Camping: A Family Recreational Activity
In recent years, there has been increasing emphasis on the beauty
of nature and the outdoors, healthful activities, family values
and the importance of spending time together as a family. For many
years now, camping has been viewed as a traditional and wholesome
family activity. Other businesses which work to meet these needs
include Disney World and other theme parks, amusement parks such
as Paramount Parks and Six Flags, water parks, family oriented cruise
lines and many more. Camping is an option which can be enjoyed without
extensive and expensive travel costs and can provide unique family
Camping is most often a family activity enjoyed by parents and
children under 18 years of age. Senior citizens, sports enthusiasts
and others also enjoy camping. According to industry studies, camping
is popular because it is an "affordable" getaway for
nearly the entire population, can be enjoyed with family and friends,
and provides an opportunity to be close to nature. There are many
different forms of camping: from rustic tenting to cabins to fold-downs
and travel trailers to luxurious recreational vehicles (RV's).
According to the Travel Industry Association (TIA), camping is
the most popular outdoor vacation activity in the United States.
Another study by A.C. Nielson states that one American in four...
comprising over 60 million people... participates in camping, making
it the third most popular recreational activity in the U.S. This
love for camping crosses all demographics; people of all ages, incomes,
cultural and educational backgrounds enjoy camping.
There are several demographic and socio-economic trends in the
United States which indicate a bright future for our franchise concept.
The renewed emphasis on family values and activities combined with
the growth of "baby boomer" families indicates that
there will be a growing camping population for many years. While
birth rates have fallen slightly from their recent peak of 4,124,000
in 1990 to the most recent reported level of 3,891,000 in 1996,
birth rates are still at their highest levels since the baby boom
period (1950-1964). Also, current economic conditions in the U.S.
indicate that families and others will be seeking affordable vacations
and recreational activities such as camping. These factors lend
very favorably to our campground concept.
The camping industry in North America is made up of approximately
11,000 parks, of which 4,100 are owned by the public sector and
6,900 are privately held. Of the private sector parks, the average
size is only 120 sites. The vast majority of these private sector
parks are classified as small parks, with only 28% having more than
150 sites. Moreover, of the total number of campgrounds, only about
500 are classified as "camping resorts", those with pools,
attractions and other amenities as required by the Yogi Bear's Jellystone
Revenues generated by the better-operated smaller parks peak, on
average, at $220,000, while larger parks fare better, producing
between $500,000 to over $2,000,000. The industry is dominated by
small operators whose cash-generating power makes it difficult for
many to make needed capital improvements to not only grow their
businesses, but to adapt to changing consumer demands in the camping
industry. While "camping resorts" are not flagged in
any research, they are usually the better performing, higher revenue
The average camper is over 40 years of age with a household income
of over $50,000. Many are skilled industrial workers in two-income
families. Two-thirds of all campers are camping with family members.
They camp to get away, to do something affordable, to be outdoors
with family and friends. When they choose a campground they look
for a secure, clean, quiet environment with something to do. They
rely on "word of mouth" recommendations more often than
on any other source.
Outside the significant presence of government owned and subsidized
campgrounds, the major forces in the camping industry today are
Kampgrounds of America (KOA), which dominates the industry with
about 500 franchised parks and 14 company owned, and LSI, with nearly
70 franchises. KOA's units are generally smaller campgrounds used
for overnight "along the way" stays, while Yogi Bear's
Jellystone Parks are dominated by camping resorts, which are the
camper's final destination. Membership and deeded lot sales
parks are still somewhat popular, especially in the Sun Belt, and
will continue to be a factor as the Boomers retire and
move to warmer climates.
Campgrounds can be divided into two main categories: public or
government owned and privately owned.
Publicly (Governmentally) Owned Campgrounds
Government owned campgrounds include national parks, state parks,
and county and city parks. Both for environmental reasons and budget
reasons, there is very little expansion of campsites occurring in
government owned parks. Campgrounds in some of the most famous national
parks are extremely popular and are often filled to capacity. Government
owned parks generally offer very basic services, which usually include
a campsite that may have water or water and electric but rarely
include sewered lots. There is usually a bathhouse with showers;
however many of these facilities have only pit toilets. Camping
rates are very low, typically in the $6.00 to $15.00 per night range.
They are also typically located in an area of an attractive natural
feature such as a lake, river, or mountains. There are very few
employees and usually no activities other than those campers create
for themselves. Campers in government parks include the budget conscious,
hikers, boaters, and campers who are there to enjoy the natural
features of the park. These campgrounds are a very different product
and create a different camping experience. While they do compete
for our customers' leisure time and their rates are very low, they
do not compete in providing a quality activity oriented resort experience.
Among private campgrounds, most are independently owned and are
typically operated as a family business or by a corporate entity.
They may be part of the KOA franchise system of about 500 parks,
they may be part of the LSI franchise system (Jellystone Parks)
of about 70 parks, or they may be one of the 6,300 campgrounds,
which are independent of any franchise system.
· Independent Campgrounds
Independent campgrounds include many fine destination campgrounds,
campgrounds which cater primarily to the overnight traveler, campgrounds
which cater primarily to the senior campers, campgrounds which primarily
cater to customers who rent a campsite for an entire season and
others which serve some other particular group of customers. A large
number of independent campgrounds, possibly as much as fifty percent,
are not profitable enough to, or for some other reason do not, adequately
maintain and update their facilities. These campgrounds generally
do not or cannot raise rates very often, which puts rate pressure
on other campgrounds. Many sun-belt campgrounds cater to the senior
citizen. Many of whom live year round in a motor home costing in
excess of one hundred thousand dollars. These campgrounds tend to
be largely profitable, and have excellent facilities. There are
many independent campgrounds which are only ancillary to another
business and exist to support the main business such as those campgrounds
adjacent to casinos or golf courses. There is great diversity among
campgrounds, the camping experience they deliver, and the customers
· Sales / Membership Parks
In sales parks, the site is sold to an individual who has title
to the property and then pays yearly maintenance and upkeep fees.
Membership parks sell basic time-share programs, giving the purchaser
rights to a certain number of site nights annually... normally,
for a lifetime. Many of the membership sales parks belong to organizations
like Coast To Coast or Thousand Trails. These
companies are an association of membership parks that allow members
from other parks in the association to stay overnight for a nominal
fee (many restrictions apply to this arrangement). Obviously, there
are many problems with this concept, but it is a factor in the industry.
This concept has allowed parks to make a lot of money selling spaces,
but the long-term effect, on those parks which couldn't hold their
own notes, has caused many financial problems.
Both lot sales and membership parks that have come under government
scrutiny because of questionable sales practices that have been
used to sell both lots and time-shares. Our system has 8 parks that
sell memberships or deeded lots, all of which must hold back a minimum
of 150 of their sites to the overnight traveler. While sales programs
are now prohibited by the franchise agreement, LSI has in the past
allowed sales programs to be initiated in existing parks if, for
example, it was carried out in very limited capacity and restricted
to a specified area within the park.
· KOA Campgrounds
KOA campgrounds specialize in catering to the long distance traveler.
They are almost always located adjacent to heavily traveled highways
or major tourist attractions. They are usually well-maintained and
can be counted on to provide a campsite to a certain standard, a
well-maintained bathhouse, and a swimming pool. Starting a few years
ago, KOA introduced what they call a Kamper Kabin, which is a small
1 or 2 bedroom cabin (12 feet wide and either 12 or 20 feet long)
which sleeps from four to six people. It has no running water but
includes beds with mattress pads and a front porch with a porch
swing. They have proved to be very popular and all KOA's are required
to have Kamper Kabins. Besides Kamper Kabins, KOA has a common reservation
system in place at all their campgrounds as well as a national reservation
service, which is a great asset to their system. A traveler may
make one call to make reservations at a series of KOA campgrounds
as he plans a long distance vacation. KOA's usually have only limited
recreation facilities or activities because of the emphasis on the
· Jellystone Parks
The Jellystone Park system, by contrast,
is made up of what are termed destination campgrounds. These are
campgrounds, or more accurately camp-resorts, where the typical
customer spends several days or longer at the park to enjoy the
experiences and amenities of the resort which may include visiting
nearby attractions. Camping resorts need to provide much more than
just a clean campsite and a swimming pool... they must provide a
satisfying leisure vacation experience for a family. Since the first
Jellystone Park opened in July of 1970, the system has expanded
into twenty-four states and Canada. Presently, the Jellystone system
of independently owned and operated Camp-Resorts has over 15,000
available campsites in nearly 70 resorts with total gross revenues
of $49,000,000. The Jellystone Park system has a terrific asset
in the ability to use Yogi Bear and related characters in the theming
of their parks, in the use of "live" Yogi, Cindy and Boo
Boo characters as part of the park activities, and in marketing.
Yogi Bear is one of the top ten of all time classic cartoon characters
and is recognized by 95% percent of American adults, 92% of teens
and 94% of children. Destination camp-resorts, and Jellystone Parks
in particular, generate a large majority of their business from
repeat customers and word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers.
Most customers are within a four hour drive from the park. These
types of parks generally have several profit centers in the park
in addition to the camping fees. In the case of most Jellystone
Parks, these include: rental cabins, miniature golf, boat rentals,
a store containing convenience and food items, camping supplies,
souvenirs, and tee shirts, a snack shack, a video game room, coin
operated laundry centers and other miscellaneous services to our
customers. These ancillary profit centers, on average, provide in
excess of 35% of the total revenues generated by our franchise operations,
compared to the 20 – 25% for the rest of the industry.