ReserveAmerica, a company that bills itself as having the largest campground reservations system in North America — primarily through agreements with federal and state public land agencies — intends to aggressively expand into the private campground sector over the next year.
The Canada-based division of event ticketing company TicketMaster, took the first step in that direction with an agreement in February to become the “preferred” reservation system for Campground Owners of New York (CONY). The association represents 242 campgrounds and 30,200 campsites in New York state.
Under the agreement, ReserveAmerica and CONY will cross-promote each other, and member campgrounds will be offered access to ReserveAmerica’s Internet reservation system. Additionally, CONY has asked the New York Division of Tourism to incorporate ReserveAmerica into New York’s lodging reservation system.
ReserveAmerica President Brock Weatherup said the CONY partnership presages a move by ReserveAmerica into the private sector as part of TicketMaster’s strategy to expand beyond event ticketing that will escalate next year.
“We are in the process of bringing ourselves on slowly into the commercial camping sector,” Weatherup said. “We are learning this business as we move into it. There are significant differences between state and federal agencies and private owners. We don’t want to jump in too quickly without knowledge. We expect to be going very strong in 2003.”
ReserveAmerica was founded in 1984 as Park Net and later merged with Info 2000, a developer of R-Cubed, a Microsoft Windows-based computer reservations system. Los Angeles-based TicketMaster purchased ReserveAmerica for $22.2 million in February 2001. The company had sales in 2000 of $16.3 million stemming from 2.7 million reservation transactions.
ReserveAmerica books reservations for 150,000 campsites in 44 states and includes the National Recreation Reservation Service operated in conjuntion with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company says it provides services to about half of campsites in state parks nationwide.
Its private clients include Good Sam Club parks, and individual parks such as Giant Redwood RV and Campground in California and Seven Maples Campground in New Hampshire. (Good Sam is a subsidiary of Affinity Group Inc., parent company of TL Enterprises Inc., publisher of RV Business and RVBUSINESS.COM).
Weatherup said ReserveAmerica is in talks with several other state campground associations. “We are not proactively going after individual campgrounds,” he said. “If they contact us, fine. But when you can talk to an organization representing hundreds of owners, it’s obviously better than talking to a single member.”
Reserve America collects a fee that averages between $7.50 and $8 for each transaction. The fee paid by consumers depends on whether the campground is willing to absorb all or part of the cost. “That is the choice of the campground,” Weatherup said.
Private campground reservations may be made 24 hours a day as far as 12 months in advance via the Internet. Those seeking sites at government-owned camgprounds also can reserve by telephone.
Weatherup said ReserveAmerica is adjusting to the differences between managing reservations at public and private campgrounds.
“The biggest difference between the two is there is much more of a resource management focus on the government side,” Weatherup said. “On the commercial side, it is a business. And while that component exists on the government side, there is more of a need to deal with unusual rules or the availability of inventory.
“We’ve talked to one state (public entity) about giving a preference to state taxpayers versus those coming in from out of state. That would not be a factor on the private side.”
Although ReserveAmerica operates three telephone call centers for reservations for its public land campgrounds, reservations for private campgrounds currently are available only via the Internet.
When reservations will be taken by telephone isn’t clear “It depends on when we reach critical mass,” Weatherup said. “We may go to phones within the next year to 18 months.”