According to fictional mastermind Sherlock Holmes, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” We concur, and it doesn’t take much sleuthing for most business operators to deduce the same. Data is the guiding light for operations around the world, while a lack of meaningful and accessible data spells trouble for everyone—including campground operators.
At Campspot, we have long recognized this importance and woven it into the framework of our platform through the Campspot Analytics tool and its newest Signals feature.
Campspot Analytics is a collection of intelligent dashboards that provide clear-cut metrics and data visualizations to campground operators on demand. This real-time information is used to help inform impactful business decisions.
Campspot Signals, a suite of benchmarking dashboards, is the latest addition to the Campspot Analytics tool. Industrywide, it’s the first-of-its-kind tool for competitive benchmarking in the outdoor hospitality market. By aggregating anonymized metrics from thousands of parks across North America, Signals enables operators to compare their performance against a recommended competitive set, or comp set, of historical data. The metrics available include Average Daily Rate (ADR), Occupancy Rate (OR), Revenue per Available Site (RevPAS), and more.
To illustrate how Campspot Analytics and Signals inform the decision-making of actual campground operators, we spoke with one multi-park executive about his experience.
Hi, Mike, can you please introduce yourself and the properties you manage?
I’m Mike Harrison and I’m the Chief Operating Officer of CRR Hospitality. We own several large, upscale RV resorts, including Verde Ranch RV Resort, which won ARVC’s 2022 Large Park of the Year Award. We also have River Sands RV Resort, located on the Colorado River bordering California. True to its namesake, Coachella Lakes RV Resort is in the heart of Coachella Valley, California, and has five lakes onsite. Lastly, we have our newest Savannah Lakes RV Resort, which is cut right out of the forest and is a beautiful sanctuary of southern hospitality.
How long has your company been using Campspot’s software to manage its RV resorts?
When we first entered this business in 2019, we chose Campspot to launch our resorts. We went through iterations of evaluating different park management softwares and what our business needed to get out of them. Speed to market for various features mattered a lot to us, which we have been pleased with from Campspot.
During the demo phase, there were two things that struck us most. First, Campspot was able to calculate and show us how it would drive value and ultimately revenue for our enterprise. Between the Campspot Marketplace, site lock fees, dynamic pricing, and reservation grid optimization, we realized these four aspects of the platform were worth 5% of our total campground revenue, which was significant for our scale. Though there may have been other tradeoffs to consider, we couldn’t trade for this factor, and the other software options didn’t drive the same revenue for us as Campspot.
The second reason why we chose Campspot was that we were clearly entering into a partnership. We feel that Campspot is a great partner in our success. The team actively listens to its customers and involves us in how to create the best deliverables for its customers. Our vision statement is “Evolve the industry to the modern world,” and I think Campspot takes that same approach. We want to be leading and cutting-edge, and I think Campspot rolled out the new Signals suite as a hallmark to that as well.
Before we discuss Signals specifically, how long have you been using Campspot Analytics and why?
We’ve been working with Analytics since it was unveiled within the platform. Before Analytics, we used to cobble together our own customer reports in Excel. Having an integrated data management tool in our software saves time and reduces error. We no longer have to worry about accidentally overriding a cell or importing an incorrect date time in our spreadsheets.
In short, Analytics is what I as a corporate officer need to run the business. Our staff on the ground are in the software everyday. They are primarily focused on check-ins, add-ons, special requests—every task it takes to keep the park running. Often from this viewpoint, it’s hard to pause and take a critical look at the business from a 30,000-foot view. Although we have regular revenue meetings with our resort managers, their main focus is guest services and daily operations. So, the responsibility of revenue management lies mainly with the corporate folks, and we use Analytics in a number of different ways.
I subscribe to certain reports that are automatically sent to me at whatever cadence I prefer. These include the Occupancy Report, Daily Report, Market Report, and Business Mix Analysis. The report I reference the most is the Occupancy Pace Report. It provides a solid “at a glance” snapshot of how the business is doing—you know, are you up or down, should you be nervous or happy, should you hit the panic button or not.
As part of your data review routine, what metrics are you looking at on a longer time horizon, say monthly and semi-annually?
On a monthly basis, we need more data to confidently make trend decisions. So, we look at the Year-Over-Year Comparison Report by each month and sometimes by quarter. We also use the Business Mix Analysis to help guide our long-term versus short-term thinking.
All of these reports help you ask the right questions along the lines of, “I wonder why,” “what if,” and “I’m curious about.”
Are we making the right rate decisions? Did we miss out on an opportunity? Do we need to adjust our promotions? Do we need to cap our seasonals?
Especially now when the climate is so uncertain and there’s angst in the market, sometimes the data just provides peace of mind that we aren’t doing so bad comparatively even if we had a surprisingly rough first quarter, as we did this year. Semi-annually, we monitor what I like to call the cherry-on-top reports, including Cancellation Insights and Guest Driving Insights.
How do you make use of the Campspot Value Report?
The Campspot Value Report is unique in that it shows you how much revenue the platform is driving for your park specifically, from performance in the Marketplace, to generation of site lock fees and incremental revenue generated from grid optimization.
If an operator were to only look at reservation fees in their profit/loss report, that line item would stick out. But when you look at the Campspot Value Report, it’s clear you’re often making five times the fee number from added value.
This vantage point of ROI is another way of validating that we’re making the right decisions as a business, including the software provider we chose.
What is a surprising fact about your resorts that you have gleaned from exploring Campspot Analytics’ various reports and dashboards?
Last week, I looked at the Site Booking Report, which shows site nights reserved by month all the way back to 18 months ago. We have been down in reservations year over year, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that in August of 2023 we had the most site nights booked for future stays out of any other month in the last 18 months. It was our single busiest booking month by a long shot.
Despite being slightly down overall, this datapoint shows us that our promotions and holistic strategy are working. It’s the type of calm encouragement I can take to our ownership and partners to validate our trajectory.
Can you provide a specific example of how you have changed course in your business based on insights from an Analytics report?
The Business Mix Analysis shows the proportion of extended stays versus transient guests, and we’ve shaped an entirely new marketing plan with guidance from this report.
The park relevant to this case is very transient-oriented as it’s near the Grand Canyon, and our optimal mix at this park is 60% transient and 40% long-term. Private parks across the country are suffering as people are returning to national parks for camping. Having an instant pulse on our business mix through this report showed us that we can no longer rely on nightlies and weeklies. When in the past we would have never considered advertising to traveling nurses and other niche extended-stayers, we now know to look at them as a viable market.
With the introduction of our Signals dashboards, what value are you now able to derive from Signals that you weren’t able to from Analytics alone?
The number one difference is the market information and context. Before Signals, you were just able to understand your individual park’s or parks’ performance, but without larger context, it’s hard to know what it all means.
Signals lets you see how your resorts stack up against the market and your competition.
Through the Day of Week Performance Report, for example, you can visualize your market position week by week.
Aside from macro-benchmarks, you can also compare ancillary income across comp sets to see how your property is performing in terms of add-ons: golf cart rentals, bags of ice sold, etc. You can see how revenue per available site stacks up, and if it’s double your comp set average, then you’re confidently driving enough revenue through ancillary means.
What has been your overall impression of Signals since the rollout?
Since Signals launched, it has really helped us frame up our positioning in the broader outdoor hospitality market. While you don’t know exactly who you’re compared to given the anonymity, you have much more valuable context than before. Much of the terminology and reporting within Signals was already familiar to our team given our hotel backgrounds; however, I can imagine operators who come from a strict campground operations background will deal with a learning curve in Signals at first.
We experienced a very tough May booking-wise. Our year-over-year performance was down double digits. When we looked at the Signals report, we thankfully saw our comp set had experienced the exact same revenue dip. Knowing this did not solve the problem, but it isolated whether our issue was unique or a broader market issue. Knowing this difference is invaluable to either change course or charge ahead.
Thank you, Mike, for sharing your perspective on Campspot Analytics and Signals!
To learn more about how Campspot Analytics and Signals are empowering campground operators through data, visit one of our articles below:
- Campspot Analytics Overview
- The 7 Most Popular Dashboards in Campspot Analytics
- Campspot Analytics Explorer – Customizable Dashboards
- Campspot Analytics Signals – Competitive Benchmarking Tool
Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons—from snow skiing to scuba diving in the Great Lakes. A former Campspot marketing manager, Haley holds a B.A. degree in public policy from Michigan State University and an M.S. degree in sustainability from the University of Michigan. She is passionate about environmental stewardship, exploring the outdoors, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.