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.
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.
Published on April 27, 2022 Updated on November 9, 2023
$181,550 - $454,100
$150,000 - $360,000 p.a.
Time to build
$45,000 - $108,000 p.a.
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 impressive 15% expansion in 2021 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.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Number of people employed – In 2021, the US campground industry employed 50,056 people.
Trends and challenges
Trends in the campground industry include:
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 in the campground industry include:
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
Setting up a business name and corporation
$150 - $200
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Land purchase down payment
$30,000 - $100,000
$50,000 - $100,000
Buildings and amenities
$100,000 - $250,000
$181,550 - $454,100
How much can you earn from a campground business?
Prices for campsites range from $40 to $50 for the off-season. 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 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.
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 products or services
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 this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up 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.
Step 3: Brainstorm a Campground Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
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 ex: “Nature’s Best Campground” over “RV Park Campground”
Avoid location-based names that 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 and 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
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
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, 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:
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 Corp – 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 Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, 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.
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 or 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.
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:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as 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.
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.
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:
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 a client who says 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.
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, BONFIRE, to manage your bookings, pricing, schedule, and payments.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for 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.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, 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.
For your campground business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing the natural beauty, tranquility, and unique outdoor experiences your location offers. It’s about illustrating how guests can connect with nature, enjoy quality family time, and create memorable adventures at your campground. This strategy is aimed at elevating your campground’s profile in the market and attracting outdoor enthusiasts, families, and travelers.
Professional Branding: Ensure your branding captures the essence of outdoor adventure and tranquility that your campground offers, from your logo to your promotional materials.
Direct Outreach: Reach out to travel agencies, outdoor clubs, and local businesses to introduce your camping services.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a user-friendly website that showcases your campground’s features, available facilities, and scenic beauty. Optimize it for keywords that campers and travelers commonly search for.
Social Media Engagement: Use platforms like Instagram and Facebook to share stunning photos and videos of your campground, guest experiences, and special events.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Camping Tips and Nature Blog: Share articles about camping tips, nature conservation, local wildlife, and outdoor activities.
Guest Testimonials and Adventure Spotlights: Highlight stories from happy campers, showcasing the experiences and adventures they’ve enjoyed at your campground.
Content Marketing: Develop and share engaging content like infographics or eBooks that guide beginners on camping essentials or highlight the unique aspects of camping at your site.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Hosted Events and Activities: Organize events like guided hikes, wildlife watching tours, or family-friendly outdoor movie nights.
Open Days and Nature Workshops: Invite potential guests for a day at the campground with tours, workshops on outdoor skills, and Q&A sessions.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Outdoor Gear Companies: Team up with outdoor equipment and apparel companies for co-promotions or sponsorships.
Local Community Events: Engage in local festivals and events to increase brand visibility and connect with the community.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Referral Programs: Implement a program rewarding guests who refer new campers.
Loyalty Benefits: Offer discounts or special amenities to returning guests to encourage repeat visits and build a loyal customer base.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Advertising: Use platforms like Google Ads and travel blogs to reach individuals and groups planning camping trips or outdoor vacations.
Email Newsletters: Send newsletters featuring upcoming events, seasonal camping tips, and exclusive offers to subscribers.
Focus on USPs
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
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
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:
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.
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, they generally do not offer a good 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.
How to Start a Campground
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Campground Name
Create a Campground Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Campground Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Campground - Start Making Money!
Campground Business FAQs
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