Camp in a Computer Age.
Soaring land values, development pressures, and high insurance rates were important issues for camps in the 1980s. Technology was also making an impact. Computers were found in camp offices and in activity areas as computer camps began springing up around the country.
In 1984, a revision of the ACA standards, which consolidated the newly adopted standards for working with campers with physical and mental disabilities and for camps serving campers with diabetes, was approved.
It has been said that if there is one clear trend today, it is that change is a permanent characteristic of modern life. As a result, we need to keep abreast of these changes and apply them to our camps. Much has been written of late regarding sociological trends. The emphasis has been, however, more philosophic than demographic. We seem to know more about how the campers of the 1990s will think than we do about how they will act.
The most prevalent consumer of the next decade has been termed the "yuppie" or "young urban professional." You know the type. The mid-thirty-ish baby boomer with the expensive foreign sedan, au courant designer clothes, and generic pasta. They have one, at the most two children, who are showered with all the right enriching experiences of the day. They travel a lot, want to be computer literate, and aren't afraid of the post-industrial culture.
While it is true that they represent only a segment of the total consumer market, it is by far the largest. Baby-boomers presently fall between the ages of twenty-five and forty. In the United States there are 68 million of them, nearly a third of the population.
In 1985, the leading edge of this generation is turned toward forming families, with the major spending years to come around the year 2000. Fortune Magazine predicts that only ten years from now, the thirty-five to forty-four age group (the center of the boom) will have $870 billion (1982 $) to spend versus $425 billion for people that age in 1980. An attractive market to say the least!
A brief survey of boomers' likes and dislikes reveals much that is relevant to organized camping. Baby boomers want to fill their free time with enjoyable or enriching experience, and they seem willing to spend a lot to get them... experiences are more important than possessions... The boomers have a simple criterion: quality. Experts of all stripes agree that the boomers are far less concerned than their parents with bargain hunting. Just the best, please. They figure out how to pay for it.
While experiences are one area in which camping has excelled over the years, "just the best, please" (the yuppie's theme) has not always been readily available. If we are seeking to provide equipment and facilities that rank with the best we must consider year-round use to justify their investment. Many camps have been involved in this for years, but for others the concept is still on the horizon. One major consideration this raises is upgraded accommodation. The camper of the 1990s and even the 1980s want good beds and plenty of hot water for their "bi-daily" showers. Government regulation in many areas require professional staff to meet the requirements of growing public awareness. In short, we need to shirk off the traditional "summer children's camp" image and stand up as the multi-billion dollar industry we are becoming.
The present trend toward increased recreation and fitness can only be a boon to camping. With the vast array of pursuits available, camp can be an ideal introduction to many sports with high preliminary equipment costs. Health and fitness should be a part of every camp program. Contemporary "crazes" like aqua fitness, aerobic dance, fitness trails, and creative playgrounds can all be readily integrated into the camp program and facilities, with surprising results. And don't overlook the "health club" concept. This popularity at hotels and resorts attests to the fact that people appreciate having them available while vacationing. A weight room, bicycle exerciser, or small universal gym can fit into almost any budget and make a profitable addition to family camps, conferences, and retreats. Jacuzzi tubs and whirlpool baths are becoming very popular and would make a luxurious addition to your facilities.
Cross-country skiing and other winter activities are important assets at a year-round camp. Rental equipment and on-site instructors are valuable selling points. Groomed ski trails, tended skating rinks, and paced toboggan and tub runs not only appeal to consumers but also reduce the hazards to equipment and users. Again, distinctive touches like taped music at the rink and hot chocolate served at the end of a ski trail will help fill your camp.
Specialty camps need to carefully account for changes in consumer needs. Families are getting smaller (averaging less than two children per couple); parents are much better educated (46 percent have completed at least one year of college compared to 29 percent of their elders) and more than two-thirds of baby boom wives work. These are significant forces that must be considered. In addition, by the year 2030 the seventy-plus age group will be more than double what it is now. Special building, access, staff, and recreational requirements should be anticipated and planned for now. Perhaps recreation contracts could be set up with local retirement homes or retirement facilities built on camp property. We must not ignore the importance of this growing market.
Clearly there are many factors affecting organized camping today, but a clear understanding of the nature of our campers and where they are going can only help us in our efforts to provide those services that will be relevant in the twenty-first century. To ignore the trends today and fail to plan for the future could spell our downfall.
Tim Duffield was general director of Camp IAWAH near Westport, Ontario.
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|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1999|
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