As executive director of Distant Drums RV Resort for more than two years, Yavapai-Apache Nation member Rachel Hood has seen the success of the Nation's premier enterprise.
All of the negative connotations with RV parks have been diffused, and now this stop is considered a destination with an excellent reputation, according to Hood.
With 156 spaces for overnight and long-term stays, the occupancy rate has remained steady and competitive with other RV resorts in the area, according to Hood. Marketing is the core of the RV park's message to the public.
"It's quite amazing," says Hood. "We sold out for the month of March. We focus by the word of mouth and that's how we get business as well."
It also helps to get listed in the Good Sam's directory for outstanding RV resorts in the country plus distributing highly polished professional brochures at various trade shows across the country which brings the Nation's RV park to the forefront.
A marketing expert and event coordinator, Hood serves on the board for the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Hood has also held business board membership with the Nation with oversight of three businesses. Additional experience has included serving as marketing specialist for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development in Mesa.
With a BA in business administration from the University of Washington in Seattle and a BA in visual communication from Collins College, Hood is the first tribal member to act as director for the resort.
Hood says that the Nation has spent a lot of time focusing on economic development with goals of hiring Nation's members in key positions.
"Why not hire tribal members to run RV parks?" asks Hood.
She says that the Nation has an understanding of that. "There'll be more job opportunities next year. I think that's great. I'm 100 percent for" hiring more tribal members.
"What we offer to our customers is what our competitors can't offer to them," Hood says. She ticks off a list of offerings such as a swimming pool, a library, dog friendly living, level parking pads, a meeting place for community events not to mention all of the capital improvements the park has made such as the removing the outdated sewer system that was the ire of guests.
The resort's sewer system is now hooked up to the delivery system that runs from the casino, culture center, gaming office, the service station and hotel to the holding ponds in Middle Verde two miles to the west.
Other capital improvements include the upgrade of the internet service from last year (2014) for the customers by installing a 56 megabyte Wi-Fi system as opposed to the former three megabyte system which has lessen complaints for the slow internet service.
Take a walk in the park and notice the street signs that have been renamed with Yavapai and Apache words along with the translations.
There is close collaboration with the culture department of the Nation in advertising the park such as using the proper words that is respectful to the cultures of the Yavapai and Apache and the park's brochure is designed using Indian motifs.
"The majority of our visitors are happy when they come here. We've changed a lot," adds Hood.
It is the uniqueness of the region that draws the people to Verde Valley. "People come here because of Sedona. We're the center," says Hood referring to all of the offerings in the area.
Cliff Castle Casino plays an important role in the RV's operations as the casino offers 24/7 services with food accommodation according to Hood. With I-17 running next door,
Hood says that lassoing those travelers is an important part of the marketing schemes. "That's a gold mine (I-17) and there are thousands (of people) going through on the freeway on the way to Grand Canyon," Hood says. "We're getting more groups than we've ever had."
Next year, the resort expects to have one of its largest groups with "50 rigs" according to Hood. This group is represented by the hearing impaired who have chosen Distant Drum RV Resort as a meeting site.
The resort has already hosted 40 executive billionaires who all drove in with $2 million rigs according to Hood. Another tribal member who assists Hood is Denese Montijo. Montijo spent five years at the Cliff Castle Casino in the tribal management training program where she received her management certificate through Yavapai College.
At the casino, Montijo gained valuable experience in booking performers, planning and coordinating successful event for the casino. Montijo has adapted her knowledge and training from the casino to assist Hood in making giant strides for the resort in the past two years.
Distant Drums RV Resort is no longer a trailer park but a shining light in Verde Valley with a promise of greater returns and unique accommodations for the RV resort industry.
(Don Decker is the editor of the Yavapai-Apache Nation's newspaper, Gah'nahvah/YaTi')