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There are more than 560 summer camps currently operating in the state of Texas. And in just two weeks’ time, they’ll be welcoming kids to their campsites once more. Mike Mcdonell is with Kidventure, the largest day camp program in Houston.
“There is a great sense of anticipation. It’s almost like a team in the locker room waiting to come out for the first quarter, you know. And you can hear the crowd, and you know the kids are there, and it’s a blast.”
For McDonnell, it’s crunch time. He has just a couple of days to make sure every detail is in order. So far, he’s hired 260 counselors and directors to operate his 12 campsites. Right now they’re in training, learning first aid and camp protocol before the official start of summer.
Summer camps are a competitive market across the country, they’re estimated to be an $11 billion industry. Most camps in Texas are non-for-profit day time facilities. There’s a program for almost any interest or activity: Zoology, Computer Science, Rock and Roll, Cooking, and of course the more traditional experience.
Tim Huchton leads the Texas branch of the American Camp Association. He says compared to the rest of the country, Texas has a natural edge in attracting campers.
“There are parents who fly in their children from all over the world to come to summer camp in the state of Texas. The weather in Texas is nice and warm, there’s plenty of water where they can go swimming. It’s just a fantastic area.”
But as attractive as it is, Huchton says Texas summer camps have had to keep up with technology to attract campers.
“With the change in technology, everyone is having to learn new ways to market themselves and to stay in the cutting edge and so for an industry that doesn’t necessarily do a lot of technology, summer camps have come a long way in terms of using technology to market themselves.”
Huchton says most camps are active on social media. They use Facebook and blogs to sell their unique summer experiences to parents and then to keep them updated while camp is in session. But Hutchon says there’s no better marketing than word of mouth. If you want to stay in the black, you have to keep families coming back year after year.