One of our team’s favorite aspects of working within the outdoor hospitality industry is the diversity of owners and managers we have the pleasure of working with—from all walks of life and corners of the continent, each with a story to tell as unique as their brand of camping. Kate McLeod is one such owner who exemplifies the top traits of our industry: personable, genuine, and committed to providing nothing less than the best guest experience. As her campground management journey progressed, Katie chose Campspot to help make her commitment possible across all three of her properties. From branding and team building to online software advice, read her story below to learn how her decision to prioritize guest experience led to her success.
Called to Camping
Campspot: Hi Katie, tell us about your journey to become a multi-park campground owner.
I think my journey is a bit different from most other campground owners. To start, I’m the youngest campground owner I know. I also lived abroad for many years, first in Beijing, China for four years. I got my Master’s Degree in Aberdeen, Scotland while living there for almost two years. I also met my husband in Beijing. We then moved to Brazil together and lived there for a while.
When it came time for us to come home to the U.S., I knew I wanted to go into business for myself and invest in something longterm for my future. If you look at the numbers, the average RV park is a relatively low cost buy-in considering what you get for the investment. I grew up in a very outdoorsy family and have been camping since I was, gosh, a baby! Because I was very passionate about camping already and it made sense business-wise, buying an RV park was a natural entrepreneurship path for me.
Campspot: What do you enjoy most about working in the campground management space?
I think the RV and camping industry is unique in the way that it brings so many different people together. You get to meet and interact with a more eclectic set of people than you would otherwise in life. I’m actually a trained therapist. I graduated from Touro University with an M.A. n Family and Marriage Therapy and from University of Aberdeen with a masters in Perceptual Psychology. I’m a real people person, so I find working in campgrounds very fulfilling because I’m always in contact with a lot of people. If you think of other types of real estate and investment deals, you don’t necessarily get the same depth and variety of human interaction as you do through campgrounds.
Campspot: As co-owner of Quilly’s Campgrounds, how is your husband involved in park management with you?
He’s an architect by trade and is helping with a major expansion at one of our properties right now. Recently, he designed a clubhouse and pool for our other RV park. He designed all of our park websites, maps, and our logo, too. Needless to say, my husband does so much for me and our businesses.
Building a Brand and Curating a Special Guest Experience
Campspot: Can you describe your properties and what distinguishes them?
The first park I bought was Quilly’s Magnolia RV Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I love this place because it’s conveniently located off a major intersecting highway and by restaurants while still being nestled away on a secluded street. Driving into the park, guests are welcomed by the big trees and green space. Even though the park is in a more populated area, it’s super idyllic and you feel really tucked in. This location also has a pool, dog park, and playground. People tend to stay here to visit Vicksburg’s many historical sites such as the National Military Park, go on river tours, and or check out the regular BBQ competitions.
Quilly’s Cozy Traveler is a gated boutique park with 30 pads in Oyster Creek, Texas. It’s right across the street from Oyster Creek and the municipal park. Our guests appreciate the close proximity to fishing and the nature reserve with nice views all around. We try to preserve as many trees on the property as possible while still providing concrete RV pads, which is more difficult to do. We’re south of Houston and just eight miles from multiple beaches on the Gulf.
Quilly’s Big Fish is fantastic and so much prettier in person than in the pictures—and we’ve had professional photography taken! We have four ponds that have been stocked with fish for 20 years, so the fish are really big and established. The lots are staggered to make them more spacious and private. Some sites border the ponds and others back up into a large wooded area. There’s also over a mile of walking trails on site. Being so close to Corpus Christi and the oceanfront, this site is a huge destination for winter Texans who want to thaw out farther south.
Campspot: Although they’re clearly each unique, would you say there is a single theme across all Quilly’s parks?
Absolutely. While I didn’t build any of these parks from scratch, I spent a lot of time picking them out to make sure they really fit my aesthetic and vision. RV camping can often feel like you’re just in a glorified parking lot. That’s something I never want guests to feel while at my parks. Guests can feel the difference when you care and invest in curating a special experience just for them. That’s why a Quilly’s park is always a place where campers can have a relaxed stay and rediscover nature in an urban setting.
Campspot: What are some ways you market your unique brand of camping online?
I post on our business Facebook and Instagram pages every day and regularly share video reels on TikTok. I also have a YouTube that I post to regularly. Making behind the scenes and “get to know our managers” type of content is especially fun for the people who are at the park. They get to know us and know we are authentic. If a guest has tagged our business or shared a photo from their stay on social media, we always re-share it, which is an easy way to amplify positive reviews.
Through Google Ads and Analytics, we’re always trying to improve our websites’ search engine optimization (SEO). The main reason is to make sure everything is optimized to accurately show guests what they will experience when they arrive. Even in my everyday vernacular, I’m constantly talking about helping people discover nature in a relaxed state. I’m living and breathing the Quilly’s brand!
Campspot: I love your enthusiasm for your businesses. What do you have planned next?
We actually have a big expansion underway at Quilly’s Magnolia. My husband and I worked with a landscape architect who specifically designs for RV parks to emphasize the property being embedded in nature. We’re adding 28 premium spots with extra space and privacy. Although, we chose to maximize the guest experience rather than the number of new spots the park could physically hold. We widened existing roads and built the new RV pads at the right angle for big rigs to back in and pull-thru with ease. Because traveling is stressful, being in the RV park shouldn’t be.
At Quilly’s Big Fish, we’re adding the new pool and clubhouse my husband designed. The great thing about Texas is that you can swim all year long, and I’m so excited to be able to provide that amenity now. We already host a monthly potluck, but now if the weather is bad it won’t matter because guests can go in the clubhouse. We’ll also be able to host regular bingo nights.
Delivering the Best Experience and Providing a Magical, Natural Place Without Worry
Campspot: As a newer campground owner, what would you say is the guiding north star for your businesses?
I think a lot about how I would want to be treated and experience staying in my parks if I were a guest. I’d want it to be a magical, natural place where I can relax without worry. That sentiment guides me, and that’s why I’m always trying to improve the guest experience. I mentioned before I’m a huge people person, which is why I love to bring the community together at my parks through expanded gathering areas, potlucks, you name it.
Campspot: Given the properties’ physical distance apart, how do you accomplish it all?
When I took ownership of the parks, I built my management teams, starting at Quilly’s Magnolia. Getting to grow my own team was really amazing because I was able to hire people who truly shared in my vision of providing stellar customer service, wanting to learn, and seeing exactly what I saw in my business. They’re an extension of the Quilly’s brand and I couldn’t do it without them.
For example, I have an amazing management team that lives in Rockport at Quilly’s Big Fish, which is also my home base. I travel to Vicksburg about once a month, visiting my sister along the way. Aside from my amazing manager, Tiffany, I’m able to do everything remotely for Quilly’s Cozy Traveler and guests receive gate access codes.
Lastly, Campspot helps keep everything organized for me. I log in wherever, open the reservation grids, and can easily see exactly how things are looking at each park.
Campspot: That’s a great transition. How did you first learn about our software?
All the parks that I bought were doing pen and paper reservations, which was pretty shocking to me in 2021 and I knew was a no-go for us. I researched many different software providers. During one software demo, while the backend user navigation and look were pretty good, I thought the guest booking experience was just not up to par. For me, the customer experience is a deal breaker.
Other shortcomings were systems being too clunky or the set up too arduous. Having a high buy-in from the owner’s end is problematic, too, because what if we try it and hate it? When I found Campspot, I thought the user experience was the best. I was also drawn to Campspot because there is no upfront buy-in or locked-in commitment. I’ve been a Campspot user for a year and a half now.
Campspot: Can you speak more to why you prefer online booking over pencil and paper?
During the first week of ownership, the stress I felt using a paper reservation system was unbearable—50 notecards, a spreadsheet, and a big headache. I would be mortified if someone showed up to my park and they didn’t have a spot when they made a reservation. I wanted to remove human error from the process.
As part of Quilly’s customer experience, I believe booking should be as easy as possible. I don’t ever want there to be a time when a guest is struggling to book at our park. At two o’clock in the morning with an online system, my guests can book their reservation, know their spot, and get all of the discounts they’re supposed to.
Even before someone shows up at Quilly’s, they should have a pretty good idea of what to expect and receive good communication from us. For winter Texans, it’s a big deal where you’re going to book because you’re going to stay there for three to four months. If you are having a bad booking experience, the process is so much more stressful. As I said before, traveling is already stressful enough. The booking experience shouldn’t be.
From the Campspot booking page, it’s clear to a guest that their reservation was made correctly, payment was accepted, and that more information is on its way. Campspot automatically emails guests on our behalf confirming their stay and sends another reminder email closer to arrival. If you’re traveling across the country, you often forget what campgrounds you’ve even reserved at. Campspot makes sure that you don’t forget and have all of the information you need.
Campspot: What are your favorite Campspot software features?
My favorite aspect is simply booking online. The grid optimization feature is obviously great because every manager is trying to get the most people into their park without overlapping sites or nights. Campspot’s feature eliminates the guesswork and shuffles sites for you.
If you get into campground software, you want it to be intuitive for both operators and campers. Before Campspot, I was really intimidated to set up metering for our long-term stays for the first time. Then I started using Campspot’s built-in metering function, which led to less mistakes and happier campers. Guests can see a metered record on their bill in an organized and consistent layout. The customer knows they are being taken care of and that means everything to me.
Campspot: How would you describe our software to someone who is new to it?
In one word, refreshing. The platform is un-intimidating, and that’s surprisingly difficult to find.
Campspot: What would be the main reason you would recommend Campspot to other campground owners?
If optimizing the guest experience and being on the cutting edge resonates with you, then Campspot will resonate with you—and that is what got me. Campspot’s desire to build the best online booking experience and my desire to provide the same for my guests aligned. The campers love it, too. We’re all aligned.
It’s also really nice that Campspot provides good help. The support professionals know you and what you’re going through. There’s never been a time when I’ve received bad customer service. I love Campspot. If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing then maybe I’d want to work for Campspot!
Thanks to Quilly’s
We want to thank Katie for providing her time and expertise during this interview. We echo the importance of her business philosophy to elevate, optimize, and maximize the guest experience to fit your brand. In the spirit of growing together, thanks for taking the time to hear her story and what she’s learned along the way. We hope it inspires the best for your business.
Do you have a story you’d like to share with other campground owners? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons, such as skiing up north in the winter and scuba diving the Great Lakes in the summer. A former Campspot marketing employee, Haley is pursuing a Master of Science degree at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. She is passionate about solving the world’s sustainability challenges, enjoys performing improvisational comedy, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.