you may want to promote easy access but not peace and quiet. You should also not promote a peaceful setting if your park is down the road from a shooting range, a kennel, or other source of frequent noise.
  • On the same token, do not promote dark skies at your park if the sky actually glows with the light from a nearby shopping center parking lot.
  • Does your park cater to seasonal campers? If so, do your transient campers find it difficult to feel welcome?
  • Does your park cater to big rigs? If so, if tents and pop-ups are allowed, do their owners feel out of place?
  • If your park caters to an older, retired clientele, are families still welcome? Will visiting grandchildren feel like they are in a reform school rather than a campground?
  • Is your campground at the upper scale of predominant rates in your area, or is it highly affordable?

Then there is a set of questions where the answers are not quite black and white, but where the wrong expectations can lead to serious misunderstandings and the ever-dreaded negative reviews:

  • If you say that pets are welcome, do you have a list of breeds that are not allowed? Telling a pet owner that his dog is part of a “vicious breed” is comparable to telling a parent that his child is ugly.
  • If Wi-Fi is provided at your park, are you describing its coverage, bandwidth and reliability without exaggeration?
  • If you say that your park is “handicapped accessible”, is your park truly making an effort toward ADA compliance?

Finally, in the midst of a pandemic, are you making everything as clear as possible prior to your guests’ arrivals?

  • Are you flexible in instances of cancellations and refund requests, particularly during a pandemic?
  • If activities and nearby events are either cancelled or subject to cancellation, and if nearby attractions are closed or operating under limited capacities, are you informing your guests to the best of your ability at the time of reservation?
  • If your guests are required due to either state regulations or simple common sense, to wear facemasks, practice social distancing or avoid assembling into groups, are those policies disclosed at the time of reservation?
  • If your store, snack bar, swimming pool, or other facilities are closed, operating with restrictions or require reservations for use, are your guests aware of those limitations prior to their arrival?

As you can see, many if not most problems arise from a lack of careful and honest communications, and those communications start well in advance of the time of registration. Try not to present your park with the words that you might think your potential guests might like to hear rather than an accurate and thorough description of what the park offers, what it doesn’t offer, and why the majority of your guests like it for exactly what it is. Life is too complicated, and running your business profitably is more challenging now than ever. Help yourself to succeed in that endeavor by treating your prospective guests to the truth that they deserve.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

The Reservation Software Decision

September 4th, 2020

I am probably asked which reservation software I recommend more frequently than any other question. My answer is generally the same each time, responding that I do not recommend any particular reservation software package over another. They all appear to have their advantages and disadvantages, and one that is right for one business may not be right for another. In the 2020 edition of the Woodall’s Campground Management Business Directory, there are 45 businesses listed under the “Reservation Management Systems & Software” category. Essentially, those are too many choices. What I invariably end up doing is to provide a list of questions to ask when comparing the various products on the market.

As with any business investment, you should select software based upon its ability to streamline your workload and increase your profitability. Reservation software is a long-term investment, which is why software is likely depreciated in your accounting and on your tax returns. Consistency is good, particularly when it means that you do not need to learn new processes and your customers are not required to adapt to something unfamiliar. As with anything online, the ultimate determination of success is a highly intuitive end-user experience.

Most reservation systems are part of a broader back office software suite, not simply standalone reservation engines, allowing you to manage your available inventory in real time. They might include customer relationship management and property management system functions. The more robust the package, the more useful the software will be as you manage not only your inventory of campsites and rental units but your overall customer base.

When people tell me that they would like to make a change from an existing software suite, I generally ask them why they are thinking about making a change. Are they contemplating the costs and the learning curve, which also applies to employees? What is it in particular that they dislike about their existing software? I then generally advise them to talk to their existing account representative to see if they can address the new concerns (that may, in fact, not have existed at the time of the original set up.) More often than not, the “problem” is a lack of communication with the existing supplier.

The Important Questions

First and foremost, what are the costs involved? Nothing of value in the business world is free of charge. Is there an initial purchase price, plus a fixed monthly fee or a per-transaction fee? If there are transaction fees, are you expected to pass those along to your customers or are you expected to absorb them into your pricing as a cost of business? Customers will balk at a hefty fee, and absorbing that same fee could seriously impact your profit margins.

Do you have to pay fees on ALL reservations, keeping in mind that most of your customers are finding you from your own website, not the reservation engine? Generally speaking, nobody likes to loosen the lid on a pickle jar, only to pay someone else to actually remove the lid. If you are going to be paying a fee only on stays that are booked through the reservation engine, is the reservation engine competing against your website in search results?

Beyond the pricing issue, here are what I consider to be a few essential questions to ask:

  1. Will you have an account representative assigned to your business to offer support during the setup process, the learning curve, and beyond? Are there limitations or costs to that technical support, or are you simply expected to watch (and understand) video tutorials?
  2. Does it support dynamic pricing? How flexible is your control of that pricing? Keep in mind that you are looking into a long-term investment. Even if you are not engaged in the use of dynamic pricing today, you are highly likely to do so within the foreseeable future.
  3. Does it allow you to determine either a flat or percentage reservation deposit?
  4. Does it allow users to reserve add-ons at the time the reservation is made? For example, can a guest reserve a golf cart, or perhaps linen service in a rental unit?
  5. Of course you expect the reservation process to be responsive, working on both computers and the full spectrum of mobile devices. Do they have a responsive widget that can be embedded into your website? If not, who is responsible for making your landing page look like your website?
  6. Does the reservation engine support languages other than English, not simply using Google Translate?
  7. Is the reservation process ADA compliant? PCI compliant? GDPR compliant (important for any reservations originating from the European Union.)
  8. Can the reservation engine integrate with Facebook, where many of your customers may be ready to book?
  9. If the landing page URL changes, will the old link redirect to the new destination page?

Also important, is the reservation software doing more than passively processing reservations? Does it allow you to follow up with users who do not actually complete the reservation process? E-commerce companies have long utilized “abandoned shopping cart” tracking software, with the understanding that somebody who went through 90% of the buying process is one of your best candidates to turn into a paying customer. Perhaps a person was sidetracked by a phone call, the needs of another family member, or it was simply time to call it a night. A little reminder will not hurt and can often resuscitate the otherwise uncompleted transaction. Choosing a real-time reservation services provider is a very important consideration, which is one of the primary reasons that so many park owners choose to go with a franchise system such as KOA. If you are the more typical unaffiliated “mom and pop” campground owner, you need to make this decision carefully. Too many people have been forced into making a hasty decision because their reservation services provider suddenly ceased operation. Do your homework and make your decision when you are not under duress, choosing a company that you expect to be a key player ten or more years down the road.

This post was written by Peter Pelland