Fabian Russell

Fabian Russell

Membership-driven Coast to Coast Resorts and New York-based consultant Fabian L. Russell have rolled out ”Project Renaissance,” a customizable guide for campground owners interested in becoming Coast affiliates.

Coast to Coast Resorts has 60,000 commercial members who have access to 450 resorts, 250 of which are membership-only parks plus 200 other ”good neighbor” parks that charge Coast members special rates.

”We realized that a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t necessarily work because each resort, each location, each marketplace has a unique set of goals and circumstances,” said Russell, while attending November’s National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) InSites 2009 Annual Convention and Outdoor Exposition in Orlando, Fla.

Project Renaissance assesses a number of aspects associated with a campground, including the demographics of the area it’s in, local traffic patterns and tourism and creates a membership, sales and marketing plan for each location.

”It’s designed to be flexible,” said Russell, who for 23 years has operated Bass Lake Resort, a 277-site membership park in Parish, N.Y., and also is president of East Coast Resorts and the Memory Maker Travel Network, both of which market membership RV, cruise and condo vacations.

”Project Renaissance” will be featured among the presentations during the Coast Conference Feb. 16-18 at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., which is designed to provide a nuts-and-bolts overview of the operations and development of membership campgrounds.

Doug Woods, national sales manager of Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), noted that mounting an effective membership-campground marketing campaign is not inexpensive, but that resort-style campgrounds are missing out on an opportunity if they remain only available for nightly rental.

”It’s easier to rent your sites out at $40 a night than it is to get into a sales and marketing campaign,” Woods said. ” But longer term, you can make a million dollars more on your park by going to a membership camping program.”

”We’ve seen an example that it is more lucrative,” said Coast to Coast President Bruce Hoster. ”(Russell’s) park as a membership park grosses a million dollars more a year.”

Membership fees eventually pay for the operation of the park, so that sales of new memberships ”becomes an extra pool of money,” Hoster said.

”Some is profits, some is reinvested, because in membership camping, you have to have a great looking park because you are bringing people in all the time to tour them and to sell memberships to,” he said. ”It’s critical that the product look good and be good.”

Russell said that membership campgrounds tend to flourish because the member community becomes an extended family. ”There’s a club feeling, a camaraderie among members. It’s like (they are) coming home every spring when you open up.”

Russell also predicted that membership parks will become more appealing to RVers because of the trend for state parks to close or cut back their hours and for private campgrounds to be sold to developers.

”There will come a time when the RVer is going to have a hard time getting into a nice place,” Russell said. ” That’s where a membership park will give the RVer a leg up because he’s got a place to go.”

Hoster agreed.

”We feel that the competition is going to get stiffer and stiffer,” Hoster said. ” There’s going to be more demand for high-quality campsites and high-quality camping experiences with the same or fewer suppliers of those kinds of sites.

”We think that membership camping, especially for a lot of the Baby Boomers coming into RVing, is the perfect solution.”

Full conference registration is available for $299 per person through Dec. 15 — $100 off the full rate of $399 for those signing up after mid-December. The price does not include hotel room, and a la carte pricing is available for networking and breakout sessions.

For more information or to register for the 2010 Coast Conference visit www.coastconference.com.

Coast to Coast’s AGI parent company also is the parent company of  RVBusiness and Woodall’s Campground Management magazines.