How to Start a Profitable Campground: Pros and Cons

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If you are considering turning your love of camping into a small business, you have lots of questions and you need a lot of information. Here is how to start a profitable campground, both the pros and the cons. Let’s go camping!

First, decide whether you want to run a simple campground with tents or a full-scale luxury camp offering cabins and RV parks. Your decision should be based on your finances and your local market demand. 

To start, you will need to know how much money you need to invest, whether to start from scratch or to buy a franchise and whether it is a profitable endeavor. Read on to get your answers from successful campground owners. 

Certainly, with some hard work, and a bit of luck and fun too, running a campground can be very profitable. Here are the pros and cons of starting a campground business:

Pros to Start Campground

The campground business has many advantages that you will enjoy as you run it.

Profitable business

Profitability is the biggest consideration in running a campground. Americans love camping. 

According to the North American Camping Report, camping is a hot new trend that is increasingly becoming popular with younger people, especially Generation X, and millennials. 

From 2014 to 2019, the number of households that went camping increased by 7 million. This is good news and means there will be no shortage of customers for your campground. Whether you become profitable depends, therefore, on how you run the business.

Healthy outdoor lifestyle

When you run a campground, you live the outdoors lifestyle permanently. You bath with fresh water, breathe in clean air and trade the sound of traffic for the songs of the birds, bugs, wind, and water.

Best of all you get great sun exposure, better sleep quality and relieve stress. The result is improved health in body and mind.

Community building

You connect with your campers and build a like-minded community together. All year round you can keep in touch via email newsletter and on social media.

Meet interesting people

Camping is growing in popularity for all people of all ages and backgrounds.  Therefore, you will 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. So you can work or rest according to your schedule and the needs of your business. 

You rest and go on vacation mostly in the winters. Dependent upon your seasonal weather you may get some winter campers.

Beautiful locations

If you take your time to look for a beautiful location that you really love, you will enjoy living 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 are free from company politics. You are free to make the company policies and supervise your staff as you see fit. 

Live on premises rent-free

A huge advantage of being a campground owner is that you end up living on the property rent-free.  

Cons of Being a Campground Business Owner

Lots of hard work and long hours

Building your campsite involves hard work and long hours. Both when you start your business and continuing as you look after your guests and host events. Plus you have office and bookkeeping work to do also.

You miss your summer vacation

Most people camp in the summer. This means that that you can almost never go away for your summer vacation or to attend family anniversaries and weddings. You can only go away in winter when there are few or no campers.

Need to be available 24/7

Running a campground is a full-time summer job that requires you to be available 24/7, especially in the first days when you are still setting up.

Campers expect a great outdoor experience and you have to provide it. This keeps your busy every day in season from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

How to start a successful campground

Like any other business, there are factors that make it successful and we discuss them below.

Owner experience required

As prospective small business owners, you will benefit from having experience running a business.  You must be able to create a business plan that includes a budget, staffing needs, the services to be offered, a marketing plan and an implementation plan to work with.

Business planning is a vital step that will help you to evaluate the business on paper before you begin. Taking the time to plan ahead will save you tons of money and mistakes. I know 🙁

You should also be able to host a number of fun outdoor events while keeping a positive attitude. 

Plus you will need to source startup funds, manage operating funds, manage staff and pay taxes. 

You should also be able to do road maintenance, repairs, plumbing, accounting, administration, and electrical maintenance.

Location considerations

A campground is a real estate investment and location can make or break your business. 

Before buying a campground, ask yourself: Where do people like to go camping? 

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

Infrastructure and equipment

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

Also, you will want to purchase some barbecue grills, picnic tables, and other equipment needed by campers. Remember to have good wi-fi services. 

More millennials are interested in camping but they love their technology. In fact, 88% of campers surveyed said they take along their cellphones. All of this equipment must be included in the business plan along with the associated costs of building/purchasing them.

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 some of the campers. As soon as your business can afford staff; recruit a cleaner, an office assistant, and a host for events.

Marketing and promotion

Once your campground is ready to receive campers, let people know about it. 

Do not bother advertising in the papers as most people do not read those anymore. Here are more effective ways to market your campground. 

Indeed, it is possible to run a profitable, and fun, campground business. 

Sure, it is hard work to start but it is very rewarding in terms of connecting with people, working outside, natural stress relief, schedule flexibility and profits. 

If you believe becoming a campground owner is for you, then go for it! Here are some helpful resources:

National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds

How to Open a Homestead Campground

How to Start a Campground – Step by Step

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