By Jon Burek, Executive Vice President
- Unparalleled support grows park sales, profits
After a year in which many Jellystone Park™ campgrounds posted record sales, operators are more than entitled to a break from the crowds in this off-season, especially since 2021 is forecast to again be extremely busy. While most parks close for the winter, about one-third are open year-round, usually with limited operations. That doesn’t mean, however, that franchisees and their teams go into hibernation along with Yogi Bear™. During the winter months, parks are hard at work preparing for the upcoming vacation season, doing their own strategic planning, updating software systems, writing marketing plans and making improvements.
Likewise, the LSI staff is working behind the scenes to get ready for the gates to open. LSI is known for providing unparalleled support to help franchisees deliver high quality, innovative services and unique experiences that ensure each park is the premier family campground in its market. We naturally become an extension of the parks’ efforts, working side-by-side with them, serving as a resource – especially for franchisees joining the system.
Like our parks, LSI uses the off-season to improve our business processes and procedures. This includes reviewing and updating our comprehensive, Brand Standards Manual, which provides operators with information on all facets of running a Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. Store operations, the proper use of character costumes, recreation programming and training are just a few of the topics it covers.
This year, much of our off-season work focuses on supporting operators in three important operational areas: facilitating education and networking, updating COVID-19 protocols and onboarding new parks.
Education and networking: Delivering a great – and consistent – consumer experience requires a commitment to brand standards and operational excellence. We provide numerous opportunities for our parks to improve their operations from LSI and industry experts. Every November we present an annual Symposium and trade show, which includes educational topics, brand updates, presentations from industry leaders and opportunities to meet with suppliers. Our Spring Meeting is designed to help operators get ready for the upcoming season, while the annual CARE (Caring About Recreation and Entertainment) meeting provides training for recreation managers on games, activities, arts and crafts, and attractions, which are such an important part of the Jellystone Park experience.
Along with the educational programs LSI presents, franchisees tell us the networking opportunities that allow them to share experiences, challenges, solutions and ideas are invaluable.
For many years, LSI has been a leader of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), sponsoring its annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo. This year, we also sponsored the first Canadian Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo. LSI’s investment in these organizations keeps our operations staff abreast of best practices and innovations that we share with our operators.
COVID-19 protocols: With the pandemic expected to continue well into 2021, it’s important that our guests remain comfortable visiting our parks. Last year, LSI developed a very successful COVID-19 best practices toolkit to assist parks in managing the crisis. We also facilitated virtual forums throughout the season to ensure timely updates. These best practices, which were updated throughout the season, worked well for our parks. Many of them will be used again this year until restrictions are eased. LSI will continue to monitor the situation and revise guidelines and suggested procedures, as well as communicate them to the system as needed.
Onboarding new parks: LSI provides a variety of tools and programs to our new franchisees that help them transition into a Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. First, we visit the park to help the management team develop a conversion plan, share ideas and identify next steps. Our comprehensive Brand Standards Manual, a “how to” for everything we do, serves as a guide. LSI also provides an in-person training class called CAMP (Certification And Management Program) for first-time operators and park managers. This class, held at a host campground, provides classroom and hands-on instruction in operations, marketing, retail sales and more, to set the park and management team up for success.
Outside of formal training, our marketing and retail teams consult on and assist with merchandise purchases, store setup, website development and marketing. We assign a dedicated LSI operations representative to be the single point of contact for additional support and to answer questions throughout the transition process and beyond.
Perhaps our best kept secret is our exclusive club of franchisees – a community of hard working, exceptional entrepreneurs and hospitality professionals who thrive on sharing information and helping others. LSI fosters easy access to this community through virtual forums, events, private social media groups and more.
For years, our marketing slogan has been “Where you camp with friends.” That idea applies to the entire system. Our operators consider the LSI support staff and their fellow franchisees friends, all working together toward our collective success.
Jon oversees all operational functions at LSI, including training and education. He has more than 20 years of operations management experience in a variety of industries, ranging from hospitality to aviation.