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Summer is the time for many things—ice cream, swimming holes, work-inappropriate short shorts and more—but camp and camping are usually among the most popular seasonal activities.
Although campgrounds and summer camps are very different businesses with extremely different business models, they can both benefit from software specifically designed to address the challenges of running them. Looking for that software, though, can be time-consuming and burdensome. Ultimately, you need a system that meets your specific needs while not costing too much.
This buyer's guide will explain the ways in which camp management software can help your camp or campground run more smoothly and attract more patrons.
Everything you need to know about what you should look for in your camp management software is covered in the following sections:
What Is Camp Management Software?
You can't successfully manage a business these days without dedicated software, and camps/campgrounds are no exception. Using software can make it easier for you to organize bookings and registration, manage day-to-day tasks and upkeep, track payments and streamline operations.
Robust camp management systems will combine all of these different functions, while smaller vendors may offer systems that focus specifically on individual aspects of camp management, like registration, reservations or health records. Some systems will be equally applicable to both camps and campsites (focusing on facilities management), while others are specifically geared for one or the other (focusing on booking campsites or registering for camps).
You want to be sure that you're getting the functionality that is right for your specific business. Overdoing it by purchasing a system that offers tools you're never going to use will ultimately cost you more money than it saves. Really consider what you will actually use the software for, then seek out the vendor and system that will meet your specific needs.
The best way to figure out what kind of software will work for you is to review the features table, below, and then find the vendor that provides the best combination of the features you think will serve your business. Some vendors will find obvious options to pursue, while others may be unnecessary.
Common Features of Vacation Rental Software
- Registration. A large number of camp management software vendors are actually registration software providers who have particular modules geared towards registering for camps. These systems will help you streamline the registration process for both yourself and your campers, integrating with your website and helping you to create easy, intuitive registration pages.
- Booking. Campsites need to know who's actually going to be camping on their land and for how long, and booking functionality will help you keep track of that. Similar to registration software, the system will streamline the booking process and integrate with your website to make it simpler for patrons to book a spot at your campground and for you to keep track of who's there at any given time.
- Facilities maintenance. Part of what makes camps and campgrounds attractive is their scenery, which you'll want to keep as pristine as possible while also making sure that campers have access to all the necessary modern amenities. Facilities management tools play a crucial dual role for camp management software, allowing you to track the maintenance of cabins, bathrooms, kitchens and so on, as well as making sure that the natural beauty of the camp is maintained through regular cleanups of the site.
- Payment processing and accounting. Larger systems may provide some basic accounting functionality to help you keep track of the financial aspects of your business. The most popular function for camp management software is payment processing, which will allow you to track and process payments made by parents on behalf of their child campers.
- Record keeping. Some software vendors will take the data from registration forms and create a database of camper (and parent) information. Others will allow you to enter important data about campers (and their families) into the systems, including medical records, so that you can easily access it when needed.
- Marketing. More robust camp management systems will help you plan and implement marketing campaigns for your camp, campground or campsite, from email blasts sent to existing customers to advertising meant to capture new business.
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Because camp management software can be used for managing both commercial campgrounds and summer camps, potential buyers fall into a variety of different categories representing an assortment of businesses and markets.
The most prominent of these buyers, though, will fall into one of the following four categories, based on industry and size:
- Small-to-midsize (SMB) campground. These buyers may run one individual campground, or perhaps a small, local chain of campgrounds, and are looking for software that makes managing each individual property smoother and easier. Major concerns will probably include booking and facilities management.
- Large campground. These are buyers operating multiple campgrounds across a wide geographic area. They will need the same functions as small campground buyers, but will likely want a more robust system that also allows them to track finances across properties and engage in marketing activities.
- SMB camp. As with the SMB campground buyer, this is a buyer who only runs one camp, or at most a few, who wants to focus on the management of that individual camp. Registration functionality will likely be the most useful tool for this buyer, along with tools for facilities maintenance and record-keeping.
- Large camp. This is a buyer operating a series of camps on multiple sites. As a result, they require a robust system that will allow them to link management across those sites, track finances, engage in marketing, and track compliance for all local health and safety standards.
Given that camp management software applies to several types of businesses, your own business' particular market is the key consideration when you are looking for a system. But that's just the first of many factors to keep in mind:
- Your market. If you are a desert campground that attracts vacationing families in their RVs, chances are that you'll have different software requirements than a surf camp for teenagers. Thus, your primary consideration for software needs to be the business segment that the software is targeted towards. Some platforms are better for one type of business than others, while some can be equally helpful to both.
- Your needs. Camp management software can help you manage everything from registration to medical records, so you need to consider how you're actually going to use the software. If you expect to utilize it solely to register campers and process payments, then look for a system that is specific to those needs rather than a larger, more expensive system that offers functions and tools you'll never use.
- Integration with other systems. If you are already using another type of software that you're happy with, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software or accounting software, then you may not want to lose that when you purchase new camp management-specific software. Some camp management systems will allow you to integrate with those other software platforms for a seamless experience, while others may not have that capability.
Market Trends to Understand
Cloud-based software. Cloud-based software solutions are increasingly popular with most businesses thanks to the advantages they tend to offer modern companies, as compared to on-premise systems. On-premise software will require you to have the space for physical hardware and the IT knowledge and resources to implement the software, which may be difficult at a camp or campsite.
On the other hand, cloud-based systems are more easily and quickly implemented, with fewer up-front costs and less of a need for IT assets. Thus, cloud-based systems are particularly suited for smaller businesses that lack those IT resources. However, if your camp is located in a remote area that lacks reliable internet access, you may need to go with an on-premise system to avoid possible software down time.