How to set up a campsite business

Written by sharyl stockstill
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How to set up a campsite business
Campsites might be primitive or have full utilities. They must have a level place for tents and parking. (Campingplatz image by Julie from

Providing campsites for the travelling public can be a lucrative business. With a small initial investment, primitive sites can be set up in as little as a day. Additionally, full-service sites can be added as time and funds become available.

Location and attractions are the keys to a successful campsite business. The location should be near a well-traveled road such as an interstate. There should be easy access to the campsites. You will also want to consider what attractions are available that will bring people into your area. If your campsite business is near a thriving city or major attraction, you will have a better opportunity to attract campers than if you are hard to reach or if there is nothing for your guests to do once they find you.

More than 19 per cent of the nation participates in camping at least once during the year. If you have a good location and can provide your guests with additional services, your campsite business will flourish.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Assess different property options. Look for land that is near an interstate off-ramp or has several attractions that would attract campers. National parks, lakes, forests and mountains are all considered ideal camping attractions. Though a long-term lease is always an option, purchasing the real estate will provide more stability for a long-term investment.

  2. 2

    Design your campsite on paper. Begin by drawing a scale model of your property and pencil in any geographic features you will have to work around. For example, if your property has rolling hills and trees, make notes of these things on your rough design.

    Pencil in ideal camping sites. Select areas for primitive camping in tents and where existing utilities are located.

    Sketch utility lines you can install for the convenience of your guests. Water lines, electrical and septic systems should be planned for and, if possible, installed before landscaping or adding attractions to your campsite business.

    Include additional service areas, such as showers, recreational vehicle dump stations, picnic tables and barbecue grills on your drawing.

  3. 3

    Develop a business plan based on your scale drawing. A business plan can help address ideas and concerns which will materialise in your planning stage. You can calculate the cost of the initial investment, phases of development and any issues you might have with neighbours, zoning, licensing and insurance. The business plan will help you to remain organised and can be an asset in obtaining funding from banks and investors.

    Developing a business plan will also provide you with the opportunity to research your competition, your anticipated occupancy rate, and growth potential.

  4. 4

    Obtain a business name, licenses, tax number and zoning approval. Set up your business by meeting all of the federal, state and local obligations for the business. Some states have special taxes known as a Lodger's Tax that you will have to collect and forward to your state taxing authority. The state revenue department can provide you with additional details about taxes specific to your location.

    Open any bank accounts that might be necessary for operating expenses and begin keeping track of all transactions for income tax purposes.

  5. 5

    Set up your campsite business. When all of your paperwork and funding is in place, it is time to install the utilities and begin developing your campsites. Primitive areas can be completed first to provide you with a small return on your initial investment. A primitive area does not have any utilities and is often just a level site where tents can be erected.

    As your business grows, you can add sites for recreational vehicles, group gatherings, and additional services.

Tips and warnings

  • Have campsite rules posted where they are easy for your guests to find.

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