RV Park Mastery: Episode 39

Thoughts On Extending Your Season

The advent of winter causes some RV park owners to be sad and others happy – depending on whether your property is in the north or the south. But there are concepts out there that allow any RV park owner to extend their season and have revenue year-round. That’s the topic of this RV Park Mastery podcast. All of the concepts we’ll discuss are low-risk and time-proven – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Episode 39: Thoughts On Extending Your Season Transcript

For many RV park owners, the changing of the seasons can be a time of dread or happiness,  where the advent of winter means shutting down for the year. Or if you have a southern property where as the approach of winter, people tend to then go down south with their RV, and your business picks up substantially. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to be talking about how to extend your season, how to take the normal, changing of the seasons and making it instead of something that you fear or you enjoy, having a little of that extra enjoyment year round.

So let's talk for a minute about why some RV parks are seasonal, and we all know why: it's the weather. Some parts of America in the winter are extremely severe. For example, if you own an RV park up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you will soon be looking at having snowdrifts that might be seven or 10 feet tall. And clearly no one really wants to be in their RV in an area and an era in which you can't get around because you're completely trapped by snow and ice. And down south when summer approaches it's the exact reverse. Temperatures go up. And it's really, really hard to live happily in an area where it's so hot outside that you can hardly breathe. So how do we make the best of both worlds happened given the fact that many RV parks are located in extreme northern or extreme southern parts of the US?

Well, let me tell you about the RV parks that we own down on the Texas Mexico border. We fall into the category of having a tough time to get people to want to hang out in the RV park when it's summer, when it gets so fiercely hot there. Now there are new techniques to try and get people to be in your RV park year round. Even in the parks that have extreme weather events, it's possible to extend your season if you just use some common sense, a little strategy, and test your impulses and see if they work. At our properties down there on the Texas Mexican border what we decided was there were some people some degree of people that really liked those really hot summers, just as there are people who really love those summers in Las Vegas where it gets so insanely hot, 110 or 120 degrees, there is some slice of America that doesn't really mind that kind of heat, they actually kind of like it. So we found that there were people who might stay in the property year round, if they had something a little larger and more permanent than their RV.

So we started bringing in park models. We started doing this several years ago, and it's worked out really well. Basically people who are there in their RV see the park model. You have like a show home, they go and look through it and say, "You know what, I think we're just going to go ahead and buy this, sell our RV, and just stay here permanently." Others extend their season when they own that park model, which let's all be honest, is a little more spacious, little more permanent, little easier to get around. They just decided to stay there more of the year than they were back when they were in their RV. Also, don't forget that those park models are a little easier for people, particularly seniors to get around in, regardless of disabilities or what other issues they may have. So by injecting those park models in a big way into our RV parks, we were able to get a good degree of the population in there and the revenue to be stable year round. And it's also not a "you have to bet the farm" project to do; you can bring one in and see how it does. Sell it, buy another and bring it in. Keep selling well just keep repeating the same movie. So really there's not a lot of risk in doing that.

What else can you do besides bringing in park models? Well, you can see if people want to bring in tiny homes. Tiny homes are a unique feature of the new concept of American living. A lot of people are now savoring living small and tiny homes have a big following. You probably have seen them on television. There's any number of shows on HGTV regarding tiny homes. The problem is there's nowhere you can put them because tiny homes don't fall under any of the categories it can go on a residential lot or even on a mobile home park lot, because they do not have typically what's called the HUD seal. So how do you get around that thing? Well, if you got a tiny home, if you want to live in a tiny home, then one of the few places you can actually put one other than buying land way out in the county is in an RV park. As I drive across America,  I've seen many RV parks that are starting to build tiny home what look like subdivisions in some portions of the property. There's a big one in Indiana has a very, very large tiny homes section there, and there it's really caught on well. Not that it's near any kind of city hub, it really isn't. But a lot of people who want to retire into a tiny home and live in the country and enjoy nature, enjoy living small, they've all congregated to this RV Park, which is let it be known that they are very open to the idea. And I don't really see any problem was it because tiny homes really look nice. Each of the tiny homes in that RV park, they're all architecturally striking, different. I don't think anyone would have any negative connotation from them whatsoever.

Another thing you can do is you can look into glamping. Now I know that glamping is kind of an odd concept, the idea that someone would go out there and rent a travel trailer basically for $100 or $200 a night. But a lot of Americans are finding they just don't like the good old fashioned hotel travel anymore. After COVID, it no longer has the glamour. Many people learned or tested alternative forms of travel, namely RV parks and glamping, during COVID, and now they kind of like them. And when people are going to be staying overnight in that format, well you know, they travel pretty much year round across America. It's not just a summer thing. It's kind of fun being in a travel trailer when it's really cold outside and you're inside with your friends and family, or have a nice book to read. So might look into that as well, because again, it's a way to extend that season. Sure someone might not want to go out there with the RV and spend a whole month when it's cold out. But they sure might want to stop by as they travel from one point of America to the other, and look at that as a stopping over point.

The bottom line to all of it is that RV parks, although some are by necessity, seasonal for good old RV travel, you don't have to really put yourself into that cubby hole. Because there are new things out there that might allow you to extend your season. The other problem you have to think about is when you have an RV park, you've kind of already paid for everything year round. I mean, you already have the property, it's already there ready to go, all utilities are really already to there. Typically, you still have a manager on site, often you're the manager. So doesn't it make sense to try things out to try and extend your season? If you have all your fixed costs covered to me any business would as a result, try and go a step farther. Every dollar you bring in goes to the bottom line, because really all of your costs are already covered.

And what's nice about all the things I've mentioned is you can test them all out. You don't have to bet the farm. It's not like starting Federal Express where he had to go out and buy all the airplanes and the trucks and hire all the people. And they really weren't sure the idea would work. In fact there was a period when FedEx looked like it might fail, he was very, very close to insolvency. If he had well, he would have wiped all the investors out, wiped himself out, embarrassed himself for all time. But in this case, you're able to test things out on a very, very low amount of capital. In fact it would be hard to imagine that you couldn't succeed enough to certainly make back whatever you had spent. Part of it is simply marketing. Part of it if you wanted to do for example glamping, yeah, you might risk buying a couple travel trailers and restoring them. Want to try out park models, what are you out there? You buy one park model, bring it in, see what happens. So the great thing about the RV park industry is that it is so flexible, and there's so many ways you can test things out on very low capital commitment.

Also, don't forget the market is definitely heading your way. Every idea I've thrown out is now supported by millions of Americans who are taking preference the idea of being outdoors, taking preference to the idea of living small. So you're on the right side of all the trends. The bottom line you at all is that if you have an RV park, or you're looking to buy at an RV park and you're thinking well, this park is seasonal, but is there something more I could do? The answer is yes, there probably is. Many, many RV park owners across America have been trying out new ways to make that season longer than just the normal season that we all think of. And if you can extend that season, even by just a month or two, all of that revenue falls to the bottom line. Isn't that worth giving it a try? This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.