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Do discount pricing programs help or hurt the campground business?
It’s an interesting question, and one that state campground association directors plan to address in late November and early December during a series of meetings organized by Campground Association Management Professionals (C.A.M.P.), a national association of state campground association directors.
The meetings will take place in Austin, Texas, concurrent with the ARVC InSites 2005 Convention/Expo, hosted annually by the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC).
C.A.M.P., for the uninitiated, evolved quietly over a period of several years. Initially, campground association directors started meeting informally with one another when they attended the annual ARVC meetings. “After meeting in the hallway for a couple of years, they asked the national association if they could get a room assigned and actually meet as a group to discuss association matters and improve things,” Otto said.
The idea took hold, and with the help of Barb and Wayne Frederick of Florida ARVC, Tug and Judy Miller of California Travel Parks Association (CTPA), Robert Klos of Campground Owners of New York (CONY), the Ottos of New Jersey and Allen Beavers of the Connecticut Campground Owners Association, C.A.M.P. was formed.
Schaeffer, who is currently serving the second of a two-year term as C.A.M.P. president, said the group has about 25 members, including the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and national ARVC.
The organization’s role on discount pricing and other issues is rather clear.
“I think we need to take a leadership role in terms of trying to identify the pros and cons of discount pricing,” said C.A.M.P. President Brian Schaeffer, who also serves as executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
Campground operators, Schaeffer said, do not typically have the time to analyze the pros and cons of issues like discount programs because they’re too busy running their front desks and handling other management tasks involving their businesses. The executive directors of state campground associations, however, can therefore provide a service to campground operators and to the campground industry in general by researching the pros and cons of discount pricing programs.
Discount pricing programs, however, won’t be the only issue that C.A.M.P. members consider. State campground association directors will also review each other’s finances, looking for ways to improve each other’s operations, much like RV dealers and campground operators help each other through “20 Group” meetings.
The financial analysis and discussion is made possible by CAMP co-founders Jay and Marji Otto, who also serve as executive directors of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association.
Each year, Jay Otto assembles spreadsheets that contain the financial line items of every C.A.M.P.-affiliated campground association in the country. The spreadsheets enable C.A.M.P. members to compare and analyze each other’s budgets and can help them identify ways to improve their operating efficiencies.
C.A.M.P. members will also discuss ways to improve their database coordination with ARVC. Schaeffer said state campground associations are on the front lines when it comes to collecting state and national campground association dues and other information regarding campground members. But there’s a lot of duplication of effort that takes place with this data collection because state and national associations are not using the same software.
TACO is currently testing the FileMaker Pro format as part of a pilot program with ARVC to streamline the data collection process. C.A.M.P. members will assess the benefits of the FileMakerPro software program in a meeting with ARVC’s software consultant.
All of these efforts, of course, are designed to help the executive directors of state campground associations do their jobs better. And that’s precisely the role that C.A.M.P. has played since it was founded in 1988. “The sharing of ideas is really the main purpose of C.A.M.P., getting the executive directors to be more professional,” Jay Otto said.