Some Mid-Summer Thoughts

As the summer goes on, the House Committee on Infrastructure & Transportation and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works are hard at work trying to develop a plan for a new Federal Highway Program to succeed the current program (TEA-LU) that expired some time ago. The new legislation is obviously tied closely to efforts in both Houses and in both parties to reduce the federal deficit.

Why the park industry should be concerned: All visitors to RV parks and campground travel over the nation’s road system. The condition of the roads and highways, the bridges and tunnels, and the ancillary services and components (rest areas, highway signage, services for passenger and tourist buses, and the connections between varying modes of travel) are all important to RVers and campers. The ability for RVers to travel safely and in a timely manner from home to their destinations play a large role in how often and how far RVers will go to enjoy the parks and places they wish to visit.

The federal highway program also provides funding for development and promotion of scenic byways, recreational trails, welcome centers, and other important tourist and traveler needs.

Where to reduce the federal highway program in order to contribute to the lowering of federal spending in the coming years is the problem facing the House and Senate. Early indications seem to indicate that many of the programs that are specific to tourism and travel may be trouble.

The National Park industry needs to stay on top of this issue. Failure to maintain important travel and tourist related programs at some reasonable level will have a long term impact on park businesses. That impact may not be dramatic, but it will be more like a slow leak that isn’t a big deal for one year, maybe for two years but as the leak goes on for more years, the impact will become obvious.

Another Discount Club Comes Calling

It took a while but it’s here now: the latest discount club, brought to us by the Family Motorcoach Association.

Just this morning news of new FMCA Campground Connection program arrived in the mail. FMCA is now creating the Campground Connection, a way for park owners to generate income by selling $40 a year FMCA memberships and keeping the first year’s dues from each membership they sell. And in return for the privilege of helping build FMCA’s membership, the parks need only provide a 10% discount to FMCA members! What a deal. Why didn’t I think of that?

Up to now, parks could become Commercial Members of FMCA and were promoted to the FMCA membership in return for their membership. No discounts necessary.

It looks like now FMCA is locked in a new battle for the minds and hearts of the RVer with Good Sam Enterprises, Camp Clubs of America (incidentally owned by Good Sam Enterprises), Escapees, Freedom Resorts, the Happy Camper Club, Passport America and probably several other discount groups. And KOA’s Value Card holders and Leisure Systems’ Club Yogi offer similar discounts to its loyal customers.

Last month, Go Camping America, ARVC’s national on-line directory of members, jumped into the discount game by offering a limited time 20% off camping deal at participating parks on Go Camping America. It would surprising only if ARVC wasn’t now considering if and how it might launch its own Go Camping America Camping Club with a discount at parks listed on Go Camping America – ARVC members.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any hotel chain that’s offering me a regular discount when I join their frequent visitor club. Or is there an airline that offers discount to frequent flyers?

We all know that almost every park that honors any discount program, will honor any other card that is presented and carries the same level of discount. So if a guest arrives with an FMCA card at a park that is part of the Good Sam park program and not FMCA, will the park deny the FMCA card discount? Doubt it. And if they try to sell the guest a card in their program and the guest declines to buy it, will the park not grant the discount anyway?

Seems like a big discount trap being set out there. The only way to avoid it may be to not accept any discount cards and concentrate on providing great camping experiences that compensate for the lack of a 10% discount. Everyone will always tell you that they’d prefer to pay a bit more for a great experience then a bit less for a just ok vacation. And 10% is certainly just a bit more (especially after you put all kinds of restrictions on the 10% saving).

Stay Alert…

During the week of July 18th, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story pointing out that hacking computer systems and data theft were rapidly moving down the food chain to small business. With the papers daily reporting on major computer system break-ins and the theft of data from large banks and consumer companies, this article talked about a small retail outlet that experienced theft of its data stored in its cash register system � theft of credit card information, customer information, and sales records.

The moral of the story? As the big companies become more and more sophisticated in protecting their data and systems, the hackers and thieves are simply moving to the new low hanging fruit � small companies and businesses that lack the resources and knowledge to properly protect themselves from hacking and theft. Best to pay attention and take the necessary precautions to assure the security of all of your business and guest data.