The Business of Work Camping: In with the new (work camping gig)

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By Sam Suva

Upon arrival, and before
When we arrive in a campground, we are greeted with hope for improvements and a continuation of services. The campers and staff usually want to know if the issues that have been previously left unresolved will be addressed. They also remind us that the services they are used to, like weed trimming and social activities, need to be taken care of seamlessly.


During the communication with the owners and managers, prior to arrival, we make sure to include questions about where the campground could improve and what have been the praise and complaints by everyone. We get the “dumpster overflows on the holidays and the beginning of spring and winter,” and that the common areas need to be weeded and planted with seasonal flower arrangements, or that an activity could be added or deleted. These areas of concern are then discussed as to which the owner wishes to put funds toward to complete or update. I have a saying: “Get your money straight first,” which means not only our salary but also a budget for operating the campground and making improvements.

When we get to the campground, we usually get much more detailed information, which needs to be addressed. The previous staff are usually gone or are “getting gone” and are concerned with the next job or adventure in life. There is usually a break in the continuity of staff so that the concerns and ideas of the past are left with gaps. It is our job to make sure those gaps are filled.

Do our own assessment
We drive around the campground. In the first few days, or really hours, we have anonymity. We can drive around the grounds, inspect the utilities and supplies almost unnoticed. This gives us a great idea about the condition of the campground on the ground level. It is helpful to take notes about any repairs that need to be done. Touring the rental units and checking for things like blown light bulbs or dirty filters inside as well as broken or rotted boards outside helps to get a jump on the repairs. Usually seasons do a number on outbuildings and rentals so we make sure they are clean and in good repair.

Talk to the campers
We find out campers’ concerns and give them a voice. When we ask a camper how the park is performing for the amount they are charging, we usually find a positive response, with a few caveats. The gravel roads may be in disrepair from a rain or the bathhouse may need a coat of paint. We make a mental note and thank them for their time and loyalty to the campground. We praise them for the cleanliness and creativity of the improvements to their sites and find a common ground to build on.

Staff
Since staff have already found a comfortable schedule during their time on property, we usually just do what we are told and follow directions. This helps to get the work done efficiently. However, staff also have eyes on what is repeatedly breaking down, like the breaker for the sewer pump or the security light that flickers, or the air blow up character that is getting faded and raggedy. This communication will usually come out during the season, so we are careful to listen and observe, making sure their concerns are noted and addressed. The complaints and observations that are safety-related are top priority.

Make a list
After we have a list, and usually it’s a very long list, we compile it into what can be accomplished relatively quickly and consistently. Also, what falls under the annual budget and what needs additional funds to complete? These areas are then acted on or “kicked upstairs” for approval from the owner or general manager. Then it is up to us to ensure that those areas are consistently addressed and that any new concerns are quickly addressed.

What have you noticed that needs to be improved in the campgrounds that you have visited? What have you done when coming into a campground to organize and complete projects? I look forward to your comments and experiences.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com .

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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