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How to Start a Campground

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Campground

Fast Facts

Investment range

$181,550 - $454,100

Revenue potential

$150,000 - $360,000 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$45,000 - $108,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

As the pandemic recedes, people are gearing up to get back out and enjoy the great outdoors. The campground industry had been experiencing strong growth pre-pandemic and is now on the rebound, showing an impressive post-pandemic expansion and forecast for continued growth in the years ahead. 

You could start your own campground and help countless families enjoy their vacation time while making a good living and contributing to environmental protection. But before you break ground, you’ll need to learn the business startup process. 

Luckily, all the information you need to start a successful campground is packed into this handy step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and Cons

Starting a campground has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Get back to nature — Enjoy and conserve green spaces
  • Social connection — Meet people from all over the country
  • Good money — With just 10 campsites make up to $1,000 per night

Cons

  • High startup costs — Land and preparation require a large investment
  • Location-dependent — Needs to be accessible yet scenic

Campground Industry Trends

Industry Size and Growth

campground industry size and growth

Trends and Challenges

campground industry Trends and Challenges

Trends

  • Campgrounds are affordable, boosting popularity among millennials and Gen Z.
  • Eco-friendly camping options, such as solar-powered generators, are gaining momentum.
  • Remote work is making camping a great option anytime, as wifi-enabled campsites enable people to work while enjoying the outdoors. 

Challenges

  • People are seeking more amenities in terms of recreation at campgrounds, spurring an increase in expensive additions such as pools. 
  • Outdoor safety always presents a risk for campgrounds, as injuries can be a liability for a campground owner.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Campground Business?

Startup costs for a campground range from $180,000 to $450,000 or more. Costs include the land, preparation of the land with roads and equipment, and buildings and amenities.

To buy an existing campground, you could spend anywhere from $100,000 to $2 million. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your campground business, including: 

  • Electric, plumbing, and septic systems with hookups
  • Maintenance equipment
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150–$200$175
Business licenses and permits$100–$300$200
Insurance$100–$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200–$300$250
Website setup$1,000–$3,000$2,000
Land purchase down payment$30,000–$100,000$65,000
Land preparation$50,000–$100,000$75,000
Buildings and amenities$100,000–$250,000$175,000
Total$181,550–$454,100$317,825

How Much Can You Earn From a Campground Business?

campground earnings forecast

Prices for campsites range from $40 to $50 for the off-season per night. During the peak season, they range from $60 to $100. These calculations will assume an average rate of $60 per night. Your profit margin after labor, overhead, and maintenance should be about 30%.

In your first year or two, you might have 10 campsites rented for 250 days a year, bringing in $150,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $45,000 in profit, assuming that 30% margin. As you begin to get regular customers and referrals, you might add 10 more campsites and rent them 300 days a year. With an annual revenue of $360,000, you’d make a healthy profit of $108,000.

What Barriers to Entry Are There?

There are a few barriers to entry for a campground. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The cost of land and preparation
  • Finding land that is appropriate for a campground and can be zoned correctly

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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How to Start an Outfitting Business

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a campground, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an Opportunity

Research campgrounds in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing an RV campground with RV hookups, hiking trails, and water features, or a more traditional campground for tents.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as tent camping or eco-friendly camping.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine Your Amenities, On-Site Offerings, and Add-Ons

Your services will depend on what features you add to your campground, such as a swimming pool or game room. You can also add wifi and sell snacks and beverages for additional revenue.

How Much Should You Charge for Campground Site Rental?

Off-season prices range from $40 to $50 per night, while peak-season prices range from $60 to $100. Check campgrounds in your area to make sure your prices are competitive. After all your costs, you should aim for a profit margin of about 30%.

Once you know your costs, you can use our profit margin calculator to determine your markup and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify Your Target Market

Your target market will be broad, so you should spread out your marketing to include sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. You could also post on online camping forums. 

Where? Choose Your Campground Location

Selecting the right location for your campground is crucial for attracting campers and ensuring its success. Look for a scenic and desirable area that offers a range of outdoor activities, such as near a national park, a lake, or a forest.

Consider accessibility and convenience, ensuring that the location is easily reachable by car and has ample parking. By strategically choosing the right location, you can establish a popular and thriving campground that caters to a wide range of campers and outdoor enthusiasts.

campground business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Campground Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “campground” or “campsites,” boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for example, “Nature’s Best Campground” over “RV Park Campground”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Discover over 390 unique campground name ideas here. If you want your business name to include specific keywords, you can also use our campground name generator. Just type in a few keywords, hit Generate, and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Campground Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive summary — A concise summary outlining the core aspects of the campground business plan, including its mission, goals, and key financial highlights
  • Business overview — A brief introduction to the campground business, highlighting its nature, location, and overall purpose
  • Product and services — Details about the specific offerings provided by the campground, such as campsite amenities, recreational activities, and any additional services
  • Market analysis — Examination of the target market for the campground, including demographics, trends, and potential growth opportunities
  • Competitive analysis — Assessment of competitors in the campground industry, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and positioning strategies
  • Sales and marketing — The plan for promoting the campground, attracting visitors, and converting leads into customers, including sales tactics and marketing channels
  • Management team — Overview of the individuals responsible for running the campground, detailing their roles, qualifications, and relevant experience
  • Operations plan — An outline of day-to-day activities and processes involved in running the campground, covering staffing, facilities management, and customer service
  • Financial plan — Detailed financial projections, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow forecasts, providing a comprehensive overview of the business’s financial health and future expectations
  • Appendix — Additional supporting documents and information, such as permits, contracts, or detailed market research, to provide a comprehensive context for the campground business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose Where to Register Your Company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to campgrounds. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind that it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose Your Business Structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your campground will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole proprietorship — The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General partnership — Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) — Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corporation — Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corporation — This refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. Either corporation or an LLC can elect to be an S Corp for tax status. Here, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail/fax. Visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund Your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans — This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and a strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans — The Small Business Administration can act as a guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and family Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding — Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a campground business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

Step 8: Apply for Campground Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a campground business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Many states require a campground license. You also need to check zoning requirements in your area. Check with your state and local governments for requirements.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your campground business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability — The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business property — Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment breakdown insurance — Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation — Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property — Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto — Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability — Protects against claims from clients who say they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP) — This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential Software and Tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as CAMPSPOT, ASPIRA, and BONFIRE, to manage your bookings, pricing, schedule, and payments.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, FreshBooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences of filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop Your Website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

However, people are unlikely to find your website unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Professional branding — Design your branding to reflect the outdoor adventure and tranquility of your campground, ensuring it resonates in all promotional materials.
  • Direct outreach — Collaborate with travel agencies, outdoor clubs, and local businesses to introduce and promote your camping services.
  • Professional website and SEO — Develop a user-friendly website showcasing your campground’s amenities and natural surroundings, optimized for relevant search terms.
  • Local SEO — Ensure your campground is prominently listed in local search results to make it easy for potential visitors to find and choose your location. Regularly update your Google My Business and Yelp profiles to strengthen your local search presence.
  • Social media engagement — Use Instagram and Facebook to post captivating photos and videos that highlight guest experiences and the beauty of your location.
  • Camping tips and nature blog — Share valuable content about camping safety, local wildlife, and conservation to engage and educate your audience.
  • Guest testimonials and adventure spotlights — Feature stories from satisfied guests to highlight the memorable experiences your campground offers.
  • Content marketing — Create informative infographics or eBooks that provide camping tips for beginners or showcase the unique aspects of your site.
  • Hosted events and activities — Organize onsite events such as guided hikes, wildlife tours, and outdoor family movie nights to enhance guest experiences.
  • Open days and nature workshops — Offer tours and workshops on outdoor skills during open days to attract new visitors and engage the community.
  • Partnerships with outdoor gear companies — Forge partnerships with gear manufacturers for co-promotions that benefit both your guests and your business.
  • Local community engagement — Participate in local festivals and community events to raise your campground’s profile and integrate with the local area.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your campground meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your campground business could be:

  • Enjoy our stunning waterfront campsites in your tent or RV
  • The great outdoors plus all the at-home amenities 
  • Eco-friendly camping to enjoy and protect our natural land

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain but your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a campground business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in campgrounds for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in campgrounds. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a campground business include:

  • Campground workers — customer service, maintenance
  • General manager — scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing lead — SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Campground — Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Camping is coming back strong after a tough 2020, which means now is a great time to get in on the action. With your own campground you get to spend time in nature, help the environment and meet people from all over. You just need a great location, a passion for the outdoors, and a little creativity to make your campground a desirable destination.

Now that you’ve loaded up on business knowledge, it’s time to break ground on your successful campground!

Campground Business FAQs

Can a campground be profitable?

Yes, a campground can be profitable. The keys are to find a great location, and get creative with your concept to make your campground an appealing destination.

How do you buy land for a campsite?

You’ll need to find land that can be zoned for a campground first. Then you may be able to get a business loan to make the purchase.

Is a camping site a good investment?

Considering a campground’s seasonal nature and the cost to start one, it generally offers a slow return on investment.

What makes a campground successful?

A great location makes a campground successful. People also seek amenities at camping sites, like pools, playgrounds for kids, and other features.

What is the most popular type of campground?

Campgrounds with amenities are generally the most popular, particularly those designed for RV camping. However, generally, the location is most important.

What is the difference between campsite and campground?

The campground is a collection of campsites that can be rented. The campsite is the individual space that renters can occupy. 

What to look for when buying a campground?

Location is very important. The land should also have appealing features like a river or lake and hiking trails. Amenities like pools are also important. 

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How to Start a Campground