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It is clear that campground operators are investing to update and improve their facilities, but the amount that they are spending is the subject of debate among campground industry experts.
The 2002 National Operations and Economic Survey of the RV Park and Campground Industry, published by the National Foundation for RVing and Camping, found that $35,000 a year was the median amount spent on improvements by campground operators.
The foundation, a unit of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC), reached that conclusion after surveying 127 campground owners whose parks ranged from 14 to 2,000 sites. More than half of the responses came from campgrounds that have been in business for more than 25 years, while an additional 13% came from campgrounds over 20 years old. Only 3% of survey responses came from campgrounds that are less than 5 years old. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents provide seasonal campsites, which can be rented for months at a time.
The 2002 survey also asked campground owners for the first time how much they’re spending on improvements to their facilities.
ARVC President and CEO Linda Profaizer said she wasn’t surprised by the survey’s revelation that campground operators are spending tens of thousands of dollars annually to upgrade their facilities. “It is indicative that our sector of the industry is also trying to upgrade to meet the needs of today’s RVer,” she said.
At the same time, other knowledgeable observers questioned the $35,000 figure. Ron Beard, an Austin, Tex.-based campground business consultant, said he thought most parks were spending a lot more than $35,000 annually to improve their facilities. He added that most of his clients are spending more than $100,000 per year in infrastructure and amenity improvements.
“It seems like (the $35,000 figure) doesn’t tell the whole story,” he said. “A lot of my clients are seeing the handwriting on the wall, that the bar is being raised everywhere they look.”
Veteran campground business consultant John Imler, for his part, thought the $35,000 median investment figure was probably on the high side. “What I’m finding is parks are not doing enough upgrades,” said Imler, whose practice is based in California. Imler said he doubted there were more than 200 RV sites in the Phoenix, Ariz., area with pull-through sites. “We’re still behind the curve,” he said. “If you talk about what needs to be done, ($35,000) is low.”