As the youngest generation is aging into adulthood, these new RVers rely on technology for everything — from navigation to energy production. They also keep their eye out for the RV parks that stay up to date with new ways to produce power and energy, provide reliable internet access, and offer convenient payment and reservation tools. What’s clear is that RV parks that stay current with new campground technology tools will be miles ahead of their competition.
Here is the new technology that parks have been using the past few years. Customers are showing their approval by writing glowing online reviews and showing their loyalty by returning again and again.
Power and Energy
What is it? Solar panels absorb the sun’s rays and transforms it into energy used for everything from electric power to heating. It’s cost-effective and eco-friendly.
How much does it cost? Since 2009, the cost to install the average solar PV panel went down 70%, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). There are also lots of cost-saving calculators online that you can use to compare your energy costs before installing solar panels and your estimated savings after.
How can I get it: There are lots of companies that specialize in installing solar panels for small businesses. Simply schedule a consultation. Like any project, it’s best to compare bids by more than one competitor. And also, read their customer reviews online and check the Better Business Bureau database to see if they have a record of customer complaints.
Example of a Campground Using Solar Panels
Melton Hill Dam Campground, in Lenoir City, Tennessee, recently added sustainable energy amenities that will save money and reduce the park’s environmental impact. Campers can generate their own energy using solar panels installed throughout the park. Electric water heaters were replaced with two solar thermal water heating systems, and streetlights were converted to solar power. Solar-panel powered LED lights and a battery storage unit are at the entrance to the park. Management at Melton Hill also installed a motorized, sun-tracking solar collector in a parking lot near the dam.
These improvements have made Melton Hill one of the most highly sustainable and eco-friendly campgrounds in the country.
Wind Power Technology
What is wind power? A wind turbine creates energy by harnessing wind.
In addition to solar, many campgrounds are adding wind power to reduce their energy costs. Carlsbad KOA in Carlsbad, New Mexico installed a 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine and solar water heating system to heat their swimming pool, which eliminated the middleman: the local energy company. To keep the pool heated, Carlsbad KOA now relies on their solar and wind turbine system.
How can I get it? Wind systems specifically designed for small businesses are growing fast. To get this technology at your campground you should have ample wind and local zoning codes must support wind-turbine installation.
Wind turbines can be installed either on or off the grid, meaning they can be connected to a main power source that feeds the rest of the community or they can be separate and isolated. The advantage to installing your solar panels on the grid is that in some states where net-metering laws have been passed, consumers can sell any extra electricity generated by their wind turbines back to their local utility company.
Tax Incentives for Renewable Energy Technology
The federal government provides financial incentives, grants, and tax credits when businesses switch to renewable energy technology. According to TurboTax, “If you install Energy Star-approved solar-power systems before the end of 2016, you can claim 30% of the cost as a tax credit for the year you installed it.” Go to Energy.gov to see tax credits you qualify for when you install solar, wind, and geothermal electric technologies over the next seven years.
In 2011, Desert Willow RV Park in Hesperia, California invested $800,000 in solar panels. That may seem like a lot of money, but after factoring in a $240,000 federal tax credit, their net investment in the project was only $560,000.
According to the park’s management company, Freestone Capital Management, Desert Willow is saving more than $100,000 on their electricity bills per year. Essentially, the technology pays for itself after about five and a half years, and at that point, it’s considered income.
What is WiFi? WiFi is technology that allows smartphones, computers, and other devices get an internet connection. Until recently many RV campgrounds had trouble getting a strong WiFi signal because they were located too far from infrastructure that sends the signal, or surrounded by too many objects (trees!) that interfere with the signal.
Why should I have WiFi? Ten years ago, having WiFi at an RV park was not in demand the way it is today—and certainly not a deal breaker. But now, WiFi services are so easy to install, campers have the option of choosing any number of parks that have reliable internet service. Offering this amenity allows guests to work while on the road, or just another way for kids and adults to stay occupied. Also, campgrounds that are lagging behind on internet technology are seeing their reservations drop.
I tried installing internet but couldn’t get a strong signal. One of the top reasons RV parks get bad reviews is because of slow WiFi—or no WiFi. If you’ve tried getting internet access in the past and were told that your location was the problem, you really should give it another try. First, contact service providers like Summit Technologies, Sigma WiFi, and Simply WiFi. These companies have developed packages specifically for campgrounds and specialize in creating internet solutions that are effective at penetrating deeply wooded areas.
Automatic Payment Options
Square and PayPal
What is it? In the olden days, businesses would swipe a credit card through a countertop gadget that made a carbon copy of the customers Visa card. Then came those devices hooked up to a phone or internet connection where you slide your card through and it sends a message to your bank to initiate a payment. Today, devices like the Square and online tools like PayPay either plug directly into your smartphone and tablet, or are accessible onscreen.
For a device like the Square, customers swipe their credit card through a small gadget (shaped like a square) that plugs into a tablet or phone, and the payment is automatically withdrawn.
What other payment options do I have? Paypal is just one of many alternatives to the Square and does not require any equipment. But you must have internet access—either through a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Customers can pre-pay their reservations at home and their transactions are perfectly safe.
Other benefits. There are several additional benefits when using new technology tools like WiFi-enabled payment systems. Customers don’t have to come to the office to make a payment. Reservations can be completed over the phone when using the Square, or even at home when using a tool like PayPal. Guests don’t even need to make a special trip to the campground office. Payments can be completed anywhere on the property—at their RV, a BBQ pit, or even while they’re fishing.
But one of the most useful benefits is the real-time analytics. After every transaction, Square, PayPal, and their competitors provide you with useful analytical data. Businesses can automatically see a chart or graph detailing a variety of information, including most popular transactions and busiest time of day. These insights can help you run your businesses more efficiently and also give you ideas about how to market your campground in different ways, depending on unique customer preferences. For example, you will find that some folks only travel between May and September, or which guests have kids. If you build a new play area, this is something you will want to share with families.
The Importance of Learning About New Campground Technology
There are new campground technology tools hitting the market every day and the RV parks is one of the last travel industries to catch on. While the initial investment may give you pause, losing customers will have even worse consequences for your bottom line.