This one is long but I please request that you read to the end.
This wasn’t an easy blog for me to write. I was fearful that by providing you with this information it may scare some of you away from choosing to camp with us next season. And, if I’m being honest with myself, it probably will. But none the less I feel you all deserve to have this information to make the best decisions for your family to make the best camping trips possible. Your money is valuable and your summer is short. I want you to have the best vacations at the best value. And now you can make the best decisions because you know what my plans are going forward. If that means you just call me right now and book to keep your rates lower or if that means you choose elsewhere, I totally understand and respect you for doing what’s right for your family.
I have always said that being transparent and honest with people is the best policy in life, and when it comes to money even more so. I wanted to include a blog about our rates and what factors affect them because I believe it’s one of the things that people take in to consideration when choosing a campground. I hope that we provide so much value at our KOA that it lessens what financial analysts call “price sensitivity”.
Price Sensitivity is the extent to which the price actually affects the purchase of a service or product. If someone sees extremely high value then they are less sensitive to the price. Apple is a good example of a company that has reduced Price Sensitivity to a large majority of the population that they are willing to spend more money on Apple products even if they are similar in quality to another brand. Now I personally believe they are higher in quality than all other companies and as such have probably almost no price sensitivity at all.
I’m bringing this up because ever since we purchased the KOA we have had a philosophy that our rates should increase every year to compensate for the fact that we are continuing to provide greater value/amenities each year. The year we stop putting our investments back in to the park then that’s the year we should stop raising prices. That’s probably also the year we should think about selling in my honest opinion, but that’s for another blog maybe. We are not even close to wanting to sell. Just to be clear and rumours don’t start flying around.
This year will be no different, rates will increase. Not only because we have so many plans for what we want to do with the campground, but for a number of other reasons as well. Hence why I’m writing this now – to help explain everything.
First, let me talk about what I am so excited about. KOA Headoffice has been working for several years on a new software to manage reservations. It’s as archaic as a dinosaur but nowhere near as cool. This year I was given the honour of being asked to take a seat on the Franchise Advisory Committee. There are about 15-20 of us and we are split up in to three groups. The Operations, Marketing and IT groups. I took an empty seat at the IT table and was able to add my opinions to the already established discussions from the past few years. This new software was our only topic and I am excited to say it has now been released and has been rolled out to a few of the KOA’s in the US over the past few months with successful results. We should be transferred over to the new software here in Brighton within the next few months.
There are some big changes with this new amazing software. The most talked about of which is the new Rate Management feature with Dynamic Rates being automated shortly. Someone made a joke at the workshop I attended regarding rate management that if everyone on a plane was wearing a tag that shared the price of the ticket there would be pandemonium. Can you imagine if you were sitting next to someone who booked their ticket two months after you did and paid a few hundred dollars more? Or that one person who booked last minute, the day before the flight, and only paid half what you did? But, that is how rates work in most industries that sell tickets or take reservations. Air lines, Hotels, Concerts even. I even read an article yesterday that parking meters have “dynamic rates” in some parking lots.
I’m bringing this up because this is one of the features the new software will make easier. A rate adjustment tool that will automatically adjust rates based on when a reservation was taken and how many sites are left for that specific weekend at the time the reservation is taken. Many KOA owners are already adjusting rates based on capacity and how close to a date a reservation is taken but have been doing it manually which with the old software is extremely arduous. I have not bothered due, partly to not understanding how the science behind it worked, but mostly because I was busy. I was taking reservations and checking people in and managing whether garbage was being done and which cabins needed cleaning today and didn’t have time to go through each site type and weekend and rate plan and make adjustments based on how full we were already. With this new software, it will be done without me even having to think about it.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for one, because if you and your friend book at different times and end up paying different rates you will have this information well in advance and I am hoping to alleviate many of the calls and questions – but also to arm you all with the knowledge that the earlier you book the less you will pay. And since this is a system wide software feature this knowledge will benefit you whether you book with our KOA or any others. I want to save you money on your camping. So, my suggestion, plan earlier, call earlier, reserve earlier and if you do decide to make last minute plans, be ok with paying higher rates because you will have no one to blame but yourself.
We are also instituting a few new extra costs for next year. We have received so many requests for pets to be allowed in our cabins that we have changed our policy. If you have a dog and want to bring it camping, there will be a new charge of $20 for cleaning of the cabin upon checkout. We also require an up to date credit card on file so that any damage incurred as a result of the pet, like a chewed up mattress or scratches in the door, there will be an automatic charge once the damage is discovered as per the agreement upon check in.
Another one is the Pet Charge of $2. We began to charge this at the end of last year and first of all I need to make an apology. I created the new Pet Charge incorrectly and it started out charging people per pet per day so if someone had 3 dogs and stayed 4 nights they were charged $24. That was not my intention so I am sorry if any of you had this happen and didn’t mention it to me for me to correct. The intention is for $2 to be added to any reservation with a pet so that it can help cover some of the additional expenses we incur by offering the Camp K9 dog park and doggy bag stations all around the campground. I’d like to improve that Dog Park even more so if you have any other suggestions on toys and obstacles you know your pet would love, please let me know. Please remember we are providing these toys and obstacles for the use of everyone so please leave them there. They weren’t forgotten or left behind for you to take home.
And finally, the Site Guarantee Fee. This will probably get me the most complaints but let me explain before you freak out. Many people have a general area of the park they prefer to camp, like near the washrooms or by the playground etc. And some people have a specific site they want to camp in – A11 or B1 for example. We have had so many problems in the past with not being able to fully maximize every site we have on any given day because someone has requested a certain site and we truly want to accommodate. As such, if someone really feels that one specific site is going to make or break their camping trip, then there is a site guarantee fee of $30 that they can pay at the time of reservation to ensure they will not be moved. Even if it means I have one site sitting empty on a Friday night and one sitting empty on Saturday night because I couldn’t move that person to a different site. They’ve paid the fee. They don’t get moved. Unless of course when I called they agreed to move, in which case I would refund them the $30. Now, this doesn’t mean we won’t still take and do our best to accommodate requests. If someone really wants B1 and I need to move them to fill all my sites every day and they haven’t paid the fee then I will call and let them know they need to be moved so I can optimize our sites. If someone just wants to be by the playground we will still try our best to keep them by the playground. Whenever you reserve with us, or online, please let us know that you wish to guarantee a site – you can use the comments section when you book online and you will be charged an additional $33.90 including tax. By adding this feature it allows me to keep my rates lower instead of have to raise them an extravagant amount to compensate for some of my inventory sitting empty on peak nights.
Now speaking of rate increases, there is another factor that will be affecting rates for the 2018 season, and that is the increase in expenses. Wages is one large example of an increase in my expenses. As I am sure everyone knows by now, wages are increasing for 2018 and again for 2019. Electricity and Fuel prices are another increased expense. With more of our funds needing to cover the rising expenses I will have to increase rates to compensate or I will have to reduce the services we provide. I am not willing to go backwards in the quality of service and amenities we offer. I want to continue to provide the fun memorable camping trips to families who are looking for the experience we offer. And I don’t want to have to start charging for everything we do, like the inflatable obstacle course, or the Big Bouncer on weekends as I’ve heard happens elsewhere. As I said in the first paragraph, I can only hope that our value lessens price sensitivity for the majority of you.
Enjoy your Winter and I hope to see you all relaxing by a campfire in the coming season.