The Expansion-Bust Cycle of Membership Camping

Membership camping systems come and go tending to follow an expansion-bust cycle.

Camping at Hershey Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping at Hershey Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A privately held company, Western Horizon Resorts (WHR) was founded by Jim Loken and family in 1984 and was designed to provide RVers with “an exceptional outdoor vacation experience”.

At its peak in 2010, WHR operated 18 camping resorts located in nine states— Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington—with 3,000+ RV sites and numerous rental trailers and cabins.

Following numerous sales and bank foreclosures their family of resorts has shrunk to six; eight so-called affiliated resorts (formerly owned by WHR) are also available to members at a discounted rate.

Enter Camperworld Vacation Club, a family of seven membership camping RV parks in the state of Utah.

Thousands of members of Camperworld are upset because their offices have been shut down, the website is down, the campgrounds are closed, and they have to pay more in dues.

A recorded phone message has this to say to members, “Thank you for calling Camperworld we are closed until further notice.”

Camperworld is $4.5 million in debt and members have received a notice asking for an addition $880.00 due by April 20 (2014). It is also posted on the website under “Camperworld Special Notice: Updated Information”.

Camping at Chesapeake (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping at Chesapeake (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following is the posted information:

Q. How much is the assessment?

A. $880 is due no later than the 20th of April, 2014.

Q. What about the $500 idea?

A. KSL-TV got it a little off. Here are the facts. Today, the Board of Directors agreed to $500 assessment rather than $880 if you meet the following conditions…
Your membership now has, and you are willing to give up one or more of the following:
Fixed dues for life, or a dues reduction for life, or free dues for life, or no dues option at 72 years of age, or no dues till 2017 or you have Assessment proof status.

In agreeing to surrender this status, no other features, just the dues discount or Assessment block you will then pay $500 by the 20th of April, 2014 and moving forward begin to pay $499 each year for dues starting January 1st, 2015.
If you are unwilling to surrender the one above listed features, the assessment amount for you will stay at $880. Taking advantage of the $500 option, if you qualify, helps everyone!

Q. What if I send in the money but Camperworld closes or files Bankruptcy?

A. All assessment money will be in escrow pending an accounting on April 21st, 2014. If funds are insufficient to run Camperworld in a size to service its members for the full year, every dollar must be returned at once.

Q. What will prevent this from happening next year?

A. 1st, What got us here, “dues deals” are now blocked from happening ever again. 2nd, The new programs provide a dues plus situation. That means that the new programs like the Explorer program, pay for themselves and extra to buffer the missing dues of others. The new programs don’t bet on a sales price to fix 1 year, rather they gain more dues every year to cover the member plus a little to cover the gap.
2nd, Many members with the “dues discounts” will take the high road because of their love for Camperworld and help everyone by surrendering the discount which is responsible for the entire assessment to begin with.

Q. Where did all the money go?

A. This year, with the majority of members were on a dues discount of one form or another, Camperworld collected just over $700,000 total. This money went to pay the hard money loans and operating costs that made it possible to make it until March 2014. Another hard money loan is still outstanding and due in addition to the $4.5 million due Zions which is not a hard money loan but is under review with Zions because of our financial state. It took just over 2.5 million to run the 7 parks last year after your new board made cuts, bringing it to the leanest in years. Randy Townsend covered 1 payroll out of his pocket 2 or 3 months ago. It was paid back.
Of this you can be sure,

Camping at Lynchburg (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping at Lynchburg (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We are never to repeat the past and in fact are all about the business of making it impossible to do so. Our actions should speak loud and clear that the new board of directors are not interested in a gimmick loaded fast buck or a big commissions. Everything we do shows the opposite. We, your board of directors test every move we make to see if we are making the financial health of Camperworld stronger, not just in the short term, but in the long run!

Q. I can’t come up with the assessment money in time, what do I do?

A. A minimum of $300 must be paid by the 20th of April, 2014. The balance can be paid in 3 more installments.
A group of volunteers will be contacting all members one on one starting on April 9th to answer any additional questions. If you have not received a call by April 14th, e-mail drhonline@me.com and I will contact you directly.

Worth Pondering…

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

—Peter Drucker

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