RV Vacations Provide Low-Risk, High Rewards for Americans Escaping COVID Lockdown
While the coronavirus has eviscerated air travel, nearly eradicated cruise lines and left major hotels and tourist hot spots deserted, one travel-related industry is dramatically accelerating during the pandemic: RV rentals and sales.
Travel experts and common sense all point in the same directions: driving road trips, separated lodging – without crowded elevators, lobbies, or shared hallways – and time spent outdoors are the biggest travel trends today. RV sales are shattering records, camping is drawing new recruits, and National Parks are more popular destinations than ever.
“With road trips now acknowledged as the safest form of travel, RV vacations are ideal for many Americans who are itching to venture out but wary of cities, crowds and the Coronavirus,” says Jimmy Danz, Executive VP for Travel Resorts of America (TRA.)
“Many recent RV purchasers probably would not have considered buying an RV if it weren’t for the pandemic,” he added. “RV dealers are seeing more first-time buyers seeking both new and used inventory than ever before with demand surpassing available inventory for all types of trailers and motorhomes. These buyers recognize that RV vacations combine affordable private lodging and true social distancing in the great outdoors. They are attracted to TRA’s network of campground resorts because they offer boundless personal space, resort-like amenities and unique activities. Much like timeshare ownership, TRA membership provides opportunities to create great family vacations.”
Established in 1986, by Steven Baldelli, CEO, Travel Resorts of America is a private membership-based RV park and campgrounds owner with 16,000 active members and nine RV resort parks for members, tent sites for campers and cabins for those seeking to rent at their growing list of resorts along the east coast. TRA hosted over 136,000 site nights in 2019.
TRA’s seven sales centers are located in New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Ohio and Southern Pines, North Carolina, where the company is headquartered. As demand continues to accelerate, TRA is considering expansion to acquire new sites in other regions. TRA is the #1 private membership RV park and campgrounds provider with Coast to Coast (similar to exchange networks that broaden access to destinations across the country for its members.)
Unlike camping experiences in the ‘80s, today’s TRA properties are much larger, often encompassing 600-800 acres that can accommodate different segments of the market. From a 5th wheel, pop-up, dry camper or travel trailers to luxury A, B, and C-class motor coach homes. TRA parks are so large they can support all styles and sizes. For those looking to test the experience, the company has about 200 fully-furnished cabins, allowing guests to bring their entire families (and dogs!) for a new vacation opportunity.
The average Membership fee is $10,500 and provides members with access to over 300 private RV campgrounds and 300 public parks – all at discounted rates. Annual maintenance fees of between $400-$500 help maintain the resorts in top shape for their members. Their market is primarily outdoor enthusiasts.
Professionals Needed. With the major growth in RV sales, Danz believes he is in the right travel segment at the right time, with more tours than sales agents. As RV sales increase, families will want to test their new “toys” at multiple locations. TRA is currently in a hiring blitz, seeking professionals in sales, sales management, administration, finance, marketing, management and leadership positions. For those in timesharing who are eager to experience working in a new setting in the great outdoors, please send all inquiries to Erin Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Existing RV owners are similar to an in-house timeshare tour, with programs producing 80% of the distribution and high Volume per Guest (VPG) yields. The non-RV owner is similar to a front-line tour, currently generating 20 percent of the distribution. This results in a very rich blend being distributed to TRA’s sales teams. They have been experiencing blended net closing rates of over 20 percent with cancellations no higher than 10 percent. With sales positions at many timeshare sales centers reduced due to COVID, several leadership sales and management professionals have joined the TRA team. Unlike timeshare sales, there are only a few criteria for customers: if they are an RV owner, they are qualified. If not an RV owner, they must be a married couple or single professional with a $50,000 combined income. The marketing team is focused on this rich blend of RV to non-RV ratio and is providing an opportunity for timeshare and hospitality pros to slide into a new thriving sector of the travel industry. No real estate license or testing is required. Interestingly, one out of 25 RCI members own an RV.
James (Jimmy) Danz, RRP, who will a guest on the Trades Lunch Bunch this month, is a 35-year veteran of the timeshare and leisure industry. Jimmy joined TRA because it provided a great opportunity to be involved in an industry experiencing exponential growth, as well as having the ability to affect change. He was brought onboard in summer 2019 as Chief Marketing Officer. Recently named Executive VP, Jimmy is responsible for sales, marketing, and assisting in the coordination of the C-Suite.
Past posts have included senior positions with Wyndham Worldwide in Hawaii, ICE (International Cruise & Excursions), Managing Partner at Trident Management, Chief Marketing Officer Global, Diamond Resorts International, Regional VP Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Resort Properties of Australia. He is a seven-time ARDA award winner and has served on ARDA’s Board of Directors.
Also on the executive staff are VP Marketing Michael Reyes, Regional VP Sales Robert Nelson, and Justin Joseph, Director CX – Customer Experience Center.
Shared Steve Baldelli, “Jimmy Danz has been the perfect sales and marketing professional to take our company into the next level of expansion. His high energy and leadership ability are the ideal fit for our growing company.”
Adds Jimmy, “Over the years, I have learned that bad companies can be destroyed by a crisis and good companies will survive a crisis, but great companies are defined by a crisis. In spite of the current pandemic and resulting economic challenges, our goal is to remain in the latter group within the RV Park and Campground travel world. I don’t believe this industry segment has been leveraged to its greatest potential. Where COVID hurt hospitality, we have enjoyed a positive uptick in both reservations, onsite visits, and inventory usage. When you are surrounded by 600-850 acres, there is definitely plenty of breathing room. Our motto of ‘Keep Calm and Camp On’ has enabled us to fill a needed niche for vacation-starved families.”
COVID safety precautions and social distancing were a paramount concern in Customer Experience Centers. Their robust 30-point onsite safety plan is implemented at each center every 2.5 hours with constant cleaning and re-sanitizing of everything touched by a customer.
Resort campgrounds owned and operated by TRA include Rocky Fork Ranch in Kimbolton, Ohio, with 255 campsites plus 120 lodging facilities, surrounded by 850 acres of wooded and rolling landscape. Another popular Ohio TRA campground is Wally World Resort in Loundonville on the Mohican River. The Gettysburg Battlefield Resort in Pennsylvania is on the southern edge of the most famous battlefield in civil war history. See travelresorts.com for more locations.
These properties deliver countless amenities which include everything an outdoor enthusiast would desire for the perfect family getaway. There are dog parks (rare at timeshare resorts), rodeos, boat and fishing ramps, horseback riding, a gun range, water sports, and activity centers.
Adds Danz, “Our resorts offer a premier luxury outdoor experience for lodgers, campers, Glampers and RV’ers, and a low-risk vacation destination, allowing members to disconnect from technology and the grid and to get back to nature by relaxing, recharging and reconnecting with family and loved ones. It’s a great way to vacation.”
Marge Lennon has been a publicist and writer for the timeshare industry since 1978. For story suggestions about your company, contact her at Marge@LennonCommunications.com