Have you ever envisioned owning a slice of nature, where families create memories and adventurers find solace? Starting a campground might be the business for you. With an investment that can swing from $100,000 for modest grounds to well over a million for a campground with sprawling, amenity-rich sites, it’s a venture where passion meets profit. But the landscape isn’t just about setting up tents or parking RVs.

Success here leans on a combination of skills, from land management and environmental conservation to top-notch customer service. While the profit margins, ranging from 10% to 35%, paint a promising picture, the challenge lies in navigating seasonal demand, being attuned to Mother Nature’s whims, and curating unforgettable outdoor experiences. Ready to pitch in? Let’s discuss the details of the rewarding journey of campground entrepreneurship.

Considerations Before Starting a Profitable Campground Business

Initial InvestmentStarting costs can range from $100,000 (small, basic campgrounds) to over $1 million (large campgrounds with extensive amenities). This includes land acquisition, development, and initial marketing.
Skills RequiredLand management, customer service, basic maintenance skills, environmental conservation knowledge, marketing, and business sense.
DemandSeasonal demand, typically higher during vacation periods and warmer months. Eco-tourism and nature-based vacations are on the rise.
LocationProximity to natural attractions, national parks, or popular tourist areas is beneficial. Accessibility and scenic beauty are key.
HoursVaries. Peak season may require extended hours. Off-season might involve maintenance and planning.
Permits and LicensesBusiness licenses, land use permits, environmental clearances, and potential camping or lodging permits, depending on state and local regulations.
Profit MarginTypically ranges from 10% to 35%, depending on the amenities offered, location, and overhead costs.
ChallengesWeather dependencies, managing seasonal cash flows, ensuring environmental sustainability, and dealing with potential land-use restrictions.

Pros of Starting a Campground

Profitable Business

  • Americans love camping. The market size for the campground industry in the U.S. today exceeds $7 billion per year.
  • According to the North American Camping Report, camping is a hot new trend that’s increasingly becoming popular with younger people, especially millennials. 
  • Roughly 58 million U.S. families go camping at least once each year. This means there should be no shortage of customers for your campground. Whether you become profitable depends, of course, on how you run the business.

Healthy Outdoor Lifestyle

  • When you run a campground, you can live the outdoor lifestyle all the time. You drink clean water, breathe fresh air, and trade the sound of traffic for birds, wind, and water.

Community Building

  • You can connect with your campers and build a like-minded community together. All year round, you can keep in touch via email newsletters, and social media. It’s also a great business for a couple to run together.

Meet Interesting People

  • Camping is growing in popularity for people of all ages and backgrounds. You’ll meet a wide range of interesting (and fun) people as your campers.

Flexible Hours

  • As a campground owner, you run your own business on your own terms. You can work or rest according to your schedule and the needs of your business. 
  • Winter is usually the quietest season for a campground owner. However, depending on your seasonal weather, you may also get some winter campers.

Beautiful Locations

  • If you take your time to look for a beautiful location that you really love, you’ll enjoy living and working there. This is one of the best perks of being a campground owner. Nature’s beauty is in your front yard. 

Be Your Own Boss

  • When you start your campground business, you become your own boss, and you’re free from the bureaucracy and red tape that accompanies so many careers. You can make the company policies and supervise your staff as you see fit.

Live On-Site Rent-Free

  • A huge advantage of being a campground owner is that you can live on the property without paying any additional rent or mortgage.

Cons of Owning a Campground Business

Hard Work and Long Hours

  • Building your campground can involve hard work and long hours, both when you start your business and as you look after your guests and host ongoing events. Plus, you have administrative work to do.

No Summer Vacation

  • Summer is the most popular season for camping. This means that you may not be able to get away for a summer vacation or to attend anniversaries and weddings. It’s often much more practical to travel in the winter when there are few or no campers.

How to Start a Successful Campground

Step 1: Planning

As a prospective small business owner, you should create a business plan that includes a budget, staffing needs, the services you’ll offer, a marketing plan, and an implementation strategy.

Business planning is a vital step that’ll help you evaluate the business on paper before you begin. Taking the time to plan ahead can save you lots of money and mistakes.

You’ll need to source startup money, manage operating funds, manage staff, and pay taxes. You should also be able to do basic road maintenance, repairs, plumbing, accounting, administration, and electrical maintenance.

Step 2: Location Considerations

A campground is a real estate investment, and your location can make or break your business. Before buying a campground, ask yourself where people like to go camping. 

Do extensive research and find the best location by a river, lake, national park, or other attractions. Also, make sure it’s easily accessible from major highways.

Step 3: Infrastructure and Equipment

You’ll need to design and build some or all of the following if your proposed location is raw: roads, bridges, boat ramps, playgrounds, recreation rooms, hiking trails, dog walk areas, plumbing and septic systems, bathhouses, fencing, bathrooms, a pool, and other amenities.

Also, you’ll want to purchase some barbecue grills, picnic tables, and other equipment needed by campers. Remember to have good WiFi services, too. Many millennials are interested in camping but they love their technology. In fact, 88% of campers say they take along their cell phones.

Step 4: Staffing Needs

Initially, you may be able to do all the work yourself but as the business grows and demand increases, you may end up being overwhelmed. Delays in services may disappoint your campers. As soon as your business can afford staff, you should look into recruiting a cleaner, an office assistant, and an event planner.

Step 5: Marketing and Promotion

Once your campground is ready to receive campers, let people know about it. Here are some effective ways to market your campground. 

  • Network with other businesses in the area that can add value to your campers. Leave brochures at those businesses and display their brochures in your office.
  • Create a website where you share pictures, videos, stories, and the activities you offer at your campground. Enable people to book campsites through your website.
  • Be active on social media. Build a following and keep them hooked with pictures, videos, information, and news about your campground.
  • Go on the local radio and speak about your campground and upcoming events.
  • Provide the best customer service possible so that people can market you for free through word-of-mouth and on social media.

It’s possible to run a profitable and fun campground business. It can be hard work to start but it can also be rewarding in terms of connecting with people, working outside, natural stress relief, schedule flexibility, and profits. We also have resources that can help you start your own RV park, a similar business venture.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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