If you’re a campground operator looking to maximize reservations, 2021 might already feel like more of a challenge.
Where is the best place to focus your energy?
Fortunately, despite on-going uncertainty, campgrounds have been able to take advantage of online resources and take more bookings than ever before. The following is a list of 11 ways our parks have been able to boost occupancy.
1. Accept online reservations.
In 2019, 148.3 million travel reservations (across multiple industries) were made online (Condor). And, despite an on-going pandemic, Statista reported that the online travel industry was still worth nearly $600 billion at the end of 2020.
Campgrounds with online reservation systems have had a lot to do with those numbers. Parks like Golden Municipal took 100% of their bookings online last year, and have will continue to do the same in 2021.
It’s just easier.
For starters, online reservation systems can arrange reservations to maximize your campground—making sure you don’t end up with awkward one night openings in your calendar.
You can easily do this yourself by dragging a reservation to a different campsite, like this:
Additionally, interactive calendars, like the one below, allow guests to choose sites based on availability. With remote work allowing everyone’s travel dates to be a little more flexible, this optimizes your calendar by showing available camping dates.
Couple all of this with the fact that online systems lower staffing costs, increase revenue, and provide clear reporting, and save you time, it’s definitely the number one way to boost occupancy at your campground.
2. Have a mobile-responsive website.
In 2020, according to our data, mobile users accounted for 60% of more than $2M worth of bookings.
In addition to our own data, Forbes claims that internet use has grown to nearly 300 million users and that at least 69% of those users are logging in via a smartphone or mobile device. (To give some more context, that same article stated that 75% of people using their mobile device to search for a business nearby will end up visiting it in-person within a day.)
A 2018 Adobe survey indicated that 34% of consumers would exit a website entirely if a landing page’s content didn’t load properly on their mobile device. As a result, campgrounds that do not have an easy-to-navigate mobile website will ultimately lose out on a number of reservations.
3. Make your pricing clear.
Going hand-in-hand with a great website is clear pricing (or at least clear estimates of pricing). Our campgrounds constantly tell us how tedious it is to field phone calls and emails from campers looking for a quote (especially after hours).
Additionally, having an online system with clear pricing and yield management (also known as dynamic pricing), allows you to accommodate peak and shoulder seasons alike. Guests can easily get a quote and make reservations while you sleep.
4. Have great photos.
In the previously mentioned Adobe survey, 44% of participants indicated that they wouldn’t even engage with a site if the content images wouldn’t load.
We recently sent a Campground Booking affiliate to take photos of Klahanie Campground in Squamish, BC and Ephrata RV Park in Central Washington. After the campground owners added the photos to their online reservation system, they informed us that the simple addition of photos lead to a “massive” conversion of campers booking online.
Even if you’re on a budget or all you have access to is a smartphone, you can still take quality pictures that will increase online engagement. Here’s a list of tips for taking great iPhone photos from iMore.
5. Create packages or promotions.
Another great way to bolster occupancy, especially during shoulder seasons, is through discounted packages and experiential or event-driven promotions.
Event weekends, holiday festivities, musical performances, conferences, and rallies are all good ways to garner attention to your park outside of peak season.
Discounted incentives can increase the likelihood of repeat business and, according to Entrepreneur.com, still remain popular. “Even young consumers and affluent shoppers—groups that traditionally shun coupons—are using them, boosting the typical 1 to 2 percent redemption rate by nearly 20 percent” (Entrepreneur.com).
Additionally, partnering with RV dealers or joining camper-focused groups like the RV Entrepreneur, Xscapers, or Full-time Families can be a great way to share any upcoming events or promotions you’re offering with RVers across the country.
6. Target the right market.
Different parks accommodate different styles of camping, and therefore different audiences. Are you a park for retirees? Families? Long-term stays? Overnight hikers? Any of the above is amazing—as long as you’re actually marketing to them.
An easy way to establish your market is to take photos of the type of clientele you want at your park (with their permission of course) or to target a specific demographic or region through Facebook and Google AdWords (keep reading for more details).
For more insight on identifying your target audience and understanding your “buyer personas,” HubSpot has a helpful guide to walk you through it.
7. Get lots of reviews.
The reality is that people choose campgrounds based on good reviews.
According to Forbes, “97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses,” meaning that what people are saying online carries a lot of weight. So odds are almost everyone booking a campsite at your park has seen your Google reviews just by searching for your business online.
Paying attention to Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor for reviews is certainly worth your time. But to make a bigger splash, park owners should especially focus on campground review sites like Campendium, Campground Reviews, and The Dyrt.
For a more comprehensive list, check out our article on the 7 review sites campground owners need to watch.
8. Set a launch or “Go-Live” date for your campground.
As important as it is getting guests to visit your campground, according to Mirasee, “it’s the anticipation you build beforehand that defines its success.”
A number of our Canadian campgrounds, including Lakeview Park, make the large majority of their reservations for the year within the 24 hours of making sites available.
Just setting a “go-live” or launch date creates a sense of urgency and excitement for guests to book and grab the sites they want. We’ve heard of campers marking their calendar and staying up until midnight just so they could get their favorite campsites for the year.
Imagine the freedom and flexibility that comes with making a year’s worth of business in a day!
9. Collect camper emails and stay in touch.
Social media can be a great resource, but when it comes to conversion, nothing competes with a strong email list.
MonsterInsights.com, via the Direct Marketing Association, states that “email marketing sees a 4300% average return on investment (ROI) for businesses in the US.”
They also found a similar stat from ExactTarget indicated that “every $1 spent on email marketing generates the average return on investment (ROI) of $44.25.”
When guests book or arrive, get their email, and send them announcements for upcoming events, discounts for future stays, or periodic reminders to book their next stay with you. Just make sure you don’t spam them with emails!
10. Give a “stay one more day” option.
GuestReady.com claims that “there are many travelers who want to spend a week or two in a city and would prefer not to hop from Airbnb to Airbnb” or campground to campground in this case.
If you have the flexibility or empty sites, why not encourage your overnight guests to stay longer? When campers arrive, let them know that if they’re enjoying their time, they are welcome to extend their stay an extra night. Just check their campsite in your reservation system to make sure their same campsite is available first!
11. Run Google and Facebook ads.
Lastly, you might find that the biggest bang for your buck can come from Google and Facebook.
Brian Carter from Moz, says that the average cost to reach 1,000 people in magazine and newspaper ads is between $20 and $32, whereas the same reach by Google AdWords and Facebook will only run you $2.75 and $0.25 respectively.
To give this some more perspective, in 2018 Journalism.org showed that on average, 28.6 million U.S. citizens read a newspaper; however, there are currently over 100 million Americans on Facebook (Statista), and at least 246 million unique Google users in the U.S. (Review 42).
Not to mention you can target the specific audience and region for your ads.
For industry proof, here’s a helpful read about how Camping World had a very successful Facebook ad campaign last year in which they were able to achieve 84% more leads.
Putting it all into practice.
So, where’s the best place to start boosting occupancy?
Well, an online reservation system paired with a mobile-responsive website will be able to accommodate most of the suggestions in this article. They do involve a little bit of a tech set up, but we’ve recommended a few people in this article who you can hire to handle this transition for you.
Then once you’re up and running…
- Take photos of your campground.
- Start building an email list.
- Collect reviews.
- Try out targeted ads through Facebook and Google.
While there’s plenty of trial and error, with the right resources and the right plan, your park will start seeing substantial growth quickly.
Looking for more information on how to grow your campground this year? Check out:
- The Top 10 RV Park Amenities Your Campground NEEDS (According to RVers)
- 12 Events for Campground Owners in 2021
- How to Start an Email List for Your Campground