Wondering how to start a lake resort? We take you step-by-step from start to success.
Economic Prospects for Lake Resorts
The overall travel and tourism industry is notoriously fickle, especially during difficult economic times. Faced with less disposable income and rising fuel costs, many American families are choosing to take more modest vacations, which makes lake resorts less susceptible to market fluctuations than other lodging destinations.
The other factor working in favor of resort entrepreneurs is that there are many different kinds of successful lake resorts in the resort industry. Although there are plenty of luxury lake resorts active in the marketplace, smaller and more modestly priced resorts can also achieve profitability, often by leveraging a rustic theme.
Startup Hurdles for Lake Resort Entrepreneurs
The first (and most obvious) hurdle for lake resort entrepreneurs is lake access. In most areas, waterfront property comes with a price tag that exceeds the reach of many entrepreneurs. But since location will be a central facet of your business, leasing isn't an option – you'll most likely need to purchase real estate at the beginning of the startup phase.
However, before you can secure real estate for your resort, you'll need to perform a feasibility study to determine the viability of launching a new resort in your target market. The travel industry is extremely competitive and the availability of lake frontage alone is no guarantee of a profitable resort venture.
Marketing Tips for Resort Entrepreneurs
Lake resort startups have some unique marketing requirements. While most businesses market in their local area, lake resorts need to market everywhere except their immediate local market to attract tourists and out-of-town guests.
If possible, we recommend enlisting the assistance of a professional marketing firm to promote your resort. But if you choose to market your resort using internal expertise and resources, it's important to start marketing your startup early – at least six months before opening day – to give travelers time to discover your locations and book reservations.
You'll also want to concentrate your marketing efforts on online marketing channels and in dense urban markets that show promise for delivering large quantities of guests. In most cases, that will mean focusing your advertising dollars on large cities within driving distance of your resort.
Creating Business Plans for a Lake Resort
A carefully crafted business is your lake resort's most important asset. With the right ingredients, your lake resort's business plan will serve as a blueprint for success.
A professional business plan writer can be a big help in creating a first-rate plan.
Professional business plans can often be more effective than plans that are created in-house. However, outsourcing doesn't completely eliminate your responsibilities in the writing process.
So even though a business plan writer might be the right move for your lake resort, you can't completely outsource business planning. Instead, you'll need to remain proactively involved throughout the writing process.
Before you open a lake resort in your area, it's worthwhile to find out how you will fit in the competitive landscape. We've provided the link below to help you get a list of local competitors near you. Simply enter your city, state and zip code to get a list of lake resorts in your town.
How tough is the competition in the market you are considering? If the competition is too tough, you may need to think about starting the business in a different area or even start a completely different business instead.
Studying the Market
Once you've finished assessing the competion, you really ought to speak with somebody who is already in the business. If you think owners of nearby lake resorts will give you advice, think again. The last thing they want to do is help you to be a better competitor.
However, a fellow entrepreneur who has started a lake resort on the other side of the country may be willing to share their entrepreneurial wisdom with you, as long as they don't view you as a competitive threat. Indeed, many experienced entrepreneurs enjoy offering advice to startup entrepreneurs. Our estimate is that you may have to contact many business owners to find one who is willing to share his wisdom with you.
Where can an aspiring entrepreneur like you find somebody who runs a lake resort in another community?
It's easy. Here's a link you can use to find a mentor outside of your area.
Is It Easier to Buy an Existing Lake Resort?
As an aspiring business owner, the decisions you make now will have huge implications later, including the decision to either start a business from scratch or buy an existing lake resort.
In general, purchased lake resorts fare better than startups, at least during the initial few years. From a financial perspective, you'll receive more income sooner in a business purchase than you will in a startup.
If you can't find a suitable lake resort-for-sale, you'll need to start a new business. However, in today's business-for-sale marketplace, there is an abundance of lake resorts worth considering.
Don't Forget About Franchising As an Option
The odds of becoming a successful entrepreneur are greatly increased when you opt to franchise instead of doing it all on your own.
If you are thinking about opening a lake resort, you may want to assess whether franchise opportunities in your space might help you on your entrepreneurial journey.
The link below gives you access to our franchise directory so you can see if there's a franchise opportunity for you. You might even find something that points you in a completely different direction.
These additional resources regarding getting started as an entrepreneur may be of interest to you.
If you already are in business and came here to learn about growing an existing lake resort, these resources will come in handy:
If you sell to lake resorts, this isn't the right place for you. These resources are more appropriate for you:
If you are still exploring all of your options, please browse our directory of guides below.