The campground business may have been a little sluggish this season, but there is nothing sluggish about Kampground of America’s (KOA) annual convention, set for Nov. 6-9 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
Woodalls Campground Management reported that nearly 500 franchisee representatives from across the 475-member chain are anticipated at the four-day convention, the largest serving the outdoor hospitality industry.
Some new features have been added to this year’s convention, starting with the early-bird registration incentives, which attracted double the number of registrants by the first of August, according to Jenny McCullough, director of training and events for KOA, who is heading up her first KOA convention.
This incentive will likely put attendance over the 485-attendee mark of last year’s convention, she predicted – a good thing for the nation’s largest campground chain, as business this year has been spotty. “The year started very soft, mostly due to poor weather, flooding, etc., and it was all immeasurably exacerbated by the economy,” said Mike Gast, KOA vice president of communications. “As the summer has progressed, however, we are closing the gap to last year. But it’s unlikely that we are looking at another record summer.
“We did, however, have a record single-day camper registration total for the Friday of July 4th Weekend – the most in our 49-year history,” says Gast.
Conventioneers will have several opportunities to get rejuvenated as well as educated during the convention.
Pat Hittmeier, KOA president, will give the welcome at the Monday morning breakfast.
Kevin Freiberg, noted author, consultant and professor who has specialized on the customer service philosophy of Southwest Airlines, will be the keynote speaker on opening day of the convention and will lead a workshop following his presentation. His focus is on customer loyalty, creating a customer culture and leadership.
On Tuesday, speakers include Dave Mitchell, speaking on the power of understanding people, and customer service expert Ruby Newell-Legner, back by popular demand. Lucas Hartford, president of Evergreen Insurance, also will speak on Tuesday on the subject of optimizing parks’ property and liability insurance.
KOA will hand out a number of awards to franchisees on Monday and Tuesday. Both days also are packed with seminars and other educational sessions.
KOA Chairman Jim Rogers will share his annual “Fireside Chat” to franchisees Tuesday afternoon. His talk ushers in the opening of the Expo in the 80,000-square-foot exhibition hall, which will feature an anticipated 120 vendors, at least 20 of who are first-time convention exhibitors.
Also new is a presentation stage which will be used on Wednesday during the Expo. Any vendor who signed on for a premium booth option will qualify to do a 15- to 30-minute presentation about their product or service on the stage, McCollough explained.
The convention will again end with the annual KOA Care Camps Auction. Each year, KOA owners support KOA Care Camps for children with cancer through a variety of fundraising events including the annual convention auction. Funds raised through the auction go directly to send children with cancer to one of 44 specialized summer camps throughout North America
It’s not too late to register for the convention. The registration fee is $395 and the nightly room rate is $65 Monday through Thursday. The Friday/Saturday rate is $95 per night. KOA also is running a Kids Camp in conjunction with the convention.
Vendor registration will be available into October, McCollough noted.
Franchisees and others who do not attend the convention can stay in the loop just the same, thanks to the daily “KOA Today” videos. Gast said he’ll be posting the videos on YouTube starting on Sunday and each morning through Wednesday.
For those looking ahead, the 2012 convention, held in conjunction with KOA’s 50th anniversary, will be staged Nov. 15-19 at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, Fla.