When people want to take the pulse of the hotel business, all they have to do is contact the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) or the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA).
Occupancy figures, statistical trend information and related analyses are readily available for every major tourist destination in the country, and much of this information finds its way into media reports that ultimately elevate the profile and general sophistication of the hotel industry.
Such data, however, has never been available for RV parks and campgrounds, a fact that has hurt the industry.
“It’s been very personally embarrassing to me to be asked by an association like the Travel Industry Association of America, ‘What are your occupancy figures?’ ‘What’s happening in the parks?’ ‘What are the trends?’,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Now, a solution to the campground occupancy data collection glitch is in the works, Profaizer announced during her keynote address to campground operators attending InSites 2003 Parks & Paddles, the annual convention for the nation’s campground sector, which ended Saturday (Nov. 15) in Las Vegas.
ARVC has partnered with Affinity Group Inc.’s (AGI) Woodall’s Publications Corp. to launch The Woodall’s/ARVC RV Park & Campground Survey, a national survey that will track weekly occupancy trends and spending patterns in the nation’s RV parks and campgrounds.
The survey data will be collected from participating campground and RV park operators who enter their weekly occupancy, store sales and other statistics on a secure website administered by Michigan State University, which will analyze the data.
The cost of administering the survey and producing the related analyses will be borne by AGI, publisher of the industry’s two largest campground directories and parent of the Good Sam Club, Coast to Coast Resorts, Camping World stores and numerous publications, including Woodall’s Campground Management, RV Business and RVBUSINESS.COM.
“I think Woodall’s really did more than just step up to the plate to fund the survey,” Profaizer, a former Woodall’s executive, told conference attendees. “They partnered with us to conceive the initiative, develop a protocol and build a model that works for the RV park and campground community.”
Profaizer added later that having campground occupancy data will strengthen the association’s efforts to raise the economic profile of the campground business while increasing public interest in camping and RVing through the news media.
Within the past year alone, she said, ARVC has generated campground-focused media coverage in a number of media outlets, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC, Holiday Travel, Parents magazines, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and a one-hour feature on the Travel Channel.
“As our industry’s profile has grown in the national travel and tourism community, I think we’ve quickly recognized that we have a need for more information, more data and more research to tell our story,” Profaizer said. “We’re now going to be able to find out what our impact is on a local community, what our occupancy numbers are and how the reservations are looking. … It’s a good tool for the tourism industry so that RV parks and campgrounds can be considered an important part of that tourism industry,” she continued. “I think we’re gaining some stature there, but this takes us to another level. It sets us out there with the hotels and motels.”
The survey also will help individual park operators interested in adding on to their facilities, purchasing land, or benchmarking their performance against other parks in the area.
Profaizer added that if ARVC succeeds in generating significant responses, it may eventually be able to provide campground occupancy information by area code.
Later this year the ARVC will give campgrounds more information about how to participate in the survey, which will be conducted in January.