And a Happy Halloween to all. As we head into the winter, I thought I’d share some Fall thoughts about the park industry and some things I’m currently involved in that may or may not be of interest.
Having been associated non-stop with the park industry since 1987, there are very few hats I’ve not worn at one time or another from serving as ARVC’s President to Virginia Campground Associations’ executive director to park owner to consultant to founding Best Parks in America to being ARVC’s lobbyist and Washington Representative. So, it seemed to me it was time to take on some voluntary role with the industry and in September, I threw my hat in the ring for an ARVC board of directors seat representing the Supplier Council.
By the time you read this, my industry political career will either be over or just beginning. With 4 highly qualified candidates running, as in politics generally, the outcome today is certainly uncertain. I hope to have the opportunity to serve on the board and use my experience and industry knowledge to help the association become stronger in the coming years. However it turns out, I’ll still be around and working to strengthen the industry and help clients and friends become even more successful.
Ever hear the term? It’s using technology applications to change (disrupt) the traditional business model in an industry. It’s also sometimes synonyms with the “shared economy” where individuals can share their assets with others to generate revenue from those assets.
Uber and Lyft are extremely well known companies that are disrupting the traditional taxi and car ride industry using technology to empower individuals to use their own vehicle (an asset) and their own time to generate revenue by offering a ride service. The technology is amazing – you download the company application (or app), provide a credit card number for payment, enter your location and destination and hit submit. Almost immediately you get a response with the name and photo of your driver and the car, the number of minutes until pick up, the estimated fare and then you can track the driver’s progress to your location – a little car moving along the map showing you where your driver is. The driver arrives, takes you to your location and you’re done. Payment is automatic and you get a receipt and a request to review the driver by email. Wow. Try it. You will like it.
The other well known disruptive company is Airbnb. This company uses a technology platform to allow individuals with rooms to rent to make those rooms available to travelers looking for a unique and most often less expensive accommodation when they’re on the road. As with Uber and Lyfte, the system is based on technology that matches the host with the traveler, allows for a back and forth communication, reviews of both parties for others to see and a seamless payment transaction. As an alternative to a traditional hotel model, Airbnb empowers the hosts to use their assets (rooms or space) to generate revenue while enabling travelers to secure reasonably priced accommodations that otherwise might not be available.
Is disruptive technology coming to the campground and RV park business? You bet it is. At least two companies, RVwithme.com and Hipcamp.com are already out there providing rural and back country camping opportunities.
And word has it that another new company, byoRV.com is about to hit the street as well. This company is focused on using technology to allow RVers to locate RV overnight parking in suburban and urban areas where generally there are no campgrounds that provide easy access to these populated areas. byoRV will use its technology to pair property hosts with parking space for an RV with RVers looking for space in close proximity to populated areas – cities, major tourist attractions, hospitals, festivals, sporting events and family festivities. Here too, the transactions and interactions between the property hosts and RVers will be handled on line with direct communications before the reservation is made and post-stay reviews both critical to the smooth operations.
I would expect that some campground owners might anticipate that this model will be disruptive to their business. In the case of Uber and Airbnb, the systems have become so popular worldwide that the companies are being widely accepted in almost every location. Just last week, Sarasota, Florida removed most city regulations from traditional taxis when they tried to apply those regulations to Uber. Uber threatened to pull out of the market if they were forced to adhere to taxi regulations. Rather than lose Uber, the Sarasota City Council removed almost all regulation from all ride services.
How do you feel about these business models? What do you think about the byoRV.com model? Investments in many disruptive technologies have proved to be extremely strong. byoRV.com is raising funds and looks to expand worldwide – wherever RVs are sold and used byoRV will have potential customers. Would love to hear any comments from readers. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing & Discounts
Most park owners know the various ways to market and advertise their parks. Social media via Facebook, TripAdvisor, Twitter and Pinterest. Former guest and other email addresses from shows or phone inquiries get an e-newsletter promoting special events. Some print advertising in state and maybe a national directory or two. Listings on a few websites like Go Camping America, state tourism office websites, local chamber or tourism websites. And maybe RV and camping shows in primary markets.
Within all of these marketing avenues, the one feature that seems to be consistent is the inclusion of a discount of some sort to attract campers. No matter how successful the park, no matter the location, no matter how good the reviews, pricing still seems to get the most attention of the park owner and the potential guest.
With this in mind, a new website is about to make its debut in the park business – campgrrounddiscounts.com! This will be a central on-line catalogue or compendium of campgrounds that offer discounts on a regular basis (i.e. Good Sam or a regular mid-week discount), on a select basis (Passport America or a special park promotion or shoulder season), or to special audiences (military, seniors). Parks using the site to promote their discounts will be able to post last minute “specials” as well as its on-going discounts.
RVers will be able to search for parks on devices based on their location as they travel or by city and state search.
Be on the lookout for the introduction of this new marketing venue. If there’s anything RVers like better than RVing, it’s RVing at a discount! The new site is being managed by David Gorin Associates