With a new property opening this Spring in Arkansas, RVC Outdoor Destinations is not only in expansion mode, the company is looking for other opportunities to partner with existing campgrounds, its company president told RV Daily Report.
The current project -- Catherine's Landing -- involves a 400-acre resort property featuring one mile of waterfront on Lake Catherine in Hot Springs, Ark. It also has a boat ramp, docks, rental boats, pavilion and two outdoor kitchens to host any size party. Add to that a full lodge with lobby, fitness center, shower/restrooms, meeting space and retail centers, and Catherine's Landing will rival any five-star hotel.
"We even have a bald eagle living on the property," said Andy Cates, president of RVC Outdoor Destinations. "It is a pretty spectacular setting just a few minutes from the Oaklawn Park horse racing track and Garvan Woodland Gardens, which has been rated as one of America's best gardens by Southern Living magazine."
In addition to traditional RV sites, Catherine's Landing will also offer cottages and non-traditional lodging. "We are very excited and focused on developing RV resort cottages as well as yurts," said Cates. "Families are not just looking for an affordable vacation; they are looking for an adventure they'll remember."
When it officially opens in February, Catherine's Landing will become the sixth RV property being managed by RVC Outdoor Destinations, which started business in 2007.
Cates believes the market is ripe for RV properties that are "extremely high quality and heavily amenitized, and offer a value proposition to families that they can't find anywhere else," he told RV Daily Report.
Finding those properties and bringing them to market is the biggest challenge facing Cates and his company right now. He truly believes he is bringing a new product to the outdoor hospitality business that has not been there before.
"We have spent an enormous amount of time and money working to understand the outdoor recreation market," he said. "A lot of people like to visit the exclusive motorhome-only condominium properties. KOA is exceptional in serving families with small children. And both types of properties are doing good things for the outdoor industry.
"What is missing is the Hilton Marriott equivalent -- a high-end, dollar-friendly, rental-oriented operation," said Cates. "Our business model calls for building an outdoor 'hotel' with the newest amenities."
All RVC Outdoor Destination properties feature concrete pads, 50-amp service and free Wi-Fi in a clean, customer-centric property, he explained.
Fully funded for success
What sets RVC Outdoor Destinations apart from other RV park developers is the fact that their operation is fully funded, Cates said.
"It's a positive story from the standpoint the outdoor market is still somewhat distressed," he explained. "There are other groups doing multiple units, but it is uncertain if they have the traction they need because they aren't fully funding each project -- they are securing funding deal by deal.
"There is no other company on the property side except ours that is building multiple units and is fully funded," he added.
As a result, RVC Outdoor Destinations is now seeking to grow more by finding the right sites and working with the right business partners who understand the industry from the right perspective.
Developing a rental perspective
Outdoor rentals are a booming market, and the industry has yet to embrace its potential, Cates explained.
"People think we are crazy, from a rental perspective, to offer the type of facility, service and amenities we offer at the low prices we charge," he said. "But we think customers are demanding better services and want better rental options than is currently available at most campgrounds."
Cates said he is confident that people will see a big different in RVC Outdoor properties without blinding people with crazy pricing. "We feel strongly that we are getting the raw end of the deal in what we offer and what customers pay," he added.
To help people better understand the value they receive at RVC Outdoor Destination sites, families checking in are given a list of all the property's amenities and what they can expect at their site. It is arranged in a way that people can see if they pay X dollars, they get these amenities.
"People are becoming sticky to the quality level they demand," Cates explained.
That's not surprising considering consumer behavior in the hotel industry. Travelers accustomed to certain levels of service and amenities at Marriott or Crowne Plaza hotels have a hard time adjusting to the services at a Comfort Inn or Super 8. When they are accustomed to having a hair dryer in the bathroom and a big fluffy bed, it is very hard for them to accept ironing on a table top board or sleeping with two tiny, flat pillows.
Right now all RVC Outdoor Destination properties allow rentals, while some are also focusing on selling park models. The company even contracted with Athens Park Homes to develop an ideal rental unit that is better able to handle transient use.
Cates is betting on the idea that families will enjoy renting park models and cottages so much that they will eventually consider purchasing their own home and allowing the business to manage it for them.
"Our business model is really targeted toward renters and destination seekers," he explained. "If customers are intrigued by the park model property to the point they chose to come back repeatedly and want a more permanent set up, we would love to accommodate them."
Growing through diversification
Cates admits that some of the best RV park operators in the industry are mom and pop business owners. But they are having a harder time competing because they don't have the ability to network or to take advantage of the economies of scale larger chains may have.
"There is really no opportunity for them to diversify, and that's where we come in," Cates explained. "If there is a great mom and pop operation on a great property that is well run and they want to expand or upgrade their facility, but need more capital or marketing help, we can help them achieve that goal."
RVC Outdoor Destinations doesn't tell owners how to run their properties, or interfere in the daily operation, said Cates. All his firm really requires is consistency in service, cleanliness and customer service.
When RVC Outdoor Destinations partners with campgrounds, it is more of a joint venture model rather than a franchise operation, said Cates. "We bring capital and marketing expertise, and the current owners run the campground and serve our common guests," he explained.
However, Cates' company can also help RV park owners who are tired of having their properties run their lives, or are tired of depending upon service people and paid employees to deliver a higher level of service the owners demand. In those cases, RVC Outdoor Destinations can bring operational support and partner with the owners to run the property and share the profits.
"We want to be known as the company that doesn't overpromise and under deliver," said Cates. "That's why we have invested so much time, effort, money and attention to understanding the market, what it takes to run a successful outdoor destination and bring customers through the gate."
Collectively, the senior leadership at RVC Outdoor Destinations has more than 40 years of deep commercial real estate experience. Yale Spina, director of operations, has logged more than 20 years in the hospitality business and is an avid RVer that travels in a vintage Airstream he personally restored. The staff has visited hundreds of properties and interviewed hundreds of RVers as well as industry consultants. Then they put that knowledge to work.
In the business to know the business
"We bought our Pine Mountain, Ga., property to serve as our test kitchen," Cates explained. "We understood that we can't really know the business until we were in the business. As a result, by operating our own property, we continue to learn something new every day.
"We are not marketing guys. We are operator owners who want to grow, but who also want to get better at marketing," he added.
RVC Outdoor Destinations is looking to acquire or to partner with RV parks located near national parks or other major attractions, especially property that may border protected lands or be situated next to water.
"Our properties offer spectacularly attractive land and great prices, and being on water allows our guests to fish, boat, swim or just watch the water. We deeply believe in our product," said Cates. "But that only matters if our guests also believe in it. We are convinced that if they try it, they will stay with us.
For more information about RVC Outdoor Destinations or in partnering with the company, call Cates at 901.432.4748 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on all RVC Outdoor Destination properties can be found by visiting the RVC Outdoor Destinations website.
Written By Greg Gerber at RV Daily Report