For all those outdoor loving entrepreneurs…we will explain how to start a campground business.
Everyone loves a good camping trip. For most of us, it was a rite of passage of sort growing up and something we want to enjoy with our children as well. If you start your own campground, you can play a role in this fun experience.
Commercial campgrounds can also be very profitable.
Learning how to start a campground is no easy task however, and it can be risky.
The first 5 steps tell you how to start your own campground business FROM SCRATCH. At the end of the article we tell you WHERE & HOW to FIND & BUY AN EXISTING CAMPGROUND.
How to Start a Campground Business Step 1: Decide on Your Campground Type
Though camping usually means setting up a tent and starting a fire, it can also mean parking an RV.
There are several options for you to choose when picking your campground type.
Some types of commercial campgrounds include:
- Tent Sites only
- RV or Caravan Parks
- Cabin Sites
- Deluxe / Full Service Camping / Specialty Sites
- Mixed use sites and more…
Some good commercial campground business examples can be found at KOA.com.
Think about how long you’ll be able to stay open too. Obviously, in colder climates, learning how to start a campground business and run it during the winter months is unnecessary.
You may also want to think of a specialty campground too. Will you court fishing enthusiasts, those who want to see a local attraction, etc.?
How to Start a Campground Business Step 2: Find a Location
This part of learning how to start a campground business goes hand-in-hand with the above. Many of you may already have an area in mind because it’s some place nearby. Others will need to do some exploring of your local area until you find a location you can use for your purposes.
A lot of times, you’ll need to speak to the local authorities about the ordinances that cover campgrounds as yours may not be zoned for this kind of business at first.
Decide on your camp amenities
Camp amenities include:
- Camp site for tents
- Camp site for RV’s (with or without utility hookups – gas, propane, water, electricity, sewer, a spare RV Battery)
- Lodge Facilities
- Bunk or Cabin Facilities
- Fireplaces or fire pits
- Picnic tables
- Potable water
- Shower and Restroom Facilities
- Camp store
- Garbage cans
- Hiking trails
- Sporting activities
- Rental equipment
- and more…
Be creative. Take a look at https://campingtentexpert.com to find out about all the best camping equipment and consider which would be most useful to campers on your site; the better your amenities are, the better the experiene for your customers and the more successful you will be. This is what will differentiate your campground and will encourage word of mouth marketing and repeat business.
How to Start a Campground Business Step 3: Map Your Plan by Connecting with Others
Now that you have decided on your campground type and location, you need to make sure that your concept is viable. The best way to do that is to connect with others in your surrounding area to determine how much support you will have for your campground.
Good places to network when starting a campground business are:
- Clubs, Organizations, Associations (think YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Rotary, Kiwanis, Hiking or Camping Clubs, etc…
- Other Campgrounds
How to Start a Campground Business Step 4: Build the Campground
The kind of building you’re going to need to pay for will depend on the kind of campground you wish to start. At the very least, you’ll need a dirt road laid so people can drive through your campground easily and get to where they’ll be spending the night.
However, if you really want to attract customers, build some nice bathrooms and a general store where you can offer some useful products and even a washer and dryer or two.
How to finance your campground start-up?
Because a campground start-up can be expensive, you will likely have to finance some or all of the initial capital by either borrowing or raising (give up some equity or fundraising) money. Don’t look so worried! Dealing with expenses and finances can be quite daunting, but as long as you know there are virtual accounting services that you can use to help make this process easier, you are well on your way when it comes to step 4 of creating your business.
There are a variety of ways to obtain the capital needed for your start-up.
- Private Investor (if you skipped step 3 you likely won’t have this option…another good reason to connect early in your campground business plan)
- Commercial Lender
- Family, Friends, Contacts
- Crowd Funding Campaign – Indiegogo.com , Fundable.com
- Small Business Association (SBA Loan) – here is a good article from entrepreneur.com about SBA loans.
Also, see our resources page for more financing, loan, and other investor options for financing your startup.
How to Start a Campground Business Step 5: Launch & Market Your Campground
Usually, campgrounds are tucked away from the main road, so if you want to get people’s attention, you need a huge sign to do so. It would also be wise to set up a decent website too. Having a decent website shows that you are serious about your business. An important aspect that you should consider is a concept like information architecture. This basically refers to the content and planning of your website. It’s about coming up with the overall design and how it will end up looking once it is finished.
Fortunately, learning how to start a campground business doesn’t mean becoming an expert coder. Instead, hire this job out.
As most of your customers will be coming from far and wide, you want to contact every local traveling agency you can and make sure they know you’re around and ready for customers.
That’s all it really takes to learn how to start a campground business people will travel far and wide to enjoy.
10 Marketing Ideas For Your Campground Business
- Local Advertising – Local Newspaper, Facebook local targeted advertising, Church newsletters, Private and Public School news and announcement sources, Pay per click advertising on local organization websites (could be very affordable as they likely aren’t offered paid advertising very often), Chamber of Commerce and local directories and maps.
- Networking – Schools, Churches, Clubs, Organizations, Associations (think YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Rotary, Kiwanis, Hiking or Camping Clubs, etc…). Offer large group discounts or benefits for specific types of groups that will attract them to your facility.
- Create Your Own Website & Social Marketing – see our guide here to starting your website, create a facebook account, (I don’t recommend creating a lot of social media accounts (google plus, twitter, linkedin, etc…for your campground initially. Focus on only one or two).
- Online Content – Create helpful content for potential campers and post it to your website and social media. The video below has received over 135k views.
- Email Marketing – on your website offer a free BONUS in exchange for an email. For example, offer a Free Guide to the “Top 5 Things to see in Yosemite” or “Top 10 games to play while camping”.
- Free Pictures – give away free printed pictures to campers with your logo & info on it (maybe have a photo printer in your camp store or mail them to their house after they upload them to your website).
- Give Aways & Promotions – offer other give away or promotions for specific groups, or low traffic times of year.
- Referral Program – offer a cash discount for referrals.
- Go to RV Shows – market directly to your customers.
- Educational Programs – create classes and educational programs that you can market to kids, schools, or other groups. Examples:
- Camping 101 Course
- Outdoor School
- Survival Training
- Summer Camp Programs (archery, skiing, horseback riding, photography, endless options)
- Cooking Outdoors Classes
SAMPLE CAMPING CONTENT CREATION VIDEO – > 135K Views
There are many more marketing ideas for a campground if you take some time to brainstorm and be creative. Be sure to include this step in your campground business plan!
Where to Find Campgrounds for Sale – How to Buy an existing Campground
If you don’t want to start your own campground you can buy an existing campground. The four sites below list actual campgrounds for sale. Search through the listings to research price, location, amenities, financial information (campground profit and loss financials), and to get more information on how to buy an existing campground.
Websites with Campgrounds For Sale:
We know the beginning of a business can be challenging…so let us know if we can help you with anything.