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New ‘Arvie’ booking service launches, but one camping company not pleased with process

RVers tired of endlessly searching the internet for available campsites now have access to a new service that creator and founder Mark Petersen thinks could change the way people plan their trips.

But at least one major campground operator (Kampgrounds of America Inc.) isn’t happy with the new service, and has sent the new company a “cease and desist” letter protesting the methods used by Petersen’s new “Arvie™” booking service. KOA is demanding that all KOA inventory be immediately removed from the Arvie.com website.

Petersen said Arvie is a subscription service and acts as an online travel agency for RVers, designed to help campers find, compare, and instantly book the best campsites for all of their trips using a sleek and centralized interface.

For a subscription fee of $14.95 each month, RV owners can tap into Arvie to scour the internet for available campsites at nearly 4,000 campgrounds. Not only can Arvie find an available site and notify the RV owner, Petersen says it can also automatically book the site as soon as it’s available.

Officials at Kampgrounds of America Inc. said Petersen’s service is effectively just another “scraping” website that likely uses automated bots to find available sites. KOA said scraping bots lead to double bookings within its proprietary reservation software, in effect blocking KOA’s available inventory from other campers.

KOA said Tuesday that it had talked with Arvie’s chief operating officer, and it became apparent that Arvie was “scraping” KOA’s site for available reservations. KOA said the scraping was noticed during routine systems monitoring over the past few months.

KOA issued the following statement Tuesday, April 26:

“KOA, Inc. did not authorize the placement of campground inventory on ARVIE.com. We believe they have “scraped” KOA.com, in violation of our terms and services, to present KOA inventory on their site and may be using an electronic “bot” to make reservations into our system. This has created double bookings within K2, KOA’s property management software, which may be an attempt to hold inventory. We have issued a cease and desist letter to ARVIE demanding they remove KOA inventory from their site arvie.com and discontinue their ability to sell KOA inventory without permission.” – Kampgrounds of America Inc.

Petersen responded to RVtravel.com regarding KOA’s cease and desist letter with the following statement:

“Arvie was built to serve the camping community and it was designed from the bottom up to help campers find and book campsites at the exact same price the campground sets; without another penny being added on. We view KOA as an integral part of the camping ecosystem and want to work closely with them and other industry partners to harness tremendous synergy for the travel ecosystem.

“We also anticipate campground owners and managers will like the fact that Arvie finds and sends more customers their way; with absolutely zero additional cost or effort on their part.

“We have reached out to KOA to acknowledge the receipt of their letter and plan to respond in the timeframe requested by their counsel.

“Arvie’s new approach to camping travel means we are committed to creating never-before-seen resources, strong partnerships and a better experience for all.” – Mark Petersen, Arvie.com

Officials with the Recreation.gov booking website issued the following statement April 29:

“Recreation.gov provides our real-time availability to partners through an authenticated API and we continuously monitor the site for suspicious activity.  We have not seen a pattern of automated large-scale automated bookings from this (Arvie.com) or other sites.  We will continue to monitor these and other sites to ensure that we maintain fairness and equal access aligned with our mission.” – Recreation.com

A different sort of booking site?

Petersen is a longtime RVer who was frustrated with constantly searching through dozens of campground booking sites looking for availability. “I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a campground in my vicinity, compared to how easy it was to find a hotel room using Orbitz or an apartment with Airbnb.” He set out to fix the frustrating search issues in 2015, and just recently launched www.Arvie.com.

He said campers are spending far too much time searching for the elusive available sites at their favorite camping destinations. “We call it the looking and booking blues.”

Petersen said Arvie’s service provides a centralized place where real-time campground availability is provided for travelers. Arvie’s team of agents use its proprietary search engine to check availability for subscriber-requested locations across the U.S. Petersen said Arvie already has three times as many instantly bookable campsites than its next major competitor.

“All of these campground sites ask you the same questions” regarding the RVer’s rig size, slideout options, or whether they travel with pets, he said. “With Arvie, you fill out your profile with us once and we do the searching, and we can book the actual reservation for you.”

Petersen says his customer is the camper

Petersen said his customer is the camper. His only revenue stream comes from the monthly fees paid by camper subscribers. “At the same time, we think we create a win/win for the campground owner and their booking engine, too,” he said. Despite KOA’s claim Tuesday, Petersen said “I didn’t want to do anything other than add value for the rest of the camping industry.”

When using Arvie, campers fill out their profile preferences and requirements, their desired campground, and enter their credit card information. Arvie’s search engine then sweeps the internet 24/7 looking for available sites meeting the search criteria. As soon as a site is found, Arvie either books the site immediately for the camper or alerts the RVer regarding the available site, depending on the method the subscriber has selected. Petersen said Arvie works with secure credit card processor Stripe to complete the transaction.

“Think of us as an online travel agency that makes finding and immediately booking campsites easier for you than you could possibly do on your own,” Petersen said. “We keep a close eye on all of the campground sites you may be interested in, even when you’re sleeping.” Campers can also opt to receive a text alert regarding available sites instead of having Arvie book the site directly.

Arvie had an 87% successful “hit rate”

Petersen said early tests of Arvie’s systems at several popular and fully booked campgrounds found that Arvie had an 87% successful “hit rate” for booking sites that became available.

Arvie completes a camping reservation with one-click booking – supposedly eliminating  the need to fill out all of the usual registration forms. Petersen said custom Arvie customer profiles expedite the booking process and relieve the stress and struggles to filter and search through thousands of camping locations to find the best fit for RV travelers’ specific requirements.

“This is something that you either can’t do – or don’t want to do – for yourself. We give campers some of their time back to enjoy and create more camping opportunities.”

Petersen says every camping reservation is completed by a real person, and not a bot or other artificial means. “Our agents perform every booking,” he said.

Sold Out Search and Insta-book features of Arvie

Major features of Arvie include Sold Out Search and Insta-book. Campers can ask for Arvie to watch for cancellations at their desired parks, and quickly book the site for them should one become available. Arvie’s “Sold Out Search” (SOS) monitors sold-out campgrounds for cancellations 24/7 and then automatically books (or notifies, depending on preference) with “Insta-book” the second it becomes available – even while you sleep.

“It’s a great way to enjoy that ‘bucket list’ camping at very popular campgrounds,” Petersen said. “Even at major national park sites, somebody is going to cancel, and we are giving you a good chance to change that cancellation into your reservation. Arvie gives you an advantage, and it’s hard otherwise for the average Joe to get an advantage.”

Petersen said RVers who choose a text alert instead of the immediate booking option can stlll book their site with one click, since Arvie will have the camper’s profile preferences and credit card information on hand.

Campers are frustrated

He said campers are frustrated by the current issues with both searching for an available site and filling out the countless online information each booking site now requires to complete a single reservation.

“I used those same sites, and I could never seem to get it done in time to get the reservation,” he said. “It’s not about just finding a site; it’s about getting a site. We figured out that part.”

Petersen said he hopes both campers and campground owners view Arvie as a desired “accessory” to the campground booking process.

“We are like an aftermarket turbocharger”

“We are like an aftermarket turbocharger,” he said. “When we designed Arvie, I told my people that we should do no harm to this industry or to those campgrounds who make it what it is now. We want to take what there is and try to make it a better experience by improving the process of putting campers into campsites in a more efficient way.”

Petersen said Arvie will always include direct links to campground booking sites, should his subscribers still want to book through those sites. “I’m just trying to make it a speedier process,” he said.

“Everything with Arvie is done in the legally prescribed way, and we have no problem linking back to campground sites. I think if we continue to do the right thing for campgrounds and the result is we bring them more customers at no cost to them, they won’t have a problem working with us.”

Related:

Campground Crowding

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Bill J
16 days ago

I believe $15 a month is a bit high for such a ‘service’. I know when I trip plan, I select CGs on RV Trip Wizard and go over to KOA.com to book all the KOAs on my trip first, then use the booking links on RV Trip Wizard to nail down the rest. Some GCs can book in line, most reply by email and some require a phone call.

I certainly don’t think that’s worth $15 a month ($180 annual) since we only travel 4 or 5 months a year!

John Koenig
16 days ago

I AVOID “Booking Websites” if at all possible. The VERY few times I had to use them were largely an exercise in frustration because of their often poor design and poor ease of use. I prefer to phone a campground DIRECTLY and speak with a manager. This has worked for me for over a decade. I see no reason to change what works.

Ed N
16 days ago

Mike, your story sounds a lot like an advertorial. My impression was that RVtravel wished to differentiate itself from the RVlife-type publications by being independent, not beholden to vendors. Yes, you mention a criticism, but the vast majority of your article is quoting the vendor.

Duane R
16 days ago
Reply to  Ed N

Why is information an advertorial? It showed me the possibility of using Arvie.com to book sites, if I so choose. If I don’t choose, I won’t. Mike INFORMED me, and did a good job. I think I got a good overview of how, and why, they set up their site. And, it gave me enough information to know that the subscription price is not one I am willing to pay right now, but I may in the future. How else might we get a good overview, if someone does not introduce a site to us? Got to get information somehow. Your referral to a favorite business could also be considered an advertorial. Is that a bad thing?

Mike Gast
16 days ago
Reply to  Duane R

Duane and Ed N, the story was in interview with Mark Petersen, the founder of Arvie. It was by no means an advertorial (RVTravel.com doesn’t sell its content via advertorials or any other means). It was simply a story to lay out the claims of a new service vendor. It wasn’t an endorsement in any way. But when you interview the vendor of a new service, you do tend to “quote the vendor” a lot. If we ever offer our opinion or an endorsement, you’ll clearly know. In the course of writing the story, I checked with KOA, Recreation.gov and a few other large providers for their take on the Arvie service. That led to the inclusion of the statements from those two organizations. So no worries, Ed N, we won’t be “beholden” to vendors. And thanks for coming to our defense, Duane R.

Last edited 16 days ago by Mike Gast
bwodom
16 days ago

The idea is a great one.

While I don’t have the technical background to comment on the “how” they do it, I am surprised that the hotel sites (Expedia et al.) have not used a system that is already in place to include campgrounds in their offerings. Military lodging has included campgrounds in with their hotel reservations systems for awhile now (in some cases, not all). Looks like someone is missing the boat.

Tom B
16 days ago

I think $15.00 A month when I MIGHT use it 3 times A year is a bit steep. That comes out to $60.00 per use. For now, I’ll take my chances. Perhaps if they had a “per use” fee, or charged on a month by month it would work better for me.

Mike Medrano
16 days ago

$14.95 a MONTH???!!! $180.00 a year?! Oh, please. So glad we gave up travel trailer camping. We gave it up when it stopped being fun. We have great memories, though.

Richard Chabrajez
16 days ago

I think KOA’s issue with Arvie is it hampers KOA’s ability to inflict their textbook campsite extortion tactics; charging ridiculous rates to campers in need of a short stay camp site. For us, it was during a re-route to avoid bad weather. KOA Moab tried to charge us 50% above published rate for 1 night. Bite me on that crap!

Remember, it was not that long ago the KOA’s corporate goal was to put glamping cabins on all their sites and eliminate campers altogether.

Last edited 16 days ago by Richard Chabrajez
Camper
16 days ago

Having read through the details, it’s clearly stated in the customer profile set up, the Arvid system will in fact put a hold on available sites until the subscriber acts, thus blocking those using KOA, RV park or state/national park web sites to search and book sites. KOA might have a valid claim.

Duane R
16 days ago
Reply to  Camper

Really? When I go to Recreation.gov, or KOA to book a site, there is always a timer telling me I have to complete my reservation within a timeframe or I lose it. That is a “hold”, and is likely what happens when Arvie finds a site for you and asks if you want them to book it. You have to respond in a timeframe, or they won’t book the site. I see no problem with that.

Sheryl Hendrix
16 days ago

I think it’s a scam on us and the campgrounds. I haven’t had any problems booking sites. As a matter of fact the past month we have been practically alone during the week at all four Recreation.gov sites we have been in. I have a hard time believing people are having such a hard time finding places to stay! Who says them?! I sure will save my money and book all by myself!

Thomas D
16 days ago

15 bucks a month for them to find me what i want. Heck yes. My times worth money, and i can eliminate frustration.
And we don’t do KOA . anyway. Sardines anyone?

Drew
16 days ago

On their site it says you can cancel any time. I think if I wanted a great place to stay I’d join, get a spot, then cancel.

George
16 days ago

I don’t understand how this could lead to double booking unless there is a problem with KOA software/database. I don’t like the KOA website myself and their prices seem a bit steep at some campgrounds for what you get. Arvie looks to be providing a service people need and use to save time and compare pricing with other campgrounds (assuming it lets you do that). I see nothing wrong with capitalism. More power to Arvie. Not being full timer’s we wouldn’t use it full time, but I’m saving the link for possible use on a 3 month trip this year.

Bill Semion
16 days ago

This could be titled, The RVater: Rise Of The Machines. To all who are continually frustrated by trying over and over to get a site at a favorite campground that you have been able to get into in the past, only to have it snatched from under you no matter how many times you try: Get used to it. You are witnessing the rise of campsite search bots that will beat you to a site any time, every time. You will not be able to beat a computer that will continually search every second, minute or any time frame, including automatically finding an open site and booking it for you, all for a fee. It is already here. Like computers, they will soon be the only way you’ll be able to do anything when searching for a site.

Nigel
16 days ago

Rate way too high. Regardless, with bots like this constantly scouring the campgrounds, it makes it much less likely for us, the average Joe’s who are not “members of the Arvie club,” to get a site that becomes suddenly available. The bot will beat us to it every time.

Patricia Panuccio
16 days ago

KOA has always fought this, I remember a big to-do with good sam years ago.

Spike
16 days ago

I’ll use the $180 a year to book several days of camping myself! Or maybe put 30 gallons of diesel in my motorhome! 🙂

Rod B
16 days ago

At 14.95 a month, it sounds like a get rich scheme to me.

friz
16 days ago

I hoped your article would comment on the validity of KOA’s complaint. Mostly “word salad”. I like that term.

Dave
16 days ago

Good for Arvie. I like to see innovating thinking and entrepreneurial problem solving. As for KOA, I try not to book there unless I have no better options. They’re OK just a little over priced for overnight stays. I personally don’t have too much difficulty booking rv parks and doubtful I would spend the $15/mo to join. But I can see this being a very useful tool for a minority of campers.

Bill Semion
16 days ago
Reply to  Dave

Ha! You will like it until a year or so from now when you attempt to book your favorite park, and can’t. Then you’ll say, ohhhh. now I see….:)

Tom B
16 days ago

While I’m all for technology, this hits a bit close to Ticketmaster buying experience. You know, you log on the minute a show goes on sale, and by the time you navigate to the buy page, 30 seconds later, the only thing left is nosebleed seats. The bots and scalpers have bought up all the good seats. The regular guy has no chance.

Linda
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom B

I was thinking this same thing as I was reading the article! You either pay their $15 monthly fee ($180 a year) or your left with the less desirable ones? No wonder the electric sites in our area are booked up the first day they open! ALSO, the places we camp charge a $10 booking fees. We camp about 7X per year. That’s $70. Guess we’re saving $110 🤔

bull
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom B

EXACTLY!!!

The “bot’s and other scalpers who are looking the RESELL these tickets buy all the good stuff and so will this campsite service that does NOT RESELL their reservations HELP campers find that campground site they are looking to book

HOWEVER this is where the similarity with Ticketmaster ends!

With this “service” you know your exact cost of $14.95/month every month versus the HUGE service fees charged by Ticketmaster to use their service each and ever time you want to buy a ticket.

Not even close in comparison!

Last edited 16 days ago by bull