Two top executives with Australia’s leading camping company, BIG4 Holiday Parks, were in Billings, Mont., this week to visit the home of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).
New BIG4 Holiday Parks Chairman Gavin Farrell and CEO Ray Schleibs came to Billings just weeks after a large contingent of KOA officials, including KOA President Pat Hittmeier and CEO Jim Rogers, and KOA campground owners from throughout North America visited New Zealand and Australia. While in Christchurch, New Zealand, the KOA group attended the first-ever joint conference of BIG4 and Top 10 Holiday Parks. Top 10 Holiday Parks is the leading campground network in New Zealand, according to a news release.
“We’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship for many years now with our sister camping companies on the other side of the world,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “Those relationships have led to BIG4 purchasing KOA’s KampSight campground operating system, which they call PAM (Park Accommodation Management).”
Rogers said KOA is also benefiting from BIG4’s world-class expertise in campground accommodations management.
“BIG4 Holiday Parks owners are experts when it comes to the management of campground accommodations,” Rogers said. “Their willingness to share their knowledge with us as we rapidly expand our KOA Lodge accommodation offerings has been a huge benefit to the KOA system.”
An earlier idea exchange also led to BIG4 adopting KOA’s premiere camping event, Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend, which is held the second weekend each May. At BIG4, the event is called Come Camp With BIG4 and is scheduled for this Friday (Nov. 5) at BIG4 Holiday Parks throughout Australia.
Farrell, BIG4’s new chairman, will also attend next week’s Kampgrounds of America Annual International Convention in Savannah, Ga. Farrell also owns a BIG4 Holiday Park, BIG4 Beachlands Holiday Park, near Perth, Australia.
BIG4 Holiday Parks is the premiere franchise group comprised of more than 180 holiday parks across Australia. The group provides a range of high-quality accommodation options from powered ensuite sites for caravan and motor homes to luxury cabins. BIG4 Holiday Parks’ BIG4 Club has over 170,000 active members. For more information, go to www.big4.com/au.
A group of 27 Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) executives and campground owners is on its way to Christchurch, New Zealand, to join more than 350 owners and operators of campgrounds in New Zealand and Australia at a joint conference of BIG4 Holiday Parks and Top 10 Holiday Parks, according to a news release.
“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with our counterparts on the other side of the world, and we felt it was time to bring some of our top KOA owners over to exchange ideas and expand our camping horizons,” said Jim Rogers, KOA chairman and CEO and the group leader, with KOA President Pat Hittmeier, of the KOA contingent. The group includes KOA owners from both the United States and Canada.
The relationship goes far beyond an idea exchange. Earlier this year, BIG4 Holiday Parks of Australia adopted KOA’s KampSight campground operating system as its software for centralized online reservations, renaming their version of the industry-leading system BIG4 PAM (Park Accommodation Management).
“While we certainly had something to offer BIG4 in the way of technical expertise, we look forward to learning from their vast experience with accommodations camping,” Rogers said. “They have been managing accommodations such as lodges on their parks for a very long time, and they do it very, very well.”
The Christchurch conference also celebrates the success of both BIG4 and Top 10, which have both experienced growth in recent months. BIG4 Holiday Parks has increased its revenue by 5.5% to more than $270.5 million.
To reflect on the combination of shared experience the three groups will bring to the conference, and the support that comes from the relationship they have, the conference will be run under the banner of ‘Together we achieve more.”
With keynote presentations being made by Hittmeier; Peter Blackwell, CEO of AAA Tourism New Zealand; and Stuart Lamont, business development manager of the Caravan, RV & Accommodation Industry of Australia (CRVA) amongst others, attendees will be treated to information from some of the industry’s most knowledgeable sources across Australia, New Zealand and America.
BIG4 Holiday Parks Acting CEO James Shearer, said he looks forward to marking the Group’s success alongside TOP 10 Holiday Parks and Kampgrounds of America and is excited to see what each group can contribute.
“A joint conference is a new concept to BIG4 Holiday Parks and one we’re really looking forward to. Following in the pioneering spirit of the original BIG4 Parks who decided to band together because ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parks’, we will use our combined knowledge and experiences to support the industry even more on both sides of the world,” said James.
Those attending from KOA include:
- Jim and Sandy Rogers, KOA Inc.
- Pat Hittmeier, KOA Inc.
- Diane and Scott King, Springfield, Mo., KOA
- Sam Shevat and Renee Scialdo-Shevat, Herkimer Diamond, N.Y. KOA
- Mike Bell, San Diego Metro KOA
- Guenter and Theresa Kippschull, Fort Collins, Colo., KOAs
- Matt, Jeffrey and Catherine Stovold, Toronto North, Ontario KOA
- Amy and Tony Raposo, Barrie, Ontario, KOA
- Joe and Rhonda Landis, Dayton, Ohio, KOA
- David and Susan Barton, 1000 Islands Ivy Lea, Ontario, KOA
- Kristie and Michael Kuper, Thunder Bay, Ontario, KOA
- Barbara and Jerry Dale, Manchester, Tenn., KOA
- Hope Perkins and Nick Harrison, Elhart/Middlebury, Ind., KOA
KOA has 475 locations in the United States and Canada.
BIG4 Holiday Parks is a franchise group comprising more than 180 holiday parks across Australia. The group provides a range of high-quality accommodation options from powered ensuite sites for caravan and motor homes to luxury cabins. BIG4 Holiday Parks’ BIG4 Club has over 170,000 active members.
Des Watts, one of the founding members of BIG4 Holiday Parks of Australia, is part of a contingent of Australian camping experts on a tour of the United States that will include a stop Nov. 18-20 at Kampgrounds of America’s (KOA) annual Convention in Houston, Texas.
There will be more than 10 BIG4 Holiday Parks represented at the KOA Convention this year, according to a news release.
Watts, owner of several BIG4 Holiday Parks in Australia, was one of the original four park owners who, in 1978, decided to combine forces to better market their camping properties and amenities to Australians.
BIG4 Holiday Parks is now the leading chain of holiday parks in Australia, with more than 180 individually owned and operated parks. BIG4’s Holiday Park Club membership stands at more than 176,000 members, and the parks host more than 4 million visitors each year.
BIG4 provides a wide variety of high-quality accommodations throughout Australia, including full-service, luxury cabins
The BIG4 contingent at the KOA Convention will also once again include BIG4 Chairman Rodger Powell. Powell also attended last year’s KOA Convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
BIG4 Holiday Parks has had close ties with KOA for the past five years. KOA CEO and Chairman Jim Rogers and his wife, Sandy, recently returned from BIG4’s National Conference in Alice Springs, Australia.
Josh Bell, a member of the Bell family which owns both the San Diego Metro KOA in California and the Grand Canyon/Williams KOA in Arizona, was recently named general manager of park systems for BIG4. Bell has spent the last year in Australia working as a liaison between BIG4 and KOA, primarily working on transitioning BIG4 to KOA’s KampSight campground operating system.
KOA recently signed an exclusive 10-year agreement with BIG4 to share intellectual property.
“The agreement will accelerate the progress of these two world-leading outdoor hospitality organizations,” said Rogers.
As part of the agreement, BIG4 recently purchased the KampSight system from KOA and plans to develop the system to better fit BIG4’s needs. BIG4 will call their system PAM, for Park Accommodation Manager.
“We’re planning to give the operating system a facelift,” Bell said of his new duties. “We’ve got 30 BIG4 Holiday Parks ready to go with PAM right now. It’s going to change the way Holiday Parks in Australia do business, and it all started with KOA. It’s nice having a great partner like that in the states.”
While in the United States, the BIG4 group will also be visiting the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) Convention in underway this week in Orlando, Fla., and a variety of campground locations.