Trends in Camp Facilities

Expanding on our State of the Industry Report, this article will cover the trends revealed by responses to the Industry Report survey from professionals working for camp-related facilities. These respondents made up 9% of the survey respondents, with 5.4% of all respondents reporting from youth or private camps and 3.6% from campgrounds and RV parks.

The majority of camp respondents—77.4%—were with private organizations. Nearly one-fifth (19.8%) said they were with public or governmental organizations. Nearly half (49.1%) of camp respondents worked for private nonprofit facilities, while 28.3% worked for private, for-profit facilities. Another 2.8% worked for “other” types of organizations.

Around one-third (33.7%) of camp respondents said they were located in the Midwest. They were followed by those from the West, who made up 21.7% of the response from camps. Smaller numbers of camp respondents were from the Northeast (15.2%), South Central region (15.2%) and the South Atlantic region (14.1%).

It comes as no surprise, given the nature of their operations, to learn that the majority (77.2%) of camp respondents were located in rural communities. Another 15.2% said they were located in suburban communities, and 7.6% were located in urban areas.

Camp respondents are usually far less likely than other respondents to report that they partner with other organizations, though a majority do so. In 2023, 72.8% of camp respondents said they had partnered with outside organizations, up from 65.6% in 2022. This compares with 85.6% of non-camp respondents in 2023 who partnered with other organizations. The most common partners for camps included: nonprofit organizations (54.4%); local schools (39.8%); and colleges and universities (31.1%).

Camp respondents were most likely to indicate that their audience was comprised of all ages. Some 42.9% said they reach an all-ages audience. Another 21.9% said children ages 4 to 12 were their primary audience, while 18.1% primarily serve adults. Another 16.2% primarily reach teenagers ages 13 to 18, and just 1% primarily serve seniors.

Revenues & Expenditures

The number of respondents from camps reporting an increase in revenue fell from 2021 to 2022. In 2021, 72.6% of camp respondents said their revenues were higher than in 2020, but in 2022, 60.4% of camp respondents said their revenues were higher than in 2021. Another 23.1% said there was no year-over-year change to their revenues in 2022, and 16.5% reported a decrease.

In 2023, 65.2% of camp respondents said they expect their revenues to be higher, while 30.4% expect no change and 4.3% are anticipating a decrease. And looking forward to 2024, 69.4% of camp respondents are expecting revenues to rise, while 28.2% expect no change and 2.4% expect a decrease.

In 2023, camp respondents spent an average of $1,601,000 on their operating expenses. The highest reported annual operating cost for camps was $30 million, and the median cost was $600,000.

Looking forward, camp respondents projected a 7.6% increase to their average operating cost from 2022 to 2023, with the average cost rising to $1,722,000. They expected a further increase of 12% in 2024, raising the average operating cost to $1,929,000.

Camps were more likely than any other group of respondents in 2023 to report that they had taken action over the past year to reduce their operating costs. Some 88.5% of camp respondents said they had taken such action, compared with 82.8% of non-camp respondents. This is down slightly from 2022, when 90.3% of camp respondents had acted to reduce their costs. The most common measures used by camp respondents to reduce their operating costs include: increasing fees (71.3%); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (51.7%); improving energy efficiency (43.7%); reducing staff (23%); and reducing their hours of operation (17.2%).

Camp Facilities

Continuing a trend that’s been going for several years now, camp respondents in 2023 were the most likely to report that they had plans for construction over the next three years, though there was a significant drop in the number of camp respondents with plans. Some 74.5% of camp respondents in 2023 had plans for construction, compared with 64.1% of non-camp respondents, and down from 92.1% in 2022. Some 58.8% of camp respondents we replanning renovations to their existing facilities. Another 43.1% were planning to build new facilities, and 39.2% were planning additions to their existing facilities. 

On average, camp respondents in 2023 were planning to spend $2,277,000 on their construction plans. The highest planned construction budget was an impressive (for camp facilities) $27 million, while the median budget was $300,000.

The 10 features most commonly found at camp respondents’ facilities include: walking and hiking trails; open spaces and natural areas; playgrounds; Wi-Fi services; campgrounds; park shelters; outdoor sports courts for sports like tennis and basketball; park restroom structures; waterfronts and marinas; and classrooms and meeting rooms.

Not surprisingly, considering they were the most likely to be planning construction of any kind, camp respondents were much more likely than their peers from other facility types to indicate that they were planning to add features at their facilities over the next few years. Some 56.6% of camp respondents said they had such plans (down from 60.3% in 2022), compared with 45.6% of non-camp respondents.

The most common planned additions for camps were:

  1. Park shelters (20%)
  2. Splash play areas (18.3%)
  3. Playgrounds (16.7%)
  4. Park restroom structures (15%)
  5. Indoor sports courts (15%)
  6. Disc golf course (15%)
  7. Dog parks (13.3%)
  8. Bike trails (13.3%)
  9. Climbing walls (13.3%)
  10. Challenge course or ropes course (13.3%)