The COVID-19 pandemic transformed many industries, including the summer camp industry. During the summers of 2020 and 2021, fewer parents were thinking about camp, as indicated by the more than 50 percent decrease in Google searches for “summer camp.” With many camps closed or operating in a dramatically decreased capacity, the past two years have been tough for the industry.
But as the world learns to live with COVID-19, the demand for summer camps, like all other businesses, will return too. With the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, this summer holds promise for camps as they return to operation.
While camps are reopening, it’s important to be prepared for the fact that operations won’t be the same. From embracing new marketing to collecting different types of data, you’ll need to be ready to change how you manage your camp.
Revise Your Marketing Messages
With COVID-19 still a concern, be prepared to revisit and revise your camp’s marketing messages. While providing a fun, educational, and unique camp experience will still be a central message, it’s also important to focus on how you’ll promote camper safety.
Focus on the steps that your camp is taking to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Requiring vaccinations, limiting camper numbers in each session, and focusing on outdoor activities are a few potential strategies. Consider connecting with a physician who can help you identify and remediate COVID-19 risks and provide details about this advisory partnership in your messaging. Make sure that you highlight all of these strategies in your marketing, and be prepared to answer questions that parents might have.
Those questions can help you put together a valuable FAQ section about COVID-19 matters that you could include on your website. Having a well-thought-out FAQ section demonstrates that you take COVID-19 seriously and that you’re willing to have conversations on the subject.
Change Your Operation Practices
You may need to make some important adjustments to your camp operation practices. If you have large halls, like cafeterias and performance spaces, it’s time to evaluate the HVAC systems in these spaces. You may need to upgrade your system and install air purifiers to ensure the health and safety of your staff and campers.
You may also need to implement changes in your cleaning and disinfecting practices. Make sure to discuss these changes with your maintenance staff well in advance, so you know you’ll have enough staff needed to keep up with the increased maintenance workload.
Be Prepared to Capture New Kinds of Data
In addition to the standard camper registration information that you would traditionally gather, COVID-19 means that you’ll need to collect new types of data. This data might include vaccination histories, test results, recovery documents, doctors’ notes, and more. Not only will you need a way to collect this data, but you’ll also need to be able to efficiently organize and access it.
To capture that data, you may need to design new processes and revise your registration forms. Think about how and when in the registration process you will gather each type of documentation.
Embrace Paperless Solutions
As you start to revise your registration form and the overall registration process, it’s the perfect time to focus on going paperless. Paperless solutions are not only convenient, they can help prevent data entry errors and save your staff time. Additionally, going entirely paperless is a safer solution given COVID-19 transmission, as it minimizes the number of surfaces that multiple people will need to touch during check-in day.
Online form-building platforms can make it easy to take your registration and check-in process paperless. Camps most often use these platforms for enrollment and registration, though several camps also collect payments through their forms. Intake forms are also important, and you can easily modify forms to gather the new types of data you’ll need, like vaccination and testing status.
Since the pandemic reinforced the need for all organizations to employ more digital solutions where possible to curb the spread of the disease, this is an ideal time to take your camp processes digital, if you haven’t done so already. In addition to creating digital forms, you’ll need to plan out how you’ll gather and process the responses. In some cases, responses will need to be funneled into a workflow, such as when staff respond to confirm a camper’s enrollment and provide additional information on preparing for the first day of camp.
As you embrace paperless solutions, it’s important to make sure that you have the technology necessary to support them. For example, staff would benefit from having tablets that they can use to access camper information and check campers in and out. You may need to invest in some new technology, but the investment can pay off in increased efficiency, accuracy, and safety.
Managing a summer camp this year is sure to be a new experience. You’ll face new challenges, and some of your previous processes and policies will need to change. The pandemic may have stolen much of the 2020 and 2021 camping seasons, but as we learn to live with COVID-19, the 2022 season has the potential for a return to a near normal. Making these management changes can help you prepare for the season and help ensure your camp’s return to business is a success.
Photo by Artem Kniaz via Unsplash.
Periodically, the American Camp Association (ACA) makes timely and relevant information about products and services available to its members so they can make informed decisions for their camps. However, the ACA does not endorse products, services, or companies.