A former campground owner's perspective

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

95f5334j

Active member
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Posts
30
Location
Somewhere on the road ......
Same happened in Birch Bay WA. Sun RV Resorts bought Beachwood Resort, a membership park, and immediately imposed a $150 reservation fee. Members pay an annual fee, not per night. No word yet if the reservation fee is refunded.
 

Lou Schneider

Site Team
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
10,954
Not surprising, the same things have been happening to mom and pop mobile home parks in the past few years. They're being bought out by speculators, then the new owners raise the space rents. The difference is mobile homes are less mobile than RVs so those owners are stuck with either paying what the new owners want or walking away and letting their homes default to the park.

Although the situation may become similar for RVers if all the parks in an area decide to take advantage of the increased demand and raise their rents accordingly.
 

Oldgator73

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2017
Posts
3,306
Campgrounds are going the way of farms, restaurants, hardware stores, almost any retail business you can think of. Corporations are buying everything up, increasing prices and diminishing customer service.
 

Ksouers

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 27, 2013
Posts
68
Location
Eastern Missouri
I am a big supporter of small business, even medium sized business. I can even see the good in many large businesses.

Businesses used to be created to serve their customers, to help them solve a problem. Whether it was tasty food, a place to vacation, a way to get there or a place to live. Small business was always the innovator and incubator for that kind of service solution. And they very often had their own unique touch.

Now we are back to the corporate raiders who only seek to serve themselves. Buy it up, raise the prices and turn a very unique and personal, eclectic destination into McDonald's. Where everyone wears the same uniform, every location has the same decorations. A place so homogeneous you can't tell where you are without looking at a map. And people seek out these places. We did it to ourselves.

Kevin
 

SeilerBird

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Posts
15,946
Location
St Cloud Florida USA
I have been in the same RV resort for the past eight years. It was purchased 2 years ago and in the last two years they have had two minor raises to site fees. I am not upset. They just got done repaving the entire park. That must have cost a fortune.
 

Isaac-1

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2016
Posts
4,698
Location
SW Louisiana
I have never really stayed at places that can be called RV resorts, it just does not fit our travel style of usually staying a few nights here and a few nights there. Sure we have stayed at a few places that call themselves "resorts" just because they had a swimming pool or such. That is unless you count KOA's as we have stayed at a handful of those, though mostly we prefer the smaller private mom and pop sort of RV parks, as well as public campgrounds, etc.

Having said that my take on the problem is that it is all about the money, and few individuals have enough of it to invest in buying and developing a campground the right way. Even all but the most basic small basic rv park with 20-30 sites will cost on the order of a million dollars to build these days even in out of the way, less than prime locations. Sure there may be exceptions, if you find the right location, you may be able to build something for less, if the location already has municipal services like water and sewer. I knew someone that build an RV park about 15 years ago across the highway from our family business, this was a 30 site all gravel rv park on the side of a terraced hill with some pine trees, and a couple of small ponds, and a small portable building / shed laundry room just big enough for 2 washing machines and 2 dryers. At one point while it was still being built they told me that they had spent over $200,000 just on the sewer system and oxidation pond. They eventually sold it at a loss for around $350,000, I think due to health issues, after 5-6 years, during which time the place was always a bit of a dump, the biggest problem was not enough gravel so the red clay mud would seep up through the gravel making it impossible to even walk around without getting your shoes covered in red clay. From what I have seen the new owners have fixed things up some, built a clubhouse, brought in more gravel, paved the central entrance drive, etc. At a cost of what I don't know.

A quick google search shows that their nightly rates are $30 per night as of 2019, I suspect most of their customers are contractors so probably paying by the month, I am assuming around $450 per month, which is the typical going rate in the area, for round math sake lets call it $500 per month. Lets also assume hands on owner couple for such a situation to handle check in / out, rent collection, mowing the grass, and doing basic maintenance with in this case perhaps a $600,000 investment, buying and refurbishing the rv park. Lets assume that was $600,000 cash best case, not financed through a bank.

If they maintain 80% occupancy $500 per month we get (30 x .8 x 500= 12,000) $12,000 per month gross income, assume no overhead cost, no taxes, nothing else it would take just over 4 years for payback of their initial investment. Now we all know there are going to be significant overhead costs, even before we count the labor. We have taxes, both income and property tax, likely municipal services cost (water, perhaps sewer in some places, trash pickup, etc.) that are not directly passed on to guests, not to mention liability insurance, workmans comp if they have employees, etc. So in reality I would not be surprised if these expenses were to add up to more than half that $12,000 per month direct income, lets say that leaves $6,000 per month to pay back the initial investment all before paying the owners any salary to work here likely 10-16 hours per day. So at best we are looking at 8-10 years payback while the owners are providing free labor, this starts to make a regular job look appealing. This only gets worse with larger RV parks, which require a bigger initial investment, more employees, etc.
 

Skookum

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 19, 2018
Posts
208
I have to imagine land values have been a huge driver. Existing parks require huge capital. New builds can be formidable- financing, permitting. Unless you find a great stride as a private owner, corporate economies of scale in owning, financing, and managing these parks may be the only way to really get ahead. The kind of person who can come up with that kind of capital probably doesn't want to empty trash cans or clean up after black tank spills, or deal with the drunken father on a Saturday night with an unruly dog.
 

Henry J Fate

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 14, 2018
Posts
1,412
It is all about supply and demand. No different than the housing market but............. It is very possible that today's camper forecast is going to change and maybe quicker than these investment groups think.

Fuel prices, economics and the pandemic has drivin the rv life to the top. I suspect it will fall based on current trends and I also suspect that used rv inventory will be quite high in terms of the number of rv's available in the next year or two.
 

SargeW

Site Team
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Posts
8,089
Location
Where ever we park it!
I am currently in a new Sun Resorts campground in Chula Vista, in San Diego county. It is a very nice beautifully done park very close to the ocean and the bay. And it's also very pricy $$$. Sun Resorts seems to like to cater to the higher end clients in many of their parks. I am sure it took a huge investment to get it started, but they can leverage the costs over all of their parks.

We don't stay in these kinds of places often, just once in a while for a splurge. This was the first leg out of our trip this year, and Havasu has been steaming hot. Not here though, low 70's and breezy.
 

Uncledave54

Well-known member
Joined
May 31, 2020
Posts
128
Location
Livonia, Mi
This article ought to be good fodder for a discussion. Or maybe a debate.

A response to the writer of the article....

 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
73,944
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
Thanks for posting that alternate view. I was going to make some of the same points, so saved a lot of typing.

Even those who lament the loss of the small town atmosphere will often have a few complaints, or at least a few "wants". Not always the same as their neighbors, but the total wishlist adds up.
 

NY_Dutch

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 22, 2010
Posts
6,706
Location
Where our wheels take us!
For years we've kept a list of parks the we would return to when we're in the area. Over time, more and more private parks have been dropped from the list as corporate interests took over and raised prices while cramming more sites in. State and national parks now make up the bulk of the listings, with most of the remaining private parks marked as "overnight only" for use when we're in transit between state/national parks. Our entire 4 month southern winter "tour" is now state and national parks with the single exception of an Escapees RV Club owned park for several nights at member rates comparable to the state parks. Basically, the "big boys" have taken away our enjoyment with staying at those facilities, and caused us to look elsewhere for the amenities we enjoy at prices we can afford. The minor inconveniences we find at those state and national parks without full hookups are more than made up by the large sites and affordability. And the state and national parks that do have full hookups have spoiled us completely for wanting to spend any time at private parks any more...
 

FunSteak

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 24, 2013
Posts
537
Location
NE Illinois
To be frank, we are not fans of the large "resort" type campgrounds. We rarely use them - mostly for overnights on the way to somewhere, or if it's the only/most convenient location close to an event or other destination. 90% of the time, our first choice is state parks.

Things we dislike about the big commercial resort campgrounds:
  • Sites too small/close together
  • We don't have young kids, so playgrounds and the like are not a draw
  • Very rare to use a pool or beach, as we are typically just transient and staying for an overnight
  • Generally higher cost per night (sometimes significantly)
  • Often noisier
  • The endless, loud, nosy parade of golf carts (quick sidebar - we had to do a quick overnight at one of these places recently, on the way home from an event. Got the last unoccupied site. Most of the sites were seasonal. For HOURS, it seemed like every doggone golf cart in the joint had to drive by and get a close look at us and our rig. Many times with (awful) music blasting and loud drunken conversations. Did NOT make us feel very comfortable.)
No criticism for those that prefer this type of campground. It's just not for us, and I suspect that the inevitable corporatization of the family owned places may make it worse.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
73,944
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
There is a tendency to conflate "corporate" with "large & resort-style amenities" and maybe obnoxious guests, but that's not really a fair assessment. I'll grant that many corporate-owned campgrounds are in that category, but so are some privately owned places. And not just the huge ones either. There are a number of factors that lead to crowding, noisy behavior, golf car parades, etc., and I don't think corporations are part of it. Much depends on the management and what attitude they project on the staff, because that sets the tone for what guest behavior is tolerated or not. And certainly the heavy use of golf cars isn't something that comes with corporate ownership - that's more an attribute of seasonal sites vs transients. Further, I know of several state and county parks that are downright jammed every weekend and noisy & obnoxious campers are common. These parks are typically within a 1-3 hour drive of large metro areas and serve as "escape" outlets for the population.
 

Joezeppy

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 16, 2009
Posts
2,382
Location
Upstate NY - Kuyahoora Valley
  • The endless, loud, nosy parade of golf carts (quick sidebar - we had to do a quick overnight at one of these places recently, on the way home from an event. Got the last unoccupied site. Most of the sites were seasonal. For HOURS, it seemed like every doggone golf cart in the joint had to drive by and get a close look at us and our rig. Many times with (awful) music blasting and loud drunken conversations. Did NOT make us feel very comfortable.)
Sounds like our stay at Ocean Lakes in Myrtle Beach back in 2011. Loved the experience of camping only 200' from the ocean and had a great time but not really our cup of tea.
 
Top Bottom