Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article appearing in Woodall’s Campground Management tracking the growth of RVC Outdoor Destinations. For the full story, authored by Jeff Crider, pick up the February issue.
Private park operators often know what they need to do to improve their operations and expand their customer base, particularly if they attend educational seminars organized by state and national campground industry associations.
The challenge is often money.
Many private park operators simply cannot generate enough net income to implement the improvements they need to make or they have difficulties finding commercial lenders who understand their businesses well enough to provide them with the amount of capital they need.
Many park operators also lack expertise in certain areas. They may be terrific at running the front desk or maintaining their park’s facilities, but may have difficulty marketing their park successfully through every medium from social media to traditional print, radio and television. Some may do well with RV and tent sites, but find themselves challenged when it comes to properly managing their rental accommodations.
Andy Cates understands these dilemmas.
As CEO and general partner of Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations. Cates oversees a network of 10 private parks in eight states that the company has developed into “Marriott-” or “Hilton-level” resorts. These include resorts that RVC has overhauled with millions of dollars worth of upgrades as well as RV Resorts and Outdoor Destinations that RVC has expanded or built from the ground up.
In most cases, RVC owns its resorts outright. But in some cases, RVC is a business partner with existing park owners who need the financial backing and operational support that Cates and his team can provide.
“We’re like angel investors with operational expertise in the campground and outdoor hospitality business,” Cates said, adding that RVC is actively looking for operators of high-quality properties who need the investment capital and operational support that RVC can provide or simply want to be a part of something larger.
Of course, Cates is not looking to partner with just any park. He’s looking for parks that have the potential to become the Hiltons and Marriotts of the campground industry.
“We’re spending time with existing owners of high-quality properties who want to align with a bigger group that brings more resources,” Cates said. “A lot of existing, very-high-quality outdoor-hospitality properties are seeking resources and help and more capacity, capital and marketing support. They want partners, but they don’t necessarily want to be a franchise. These are parks that do not fit easily into a Yogi, KOA or ELS model. The reality is there is not a Hilton or a Marriott option in the campground business. But we’re not a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, either. We’re Hilton or Marriott. Although we offer a high-quality product, it is reachable to most consumers.”