How Campers Can Help Camping & RV Parks Rebound from the Tough Year Behind

April 22, 2010 by Woodall's · 14 Comments  
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The impact of the recession on campgrounds has been bitter-sweet. On one hand some folks that once stayed in hotels for family vacations are saving money by camping, while other occasional campers are staying at home due to rising fuel prices, being out of work or just deciding the recreational cost is too much in the current economy.

This article is courtesy Woodall’s Family Camping, RV Campground and Travel Destination Blog, Written by Professor95.

We have watched as some really big names in RV manufacturing have closed their doors while others laid off workers and slowed production. Gone are RV marques like Fleetwood, Alfa Leisure, Bigfoot, Chinook, Dolphin, King of the Road, Pilgrim International, Sunline Coach and Teton Homes. Some brand names are coming back, but not necessarily from the original company.

Many private campgrounds have been forced to close due to rising cost.

Campgrounds have struggled to survive as well. Sadly, several have closed their gates to campers or changed their policies to accommodate only seasonal or membership campers. Others have simply sold their land to big developers wanting to put condos, cluster homes or even hotels on the land.

Similar to what many of us are experiencing at home, campground owners are being confronted with the higher cost of garbage disposal, electricity, water, employee benefits and property taxes.

Changes in Health Department regulations regarding sewage treatment have more than quadrupled the cost of new septic systems for rural campgrounds. Skyrocketing increases imposed by municipalities for sewage treatment have become a major expense issue for suburban campgrounds.

Damage to campground equipment and facilities by irresponsible campers adds to the headaches and bills. Broken and burned picnic tables, stolen property, damaged trees and shrubs, trashed bath houses, and litter increase maintenance and labor cost significantly.

Yet, the owners of campgrounds feel compelled to hold rates down since in a recession increasing their camping fees could easily keep campers away or shorten their stay.

One of our favorite private campgrounds has kept there campinag rate for a full hook-up RV site unchanged since 2005. The cost is $35.00 per night for two adults. For that $35.00 we are provided with a 50 amp electrical connection, water, sewage disposal and twice daily trash pick-up. Additionally, we have use of the campground entertainment facilities, including a nice swimming pool, game room, clubhouse, heated and air conditioned bath houses, organized recreational activities for the kids, and access to bike and hiking trails. When you stop to think about it, the cost is really low for all the amenities included.

The owner has told me he must raise the camping fee this year to cover his rising expenses. Yet, he is afraid that the fee increase will keep campers away or shorten their visit. Using his own words: He feels like he is “between a rock and a hard place” but he has no choice as he is no longer making a profit.

None of us want to see camping rates increase or campgrounds close. But a rate increase is inevitable if the private campgrounds are going to survive. No one can continue to operate a business that looses money.

As campers, we can do a lot to help both private and public campgrounds reduce their operational cost.

Too many campers consider the un-metered electricity included in the campsite cost like an “all you can eat” buffet. They run their air conditioners or electric heaters even when the RV is unoccupied. Behavior similar to what we practice at home by turning off lights and lowering thermostats could save campground owners thousands of dollars in annual electrical cost.

Not littering, perhaps taking the daily trash to a dumpster yourself, cleaning up the shower or sink in a bath house after use, and just being a responsible camper can add to the reduction in expenses a campground incurs.

The bottom line to all of this is we want nice campgrounds with big sites, full hookups and low rates. If we want this combination to continue, we must do everything possible to help the campground owners keep their expenses down.

To read more or to follow posts by Professor95, visit How campers can help.

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14 Responses to “How Campers Can Help Camping & RV Parks Rebound from the Tough Year Behind”

  1. Ron on April 23rd, 2010 5:01 pm

    Your article points out the main reason for campgrounds going out of business or having to raise rates……the cost of doing business. Higher rates for utilities, local, state and federal regulations concerning trash and waste disposal, stricter environmental regulations, increased property taxes, etc. Of course, it is a vicious downward spiral….they raise rates to stay in business at the expense of losing customers. Fewer customers means less revenue, and on downward it goes till they can no longer stay in business.

    RVers are more frugal than ever because of the rising costs of RVing. So they/we look for more economical ways to continue our lifestyle, including ‘boondocking’ whenever possible to keep our costs down. It doesn’t look good for the campground owners.

    I wish there was an easy answer, but I don’t have one. Perhaps when the economy comes back, so will the campgrounds.

  2. Jim on April 23rd, 2010 5:43 pm

    An increase in fees is easier to tolerate when there is a feeling that there has been some value added to the cost of renting a site. Good managers/owners are also smart business people who know what customer service means: a friendly smile and a cheerful hello, a courtesy escort to the site, a visit shortly after setting up to see if all is well and to serve as a community ambassador, provide a feedback mechanism upon departure, and in general wear the hat of the concierge. The intangibles cost only time. Increased costs can be offset by increased and sincere caring.

  3. Bob on April 23rd, 2010 5:49 pm

    Most camp gtround owners are very friendly and accomodating. One problem with increasing rates is the RV owner that is just stopping for the night and will continue on his way in te morning. here needs to be a different rate scale. If you’re going to stay for a while and enoy the facilities you should pay a hiher rate tan on RVer who is stoppiong for the night and leaving in then AM to continue his trip.

  4. Rae on April 23rd, 2010 5:57 pm

    Professor95 needs a copy editor — he used “there” when he should have used “their” and “looses” instead of “loses.” It was a good article, just hard to read with grammatical and spelling (campinag) errors.

  5. John R Dale on April 23rd, 2010 7:06 pm

    Maybe we’ll see more clean camp sites that just have a few drive by septic areas, we always prefer sites with only water and electricity, they seem to stay so much cleaner overall. I don’t think increases will solve anything and you don’t increase for the one nighters, you decrease for the long term renters. Boondocking will start to look better and better otherwise. When it starts to rise over $35 we wonder why we are not just selling out and using hotels (oh sure they are $85 plus but they are pretty easy to use). This year we are looking for $15-$17 with no hookups and $22-$30 depending on amenities, more than that we start boondocking.

  6. David Crymes on April 23rd, 2010 8:37 pm

    Five miles east of our home is a Motel Six that rents our a room for thirty nine dollars a day. There is laundery, taxes, swiming pool, and building upkeep and they seem to make a living. I am having a hard time wondering why RV campgrounds can’t make money when their capital investment is so much smaller than motel six. I may be missing something and could well be wrong but this does make me wonder.

  7. Gina on April 23rd, 2010 10:25 pm

    David, I have a feeling that the cost of maintaining a campground is a lot more than a motel 6. Think about the large grounds to tend to, for one. Two, you can’t stack
    RVers on top of each other, as in a 2 or 3 story hotel – RVers sprawl out over a big amount of property. Also, campgrounds often have multiple kinds of recreation, beyond what a motel 6 would offer, which can be expensive to maintain. All in all, I agree with the author, that campers should be respectful of campgrounds and aware of the economic conditions – as we should with all businesses and places everywhere as we travel!

  8. Ken Fowler on April 24th, 2010 7:37 am

    As a businessman myself I can emphasize with RV campground and resort owners. I am a relatively new RVer and am impressed with many of the RV campgrounds and services so actually feel fortunate to have them available and gratefully pay my $35 or $40. I consciously do not abuse the right to the services available, electricity for example, and leave the place as clean as I found it. While not looking for any accolades for this attitude, others I have watched “getting their dollars worth” by abusing the system could use some of my attitude. Otherwise we all be staying at Wal-Marts or rest areas because nothing else will be available.

  9. Thomas Becher on April 24th, 2010 9:29 am

    wish there were more travelers parks where you drive in hook up power and water, sleep, unhook and go. I don’t need OR use bathroom faciltys, pool, rec hall etc. All I want is a safe place to stay for 8 hours, without running my generator, or depleating my water supply. I may dump but if I have to go to a central place, so be it. Just spent a week at the Kentucky Horse park in Lexington Ky . Had water, electric, and a picnic table. didn’t use the table,Had to back in( not my most favorite thing to do. They had 2 central sewerage dumps, big deal that it isn’t right by your trail;er. I didn’t use the pool (don’t even know if it was filled, the tennis courts with the lights on all night $$$ nothing but space electric and water. But the price will be the same whether or not I use them If it wasn’t offered the price could be less. I used to stay at the Eagles Nest in Van Horn Tx, drive in out. Didn’t get there this year but it was $18 2 years ago. All pull thru sites. Great

  10. Patricia on April 24th, 2010 3:58 pm

    Professor95 makes a very good point regarding electicity over use, not littering,etc. Basically being responsible citizens of the world, RV or otherwise. We are full time RVer’s and have camped in many campgrounds across the States and in Canada, most are well kept and staff are very friendly and knowledgeable about the area, we always try and be respectful of the campground and other campers. We camphost for the summer and have seen some very disrespectful campers, whether the issue is garbage or being loud late at night or breaking items, etc, it does cause more work for us which in turn will run up the cost of running the campground. Think about it, next time your are camping, be a responsible citizen.
    Thank you Professor95 for your article.

  11. Manuel Enos on April 24th, 2010 4:05 pm

    I have no problem paying 30-40 bucks a nite to stay in an RV park. The problem is when they tack the word RESORT on the end of the name of the park and want 55 bucks a night and the place is a dump!! Dirt roads, unlevel sites and no AMENITIES!! When I am going west from Florida, I try to stay in Corp of Engineer parks. They are clean and usually have paved roads, paved sites and under 30 bucks per nite and have water, electricity (50 & 30 amp) and nice clean dump sites. Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas have great Corp parks with lots of amenities and are usually close to towns or a WALMART!! Try it, you’ll love it.. Most Corp parks are staffed by volunteers and they do a great job of seeing that your stay with the Corp is top notch…If these big privately owned parks want to save some money, they need to think about offering free stays to people that will volunteer to help them take care of their RESORT!! Works for most state and federal parks.

  12. Fred Brandeberry, SR on April 26th, 2010 10:44 am

    Guys & Gals:
    We have full-timed, on and off since 1965.
    Our rig uses ONE major appliance at a time.
    3-4 amps used by the converter, 3-4 amps for the refer and 10-12 amps for a electric hot water heater. And we haven’t urned on an AC, electric heater, coffee pot, hair dryer or toaster/
    For more info please look

    Happy Camping,
    Fred b.

  13. Brad Fuller on April 30th, 2010 8:04 pm

    I’m sure that a lot of campgrounds are having problems just like any other business during this economic crisis that this country is experiencing. Who’s responsibility is it to help them get their cost under control? I don’t feel like it is my responsibility beyond just using resources wisely. The campground is responsibile for their cost structure. If they charge too much, I won’t stay there. If they don’t charge enough, they won’t stay around. Who’s fault will it be if a campground goes out of business? What I like and dislike about a campground would be content for a complete article. In our free capatalistic society, if you don’t like it, don’t use it. Everyone has their own idea of what they want in a campground.

  14. marianj on May 20th, 2010 2:07 pm

    I agree with the person who said that there should be a different rate for overnight stays. We frequently travel fromTexas to Oregon & back with many overnight stays.Sometimes the only thing we use is the electricity and the laundry. so why pay 30 or more Dollars Marian PS We recently stayed in a California State Park for $38. Dry camping. We wont go there again Marian