How to Start a Successful Campground Business
Campground business is poising to be more lucrative in this era, considering the growth of tourism as a multi-million-dollar industry. Nature-oriented tourism has its own charm and takers. People prefer to rest, relax, and get entertained in camps. The wonder lust for nature is boosting camping across the globe.
Whether it is hiking up Mount Roraima or the mesmerizing turquoise waters of the Verdon River, or the 30-km glacier in Patagonia, or the glorious waterfalls in Lauterbrunnen Valley, or the forever favorite Niagara Falls, or just having multiple activities in one site, the intention sums down to recreation and entertainment.
Nature-bound camping is a fertile business for entrepreneurs to tap and what better than a campground business!
But starting a campground business is not that easy. You may require a solid business plan, and a good understanding of the management principle, execution strategy, and the drive to go a step beyond your business potential.
Your campground business will be similar to running any business; therefore, it too demands you to ensure that everything is functioning smoothly, including housekeeping, electrical maintenance, plumbing, property maintenance, accounting, management, marketing, and more.
Campground management is a real-time business, and the best campground management software should help you run a campground business successfully. Campground management software will help you right from taking online reservations, process payments, until managing the site activities. Many of the campground software comes with a fully customizable booking page, calendar, site map, availability chart, and they are accessible from any device, with options for multiple languages along with multiple payment facilities.
This article will enable you to understand the tactics and get started with your campground business.
Start Your Campground Business – Create a Well-Versed Business Plan
You have got a great business idea, but struggling to start? Then, you are in the right place. We have tried to simplify the process of planning, registering, and executing your campground way, along with legally complying with the state laws.
A business plan helps you prepare for the challenges ahead and introduces you to several situations that are not familiar to you.
Do not hurry with your business plan. Instead, take as much time you require crafting the business plan. It will be your reference point and also help financers to make their decision about funding.
However, the business plan for your campground business must be realistic and grounded on factual data. An overly optimistic business plan will only push financers away and disappoint you in the future.
Know Your Target Market
The target market of your campground business will determine various aspects of your business. Keep in mind that the business is not targeting everyone, but a particular segment with its own characteristics. Targeting everyone does not mean more business.
If your campground business is featuring places with utilities, then you must include camps with a recreational vehicle. If your business is in primitive places, then you will include simple tent camps.
That is just one example of how the target market impacts your business decisions. So, before anything else, determine your target market.
Choose a Unique Business Name
This step is both crucial and interesting. Your business name is your identity and plays a key role in developing the first impression.
The business name must be unique and relevant. You can shortlist a few names and check if a web domain for the business name is available.
Calculate Costs of Running a Campground
We divide the costs of running a business into two; one-time expenses and on-going expenses. On-going expenses vary with business performance.
Some of the on-going expenses of your campground business include:
- Maintenance of camps, vehicles, tanks, and more
- Employee payroll
- Renewal of permits and licenses
- Disposal of garbage
- Utility expenses, including electricity, gas, vehicle fuel, and more
- Expense of performers, like singers, dancers, and more
One-time costs are relatively easier to calculate and manage. To begin with, you will need to purchase land for your camps. The costs of land per acre depend on the location, surrounding scenery, and more. For example, lands surrounded by lakes or rivers are expensive.
The land costs range from $1000/acre and go up to $10,000/acre.
Instead of purchasing raw land, you can also buy an existing campsite that ranges from $100,000 to $2,000,000+.
The campground business requires you to do the following as one-time expenses:
- Clear the land and build roads
- Build fencing, bathrooms, bathhouses, and other amenities
- Install septic, electric, and plumbing systems
- Get permits and licenses
- Build hiking trails, bridges, pet area, boat ramp, and/or more
Develop Revenue Models
It is interesting to understand how the campground business generates revenues. It primarily earns money by renting out the camping sites. Now it is up to you how to increase and diversify revenue streams.
You can also set up a store that sells camping gear, local souvenirs, chocolates, chips, drinks, and other non-perishable food items. You may also offer photography services, like a photo booth that prints pictures instantly.
Plan your packages wisely. The prices depend on the location of the site, location of the campground, type of location, facilities offered, and more. The charges per night vary from $10/night to $150/night.
Locations with utilities and Wi-Fi are expensive, while primitive sites are cheaper.
Do not overcharge nor undercharge. Research and see the average prices in your location for similar businesses.
Now must be wondering about the profitability of your campground business. The profits depend on a lot of factors, the number of campground sites, operational expenses, liabilities, and the perceived value of your business, to name a few.
Start by analyzing your monthly overheads. Calculate the costs of salaries, permitting fees, inventory, utilities, mortgage payments, and other monthly expenses. Once you have the monthly expenses figured out, you will know how much to price each campsite to make profits.
Also, you can charge different amounts at different points around the year. For example, you can charge more during holiday seasons, such as New Year, Valentines, and Thanksgiving etc. For lesser tourism months, you can keep your prices low.
Choose Your Campground Sites
There are hundreds of options to choose from. Some of the sites are famous amongst tourists, while some’s potential is still untapped. Here are some sites to start from if you are starting your business in the United States:
- Fenwick Island, Delaware: It’s a peaceful island with a total population of around 450. The island is located near Ocean City, Maryland, and is an excellent escape from the city life. It’s a beautiful combination of boardwalk and beach atmosphere.
- Auburn, California: With its gorgeous views, Auburn blends rustic and tourism to give visitors a memorable experience.
- Canton, Ohio: It is one of the places I was referring to when I said you could utilize some untapped places. The freezing nights and calm vibes of Ohio make it a perfect camping site.
- Stroudsburg: Pennsylvania: It has some of the best sceneries in the North and equally loved by tourists and campers. You can choose to set RVs or rustic camps.
Your business plan is the first step to establishing a campground business. It will give you a pathway to follow and clear business goals. Also, it will prepare you for the potential challenges that will come your way when running a campground business.
Once you have completed the business plan, review it again. Make sure that you have included all expenses and chose a reasonable camping site.
Select a Business Structure for Your Campground Business
Choosing a business structure for your business may seem overwhelming. We have simplified the options for you, so you can easily select one.
The decision depends on a couple of factors. Some of these include:
- Pass-Through Taxation: It levies a tax on the owner instead of on both the owner and the business.
- Personal Asset Protection: It saves you from bankruptcy in case the business is sued.
- Self-Employment Taxes: All business owners have to pay this tax on income.
You can choose from the following structures for your campground business:
- Partnership: Business structure for someone self-employed with one or more partners, but no legal identity.
- Sole Proprietorship: Business structure for someone self-employees and the sole owner of the business, with no partners or legal identity.
- C Corporation: Business structure for larger startups or companies looking for funding from investors.
- Limited Liability Corporation (LLC): Business structure for SMEs, offering similar benefits that a corporation would.
It is your choice to make, but we recommend an LLC for your campground business.
You will require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to pay federal and state taxes. You can get one directly from the website of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Register a Bank Account and Credit Card
You require a business bank account and credit card for your campground business. You cannot mix your private and business accounts. Otherwise, your personal assets will be at risk.
Open a business bank account to protect your assets. Also, it helps you with filing taxes. A business credit card builds your credit history and assists in raising investments.
Record the income and expenses meticulously for evaluating your business performance. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about annual tax payments with efficient accounting.
Get Permits and Licenses
You will require certain permits and licenses to run your campground business. Here are some of the required certifications:
Certificate of Occupancy
All businesses that are operating out of their location need a Certificate of Occupancy. The certificate confirms that the business is meeting all government laws, zoning laws, and building codes.
Landowners are responsible for obtaining the certificate from the local government authority. You must review all relevant laws and regulations to get the certificate.
If you are leasing land, confirm with your landlord about the CO.
Release of Liability
A release of liability form is a must-have for your campground business to avoid potential lawsuits and liability.
You will find thousands of release of liability forms on the internet. You can also hire a professional to make the form of you, which will cost you around $35.
Federal and State Licensing Requirements
Please carefully find the licensing requirements on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website. You can also visit the local clerk’s office to know more about the licensing requirements.
Also, get your business insured. You may also have to offer insurance to your employees as well.
Build Your Digital Presence
Establish your online presence, including an intriguing website and mobile app. Your website should include all the information about your campground business, including photos, videos, infographics, customer reviews, and more.
You must also let users check the availability of campsites, book and cancel services, and ask queries via Live Chat.
Furthermore, co-marketing will take your campground business to the next level. For example, you can partner with RV suppliers and get featured on their website, brochures, and more.
Email marketing to the targeted audience is excellent in triggering potential clients to avail the services.
However, most of these marketing strategies are implemented at a later stage. First, build your portfolio, focus on improving your business processes, and then market it massively to the target market.
We have listed pretty much everything you need to know to start and run a campground business. Your business plan is the secret recipe for the success of your business.
Investing in a Campground management software system can be a wise decision as it can help you tackle all challenges easily and quickly.
Bonfire Campground, Astra, RMS Campground & Park, Campground Master, CampManager are some of the top campground management software suggested by GoodFirms. You can even check the complete list of best campground management software and pick the one that suits your campground business needs. Almost all the Campground management software solutions mentioned in the list will help you to handle online registrations efficiently, manage your leads, gather analytics, manage check-in / check-outs, display site maps, manage payments and other charges, accounts, Point of sale and more.
If you have already picked one and have used, do share your feedback with GoodFirms.
Here is a list of the best campground software for campground owners. continue reading