Each new year invites ample personal resolutions, but what about resolving to strengthen your business in 2023? As a campground operator, devoting some R&D and TLC time to your annual business plan is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. We know it can be daunting to consider reinventing your campground management plan year after year. That’s why we’ve curated the top seven tips for campground operators from our Campspot Outdoor Almanac to help you build upon your seasoned base of camping knowhow.
The following statistics come from our survey of Campspot campers and campground owners and the supplemental report we compiled just for campground managers and operators. Use these insights as inspiration to chart a fresh course for campground management in 2023.
Top Tips for Campground Operators
1. Understand Your Core Audience
At Campspot, you’ll hear us speak often about each Campspot customer’s unique brand of camping. That is, there’s something special that sets your campground apart: uncommon amenities, historical significance, proximity to a famous attraction, a year-round theme, or otherwise. We always recommend keenly understanding what your unique brand of camping is and who it resonates with most. This is your core audience of customers—even if it’s all dogs!
For example, in our Almanac survey of campers, we found that 23% camp for family vacation time, 19% camp for relaxation, and 17% camp to be closer to the outdoors. In each of these examples, a unique brand of camping and marketing tagline emerges: “family-first park welcoming young children,” “couples retreat with a bookable massage therapist every weekend,” and “get lost in over three miles of wooded mountain biking trails.”
Because millions of first-time campers are set to hit the road in 2023, consider how your business can uniquely cater to them.
2. Adjust Your Rates
For the majority of campers, their per-trip budget is under $500. Unsurprisingly, 51% of guests also look for deals when booking their next camping trip. The common denominator here is your rates. While we recommend regular rate assessments and use of Campspot’s dynamic pricing feature year-round, now is a great time to evaluate your reservation rates by campsite type, season, proximity to amenities, and more.
A good place to start for this exercise is calculating the average amount spent per visit at your campground. (This can be calculated by taking your total spend and dividing it by your number of guests). Aside from lodging, this logic also extends to the activities or camp store purchases guests make while at your property. Once you have this baseline number, you will be able to make more informed rate adjustments and offer appropriate discounts.
3. Invest in Google Ads and SEO
Formerly known as AdWords, Google Ads is a necessary tool in your advertising box. In fact, 65% of Almanac respondents said Google search is their favorite way to find camping information, and 85% of campers turn to online search to find a new place to camp. By running Google search ads, you can bid to ensure your campground’s name pops up near the top of the results page when a camper searches keywords relevant to your ad.
If digital advertising is still foreign territory or you’re not ready to invest money, consider investing time into search engine optimization (SEO). This simply means ensuring that your campground website is following all of Google’s best practices to drive search traffic, like incorporating relevant keywords throughout your site and designing it in the most user-friendly way. Fortunately, Campspot already implements SEO best practices for its software customers through each park’s online booking page, but we highly recommend you review your main website in the new year, too.
4. Upgrade Main Infrastructure
The majority of campers (54%) said that bathrooms are their #1 amenity when choosing a campground, while 40% said internet access is top of mind. Campers want to unwind in nature without completely disconnecting from the common comforts of home. If the winter is your off-season, January through March could be the best time to upgrade your bathhouses and internet infrastructure. Before adding flashy new amenities to your property, consider the basic ways you can update existing necessities, such as the following:
- Install an electric hand dryer
- Expand laundry facilities
- Reglaze or re-tile showers
- Offer lotion and special toiletries
- Switch or upgrade your internet provider
These enhancements can make a significant impact on your guests’ experiences throughout their stay at your campground.
5. Take Property Photos and Videos
Did you know that campgrounds on Campspot with complete* Marketplace listings generate 20% more revenue than campgrounds with incomplete listings?
*A complete Campspot Marketplace Listing is defined as a park with 5 photos, an about description, and at least 1 photo per available campsite.
If you’ve made changes in the last year, early 2023 (depending on the local climate) may be an ideal time to capture fresh, high-quality photos of your property. If your region has already been graced by snow, mark a date on the calendar for late spring or early summer to photograph the grounds. If fall colors are in full bloom in your state, schedule a photo shoot in October and use these fall-themed images promotionally for advanced bookings the following year.
Documenting individual site types—a paved versus gravel RV site, or a standard versus waterfront tent site—provides crucial visual information to campers during the online booking process. Because most smartphones now have incredible cameras built in, you can also film a brief walking tour video so new guests can spatially experience the layout and feel of your park. Update these visuals in your Campspot booking platform and share them on social media to drum up excitement for the next camping season.
6. Include Furry Friends
If you’re a dog-friendly park, it might not surprise you that 26% of campground owners want to add a dog park to their property. Camping with pets is becoming an increasingly popular trend, and some RV owners even have live-in cat companions.
Now could be the best time to build or revamp a pooch-exclusive place at your property. If you don’t allow pets on property, consider if this policy still fits your brand of camping and the pros and cons of changing. Better to think through the new rules and revenue opportunities now if you do decide to convert later.
7. Plan Events in Advance
You can save considerable last-minute planning time and potential headaches by launching an annual events calendar ahead of your opening day. This gives both your staff and prospective guests plenty of notice for all the fun you’ll be offering throughout 2023. In fact, 52% of Almanac respondents said they like having the option to participate in campground activities and events during their stay, and 17% love these opportunities. Think through the best mix of events that your core camping audience would enjoy and the best event timing based on your seasonality.
Neither Rome nor (most) dog parks were built in a day. Take these tips as inspiration, but don’t feel the need to implement them all at once—you’re the expert of your campground. Most importantly, we wish you rest and refreshment as you recharge for another great year of camping. Happy planning and Happy New Year!
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.