How to Start a Campground

opening a campground

 

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Starting a Campground business can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching and running a successful Campground.

Importantly, a critical step in starting a campground is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.

6 Steps to Start a Campground Business

Step 1: Develop a Campground Business Plan

The first step to starting a successful campground is to develop a formal business plan. Planning for the future is vital to the success of your business and will help you achieve long-term growth and profitability. If you want to start a campground business you must include market research as part of your business plan. Research can include conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis or asking others for their opinions on relevant information.

Your plan should be built around your specific business needs and goals and will include details such as:

  • The purpose of the business
  • The mission statement
  • A list of the products and/or services you will offer
  • A description of your target market
  • The anticipated start date and projected end date for your business operations
  • Your long term goals, including how to achieve them (i.e., key milestones) and what milestones have already been reached

Step 2: Raise Enough Startup Capital to Meet Your Needs

In developing your business plan you will determine how much money you need to start and run your campground. If the upfront costs exceed your personal savings, then you will have to raise funding. The most common form of funding for a campground is a bank loan. Identify all local banks and present your business plan to them to acquire a loan.

Step 3: Develop a Marketing Plan

Being able to market your campground is one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not it will be successful. You’ll need to develop an effective marketing strategy that will make people aware of your campground and get them excited about spending their leisure time with you.

Selecting a campground

To develop this successful marketing plan, you should first define who your target audience is and how they want to be reached (direct mail, online ads, etc.). Once you’ve defined the parameters of your marketing strategy, execute on it. It might take some time for you to determine the best methods to attract campers through your marketing campaign, but it will be well worth the effort.

Step 4: Acquire the Real Estate You Need to Run Your Campground

Once you’ve completed your business plan and marketing strategy, you’re ready to find the property that will be home to your campground. You can either purchase an existing campground or try your hand at campground development. If you decide to purchase an existing campground, you should look for something that has ongoing revenues. This will give your business a steady stream of income as well as provide potential investors with the comfort that they are not taking too much of a risk on you.

You may choose to develop your own campground. For example, you might decide to purchase a large tract of land and divide it into campground sites yourself. This method would allow you to increase profits by controlling the number of campsites that are available for rent, but you should also keep in mind the costs involved with developing a large piece of land. A smaller tract of land would lower your initial development costs, but you may limit your profit potential. It’s essential that you carefully detail the expenses for each of your options before making a decision.

Step 5: Develop the Right Campground Utility & Operating Systems

After you’ve acquired your campground site, you need to make sure that it is fully equipped with everything that it needs in order to function. First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure that your campground has easy access to electrical power. Without this basic utility for running lights and other campground utilities, your campers won’t be satisfied.

Beyond electricity, you’ll also need to consider water supply access for your campers since having easy access to it is critical when camping. While this may seem like an easy thing to have on the surface, if not planned out ahead of time, it can actually be quite difficult for small business owners to get on site. If you rent your campground property, you don’t have much say in the matter so this is something that you need to keep in mind when making your decisions about how and where to purchase or develop a campground.

Step 6: Develop Great Relationships With Employees

One of the biggest challenges that many campground owners face is conflict within the campground employees itself. As a first-time owner, you should try your best to prevent any conflicts from occurring at all by hiring the right people and then training them well so that they can provide excellent service for your customers. Additionally, if there are any campers causing problems, you need to be able to solve the problem before it causes any permanent damage.

 

How Big is the Campground Industry?

The campground and RV park industry is a big business, with revenues in excess of $6.3 billion annually. 

In fact, one out of every five Americans has been to a campground at least once during their life. From remote primitive camping sites to large resort-style campgrounds, there are innumerable ways for you to get into the campground and RV park industry and start generating revenue. As it turns out, there are actually millions of campers – more than 60 million in the US alone – all looking for a great place to camp. Because of this demand, you’ll be able to find lots of customers who want to come and stay at your campground.

Not only is the campground industry big, but it’s also growing quickly. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of jobs in this industry will grow by 14% over the next 8 years. So, if you get into this business now, you can expect to be very busy for many years to come.

 

What are the Key Segments of the Campground Industry?

There are generally considered to be three different segments that make up the campground industry.

Public Campgrounds

Public campgrounds are owned by the government (county, state or federal). They rent out campsites to the public on a per night basis. Generally speaking, these sites will be smaller and less expensive than your other two options. Additionally, most public campgrounds allow for tents and will not provide electricity to the campsites.

Private Campgrounds

This type of campground is very similar in many ways to a public campground, but it has one major difference that sets it apart – private campground businesses are privately owned by business owners like you. Private campgrounds tend to be larger with more amenities than a public campground.

Resorts

This option is basically a cross between a private campground and a motel. Unlike the other two segments, the campers at a resort typically rent out an entire cabin or house in addition to a campsite. Because of this, resorts are much larger and more expensive than a public or private campground. Additionally, they often have many amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants, and even fitness centers.

If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.

 

Who are the Key Competitors in the Campground Industry?

As with any business, there are always competitors that the business owner must be aware of. Although the size of your campground will impact how many competitors you have, this is generally considered to be a very competitive industry.

Other Campgrounds, Motels, Hotels & Resorts

You will likely be competing with a number of other campgrounds who are located in the same area as you. In addition, you might also find yourself competing with nearby motels, hotels and resorts when it comes to acquiring new campers.

RV Parks

RV Parks cater more towards the recreational vehicle community than traditional campers.

 

What are the Key Customer Segments in the Campground Market?

When developing a campground business plan, it is essential that you define your target market. In other words, you need to figure out who your specific customers will be and aim for them specifically rather than simply trying to attract everyone in general. Many campgrounds will cater to multiple types of customers at once, but it is important that you focus on one specific customer segment while developing your marketing strategies.

Corporate or Business Clients

Because there are some business professionals who want to go camping without having to actually rough it, you might find yourself attracting this type of customer. This is because they typically have a higher than average disposable income and can afford to pay your prices.

Campers

Campers typically come in all shapes and sizes with different interests, so it is important that you learn as much about this customer segment as possible. For example, car campers might prefer a location that is close to a grocery store while those going on a backpacking trip might want to be close to trails.

Families

Families, by definition, have children of all ages and sizes as well as spouses or loved ones of all ages and marital statuses. In addition to this, they also typically have a budget that they need to stick within. If you want to cater to this market, your campground might want to offer an onsite swimming pool or water park.

Senior Citizens

While they typically have a lower income, senior citizens might be willing to pay a little bit extra for your services. In addition to this, you might also attract their children and grandchildren as well if your campground is close enough to any major tourist attractions.

Camping Enthusiasts

In general, most campers enjoy the camping aspect of camping as well as other activities such as hiking, fishing, and biking. As such, you might want to specifically target those who love the outdoors and everything that it has to offer because they will spend money on your services whether you market them or not.

If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.

What are the Typical Startup Costs for a New Campground?

Land or Purchase

Depending on how large your campground is going to be and where you plan on building it, the cost of land can vary drastically. In most cases, this is a one-time investment that the owner will make and then hope to recoup with their profits over time.

Improvements

Prior to opening your campground for business, you will more than likely need to make improvements and/or repairs. This is especially true if you plan on using the campground as a secondary income stream because your main job might not pay enough to afford new facilities or whatever else it is that you need.

Equipment

Depending on what your campground has to offer, you could purchase equipment outright or lease it.

Business Licenses

You will also need to get any necessary business licenses in order. This is typically something that your local ordinances and government requires before permitting or licensing your campground for operation, and will often involve working with the local planning board.

Business Insurance

If your campgrounds offer anything from food and beverage to camping equipment rental services, then you might need additional general liability insurance coverage.

Permits

Depending on how your campground is set up and used, you might also need a variety of permits to operate as well. For example, if a portion of your campground is used for commercial purposes such as hosting weddings or other events, then you might need to apply for the proper city and state permits.

 

How Profitable is a Campground Business?

A campground business can be profitable, but it is important to remember that this is a seasonal business. As such, you will typically have spikes in revenue during certain times of the year while other times might be slower. For example, many campgrounds are at their busiest during summer or spring vacations while they might be completely closed off season due to the weather being bad or not enough resources being around to support the campgrounds.

With the proper business and marketing plan, it is possible to make a profit. Understand what your competitors offer and their pricing so you can understand how you will set yourself apart from the rest.

 

What are the Keys to Launching a New Campground?

There are four main keys to consider when launching a new campground.

Market Analysis

Before you even think about opening the doors on your campgrounds, it’s important to do several market analyses. This way, you will have an idea of who your target market is and how much they might be willing to pay for services before investing your own money.

Location

Where you decide to open a campground will have a direct impact on how much it is going to cost and how much revenue you can generate from it. Just remember, the more popular a location for campgrounds, the higher demand will be which often means that competition can be stiffer as well. For example, being in close proximity to a national or state park also has the potential to attract more customers, but also means there will likely already be a number of preexisting campgrounds.

Branding

When you decide to open a campground, it can be easy to focus on the camping aspect. However, if you want your campgrounds to stand out, then it’s important to have a strong brand that reflects the type of activity you plan on offering.

Quality Controls

It is important to set up quality controls that will help you ensure that your campgrounds are up to par. It doesn’t matter how many customers you bring in if they decide not to return based on poor camping experiences such as dirty bathrooms and an overall run-down look to your campgrounds.
 

Additional Resources

Campground Mavericks
 

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How to Start a Campground Business FAQs

Camping or Cabin Rental: If you plan on renting out anything from a small tent to a large cabin, then this is something that is typically factored into your per-night rates.

Food and Beverage: Depending on the size of your campground, you might want to consider offering both foodservice and beverage options to attract more customers. This is especially true if your campground appeals to a larger customer base such as families and young adults. 

Activities: Depending on what type of visitors you expect to attract, you might want to set up activities for them. For example, having events like scavenger hunts and trivia nights can be a way to bring in even more customers and generate more revenue.

To begin, look at the logistics of starting up a campground business. Do some research online and talk with people who already run successful campgrounds in order to get an idea of some of the standards that you should follow. Once this is done, develop a business plan, which will also help you map out a marketing plan. Finally, create a budget and determine how much it will cost you to start up your campground as well as how much money it will take for you to stay afloat each year.

All campgrounds must offer basic amenities like bathrooms and some type of water supply. However, you might find that if you cater to certain types of campers or customers then there are additional services that they will expect. For example, if your campground is more popular with families then it might be a good idea for you to include free activities like a pool, playground or other equipment. Plus, if you allow pets then having a designated area for them to play might be a good idea as well. Additionally, providing power hookups similar to that of an RV park can expand your customer base.

If your campgrounds are more popular with luxury campers, then it might be a good idea to invest in amenities like WiFi access, cable television hookups, and pools or hot tubs. Remember, the goal is to have customers continue returning year after year so if you can provide them with things that they will hopefully return annually.


 

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