Are you about starting an RV park business and need ideas to make it work? If YES, here are 20 practical tips on how to run an RV park business successfully.
Americans love the outdoors and this is why campgrounds and RV parks are seeing increased patronage in recent years. In fact, research has revealed that there are over 75 million households in the United States that go camping on a regular basis. Campgrounds have seen attendance rise steadily since 2014 even until the just ended year 2019.
People choose going camping over other forms of recreation because of its inherent benefits both health wise and financially. These reasons and more have seen people flocking to RV camping parks in droves. The same reasons have also seen the rise in businesses that operate RV parks.
With competition getting a bit stiff especially in certain locations, it now behooves on the RV park owners to set up modalities that can help them run a bit more smoothly, efficiently, and also make more money as they go along. To run an RV park successfully, you need to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeves. Here are some of the tips that can help your RV park business run on well-oiled wheels.
20 Practical Tips on How to Run an RV Park Successfully
- Know your space requirements
When starting a business newly, some entrepreneurs fall into the trap of over promising and under delivering. This is one way to kill your business on arrival. One of such things to take care of while advertising is your site spacing. The best spacing for your RV park would be 25 feet in width. A “comfort” zone begins to open somewhere around 27-28′, and 30-35′ offers a sense of openness.
While site length can vary to accommodate different sized RVs, to be able to attract the business of “big rigs” a length of approximately 75′ is needed. And if the anticipated RV traffic is going to be predominantly big rigs, your park will need to ensure it has a high percentage of sites that can accommodate them. Know your spaces and advertise accordingly.
- Try to accommodate both pull-though and back-in campers
There are two types of campers to expect at your RV park. They include pull-through and back-in campers, and your RV park can comfortably choose to accommodate either of them or both of them.
Pull through sites are unquestionably more popular than back in sites, though they are far less efficient when it comes to space utilization. pull through sites are usually more preferred by RVers who are staying only one night and plan on hitting the road again the next day.
Motorhome drivers don’t want the hassle of unhitching a tow car just for the night. Additionally, more than a few RVers are not confident about backing into a site, and will try to avoid parks that require that they do so.
Many parks survive nicely with only back in sites, but they are losing some business by not being able to accommodate those that will place a premium on a pull through site. So, it would be in the best interest of your RV park to accommodate the both campers.
- Make access to your RV park easy
One thing RVers consider before they choose a campground is ease of accessibility. Back in sites can be made easier for RVs to access if several considerations are made in the basic layout. If the site is at an angle to the roadway, RVers will not have such a sharp turn to negotiate.
And if the roadway is wide enough to accommodate a long rig’s turning radius, it will make the site seem easier for the driver. Important too is an interior road design that allows the backing vehicle to turn in the direction of the driver’s side of the motorhome or towing vehicle, rather than in the other direction.
Again, the site should be free of any side or overhead obstructions. Even a pull through site needs to be free of these same obstructions. Too often one finds a “pull through site” that simply “isn’t” pull through.
One might easily turn into a pull through site, and pull toward the front of the site only to notice a tree, rock, or light pole that will make exiting the site hazardous at best. If the RVer needs to detach a tow car, and back out of the site, and then reattach the tow car before leaving, he or she may not come back.
- Keep traffic in mind while planning your layout
As with the planning of a city, the flow of traffic inside an RV park can have positive or negative consequences, and this needs to be taken care of during the layout process. You must ensure that traffic is distributed as evenly as possible in your RV park, to minimize any possible congestion. One way traffic is the best here, so long as the streets are wide enough to allow big rigs to make all the turns easily.
Where two way traffic exists on interior roads, they need to be wide enough to allow for safe clearance of two large RVs passing each other in opposite directions — approximately 30′ width would be appropriate. You should also note that one way traffic can help even the incidence of RVs and cars driving past individual sites, and ensure that those closest to the entrance don’t bear a disproportionate amount of the traffic impact.
- Ensure that your roads have the proper paving
While RV parks offer all types of road and site surfaces, the higher the grade of that surface the happier the camper. It is a fact that RVers like paved interior roads — or at a minimum well graded interior gravel roads. “Dirt” is shunned by many, especially in climates that one might expect rain on a regular basis. No one relishes the idea of tracking in mud to soil an otherwise prisitine RV.
Black top on sites can be a nuisance for park owners if heavy rigs with mechanical leveling “legs” fail to place a block under them when they’re deployed, as it will soon damage the surface. It’s not uncommon to find gravel parking pads with concrete patios. In a damp climate, clean, high grade gravel with good drainage can be as effective as paved sites that may tend to create puddles. It would also save you some money.
- Ensure your sites are level
Most RV parks seem to neglect the succinct fact that RVers love level sites. It’s difficult for RVers to understand how an RV park can be constructed without paying attention to whether the sites are level — particularly where the surrounding terrain is essentially flat.
Many RVs have no on board system to level the RV. Where a site is not level, these folks will necessarily have to “bring out the blocks” and go through an aggravating series of trial-and-error attempts to make their inside space comfortable.
RVs with air leveling systems are quite limited in the amount of slope they can compensate for; and when the slope is excessive, they too must get out the blocks. This is one thing that has to be taken care of at the construction phase, but RV park owners all too often simply overlook it. If you want to preserve your image, make sure your park is level.
- Take Note of Utility Connection Placement
RVs always have their utilities on the driver’s side. And they are always somewhere in the back 1/3 of the RV. A typical water hose is a 25′ length; a typical electric cord is approximately the same length; and a sewer hose is usually either a 10′ or 20′ length — although in fact they only stretch easily to about 80% of those ratings.
There is simply no excuse for putting utilites other than where most RVs can easily reach them. But time and again RVers find that one or more of the utility connections are out of reach. “Placement” of utilities means more than horizontal distance — it refers to vertical distance as well.
Too frequently hookups are placed on unnecessarily tall posts that are so close to the side of the rig that campers either can’t use their slide room, or alternatively it blocks the doors to the coach’s utility connections. There are also loads of other placement mistakes that grieve campers and can as well cost you clients and visitors. These should be avoided at all costs.
- Clearly define your spaces
Studies have shown that RVers seem to develop a very strong ownership of their space, even though the said space is quite small. Campers prefer it if their space is defined, and hopefully by something more than striping on a blacktop surface.
Some parks use some type of privacy fencing for this purpose. It doesn’t actually block visual access between sites, but rather creates a sense of “my private place”. This is done too with trees and shrubs, though you should not allow these to become obtrusive of navigating into or out of the site.
Landscaping can be anything from simple to elaborate, with all variations in between. Perhaps the best landscaping is that which takes advantage of the parks natural setting, so that it blends in with the surrounding area, while still providing a measure of privacy and separation.
- Avoid Congestion at All Cost
It is all too easy for a an RV park to get congested at peak season, and this has to be avoided at all cost. Where there is insufficient space at the site for a motorhome’s towed vehicle, and no designated nearby parking area for it, it inevitably ends up in the street. As the park fills, so do the streets. And streets which seemed wide with no other RVs around suddenly become narrow — and even hazardous to navigate.
Moreover, corners that once looked like gentle, easy turns suddenly look like impenetrable roadblocks. If you want to be successful with your RV park, then plan it in such a way that you don’t have to deal with congestion at any point. This can put off future campers.
- Make Security a Priority
In recent years RVer concerns about security have increased. If for any reason a park doesn’t feel secure, the occupancy rate is likely to be impacted. It is reasonable to assume that the security factor plays an important role in the success of your RV park.
RV parks located in more urban areas may have more concerns on this issue than parks located in more remote areas. In extreme situations, fencing and a gated entrance may be required. Less populated areas are likely to generate a lower level of security “consciousness” among RV guests — but it surely cannot be ignored anywhere.
Many park locations have natural barriers, such as a shoreline or other topographical features, which should be considered when analyzing the security requirements for a park. Whatever level of security is deemed appropriate, the RV guest needs to sense that the park’s management has recognized the importance of providing a secure location, and has taken appropriate steps to provide for it.
- Know the Most Essential Site Amenities to Provide
While primitive camping will always have its rightful place, it’s a fact of life that today’s RVer has an expectation of certain levels of comfort while enjoying the RV lifestyle. This is basically what led to the phenomenal growth of high end diesel pushers plus towables.
These units have virtually every convenience of a modern home. Full hookups at the site now means 50 amp service, water, sewer — and very often cable and an instant phone hookup. The demand for a cable TV connection is still significant, although many RVs will be equipped with their own satellite dish.
The demand for a phone hookup at the site, while extremely popular only a couple of years ago, appears to be diminishing because RVers really don’t need the phone connection to place telephone calls, since they typically have cell phones. Instead they want data access for their computer — for doing internet research and for email.
Increasingly, RVers are favoring parks that can meet all of their needs for site amenities, with high speed internet access becoming an increasingly important issue in an RVer’s choice of an RV park. These parks have learned that the marketing potential of offering “free” WiFi far outweighs any fee sharing that would have been available from contracting with an outside provider.
- Know your campers
To be successful with your RV park, you have to make it a point to thoroughly research who is coming to your new park. If it is primarily young families with children, you will need some set of attractions like a playground, a game room, or a swimming pool.
But these would be very poor choices if the target audience turns out to be mostly adults without children. While a pool might still be an option, perhaps a spa would do as well. Or a putting green. You may also consider an indoor room to accommodate pool players. You can have a library, or perhaps a “computer room” with several PCs having high speed internet connection for guest use.
But never to be overlooked is the natural attraction of the location of the park. If it’s on the ocean, it would be the beaches. If on a lake, it could be boating and swimming. If in the mountains, perhaps the views, or a nature trail is what makes the park unique.
- Be Partial to Groups
RVers are social animals. Many belong to groups of RVers who share like interests. Some groups are far too large for most parks to accommodate. Others are as small as just a few rigs. But the “club market” can be an important ingredient in a successful business plan for an RV park.
Any park that wants to participate in this segment of the market simply has to have facilities to support the basic needs of the size group it would like to attract. This is usually some sort of common facility available for group use.
Typically it should have basic kitchen facilities to support the always popular RV “pot luck” meal; and it should include the ability to host a group for meetings, whether for club business, or educational presentations, or similar events.
The more attractive and extensive the club facilities, the more success it will have in attracting RV clubs for events at the park. Group gatherings not only serve to increase occupancy during peak seasons, but also provide an opportunity to attract local RV clubs to the park during the slow season as well.
- Keep Your Business Closer to Your Campers
For the foreseeable future RVers are always going to favor closer destinations; and places where they will be comfortable staying for longer periods of time. This has negative implications for locations that, regardless of their appeal for other reasons, can only be reached by driving long distances.
In all cases RV parks would do well to consider setting aside space for RV storage — so that RVers can leave their rigs and return on weekends, or otherwise periodically. It’s likely that trends in fuel costs might also favor the use of a more significant number of rough cabin spaces for guests without RVs.
- Seek Professional Guidance When Needed
It is highly advisable for prospective park owners to consider seriously seeking some level of guidance and input from someone experienced and qualified as an RV park consultant. This expertise is a valuable resource that can be of tremendous help. To be able to get a realistic assessment of the business potential of a new (or even upgraded) RV park requires knowledgeable analysis.
And the design stage of any park requires a thorough understanding of what features would be appropriate to that particular location, taking into consideration the characteristics of the “natural market” for that park. A newbie may not have all these information, that is why it is very necessary to contact an expert.
- Keep the Seasons in Mind
The analysis which is described above is also useful in helping to forecast the impact of something that is a major concern to most parks — the length of the “season”. Many of the RV parks in more northern lattitudes that enjoy a brisk summer season may either be closed or operate with high vacancy rates in winter months.
A very few locations will not be significantly affected by the changing seasons, such as for example San Diego, California, that has year-round appeal. Florida is another example of year-round attraction.
However most locations throughout the United States will find they have a high demand “in season”, and very low occupancy “in the low season”. It’s important to know just how long the high season will be, because reliable financial projections will depend on a realistic assessment of this factor.
- Make it all Legal
Your new venture requires quite a bit of paperwork to make sure that you are operating on sound legal footing. First, you need to establish yourself as a business entity, most likely as an LLC or a corporation. Both these option provide you with some personal financial asset protection if your business encounters any legal issues.
Also check on zoning regulations for your area to be sure you can operate commercially in the area you have chosen and file for the proper construction permits.
Also, thoroughly research all the regulations for operation within state guidelines concerning public water usage, waste water disposal, sewer, burning, and utility usage and that you maintain the proper licensing. You should also consider business insurance as a means of protecting yourself in the event of a loss or liability situation.
- Pick Your Niche
Although it’s not really necessary, but it is a good idea to think carefully about whether or not you want your RV camping park to have a focus. For instance, some parks cater to business retreats, whereas some others lean toward creating camps that are attractive to groups of children.
Thinking this over not only helps inspire you but also shows you more avenues you can market to your target audience. It isn’t that your park could be used solely by those groups, but that the park is crafted with them in mind, from amenities to advertising.
- Give Advertisement a Priority
Some companies out there specialize in promoting RV camping parks, and these are worth exploring. It used to be enough to have your name in camping guides, but with social media and a much broader market, it’s vital to diversify your approaches as well as target your markets to keep your park full. If you wish to try marketing your RV camping park yourself, that’s doable, too.
Join the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds to be listed. Develop a social media presence with beautiful pictures of your park and its amenities. You should also consider hiring someone to make a fully responsive website that enables people to reserve camping space.
- Don’t Make It Hard
Keeping everything as streamlined as possible for easy checkin and checkout can mean the difference between a good and great experience. Checkin is a customers first interaction with you and this is not even talking about the day they arrive. Your impression starts when they book. Whether they book online or by phone, making it easy and comfortable is vital.