A good year for business and an appearance by the father of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park concept highlighted this year’s Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) annual symposium last month at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cincinnati.
Business at LSI’s Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts was up at least 10% across the board in 2002, with some parks reporting increases of more than 40% compared to 2001 figures, reports Dean Crawford, a senior vice president for the Cincinnati-based Leisure Systems, which franchises about 70 Yogi Bear parks across North America.
“Camping is like a recession-proof business,” Crawford said. “If the economy is on a downturn, it seems like we do as well, if not better (than usual). People will travel and they’ll view camping as a less expensive way to vacation.”
The strength of the campground business was one of several themes discussed during LSI’s annual symposium, which also included special guest, Douglas Haag, founder of the Yogi Bear campground concept. The concept of family theme campgrounds has been the backbone of Jellystone parks since their creation by Haag, who began the first park in 1969 near Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Screen Gems Inc. gave him permission to use Bill Hanna’s and Joe Barbera’s Yogi Bear characters.
The idea for the Yogi Bear parks came to Mr. Haag after noticing the number of campers and RVs on the road, and then with some inspiration from his children. While his kids were watching cartoons, he heard Yogi bear talking about campers and “pick-a-nick” baskets. The idea came to him and stuck with him.
The rest, as they say, is history. With the family togetherness theme and Yogi bear behind the park system, it has grown to 70 franchised parks today.
“His (Haag’s) idea to have a theme and family oriented recreation worked and the proof is that it’s still working today,” Crawford said. “It’s our niche.”
In fact, at the beginning of this year, Jim and Jill Kavicky became the new owners of the original park in Door County, Wis. It includes 270 sites, two heated swimming pools, a kiddy pool, playground, 18-hole miniature golf course, activities pavilion, game arcade, arts and crafts hall, Yogi’s Theater, store and several recreational activities, among other amenities.