Do you dream of running your own campground? Of spending your summers in the great outdoors, surrounded by happy vacationers and veteran travellers? If you’re not afraid of physical work, if you’re full of bright ideas and would like to operate a business in a fast-paced industry, you’ve come to the right place.
To help you get off on the right foot in planning to reach your dreams, Camping Québec offers a wide range of resources to provide you with all the information you need.
First of all, you should know that since 2003, campgrounds have had to be classified by the Conseil de développement du camping au Québec (CDCQ) to meet government regulations.
In addition, campgrounds have to comply with a number of acts and regulations, including:
To provide you with all the information you need, Camping Québec also publishes the Guide de gestion de l'exploitant de camping (Lien vers page Resources for Operators) (campground management guide – in French), an invaluable reference for new operators or potential buyers.
Opening a new campground
Are you thinking of opening an all-new campground? There are two important steps before you invest your time and money.
- Check with the municipality whether zoning allows you to operate a campground on the site in question.
- Check environmental standards concerning wastewater treatment. Can your campground be hooked up to the municipal sewer system? (This is the cheapest way to dispose of wastewater.)
If not, you will have to install your own wastewater treatment system. To estimate the cost involved, you will need to consider the number of campsites planned, theoretical volumes (340 l/day/serviced site, and 190 l/day/unserviced site) and leakage. According to the Environment Quality Act, your plans and specifications must be drawn up by an engineer, and authorized by the regional branch of the Ministère de l’environnement (MDDEP).
Start by drawing up a well-defined business plan. That will give you the chance to become familiar with the industry and conditions affecting your future business.
Then plan the layout of your campground, with the help of an advisor. If you prefer to plan the layout of your campground yourself or would simply like to read up on the subject, the Guide de gestion de l'exploitant de camping has a complete chapter on campground layout.
Buying an existing campground
Buying an existing campground can be a good investment, especially if it is well located. Think about the style of campground and the region that interest you, and decide how much you are willing to invest.
Don’t rely on appearances. Examine all the different options and calculate the real* value of each one.
Talk to the experts. One chapter in the Guide de gestion de l’exploitant de camping deals with buying an existing campground.
Make sure the campground complies with environmental standards concerning wastewater disposal and the supply and distribution of drinking water. If you buy a campground without first checking the condition of the facilities, you could be obliged to refit the campground to bring it up to standards – possibly a very costly proposition.
You should also check whether the campground has been classified, and ask for the results of the classification visit. The classification program (Lien vers page Classification) can be a good source of information on the services that are currently or could be offered by the campground.
Profile of a campground operator
So you’re wondering whether you have what it takes to be a campground operator? Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- Do you like spending time outdoors?
- Do you enjoy meeting people from all over, with different points of view?
- Would you like to manage your own business and employees?
- Are you ready to make a financial commitment?
- Are you ready to put in long days without counting the hours, especially during camping season?
If you answered “yes” to all these questions, you’re a good candidate!
You’ll have to pay careful attention to a number of aspects if your campground is to be a success:
- sound management;
- human resources ;
- maintenance and upgrading;
- number of sites;
- occupancy rate;
- distribution of sites between travellers and seasonal clients;
- on-site activities;
- and many more.
Running a campground calls for the same managerial and financial skills as any other type of business. It takes time and patience to produce results you can be proud of, and plenty of hard work. So take your time, talk it over with other campground owners, ask questions, visit facilities, take notes, and compare what you see with what you’d like to do yourself. In short, make sure you really know what you’re getting into!