Florida Uses ReserveAmerica to Simplify Campground Reservations

The state of Florida and ReserveAmerica, a TicketMaster subsidiary that provides inbound teleservices for state parks systems, have formed a partnership designed to make it easier for campground users to reserve campsites.

ReserveAmerica recently launched a call center operation in Florida to support the effort. TicketMaster assigned approximately 20 seats at its Orlando, FL, call center to ReserveAmerica to handle inbound calls for Florida's 50 campground sites.

ReserveAmerica processed approximately 3,600 reservations for Florida campgrounds on the first day of operations, Dec. 5. ReserveAmerica's call centers in Albany, NY; Madison, WI; and Sacramento, CA, were called upon to handle overflow due to heavy call volume in the first few days of the effort.

Call volume has since dropped off significantly since the opening days of the operation. However, ReserveAmerica expects to process 130,000 Florida campground reservations per year, said Brock Weatherup, president and chief operating officer of Toronto-based ReserveAmerica.

Consumers formerly had to call individual state parks and campgrounds to reserve their cabins and campsites. Now, consumers can call a single, toll-free number to make reservations at any campground in Florida.

ReserveAmerica's telephone agents can provide consumers with the exact campsite they desire and allow them to choose from a variety of options, including water and electric hookups, and proximity to bathrooms and shade. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that ReserveAmerica's agents have access to a database that contains real-time information about campsite availability at Florida's parks, much like a hotel chain keeps track of rooms.

Use of the database ensures that telephone agents do not have to turn anyone away. For example, during ReserveAmerica's first few days of operation in Florida, campsites in the Florida Keys were in high demand, and when they filled up, agents were able to book campers at sites in parks nearby.

“This has been coming for a long time now,” said John Reynolds, project manager at the Florida state parks division. “For six or more years, the parks service has been looking for a way of making it easier for everyone.”

ReserveAmerica and the parks division did only limited marketing of the toll-free reservation line prior to Dec. 5 because it did not want its call centers to be too overloaded, which would leave a bad impression on customers in the early stages of the effort.

But Florida plans to step up its marketing efforts in the coming year despite a limited advertising budget, said Ben Harris, marketing director at the Florida state parks division.

All marketing materials for the parks division will now bear the toll-free number, including promotional leaflets distributed at state parks and tourist welcome centers, Harris said. The parks division has ongoing advertising in monthly magazines and plans to feature the hotline in a four-page spread in a Florida vacation guide to be published by a state tourism agency in January.

The next step in Florida's marketing strategy for its state campgrounds is to develop a Web presence, Harris said. Early next year, ReserveAmerica will launch and host a Web site dedicated to the Florida public campgrounds system.

The Web site will enable campers to book their sites online and provide them with all the options that a live agent would give them. The online reservation system will use the same database as the ReserveAmerica call centers.

“We're kind of excited about it,” Reynolds said. “This is totally brand new for us.”

ReserveAmerica provides inbound call services for campgrounds operated by 16 states and two federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Forest Service. Its Web site, www.reserveamerica.com, allows campers to make reservations online at any of the parks its serves.

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