How Inflation Is Driving up the Cost of Summer Camp

In this episode, we listen to the CEO of American Camp Association, Tom Rosenberg to hear how inflation is driving up the cost of summer camps. It’s an interesting listen as he is interviewed by Yahoo Finance and I give you my personal reaction too.

Podcast episode transcript:

Hello and welcome to There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. I’m your host, Andrew Waterhouse. And in today’s episode, I’m taking a look at how inflation is driving up the cost of summer camps. So coming into our tent, and I’ll spill the beans

I believe this is episode 84. As we are quickly honing in on that magic 100th episode, in this episode is something a little bit different again.

So…a bit about me is in 2020 onwards, I’ve been very interested in getting into the financial system, investing, crypto, short squeezes, and loads of different things.

And it was one of those hobbies that I really picked up during the pandemic. Because I was sat at home, I’d always wanted to get myself involved in economics and make myself financially independent and learn the intricacies of stock markets and shares and growth and that sort of thing.

Now, I shortly recently just say, I recently saw an article come up on YouTube from Yahoo Finance. And the title was how inflation is driving up the cost of summer camps. So in this episode, we’re going to be watching this interview on Yahoo Finance, and doing some commentary over the top. So let’s give it a watch. Now, before I start this, I know that your audio isn’t going to be the greatest I’ve done.

Like everything I possibly can to try and catch the audio of this. Of course, if you want to go and check it out, you can go on to Yahoo Finance and search for how inflation is driving up the cost of some accounts, you can watch it yourself, otherwise, you’re going to be listening along with me. And I’m just going to be doing my commentary over the top. Okay, let’s see how this goes. This is Yahoo Finance and how inflation is driving up the cost of summer camp.

Here’s the Yahoo Finance video:

Speaking of COVID, we know they did affect a lot of summer camps over the past few years. In fact, according to the ACA, the average cost of Bandcamp now has more than doubled to $178 a day compared to about $76 last year. Now that’s a ridiculous stat from 2021 average cost of a day camp was $76. Fast forward to 2022, just one year later, that’s $178 a day. That’s mental. And that’s a day camp. That’s not someone like staying for days upon days upon days, that’s just like going to camp for the day. It’s like that’s ridiculous numbers I’m seeing across the board. Prices are going through the roof.

I’m trying to get a house at the minute at the time of recording this, I’m trying to get a house. And we offered 10,000 pounds over the asking price and we still didn’t get it we got outbid by someone else. It just goes to show that at the minute, I think prices are very susceptible to a complete and catastrophic crash. Because it’s not sustainable to have prices more than double in a year. And the inflation rates at the minute are like mirroring double digits. wages aren’t keeping up, everyone’s going to have to like cut back on their non-essential spending, which is why you’re seeing things like Netflix’s share price, absolutely crater over one day, they lost about 40% over one day just because their metrics weren’t a lining up. So from $76 in 2021, for an average cost at a day camp to 178 in 2022. So let’s carry on with their interview and see where this goes. Let’s let’s bring in our guest Tom Rosenberg, the American Camp Association, President and CEO, thank you for joining us. So first of all the top expenses that are now driving some of these prices up and are there any ways to release with these parents in terms of perhaps financing?

Well, yeah, it can cost the cost of providing camp just like everything else right now is really going up. We’ve had increases in labour. We’ve labour costs, food costs, program supply costs, and COVID-related costs, everything has gone up. So cancer are are trying to operate at scale this summer, which is different from the past few summers. So there will be an additional expense most camps have to pass along. Some price increases to families. We thought we found this specific on how much day camps have increased, almost doubled. How about sleepaway camps? And what’s been the biggest challenge? Why are those prices increasing so high? I would say labour is one part of it. Certainly, there’s a shortage of qualified staff to work in camps. And so we’re trying to hire as many staff as we can to operate. So just to give it a pause there, the average cost of a sleepaway camp has tripled year over year. So currently, we’re sitting at $449 a day, on average to have a sleepover to have your child at a sleepaway camp. Now, that is ridiculous. I thought prices were ridiculous when I was volunteering at summer camp because parents were paying so much money and it was like 1000s upon 1000s of dollars to make sure their kids had the time of their lives. And it is quite a project. And when you consider how much how many staff there are, how many resources there are, how many activities you have to put on for these kids.

But at the end of the day, a lot of these summer camps are businesses too. They have to be self self-sufficient. They have to self-fund themselves to increase the availability and excitement of their summer camp, adding new features and that sort of thing, which I touched upon within the second year of my summer camp because I returned for a second summer. Now that book isn’t even written yet is it the raw material is there but have yet to start actually converting that into a book. But anyway, let’s get back to this interview and see where this goes from here. $449 a day for the average cost of a sleepaway camp, which has tripled over 2021. Now is that sustainable, let’s see. Right as it scale as possible, but also the cost of insurance, think about property casualty insurance. And within a youth market, the very hard market right now, it has been for some time, and it’s only getting worse. Also, we have, you know, windstorm and fire and things like that, that are affecting camps across the country. So, but also, they’re just, you know, this summer, camp directors and overnight camps, for example, are really hoping that they can count on getting the food that they order on time so that the menu they plan will actually happen. So last year, they were juggling a lot of things to make that happen with the supply and logistics challenges that were occurring. So it’s the good news is, Camp is going to happen at scale as far as it scale as possible. So millions of children can once again, go to day camp and overnight camp like typically pre-pandemic that was 26 million boys and girls.

And demand for campus soaring right now. So we’re doing so that’s really good to say that demand for camp is soaring, you have to bear in mind that 2020 and 2021 will have heavily affected by COVID. Of course, COVID is still a thing as you can hear my voice, I’m actually COVID-positive at the time of recording.

And it’s very interesting to see 26 million campers, on average go to summer camp in the year and they want to grow that number. They don’t want to stifle it. And that’s the problem that summer camps do have it and it’s often glossed over. Problem. When you look back at volunteering with Camp America is the swathes of kids and families that don’t actually get the chance to take their kids to a summer camp and have the time of their lives is very much of a dream for many families, many kids that they want to go and have these crazy once in a lifetime experiences. And there are so many kids and families that are able to budget themselves over the course of a year. So every year they can go and work or shall I say enjoy themselves summer camp, your best to manage costs as well as we can. But prices are going up. And I would say demand is outstripping

supply in a big way right now. We’re going to ask them, What do you have this sort of the labour shortages and these other pressures? How much has it changed pre-pandemic worsens. Now in terms of the people trying to get into camps, and just how much you’re able to accommodate people? Well, you know, they’re 74 million school-aged children in the United States, I believe, and a pre-pandemic, we were serving about 26 million of them. But a lot of children out there who have not yet had the privilege of attending a day camp or attending an overnight camp that’s a shame. We’re very much aware of that we’re working really hard to find funding for. For more kids to go to camp. We also need to build more camps and grow camps make the increase their capacity. Even the United States Department of Education has provided summer learning dollars available for you

Have you been most disproportionately affected by the pen? See, it’s quite interesting to hear that the amount of kids that don’t go to summer camp is actually larger than those that do. As he said, I think it was roughly about so 70 million was it 70 million kids that they could get. And then there’s the 26 that actually end up going. So there’s quite a big gap between those two. And it makes me think that if I was like a billionaire if I was a philanthropist, I would love to be able to put in or own different camps. Why is that not a massive thing that billionaires and millionaires do pull their money together literally give the kids the experience that they remember, and make it affordable? It’s really hard. And a lot of the time you people see summer camps as sort of like a charity. But at the end of the day, they are business. And they do take substantial risks by having so many activities, and they need all this insurance and all this coverage and legal protection. And then there’s all the staff as well. And this guy here from the ACA, he’s the head of the ACA, what’s his name? What’s his name? Tom Rosenberg, the American Camp Association.

He touched upon the labour law, he touches upon the labour shortage really hitting the summer camps, which is forcing the higher wages. So you have to think that often, when I’m browsing through sub Reddits, or I don’t know online news, you get to see, I don’t know, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Starbucks are all offering these really higher wages than they used to previously offer back in 2020, or 2021. Because there’s a market at the minute of labour that really sees their time is valuable. And they don’t want to be working at these really menial jobs.

Especially after having that break with COVID, where everyone was able to go back home, they had to stay away from work, they didn’t have to work at McDonald’s all that time, and they were able to upskill themselves. And that really does have an effect on the wages that these companies have to offer to entice people back into the stores and doing those sorts of menial jobs I use with air quotes. Now that obviously has its own impact on summer camps too, because while it’s not a menial job, it’s definitely a different tangent from working the nine to five that most people like to do. So it’s quite interesting to see that the summer camps are having to increase their wages, in line with all the other inflation that’s going on. As for the food, that’s not something that I’m overly familiar with. But personally speaking from the UK, when I go to the supermarkets now, or if I go to a takeout joint, I do really notice the increased price that all of these foods are demanding. And it’s really, it doesn’t really feel sustainable to me. So as a man, then as a millennial, I’m really hoping for a market crash sometime soon.

Endemic through as your funding through the State Superintendent and the local superintendents. So we’re trying to create summer learning opportunities like camps for all kids. But there right now we’ve got lots of new families who’ve never had their children attend camp, lots of families who have been sending their kids to camp for years, everyone wants to go to camp this summer, there’s never been a more essential time for children and youth to have access to summer learning experiences like camp. So you have to remember that in 2020 and 2021, these camps were closed. So for the families that were always sending their kids to camp, that’s really only added to their desire to get their kids to camp while they still can, because their kids are two years older. So you can understand that. At the same time, these parents that have been staying at home saving the money on the family holidays that they used to have, now have this opportunity to actually send their camp their kids to camp for the first time, which is only adding to the increased demand send what business 101 is supply and demand, the supply has roughly stayed the same. Obviously, there’s not been many new camps that have popped up around the USA. But the demand for Spaces has really increased and therefore the prices reflect that. Yeah, a lot of kids have not had any socialization in the last two or three years. You get a sense of how much the pandemic is still factoring in at both day camps and sleepaway camps and we talked about masks, social distancing, and limited numbers, are we back to pre-pandemic camps? Yeah, that’s a great question. Camps must prepare for whatever comes to summer, no one that I know has a crystal ball and understands what variant might or might not affect this summer. So we, you know, camp directors are always prepared to the best of their ability to manage communicable disease.

So this summer, you know, we know from two summers from summer 2020, and the summer of 2021, we know that you know how to operate day and overnight camp safely. And this is time-tested research from outside researchers.

So this so the interesting graphic that they have on the screen at the minute are showing the number of summer camps that were open in 2020 versus 2021. In 2020, only 20% of summer camps were open 20% in 2020, in 2021 67% of camps were open. So you have to understand there’s still a substantial margin of summer camps just last year that were still closed because of the uncertainties of the pandemic. Now, in 2022, what they’re estimating is, is that number is going to be substantially higher than 67% As people are vaccinated wearing masks, following good protocols, and everyone just wants to go back to normal life. And the pandemic seems to be more accepted, accepted within society rather than feared. So people are saying that we’re potentially over that worse hurdle. And we’re sort of treating it as a secondary, cold or flu nowadays. So it’s interesting to see those differences. And that’s a particular reason why there’s no place like summer camp wasn’t released back in 2020. When I initially had hoped, because no one was travelling, no one would be able to see or find out about this podcast, see the book, and want to travel. So now it’s out. Now it’s available for everyone, make sure you go and pick it up. It’s available on Amazon and other book retailers. So let’s see how the rest of this interview plays out.

Over we have access to the vaccine, and many camps are asking parents to please make sure that their kids are vaccinated if they’re eligible. They’re asking their staff to please consider being vaccinated if they’re eligible. There’s also pre-camp testing. We’ve seen this in schools, where basically, pre-camp testing and also for like a day camp, there may be opportunities during different parts of the day camp experience when they’re asked to be tested as well. But in addition to that, you know, depending on what we see this summer, they should be ready with all of the multilayered mitigation strategies that we employed in the summer of 2020. For those camps that did operate, which about 20% of overnight camps operated in the summer of 2020. And about 40% of day camps operated in the summer of 2020 and 21, we had closer to 100. Most overnight camps were able to operate, and most day camps were able to operate. But they didn’t operate at scale. This summer, we hope they’ll operate at scale. But we’ve got to have those multi-layered mitigation strategies like masking behaviour change before you come to camp.

All kinds of these different layers of strategies have to be read through ready to implement them.

Tom, how much? How much are they still making up for losses in the pandemic? And that is a result of these prices?

That’s a good question. That’s a great question. He said himself. Right now camps are really just trying to ameliorate the effects of their cost this year, cancer really hurt and the summer of 2020. Many overnight camps did not operate and day camps did not operate and went a whole year without revenue. And so through PPP and other programs, they were able to get some relief. But there has been no industry-wide relief like there has been for restaurants or for Broadway shows and other or industries like that. To see that that’s a bit sad to hear. But I think that’s always going to happen with the sorts of businesses when something so unexpected as like a fucking global pandemic happens. Not all industries are going to get that government support because there are lobbyists for the bigger entities out there. And there are more obvious more obviously hurt enterprises than summer camps that spring to mind like you say, the restaurants the takeaways, the theaters, events and theatricals and all of these other things. I’m very much taking the centre focus which you can understand, but the summer camps are taking that backseat and therefore that prices really have to make up a substantial gap that’s been had in 2021 and 2020.

But it’s kind of a difficult situation because we’re at, we’re being asked to scale as much as possible to serve as many kids across our country as possible, yet cancer or have been really hurt in the pandemic. So, to a great extent right now, they’re just trying to manage the increasing costs of operating in this year. But they also have working capital challenges, they also have improvements, they would like to make their camp, but probably you’re gonna have to pause on those improvements.

Because of the other challenges that are facing at the end of the day. The key to a high-quality camp is having highly qualified staff, who are well-trained, who really love working with kids and who understand how, how to do all of that. It’s also about having a safe and healthy facility and having a high-quality program to really keep the kids engaged and help them sort of re-ignite their 21st-century learning skills. All right, Tom Rosenberg, American Camp Association, President and CEO, appreciate your time. Thank you. Hey, go. So that’s the American Camp Association, Director, or CEO, shall I say, Tom Rosenberg, it’s very interesting to hear his take on why summer camp prices are literally going through the roof. You saw earlier about the prices, literally tripling in some cases, compared to what they used to be like in 2021. And even in 2021, and 2020. Even back when I used to volunteer at summer camp, I thought that summer camp prices were ridiculously high. So to see that now, with those increased prices, and everything, you can totally understand their point of view of why they’re being increased by such a substantial margin.

And you also have to remember that a lot of these camps actually do take a lot of voluntary donations from parents to help fund the sustainability of their summer camps. So wherever they want to create new activities for the kids, or maintain their camp or anything like that, to really help the running of the day-to-day of summer camp. The summer camps really do rely on the income that’s being generated. And you can see that they’re having to make up the lost ground of 2020 and 2021. So personally speaking, I wouldn’t want to be in any summer camp director’s shoes at the minute, but I think these testing times, they’re probably the most rewarding and satisfying, when 2022 would come to an end of summer camp, and you can look back and think you know what, the world’s coming back. And it’s great to have summer camps alive and kicking again. So it’s been great to hear from someone that’s so senior at a summer camp Association. I’m going to try and keep an eye on any further developments, especially from someone so high up as the American American Camp Association, anything to do with summer camp in the news. I’m going to be doing these sorts of episodes a little bit more.

And yeah, I hope you enjoyed this episode. It was different. It’s just an interesting take to see what it’s like in these pandemics sort of times on how some accounts are being affected, you can totally understand all the different aspects that have combined together to really squeeze these prices through the roof. So we’ll see how it ends up. Hopefully, 2022 is going to be another memorable year for you guys that are either going over to summer camp to volunteer or for these campers that are having their return to summer camp or even their first time at summer camp. Anyway, guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I shall see you in the next one. Have a good one.

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