The RV resort space in the US is niche. With the Canadian border open again and RV travel back on the rise, Zeman RV Resorts have found themselves in a lucrative position at the higher end of the market as business booms again.
The Chicago based business runs over twenty premium RV resorts across the United States - Alabama, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maine and Rhode Island to name a few - although most are concentrated in the sunny state of Florida where the market caters to visitors heading south to avoid the cold winters. Zeman’s resorts are more akin to lifestyle brands - including clubhouses, pools and constant activities on offer - and their customers can also vary, from short term more transient business to more traditional longer term stays of three month minimums during the Florida high season
With more properties in the pipeline, including ‘The Surf’ - a luxury development in Florida being built from the ground up which will be opening towards the end of 2022 - RV travel is definitvely back up and running. We spoke to Courtney Kilpatrick about how Zeman have been busy slingshotting themselves into a post pandemic world with some new technology.
Old school frustrations
“We’ve been in the RV space for over six years now and we used to have a really archaic piece of software managing things. I was tasked with finding a new solution that was up to date. We did demos with a lot of different vendors and settled on RMS Cloud in the end. We wanted a system that already had a history of serving camp grounds or similar property types and also something that was cloud based. RMS Cloud was perfect.
Once we were set up with our new PMS, we looked into their Revenue Management integrations. RM software is a very new concept to the RV parks in the US - even larger groups had not adopted it until very recently. We all used to run our businesses using very simple rate tables!
Because we used to do all our RM manually we were particularly open to try something innovative. We tried a couple of different solutions over the course of a few months but realised that most were not fit for the RV space and that the platforms weren’t flexible enough to accommodate our needs.
Most systems are focused on hotels, which is not ideal for us. For example, many of those RMS algorithms base their rates off of competition and look at regional hotel property data, instead of focusing on pure demand. The reality with the RV business is that it’s niche and we aren’t actually competing with most of those local properties. So the fact that Pace’s algorithm focuses on demand and not compsets really stood out.
Although there are plenty of RV parks in warm states like Florida, in regions like the North East there is far less competition as some of the locations are so isolated. For the most part, looking at compsets is not worth it at all.
To get a sense of where the competition is we used to always do a market survey each year so we get a feel of where our minimums may be. But what we really need our RMS to be doing is to be looking more directly at supply and demand and pricing off of that. When we then actually tried Pace, it was just so straightforward to use compared to all the others.”
“Implementation was super easy as Pace is seamlessly integrated with RMS Cloud, plus the onboarding team was always there to help. We were able to onboard the first three properties all at once and it only took a few weeks. To be honest, Pace could have had it all done even faster but the slowness came from our side.
The switch to automation versus doing things manually has been a game changer. It’s sometimes the little things that make a difference in terms of saving time and efficiency. Revenue management now feels like it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I never have to worry about anything.
To sum up our market very quickly - our customers tend to be 55+ and mainly retirees from the colder states. Our RV parks are a kind of lifestyle brand - we have clubhouses, pools and activities always being run. We essentially have three tiers of products - Standard, Premium and Elite. Most spaces are in the Premium tier and our rates tend to vary around $10 and $20 between those tiers and Pace is really helping us optimise them. When it comes to pricing, most of the changes we’ve had to make have been cultural - staff are being trained to check Pace for pricing instead of just saying ‘seven days equals seven hundred dollars’ like we all did in the old days.
Pace works particularly well at our properties that see more transient business. For example, our ‘Seasons in the Sun’ property has been hitting 100 percent occupancy and the rates are being pushed really nicely. We’ve been seeing more revenue come in. I’m particularly looking forward to our new luxury property ‘The Surf’ opening as I think Pace is going to really be able to have an impact on our revenue there.
We took a big hit on occupancy during Covid mainly because of the closing of the Canadian border, which is a significant chunk of our customer base. So it’s great to see occupancy back up and running and having Pace help us get there.”