TIPS FOR RV PARK OWNERS
Below is a collection of miscellaneous suggestions, recommendations and comments which we believe represents a "consumer view" of RVer preferences with respect to the parks they select. Collectively we think consideration of these items will not only assure greater satisfaction among RVer guests, but will also have a positive impact on the success of the RV parks which will have a "high score" on these items.
Make Sure Your Guests Have Internet Access: Back in the 1990swe encouraged all RV parks to be "modem friendly" -- making sure guests had access to a phone line in a convenient location to check their email. But with changing times, "modem friendly" has become a symbol associated more with "horse and buggy". Favored parks now offer high speed access to their guests. Some use an outside service provider and charge a fee -- sometimes so substantial we think it will have negative occupancy consequences. Increasingly parks are seeing high speed access as a marketing opportunity, rather than a new revenue source. So they're offering it for free. This is clearly now the established trend. Just as more and more motel chains are competing for new business by offering "Free High Speed Internet", RV parks are doing so as well. However, the quality of wireless services has become a matter of growing concern to RVers as well. It's not enough to SAY you offer a high speed internet connection -- you need to ensure it's a quality signal useable throughout the park. Word of mouth in the internet age is powerful, and one of the key things RVers discuss among themselves, and in online forums, is access to a quality wireless signal.
Simple Restroom Upgrades: Most RVers will have a far better reaction to your restroom and shower facilities if you ensure that two low-cost features are present. The first is the ordinary clothes hook -- and lots of them! When guests enter your facilities to they have an easy place to hang a coat or jacket? In your showers are there ample hooks for hanging clothes AND a towel? And in the shower stalls have you provided some type of mat that your guests can use while drying off? Or may they be forced to stand in a puddle of water left by the last careless guest? These items seem so very simple -- yet we are amazed at how many RV parks fail to take note of them, resulting in a negative guest impression.
Make Friends with your Local Visitor Center: Many towns and areas visited by RVers have some type of visitor center or tourist bureau, whether it be the local Chamber of Commerce or some other local agency. RVers really use these places, and among other things will frequently ask "what RV park do you recommend"? We were once in a small Utah town, and staying at the park rated highest by Trailer Life. We felt a bit "unwelcome" at the front desk, and there were so many negative signs around one had the feeling this may not be the friendliest option. When we later were at the local visitors' center, we saw other RVers come in to ask "where to stay". We were not surprised when the answer directed them to another park, which was described as "the friendliest place in town". We suspect a LOT of business is diverted from the "highly rated" park to a "friendlier park" in this manner.
Take Charge of your Website! We know from personal experience how simple it is to maintain even a large website. It is something most park owners or managers could do themselves at minimal cost. So many of the park websites we see -- while certainly helpful -- are in effect not really much more than a "Billboard on the Internet's Superhighway". You read it once for the information you may want at that moment, but you have no reason ever to go back there again. We think park owners should consider ways to make their sites something that will invite readers back periodically. Perhaps it is to read a newsletter about special events scheduled in the park, or in the surrounding area. Perhaps it's a place to collect and publish customer questions and comments. Perhaps it is to invite suggestions and recommendations, or better yet stories about what your guests have seen and done while staying with you. Whatever you choose, be sure to keep your site freshly updated, and try to add new information (replacing old items) frequently. It's cheap, it's simple, and it will greatly leverage the benefit of your website.
Create a Newsletter: Invite your guests to subscribe to a periodic newsletter that lets you send out current announcements and information about your park and things to do nearby. If you occasionally offer a "$10 off your next stay" coupon, you'll be amazed how many folks will subscribe!
Always "take" a Reservation: As we've traveled extensively by RV, we often opt to call ahead to reserve a spot at the park we've selected for that night's stay. Like many RVers, we sometimes change our plans, routes, etc; or just plain stay a day or so longer than planned. So we often don't know where we'd like to be that night until the morning we actually depart. Usually a park that knows it won't be full that night will still take a reservation by name, and get a credit card number to hold the site. Others may just say "we've got plenty of room, just come on in when you get here". We think that's a big mistake, because the RVer then might be tempted to stop at another park along the way -- perhaps one to which they were attracted as they drove past. If they don't have any "commitment" to the park they first called, they'll likely have no second thoughts about just pulling into the newly discovered park en route. On the other hand, if they've made a firm reservation, and know if they stop here they'll have to deal with canceling the park they'd first booked with, the odds of passing up the newly spotted park go way up.
Accentuate the Negative -- Eliminate the Positive?: A new twist on an old song often comes in the form of "Campground Rules". At one park recently we counted 19 uses of the word "NO", as in "No loud noise". Some were preceded by the word "Absolutely ..."; and the most egregious offenses were reserved for the further modifier "POSITIVELY". Apparently we're to take some rules more seriously than others. We've also recently noted our first "Two-fer" sign -- a sign with large, bold letters proclaiming "No Smoking". Handwritten across the top of this sign were the words "DO NOT Remove this Sign!". We've addressed this issue in some detail in a separate article.
Avoid the Perception of "Institution": This is an issue which many snowbird parks, and those catering primarily to adults, don't seem to understand. It's an issue of both attitude and nomenclature, and it can impact whether the "new generation" of RVers will be attracted to your park for a return visit. Some times the smallest items can have the biggest impact. One of these is the use of the word "Resident" on signs and name tags. To a growing number of your guests and potential guests, the word "resident" connotes "institution" -- you know, like nursing homes and such. It connotes a place where you'll be taken care of because you're presumed not to be able to take care of yourself. It's a word -- and sometimes an attitude as well -- that will ensure that you'll not share in the growing number of baby boomer customers that are crowding the nations roadways. If you must use name badges, make something useful out of it by putting a city and state along with the name. That's at least a conversation starter.
Publish GPS Coordinates: RVers are taking full advantage of GPS technology.. When you publish your GPS coordinates, you're making the statement that yours is a park which is at the cutting edge of technology. Even better, when you include your GPS location in your advertising, you'll find that there are lots of RVers who just can't resist plugging your coordinates into their onboard GPS system and watching their computer take them on a precision course to where you'd like to see them -- the entrance to your RV park!
Consider Reservation Policy Wisely: We know many RVers like to make reservations not only at a specific park -- but at a specific site. With a good computer system, this is not difficult to arrange. But does it always make sense to do so -- especially for guests who are there for only a night or two? The effect, of course, is to make that site "unavailable" for subsequent guests who may want to use that site for a week or a month, but because it is blocked for just a night or two, they can't get the site they want. Maybe next time they'll consider other options. This is an issue especially relevant if you're looking into new reservation software.
Show You're Serious About Pets: Park owners are understandably concerned about making sure RVers clean up after their pets. And other RV park guests are too. In our experience, the most effective way of ensuring "compliance" is to provide one of those nifty dispensers AND a nearby trash receptacle. This is a great way of showing your commitment to a clean park; and it appears to be extremely effective in achieving that result. No doubt about it -- parks that provide this amenity are going to be more pleasant places for everyone.
Help with DSS, DishNet: A substantial portion of us travel with satellite TV capability. There are two things you can do to make our lives more pleasant: First, as part of the paperwork we receive, please include the azimuth and elevation for both DSS and DishNet at your location. Second, please consider our satellite requirements when assigning sites. This relates not only to TV dishes, but to satellite dishes (such as DataStorm) that provide a high speed internet connection. RVs with fixed dish mounts on top (whether TV or internet) can't see through a tree which may block the signal. You should know the "satellite characteristics" of every site in your park and make sure you're able to meet the satellite needs of your guests.
Match the Sites to the Rigs! Most parks will "assign" a specific site to an RVer guest on check in. Too often we've driven to the assigned site only to find it has a tree or other obstacle which interferes with our slide rooms. Right next door there's a vacant site that would have accommodated us. On other occasions we've been assigned to a pull through which has an obstacle which prevents a big rig from exiting the site going forward. RVers would rightly consider that this is NOT a pull through site. RVers can't understand why some RV parks have not "rated" each site in the park in such a way as to know the capacities and limitations of each. Some will better accommodate slide rooms; some are suitable only for vehicles up to a certain length; some will accommodate only a motorhome because of the location of the hookups; some will permit an easy forward exit of a motorhome up to, say, 34 feet, but not permit the same for a fifth wheel over 30 feet; some may have overhanging branches or limbs which preclude RVs over a certain height. We think every RV park staff person should know the characteristics and limitations of each and every site in the park, and make sure of a "proper match" when making site assignments.
Keep the Access Roads Free from Obstructions. Not all parks have wide access roads and easy gradual turns which allow big rigs to navigate in and out of the park easily. Even those parks which do sometimes allow the parking of towing vehicles, tow dollies, or towed vehicles along the access roads in such a way as to block RVs trying to maneuver into or out of an assigned site. On other occasions, its the untrimmed tree at the corner which prevents longer vehicles from making the turn without scratching or even damaging the rig. Be extra careful when assigning space to big rigs. They're longer, and often taller, and they just won't be able to navigate your access roads if you've failed to keep the streets clear of obstruction. It's your park. No doubt you've given everyone a copy of the "rules" when they arrived. Among those rules is one which instructs guests to park their vehicles in a manner which does not restrict the flow of traffic. We all benefit when you consistently enforce these rules.
Keep a Balance between Pet Friendly and Guest Friendly: Many RVers travel with pets. Most are responsible and considerate pet owners. Here again, you've stated the rules, and you should expect your RVer guests to abide by them. Consider assigning RVers with pets in a "pet section", preferably nearest to the most convenient place to exercise the pet. Again, the great majority of RVers -- both those who own pets and those who do not -- will appreciate your firm enforcement of the rules regarding pets. No one appreciates walking through areas which have been soiled by pets. And no RVer wants to be within earshot of barking dogs. Firm and consistent enforcement of your pet rules is appreciated by all responsible RVers. Those who feel otherwise are those you really don't want in your park. As noted above, show you really care about owners picking up after their pets by providing an appropriate dispenser and waste container.
Truth in Advertising: Please don't tell us you're "big rig friendly" or offer wireless internet if you really can't perform as advertised. If you can't accommodate a 40' motorhome, you are not big rig friendly. Some big rig owners would feel that unless you can also offer 50 amp service, the same conclusion is true. When we speak of "accommodating" big rigs, we don't just mean having sites which are long enough and wide enough to comfortably park a 40' motorhome (with slides) and tow car. We're also referring to access roads, steepness of turns, and freedom from obstructions. As to internet friendly, please be sure you really ARE if you're saying so in your advertisements. And if you charge a separate fee for internet access, please make that clear. Many of the readers here will not come...