How To Start An RV ParkAnthony Day
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Are you planning to start an RV park but you don’t know where to begin or how to go about it? This article will guide you on how to start an RV park.
Is starting an RV park hard? What do you need to start an RV park? Do you need permits or licenses to start an RV park?
If you are planning to start an RV park, you will need to get a good location, write a business plan, choose a name for the park, select a business model, obtain licenses and permits, get financing, build the infrastructure, hire staff, open the RV park, market and advertise it.
Starting an RV park is not as hard as it may appear. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps that you should follow when starting an RV park, from beginning to completion. We will also give you some tips for running your RV park successfully, so that you can turn it into a profitable and growing business.
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If you love spending time outdoors, starting an RV park can be a great business idea. With an RV park, you will have an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, while making money out of your passion.
Furthermore, the RV park industry has experienced considerable growth over the last couple of years. And while it may have witnessed a slight dip in 2020 and 2021 due to travel restrictions, the outlook looks great.
In short, if you are an outdoor enthusiast, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with an RV park. There are currently thousands of other profitable RV parks out there. And with the right planning, your RV park could be one of them.
Steps to Opening an RV Park
Without a doubt, starting an RV park can be a hugely rewarding experience, especially for anyone who loves spending time outdoors. At the same time, you will be investing a considerable amount of your time, effort and money. Therefore, you need to ensure you do it right. Here are the steps to follow when you are opening an RV park.
Scout a Great Location
Location remains one of the most important factors when setting up a business. And this also applies to RV parks. Therefore, if you choose a great location, you will find it easier to land clients. On the other hand, if the location where you set up your RV park doesn’t appeal to your target audience, then you will struggle to get your business off the ground.
So, what should you consider when choosing a location for your RV park? First, make sure it’s located close to a national park, state park, hiking trail, forest reserve or other similar attractions.
Second, make sure the location has easy access. RV drivers shouldn’t have any issues accessing or maneuvering their rigs around the campsite. Furthermore, it should be spacious enough, to accommodate the type of trailer or RV that you are targeting.
Third, make sure the location that you choose has access to fresh water as well as a wastewater treatment plant. As you may expect, it’s impossible to operate an RV park without access to fresh water and wastewater disposal. Furthermore, it’s highly likely you can’t get a permit if the location lacks these amenities.
Another factor that you should consider when choosing a location is whether there are other RV parks in the area. If there are several other RV parks in the area, the demand for the services you are offering may not be high enough. As a result, you may struggle to stay afloat.
Create a Business Plan
Once you’ve identified a great location to set up your RV park, you can then proceed to write a business plan. As much as an RV park may appear like a laid-back business that doesn’t need any structure, it will need a business plan.
A business plan will inform all the aspects of running your outdoor business. It will identify your customers, how you will reach them as well as how you will retain them, the services you will be offering, how much to charge for your services, your unique value proposition as well as your expenses.
Furthermore, a business plan will identify your funding, whether it’s coming from your savings, family and friends, or financial institutions. It will also include your financial projections or the money that you expect to generate either monthly or annually through your RV park.
Also, if you intend to secure financing from either a bank or other third-party financiers, there’s a chance they will ask to see a business plan. And, having a well-written business plan will considerably increase the chances of landing the financing that you need to start an RV park.
Select a Name for Your RV Park
You will also need to come up with a name for your RV park. Ideally, the name that you choose for your RV park should be simple, catchy, memorable and unique. Coming up with the right name is vital. So, don’t rush this process.
Once you’ve managed to identify a couple of potential names for your RV park, make sure you check their availability. As you may expect, you will only manage to register your business name, if it’s unique. So, check in with your local state whether another business is using that name.
You should also check with the patent and trademark office to see if another entity has already registered that name. Using a name that another company or individual has already trademarked can lead to legal issues. And as you may expect, court cases can consume a considerable amount of your money, time and effort.
Apart from the legal aspect of your business name, you should also check its online availability. Once your RV park is operational, you will want to open a website for your RV park or set up social media pages. To this end, you need to ensure that the domain name is available for the business name that you choose. Also, check whether other entities are using that name on social media.
Choose Your Business Model
Just like any other business, you will also need to choose the structure of your RV park business. The structure or model that you choose will determine the taxes you pay, your legal liability as well as how your RV park business is run.
When it comes to choosing a business model for your RV park, you will have four main options to explore. They include sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC and corporation. Let’s take a closer look at each of these four business models to help you choose one that aligns best with your needs.
As its name suggests, a sole proprietorship is a business model that has a single owner. But, the RV business won’t be treated like a distinct legal entity. In this case, you will be the sole proprietor of your RV park business. However, you will still be liable for its tax obligations and debts. Furthermore, all its income and losses will be passed down to you.
In a partnership, your RV park will have several proprietors. For instance, you can choose to be operating your RV park business with a friend or family member. But, just like the sole proprietorship, it won’t be separated from you. Therefore, you will be liable for its debts.
Also, a partnership will open you up to unnecessary liabilities. For instance, if your partner engages in something that will get your RV park business sued such as running away with the client’s money, you will be personally liable to repay it.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company or LLC is a business registered with the local state. If you choose to operate this business model, you will have liability protection. But, the business itself is not subject to tax, meaning you will be paying taxes to your state on your personal returns.
You also have the option of registering or operating your RV park business as a corporation. A corporation presents the better option compared to all the above models because it will separate your personal assets from the business assets. So, in case your business is sued, you will not be held liable. Furthermore, in case the business can’t repay some debts for whichever reasons, you will not be held personally responsible.
So, which business model should you choose for your RV park? Well, it all comes down to various factors like personal preferences, the assets you have, and risk tolerance, among others. If you are unsure which model to choose, it will be advisable to consult a commercial attorney.
Obtain the Necessary Permits and Licenses
You will need to obtain various licenses and permits to open and operate an RV park. The costs for these licenses and permits will vary from one area to the other.
You will need to obtain permits for constructing campground service buildings, water connections, cabins, wastewater collection and treatment facilities, as well as parking lots for campsite vehicles.
Also, you may be required to obtain permits for constructing swimming pools, setting up signboards, as well as food service establishments. Furthermore, you should check that the RV park that you want to set up adheres to local zoning and ordinances while making sure you obtain the necessary permits for the same.
Starting an RV park is a huge financial undertaking. Therefore, it’s highly likely you will need to get some financial backing for your business. The problem is that most banks are quite reluctant when it comes to extending loans to small businesses – unless you have valuable assets that you can borrow against.
The good news is that the U.S Department of Agriculture and the U.S Small Business Administration have loan programs, designed for people who want to set up RV parks and campgrounds.
The loans offered by these two institutions are usually guaranteed by the government. Since they are backed by the government, these loans also come with small down payments, compared to conventional loans, making them a great choice for small business owners.
Also, you have the option of borrowing a loan from friends, family or venture capitalists. If you decide to go this route, make sure you have a clear agreement in place. An agreement will help to protect everyone, in case there are any financial-related conflicts in the future.
Build the Infrastructure
By now, you have almost everything that you would need to set up your park. You have identified a nice location, you have obtained the necessary permits and you also have the funds that you need for building the park. And, it’s now time to get to the actual work and build the necessary infrastructure.
So, what type of infrastructure should you put up in an RV park? Well, the infrastructure or facilities for an RV park are quite basic. At most, you just need to set up lodging and recreational facilities. You will also need to build several washrooms, which will serve the clients.
Also, electrical wiring will be needed for the entire park. You will also need to do some landscaping and paving, to make your park aesthetically appealing. Also, you will need to set up electrical and plumbing hook-ups for the RVs, as well as dump stations.
If you have some money to spare, you should consider setting up recreational facilities like picnic areas, swimming rooms, game rooms, bathhouses, as well as laundry facilities.
You should also consider setting up Wi-Fi. In today’s digital world, Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Therefore, you should make sure you set it up in your facility. As much as you may have to charge your clients an additional fee, they will be more than willing to pay for it.
After you’ve finished building everything and setting up all the necessary facilities, your RV park is now almost ready. But, before you open it to the public, you will need to hire people who will help you to manage the facility.
Some of the people that you will need to run the facility include an administration manager, accountant, facility manager, sales and marketing staff, a human resource manager, and a chief operating officer.
Also, you will need to ensure the facility remains clean and secure. Hence, you will need to hire someone who can be cleaning the facilities. You should also hire security guards, to make sure your facility is secure.
However, if funds are a challenge, you can do some of these tasks by yourself. For instance, you can be the chief operating officer, facility manager, human resource manager, as well as administration manager and customer service executive.
You can also attend to sales and marketing. And as the facility grows and expands, you can then delegate some of these tasks to others, so that you can free up your time to attend to the core tasks of growing your RV park.
Market Your RV Park
Regardless of how well-equipped or beautiful your campground is, campers will only visit if they know about it. Hence, you will need to spread the word about your RV park. Fortunately, there are several cost-effective marketing strategies, which you can use to drive campers to your RV park. They include:
Partnering with Other Businesses
Co-marketing is one of the most effective methods of marketing an RV park. It will help your RV park to gain exposure fast, leading to more clients. So, which types of businesses can you partner with to market your RV park?
Well, you can start with RV dealerships. Whenever someone purchases an RV, there’s a high chance they will need some destinations to explore. And your RV park can be one of those destinations. Also, RV owners frequently visit shops that sell outdoor gear and accessories.
To this end, you should print several flyers and brochures, and distribute them in all these shops. Make sure the brochures and flyers contain your contact information, to ensure potential campers can reach you.
Also, you can request RV dealers to include your information on their websites or when they are sending out weekly email newsletters. While you may have to part with some money for this arrangement, the leads that you get will be worth it.
Establish a Presence on Social Media
Another effective method of marketing your RV park is to establish a strong presence on various social media platforms. Some of the social media platforms to consider for marketing your RV park include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
When you are starting, it will be advisable to focus on two channels. In this case, you can choose Instagram and Facebook. Trying to maintain a presence on too many channels can be extremely time-consuming.
Once you’ve chosen the channels that you want to focus on, you then need to make sure you post high-quality content regularly. For instance, you can post photos and videos of your park and alternate them with informative posts about camping.
If the content that you post is great, social media users will leave comments, like or share your posts. Make sure you create time to engage with these users by replying to their comments, answering their messages or liking the posts they have shared.
And, there’s a chance that some of the people you interact with on social media or those that come across your posts may decide to check out your RV park.
Partner With a Social Media Influencer
Social media influencers are individuals with massive online followings. And for your case, this may include experts on outdoor recreation, renowned campers, popular RVers and other outdoor enthusiasts who have massive online followings.
Once you’ve identified the right influencer, you then need to reach out to them about a partnership. For such a partnership, they will mention your RV park on their social media posts, in exchange for monetary compensation, free stays or discounted stays.
Considering that these individuals have large online followings and a huge influence, mentioning your brand on their social media pages, blogs, podcasts or any other platform that they use can lead to massive exposure for your RV park and more clients.
Run PPC Ads
Pay-per-click or PPC ads can also help you to reach more potential clients, who may be looking for an RV park. With this RV marketing method, your ads will appear at the top of the Google search results.
So, assuming your RV park is based close to a forest park in Virginia, if a camper searches for RV parks in Virginia, your park will appear at the top of the results page, above organic listings.
And by appearing at the top, you will catch the prospects’ attention first and then drive them to your RV park website. From there, you can then nurture them into long-term clients.
Enhance Your Local Presence
You also need to target locals when marketing your RV park. When the weather is friendly, they are highly likely to go for a weekend trip or overnight camping trips with their families. And, they will need a campground or an RV park for their camping excursion. So, you need to build strong relationships with the locals. For instance, you can be referring customers to their grocery stores, restaurants, or gas stations. Also, you should be actively involved in local community events.
And by doing so, your RV park will be the first name that comes to mind when locals are looking for a camping ground.
Attend Trade Shows
Travel events and trade shows also provide a great opportunity to market your RV park. You simply need to set up a booth at these events and shows. After setting up a booth, the event’s attendees may visit your booth, to check out the services that you may be offering.
Make sure you collect their contact information. You will then use this information to build your email list. In case someone is not willing to provide their contact information, make sure you give them your business card.
It’s highly likely that some of the attendees may be RV park owners, and they may call you later to enquire about your park. While you may be required to pay a certain fee to get an opportunity to set up a booth, you will end up with hundreds of potential leads.
Tips for Running Your RV Park Successfully
With the right marketing strategies in place, your RV park will begin attracting campers from different parts. However, opening an RV park is one thing. Turning it into a successful business venture is another thing. But, it’s manageable. Here are some tips that will help you to run your RV park successfully and turn it into a thriving, profitable business:
- Offer outstanding customer service
- Choose employees and tenants carefully
- Ensure you provide maximum security
- Avoid congestion
- Maintain clear financial records
- Seek professional assistance whenever necessary
Wrapping It Up
Starting an RV park can be a great adventure as well as a lucrative business opportunity for outdoor lovers. And as you can see, it’s not as hard as it may appear. With the right planning, you will have a great place where individuals and families can be coming to enjoy the great outdoors.