How did you join the camping industry? Maybe it was a passion for the outdoors. A family legacy.  Perhaps you were looking for a new adventure or business opportunity. Regardless of your path, we’re guessing you don’t get out of bed every morning excited to write cancellation policies and determine your campground rules and rates. Yet, these elements of your operations are essential to your overall success and ability to grow your business. 

To break down the process and make it a breeze, we spoke with Marcia Neese, owner of Riverwalk RV Park. In this post, we share her wisdom in the hopes that it helps fire you up to write a cancellation policy that’s clear, informed, and well-suited to your business and campers’ needs. 

Why Create a Cancellation Policy? 

While you want your guests to enjoy themselves and have a relaxing experience, structured rules and guidelines—while they might seem like a drag—can actually ensure a guest’s experience is a positive, frictionless experience.  A cancellation policy is a great way to be upfront and transparent with your guests about your business’s unique rules. By spelling out the details for them, you’ll avoid any surprises or misunderstandings along the way. 

Online Cancellations Are Unique to Your Park

Riverwalk RV Park is a destination park located in Jonesville, North Carolina, that is often very busy with weekend traffic and events. Guests can time their visits during an ax-throwing competition, or visit local wineries, restaurants, and more! With 48 transient campsites, they needed to write a cancellation policy that reflected their specific business model. In our conversation with Marcia, she stressed the importance of building a policy that works for you. There is no “cookie-cutter” solution or verbiage that fits all cases of the industry. Marcia also stated, “More is better when writing a cancellation policy. Do not be vague. Guests can know what is expected and it makes things easier for desk help to advise with a more thorough policy.” If you review their online cancellation policy you will notice a detailed outline of rates and refunds. 

Accepting Online Cancellations Through Email

Some aspects of the hospitality industry allow for cancellation via email. At Riverwalk RV Park, they do not accept cancellations through that channel. All disclosure is only seen through their website and by allowing email cancellations, it opens the door for a lot of back and forth. By limiting this option, they can protect their time as well as ensure all guests see their policy on their website.

Cancellation Policies Protect Your Investment

As demand for campsites continues to grow, the need for cancellation policies has become increasingly apparent. Guests, afraid to not get a campsite at all, may prematurely book only to cancel and rebook later. Campgrounds, on the other hand, may face a larger number of last-minute cancellations because of weather forecasts or plans changing and rush to fill last-minute occupancies. With holidays, in particular, campers often book very far in advance—even up to a year. Marcia noted that campgrounds need to be very strict with their policies around holidays. Protect your time and investments with a cancellation fee and a limited refund policy the closer the cancellation occurs to the stay. As you will ultimately still experience cancellations, knowing you have protected your time and investment will help elevate the inconvenience. 

Another point to consider is weather forecasts and cancellations. Marica noted a recent change to their policy that served to eliminate campers canceling from weather forecasts. By breaking down their policy into day increments, they could offer refunds or campground credit depending on the notice a camper would provide. 

Do Strict Cancellation Policies Reduce the Number of Overall Reservations? 

Cancellations are a key piece of campground management and should be built with consideration to your park’s needs and investment. In the case of Riverwalk RV Park’s season, they experienced their first year with an increased cancellation policy. Even with this change cancellations did not slow but all rebooked within 30 second to a minute later. Remember, guests are modern consumers who encounter cancellation policies in many facets of their lives. While it’s possible you may deter a few campers, ultimately you’re safeguarding the overall experience of your guests, and the financial stability of your business.  

Key Things to Consider Including 

  • Required deposits, if they are requested for specific types or lengths of stays
  • The amount you will refund depending on how far in advance the cancellation is made  
  • How you handle “no shows” 
  • If and how your holiday reservation policy differs from your normal policies 
  • Which circumstances qualify for a refund 
  • Late check-in rules 
  • Where to go to answer questions or for further assistance 

Where Should the Cancellation Policy Live? 

In order to ensure that guests agree to your cancellation policy, it’s important to make it a seamless part of their booking experience. As a best practice, be sure to use a reservation software that offers the ability for guests to view your cancellation policy when they book. By ensuring they are able to view your terms, you maintain transparency and allow you to follow up later in a way that’s expected. 

As you build your own cancellation policies and park rules, be sure to explore other campgrounds and parks that are similar to yours. Remember to build a policy that works for you and note what others have included and found helpful. By building out structure to your cancellation policy, you can save yourself stress and future headaches while providing great customer service to a thriving industry.