Interview with Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
Interview with campsite operator Pathfinder Ventures: "We create unforgettable family experiences and set new standards."
time to read: 8 minutes | The interview was conducted by Nico Popp on June 27th, 2022 in Box 610 Fort Langley, BC (CAN).
CEO | Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
9451 Glover Road, PO, V1M 2R9 Box 610 Fort Langley, BC (CAN)
Table of contents:
The camping market
news|financial: "Camping with RVs has been a passion for many people, and not just since the pandemic. Tell us more about how camping enthusiasts spend their money and how Pathfinder Ventures can benefit."
"[...] In addition to campsite fees, Pathfinder Ventures has put itself in a position to offer all of these sought-after camping solutions. The only thing they don't sell is the RV itself. [...]" Joe Bleackley, CEO, Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
Campers and Recreational Vehicle owners spend most of their money on their motorhome, trailer or caravan and its accessories. To that end, it is important to say that camping today is more than just spending the night in the wilderness with a tent. In addition to full kitchens and other technical equipment, campers and RV’ers today have every convenience, such as air conditioning, satellite dishes and outdoor bar fridges. In Canada, families can buy a new caravan or motorhome starting for as little as CAD 25,000. Important to note, to be able to use all the accessories in their RV, customers need an updated campground with modern day infrastructure (electrical hook ups, sewer, and water) to properly utilize it. Other cost factors for customers include the storage and servicing of the caravan or motorhome. In addition to campsite fees, Pathfinder Ventures has put itself in a position to offer all of these sought-after camping solutions. The only thing they don't sell is the RV itself. We also have retail stores at all of our campsites where we offer: food and drinks, firewood and propane, RV connections, adapters and merchandise, such as clothing and souvenirs.
news|financial: "Where are your campgrounds located?"
We are in British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. We currently have three RV Resorts & campgrounds located in Agassiz-Harrison, Fort Langley and Parksville, all within a few minute’s drive to city shopping and entertainment. We know that many campers are looking for local recreation and do not want to drive that long to relax in nature. I would argue that British Columbia provides the best weather conditions in all of Canada. We have mild summers, and even in the winter, we often only get snow for a few weeks. This mix is perfect for us to attract overseas tourists as well as guests from other parts of Canada and the USA. It’s advantageous to have our resorts within close proximity to populations and cities, especially with rising fuel costs, customers do not have to travel very far. Camping in Canada is unique, and our family-friendly sites are setting the bar for a modern RV Resort and Campground experience.
Scoring points with good infrastructure
news|financial: "What exactly does your standard include?"
"[...] We are camping enthusiasts ourselves and have families. Therefore, we know what the target group wants. [...]" Joe Bleackley, CEO, Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
We are camping enthusiasts ourselves and have families. Therefore, we know what the target group wants. Our sites have a modern infrastructure that is not always available in the industry. Examples include 50-amp power connections that allow our customers to operate multiple appliances without any capacity bottlenecks. Most older campgrounds offer 15-amp or 30-amp plugins. In addition, we offer free high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the resort, have playgrounds at every campsite, plus covered common areas to provide activities for our guests. This includes bingo rounds for older guests in the winter months or guided activities for children in the spring or fall when it rains.
Camping and the weather
news|financial: "Does the weather not make your business cyclical? I would imagine that customers make short-term bookings dependent on the weather forecast?"
In order to get a spot in the summer months with us, one has to book well in advance. Apart from the weather difference between the winter and summer business, our parks are open all year round and we have regular guests, even in winter, who return year after year. In addition, we have a growing number of tourists from the USA and even Europe.
Real camping fans and families with children will also confirm that rainy days are especially appealing to children. When the rain pelts the roof of the camper while cooking and playing card games together, the family memories created are forever and some of the best. In addition, there are recreational activities that we organize and that are fun in any weather. One of the most significant features of Pathfinder Ventures is that we provide consistent quality at each site. We want campers to see our logo and book directly through the app because they know exactly what to expect - no matter where we operate parks in the future.
Acquisition of new campsites
news|financial: "It sounds like you want to expand. What synergy effects and growth plans are associated with the expansion strategy?"
"[...] We aim to preserve many of these places with tradition yet continue them in a contemporary way under the umbrella of Pathfinder Camp Resorts. [...]" Joe Bleackley, CEO, Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
We are a growth company and see great opportunities in a fragmented market that has become somewhat outdated. In Canada and the USA, many campground operators are family owned and operated businesses. There is often the question of succession. Investments are often necessary when it comes to the infrastructure of the campsites. We aim to preserve many of these places with tradition yet continue them in a contemporary way under the umbrella of Pathfinder Camp Resorts. We also see growth opportunities in digital solutions around service and marketing.
Another growth area is the development and construction of new campsites. We already have our eye on some exciting locations for this as well. In this context, it has to be said that cities are growing and in recent years many campsites have become used to build apartments or housing. So, the supply of sites is declining. At the same time, the number of campers is growing. There is, therefore, a need for new campsites. But since it takes some time for parks to be developed, we are initially focusing on buying existing facilities. We are also expanding our existing Agassiz-Harrison park.
Close to the market
news|financial: "How is the RV Parks acquisition process shaping up, and how are potential sellers responding to Pathfinder Camp Resorts?"
Since many RV parks near cities are also attractive as building land, the list of interested parties after a public offering gets long quickly. We, therefore, take a different approach and operate very locally. Many potential sellers perceive us less as investors than as campground operators. Our operations team have been operating campsites and vacation properties for more than 20 years. That helps us when people want to see their campground, which is often a life project full of memories, in good hands. Also, I think we are different in many ways from typical real estate investors that are on the market these days. I believe we are well-positioned to compete for attractive campgrounds because we are well connected in the industry and can thus identify opportunities early on.
news|financial: "How do you plan to finance these opportunities? Do investors have to expect capital increases?"
We are pursuing a strategy that envisions the long-term success of all shareholders. Of course, growth also requires capital. But it should be noted that new campsites are also projects that can be partially financed by bank loans. That will not be the case exclusively, but it plays an important role. In addition, we make sure that new projects are cash-flow positive or have the potential to be soon after a transition or upgrade to a Pathfinder Camp Resort. More parks mean more cash flow and, in the medium term, more synergy effects for Pathfinder Ventures and greater visibility for our brand. Even if there are capital increases, investors can be assured that we have the long-term success of our company firmly in mind for all conditions.
Franchising as an option?
news|financial: "Is a franchising system also conceivable in the long term?"
"[...] Pathfinder Camp Resorts is initially intended to become a comprehensive business that works like a Swiss watch. [...]" Joe Bleackley, CEO, Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
We do not rule out the possibility of taking franchisees on our growth course in a few years. Initially, however, the focus is on adding more parks to our portfolio and making the brand even better known in this way. Pathfinder Camp Resorts is initially intended to become a comprehensive business that works like a Swiss watch. Once we have exhausted all potential and our brand has the corresponding appeal, we can consider franchising.
Competition and unique selling propositions
news|financial: "Who are your competitors, and why do you currently see Pathfinder Ventures as an attractive investment opportunity?"
Companies that can be considered competitors tend to act as investors and are organized as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Examples include Sun Communities, Main Street Equities and Equity Lifestyle Properties. What all these companies have in common is their market capitalization in the billions. We, on the other hand, are only valued in the single-digit millions and operate in an attractive niche, which we also know very well. So, for investors, we are an easy growth story to understand. While large companies tend to thrive on diversification and stability, and shareholders expect small price increases and dividends in return, our stock is suitable for investors who want to follow a growth story right from the start. We have experience with camping-related offerings and are successfully managing the existing parks. In addition, we have efficient processes and a brand with great potential. Investors do not often find this mix. We offer both organic and inorganic growth opportunities with a business idea that is down-to-earth. This combination is rare.
Communication with the market
news|financial: "Because of your growth trajectory, Pathfinder Ventures' fiscal years are not as comparable. Last year, some parks were still closed for renovations during the first few months of the year. In the future, potential campground acquisitions could again skew the numbers. How do you plan to make your business performance comparable, so the market perceives your successes?"
"[...] We will also present EBITDA adjusted for special effects in the future, making it even easier for investors to evaluate our organic growth. [...]" Joe Bleackley, CEO, Pathfinder Ventures Inc.
We understand that we must consider dynamic business development in our external communications. We have come up with some metrics which we will communicate in the future. These include, for example, the number of overnight stays per campsite, also occupancy and same site revenue. We will also present EBITDA adjusted for special effects in the future, making it even easier for investors to evaluate our organic growth.
news|financial: "Thank you very much for talking to us."