Things that the Summer Camp Industry NEEDS to consider for a sustainable future
Taking a flyer at this one… as a parent with a teenager who has been to various summer camps for sports, church, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts (including Philmont last summer) have some experience from the parental perspective.
1. Flexibility in scheduling and program options
Have whole-summer, monthly, weekly, daily options where parents can pick and choose.
Have topic specific activity options
2. Flexibility in fee structure, payments.
3. Get / Keep facilities in top condition.
4. Don’t fight tech – embrace it in the context of being outside (or wherever the camp will be)
Put out some sort of app, age and interest specific, which makes a game or a challenge out of what your camp focus is.
Get kids with phones using them to learn about plants, insects, animals. Create scavenger hunts – like Pokemon Go but for nature. And “cool” prizes for completing.
5. Or, make it a challenge – “Go one day/week without the phone”
6. Generate Interest Early
Use tech to have an online “pre-camp” (free to try) giving campers a chance to explore and learn, the data from which can give you direction on marketing focus and drive your on-site programs toward the camper’s topics of interest. Build in some form of discount on fees for program involvement / completion.
7. Market early – get on calendars before family vacations are scheduled, before other activity options are advertising.
Calendars fill early and quickly.
8. Get camp alumni involved in marketing – stories of how wonderful it was, and how it helped them in their lives afterwards – video testimonials might be best.
After 10 days of high adventure camping, climbing Pikes Peak and white water rafting on the Rio Grande, the teen said it was "good." But he and his buddies went on and on and on about the "cigarette chili" at one of the camp sites they stopped at.
9. Promote camp being a rite of passage. Include “advancement” ceremonies at the end. Desperately missing in society today – kids need to have their growth acknowledged.
From "another life" in another field, I know that hazing (at least with teens / young men), while wrong, starts from a hard-wired desire to "prove" themselves as men, not boys, by completing some "trial by fire."