The great outdoors — camping in the fresh air and taking in all the beauty nature has to offer is still one of life’s greatest pleasures. And it’s no secret that those who afford themselves time with nature are healthier and happier. Indeed, a growing body of medical evidence supports the notion that greater exposure to natural environments and the outdoors is linked to better health and well-being.
If you’re among the large percentage of Americans that loves getting back to nature, buying a campground might be the perfect way to turn your love of the outdoors into a rewarding and satisfying career. As a business owner, what could be better than generating a profit doing something you love, and finding a career that reduces stress instead of adding to it?
If you’ve ever considered running your own campground, then you probably know there are two ways to go about ownership — starting your own, or franchising. While there is no right or wrong answer as to how you buy into this industry, franchising can be a more affordable and less complicated path to campground ownership.
Franchising allows you to reap the benefits of owning and operating a campground while removing some of the barriers to entry, such as startup costs.
What are the options?
Campgrounds fall into several different categories: tent site campgrounds, RV parks, cabins, and full-service campgrounds (think KOA). No matter which of these interests you, the basics of what you need to know about franchising are largely the same.
Here are some fundamental things to know if you’re looking to buy into a campground franchise:
Franchising offers a support system. In addition to reducing the startup cost burden, another key benefit of franchising a campground is the support provided to help you run your business. Many franchises offer a complete business plan, including detailed instructions and guidance/training, as well as marketing support, and a built-in network of professionals that can help you with the details of running your campsite.
Franchising can reduce your risk. While no business buy is without risk, buying into an established campground can significantly reduce your financial risk because the business in which you’re investing has already proven successful. That means you can better predict cash flow, return on investment, and other important financial details.
It’s all about location. The location of your campground is arguably the most important consideration in purchasing it. While it doesn’t have to be picture-perfect, you’ll want to make sure that the location you’re considering offers enough natural beauty to attract paying visitors. Landscapes that include water and plentiful trees will obviously draw more visitors than those in dry or barren areas. And remember even less pristine campsites can thrive if they’re in a highly-trafficked area where there is a great demand for overnight camping/lodging options.
Franchising provides room for growth. Franchising your campground paves the way to additional ownership opportunities down the road. As with any type of franchise business, there may be opportunities to add a second location to your portfolio once you’ve learned the ins and outs of running your initial location.
You still need to separate yourself from the competition. Just because you’re buying into a
franchise doesn’t mean you can’t make the business your own. Nor does it mean you have to stick to the status quo of other locations in your franchise (unless there are specific clauses in your contract prohibiting you from doing so). If you’re able to, consider offering extras to help boost your business. This is especially important if you’re buying in a competitive area where there are many other options for camping enthusiasts. Consider bolstering the offerings in your general store, for example, to add to your campsite’s appeal. While renting campground space will be your bread and butter, little extras can make a big difference in helping your campground remain competitive and boosting your bottom line.
Remember that nothing is foolproof. It’s important to realize that even with the safety nets a franchise campground provides, business ownership is never smooth sailing all the time. There will be obstacles and costs you will incur. Still, when it comes to buying a campground, franchising wins out as the ownership opportunity that comes with the fewest barriers to success.
If you’d like more information and tips on how to operate a successful campground, check out all of our helpful resources on buying, selling and running a campground.