Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) continued its summer string of holiday successes over the Labor Day Weekend, posting a 4.5% increase in short-term camper nights compared to Labor Day Weekend last year.
According to a press release, the big Labor Day camper turnout brought KOA’s overall 2013 camping numbers to 3% over year-to-date performance in 2012.
“Camping numbers have been positive throughout the summer,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “We’ve seen positive growth in every section of the country. Fuel prices have been stable, and the weather really cooperated this year to give our campers the maximum amount of enjoyment from their KOA camping lifestyles.”
The positive trend doesn’t show any signs of abating. Advanced reservations for the final week of KOA’s summer “peak season,” which runs through Sept. 8, remain strong at 8.6% over last year. Reservations for KOA’s Value Kard Rewards Appreciation Weekend Sept. 13-14 are running 18.8% ahead of the same period in 2012.
Members of KOAs Value Kard Rewards Program receive a free night of camping on Sept. 14 when they stay as paying guests on Sept. 13.
The Billings, Mont., KOA Campground will become the Billings KOA Holiday Campground tomorrow (June 7), according to a press release.
The change is the beginning of a new brand structure for the 51-year-old iconic North American camping company. KOA said that three new brand segments will better identify the specific offerings of its 485 campgrounds for the millions of North American camping families that use KOA each year.
Over the next few years, KOA campgrounds across North America will be rebranded as either a KOA Journey, KOA Holiday or KOA Resort campground.
“Segmenting our famous KOA brand in this way will help our campers select just the KOA they need for their next trip,” said KOA’s Vice President of Marketing Toby Hedges. “Each KOA is unique, but each Journey, Holiday and Resort KOA will have amenities and services in common that will make it easier for campers to find just the right campground. KOA began 51 years ago right here in Billings, so it’s only right that we should begin this new chapter for KOA at the Billings KOA Holiday.”
The three brands designate:
• KOA Journey Campgrounds are identified as being convenient to major highways, include long pull-through sites and provide a relaxing overnight oasis for travelers.
• KOA Holiday Campgrounds, such as the Billings KOA Holiday, are great base camps to explore the area and include family activities and additional amenities to make these facilities great getaways for short vacations. They will also all feature KOA Deluxe Cabins, which include full bathrooms and kitchens.
• KOA Resorts will offer campers a true resort-style vacation with luxurious pools, patio RV sites, Deluxe Cabin linen service and a specially trained activities and recreation staff.
More than half of RVtravel.com readers (54%) who responded to an April 13 survey in the website’s weekly newsletter reported that they regard Wi-Fi service in RV parks as “poor” or “terrible.” Less than 7% consider it excellent or very good. About a third labeled it “good.”
More than 1,400 RVtravel.com readers participated in the survey which asked “Overall, how would you describe the performance of the Wi-Fi in RV parks where you’ve stayed?”
“In one way or another, most of the readers who left comments said that RV park Wi-Fi was hit and miss,” said RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury. “Some also mentioned that poor security of many networks kept them from using the service.”
Woodbury said he has stayed at least 100 nights in the last two years in RV parks with Wi-Fi and has found a mixed bag. “Once in awhile it’s great, but that’s the exception,” he said. “More often than not, I found connections so slow they were worthless. Other times the signal was not strong enough to reach my campsite, and many parks provide an unsecured WiFi network, which means personal information is vulnerable to thieves.”
Some readers who commented on the survey noted that instead of relying on RV park Wi-Fi, they use wireless air cards, which are available from most major cellular carriers. The devices allow a high speed, secure connection in most areas where cell phone coverage is available. “I’ve used my Wi-Fi card from Verizon for years,” said Woodbury. “For anyone who travels a lot with an RV who needs to get online on a regular basis, a device like this is critical.”
With the big-boy RVs stretching nearly 50 feet, many pulling trailers full of toys, turning and parking in campgrounds can be a problem.
The Billings (Mont.) Gazette reported that people no longer back into campsites, they want drive-throughs. That change and the demand for more modern amenities helped create more work for Doug Mulvaney at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).
“Probably the biggest challenge in the industry in the last 15 to 20 years is addressing the size of the RVs being manufactured,” said Mulvaney, KOA’s manager of facilities development.
While working for the former Montana Power Co., Mulvaney handled underground electrical utilities. He uses that experience to help modernize some of KOA’s 550 campgrounds, many designed decades ago.
“The biggest thing I do, year in and out, is upgrading electric service, usually to 50 amps,” he said.
Campground owners also must respond to RV manufacturers moving the location of utility hookups on the RV. They may have to offer plug-ins on both sides or install front and back sewer hookups, Mulvaney said.
Redesigning curves to allow a wider turning radius for the big rigs and consolidating and angling camp sites for drive-through access are his other duties.
“There are several campground layouts where you kind of look at it and scratch your head,” Mulvaney said.
When the federal government’s sequestration went into effect on March 1, Jimmy Felton was fit to be tied.
As reported by Woodall’s Campground Management, the owner of the Misty River Campground in Townsend, Tenn., a 72-site campground on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, wasn’t certain of his park’s immediate future, thanks to the sequestration (or sequester) which brought forth several campground closings in the nearby national park and numerous other cutbacks across all federally owned lands.
Felton, who also is president of the Tennessee Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, stated, “The campgrounds in Tennessee will be happy to accommodate everybody looking for a camping spot. We still want you to enjoy your vacation. If Uncle Sam doesn’t want you in their campgrounds, we would love for you to come to ours.”
Felton was undoubtedly speaking for all private campground owners in the U.S., both those located near national parks as well as those located on popular routes leading to the national lands who stood to lose business if fewer travelers make their ways to the federal lands this spring and summer.
“In two weeks this will probably be over with,” he said with a tone of optimism. “The lucky part for us in Tennessee, we’re in the off-season. Until springtime, this (cutbacks) won’t affect us much. If this is still going on Memorial Day weekend, that may be different.”
“The main problem is none of the politicians on either side (party) are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re behaving like spoiled little kids. If private industry worked like the government, we’d all be in trouble,” he said.
Across the outdoor hospitality industry, others may not have been as upset as Felton as they saw sequestration join the list of factors, such as a tepid economic recovery and unseasonably high gas prices, that could bite into the coming camping season. But there was still concern.
- ARVC Issues Statement
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) issued a statement on March 6, stating that it was working alongside the U.S. Travel Association and others on several fronts to develop a strategy to help end this man-made crisis. The coalition is:
- Engaging media to voice the travel industry’s concerns.
- Communicating directly with Congressional offices to inform them of the deep impact the sequester will have on travelers and its ripple in the economy.
- Activating a grassroots mobile messaging campaign that easily bridges frustrated travelers with lawmakers.
- Developing economic research to paint a picture of the realities stemming from these reductions.
ARVC further stated that it was aggressively engaging with media outlets aimed at both policymakers and the public. Statements from the Travel Association on the sequester have already received widespread media coverage. The association is also considering select advertisements to highlight the impact of the sequester on travelers and to ask Congress to “Draw the Line” – travelers have waited long enough.
ARVC also stated that it was communicating directly with Congressional offices, particularly those in districts where travel has a particularly strong economic effect, informing them of the deep impact the sequester will have on American travelers and its broader effect across the economy.
ARVC members were also invited to the National Issues Conference for an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Congress.
Plenty of Camping Options In California
Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), said she anticipates the sequester could help CalARVC parks located near national lands.
“We suspect those parks will see an increase in reservations more because of the uncertainty the consumer sees rather than what reality might be,” she said, meaning that campers may gravitate toward private parks out of the assumption that campgrounds on federal lands are closed.
“One of our biggest fears is just the bad publicity. The public hears ‘Campgrounds Closed at National Parks’ and to be honest, the average person doesn’t know the difference between a national park, a state park and a private park. We were concerned about that last year when the California state parks were going to close. That’s just negative press the consumer sees and concludes, ‘We’ll go to Disneyland this year instead.’”
The reality Sipe and CalARVC are stressing as the sequester begins is that there are “plenty of camping options” at the 800 commercial campgrounds in California.
Impact Around Yellowstone Could be Huge
RV parks and campgrounds located at or near the gateways to Yellowstone National Park were still closed for the season when WCM tried to reach them and thus unavailable for comment, but the impact could be considerable there.
Yellowstone Park managers have to trim $1.75 million from Yellowstone’s $35 million annual budget, which will delay the opening of most entrances to America’s first national park by two weeks.
Local tourism industry leaders are not happy with the decision, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. A delay in the park’s traditional early May opening and other service reductions could mean millions of dollars in lost tourism and tax revenues for small, rural towns in Montana and Wyoming.
“I think it’s counterproductive, and I expect a lot of people to be raising hell,” said Mike Darby, whose family owns the Irma Hotel in downtown Cody, Wyoming, at the east gate of Yellowstone.
A two-week delay in Yellowstone’s opening means Cody will miss out on more than 150,000 visitors spending an estimated $2.3 million, according to figures released by the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce. Similar shortfalls in four other gateway towns around the park could put total losses from a two-week delayed opening at more than $10 million.
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Phil Abbott isn’t ready to declare victory yet but after a couple stale years during the down economy, the sales manager at a West Virginia dealership feels like the RV business is hopefully out of the woods. Or, into the woods, as it were.
As reported by the Herald Dispatch, Huntington, when it comes to RV sales and camping visits at regional state parks, things are trending up for the 2013 camping season, said travel and tourism industry workers gathered Sunday during the final day of the three-day Huntington RV and Boat Show that filled the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
“It’s been pretty stagnant the past few years, but we did pretty good at the show,” said Abbott, the sales manager at Burdette Camping Center, which along with Setzer’s World of Camping helps anchor the Huntington show. “I think what people are doing is spending less but if it’s under $20,000 people are still going to spend that. … They may be spending less, and they may not have as much time off, but they still love spending time with the family and going to places like Cave Run.”
While Abbott said Burdette is moving a lot of smaller units as well as doing big business in their service department as folks are hanging onto older units, the trend nationally projects continued RV growth in 2013.
According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments are projected to grow slightly in 2013. That uptick in spending also could be felt at area state parks as well.
If inquiries about campsite application forms for reservable sites at West Virginia’s state parks and forests is an indication, camping in 2013 could be a banner year, according to a recent state park press release.
While we are still in the heart of winter, West Virginia State Parks will begin processing mail-in reservation applications after Feb. 15.
Getting those reservations are important as many campgrounds fill up, especially during holiday seasons at the 29 state park areas that manage campgrounds.
“We can quickly change from a few dozen people to over 1,600 individuals seemingly overnight,” said Matt Yeager at Beech Fork State Park in the release. “Families like to camp. It is one of those quintessential summer pastimes.”
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Editor’s Note: The following information about the future of RV parks and campgrounds and the RV industry appeared in a news release from Wert-Berater Inc. For more information call (888) 661-4449 or visit www.wert-berater.com.
Recovery for the campgrounds and RV parks industry has arrived. After fighting through declines, industry revenue is expected to perk up in 2012 and 2013. Wert-Berater Inc. forecasts that revenue will increase at an estimated annualized rate of 2.4% to $5.4 billion over the five years to 2017. Furthermore, industry revenue will increase 2.6% to $4.9 billion from 2012 to 2013.
Travel spending is expected to increase over the next five years. In 2013, domestic travel is projected to increase 4.1%, while inbound travel will rise 5.4%. Increased travel rates will benefit campgrounds and RV parks, which have felt the pinch as people canceled and delayed their trips. Over the five years to 2017, domestic travel is forecast to increase at an average rate of 3.3% per year, while inbound travel will increase at an average annual rate of 5.3%.
The industry will also benefit from the economy improving, unemployment rates declining and people spending more money. Consumer spending is expected to increase 1.2% in 2013, and some of this renewed spending is expected to go toward trips and travel. Over the five years to 2017, consumer spending is anticipated to increase at an average annual rate of 3.3%.
Changes in the relative price of domestic and international travel also play a large part in determining travel patterns. Over the past five years, the U.S. dollar has depreciated, which has encouraged domestic travel by making foreign travel relatively more expensive. This factor has also encouraged foreigners to visit the United States. These trends benefit the campgrounds and RV parks industry by encouraging Americans to travel domestically while spurring an influx of foreign tourists. Other non-economic factors include the time available to travel, cultural and family links and the age of travelers. The price of gas is an additional factor that feeds directly into travel costs, especially in driving-dependent industries such as the campgrounds and RV parks industry.
The performance of the RV dealers industry will improve through 2017. In 2013, its revenue is expected to increase 2.7% to $18.5 billion. Furthermore, revenue is forecast to grow at an annualized rate of 2.9% over the five years to 2017. However, RV sales will take years to return to their zenith, hampered by the lasting effects of wealth destruction on key customer markets’ ability to finance RV purchases. Current RV owners will also likely continue to choose domestic campgrounds and national parks over international tourist destinations because domestic travel remains a more cost-effective alternative to international travel.
The most promising case for long-term growth in RV sales is the aging Baby Boomer generation. The Baby Boomer population, consisting of people born from 1946 to 1964, numbers about 78.0 million people. This generation is expected to be wealthier and to live longer than any prior generation, making them prime targets for an RV lifestyle. Additionally, Boomers grew up during the height of the Boy Scouts’ popularity, resulting in an appreciation for the outdoors. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), one-tenth of vehicle owners in this age group also own an RV.
The industry is expected to resume expansion as the economy improves. Demand for on-site rentals of RVs and for the storage of RVs will rise. However, sales of used RVs are expected to accelerate over the initial part of the next five years until the arrival of more robust economic growth. Moreover, as revenue grows, industry profit margins are also expected to creep up slowly, making the industry more appealing for potential entrants. Over the five years to 2017, the number of enterprises is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 0.7% per year to 13,431. Employment is also expected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.6% to 47,140, though the industry will continue to use temporary employees during peak guest periods.
The progressive aging of the population, particularly of people aged 55 to 75, will continue to positively influence demand and industry revenue growth as the economic situation improves. Continuing strong growth in RV shipments will support this increase. There will also be an increasing trend toward the franchising of campgrounds, with operators being associated with chains and benefiting from joint promotional activities and access to online information and reservation systems for guests. Significant increases in direct online bookings by guests are expected.
Overall, increasing investment in improving facilities and amenities for guests will remain important, even in low growth periods. Such amenities include the provision of wireless Internet access and access to health and fitness centers. These will need to be supported by continuing industrywide and national promotional campaigns promoting the benefits of RV and camping activities.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) will be hosting a Work Kamper Boot Camp March 20 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Branson, Mo., KOA campground. The event is open to both current members of KOA’s Work Kamper Program, as well as non-members who may be considering the Work Kamping lifestyle, according to a news release.
The all-day session is intended to add expertise in KOA systems and practices for current KOA Work Kampers, and introduce potential Work Kampers to this career. Along with having the ability to network with fellow KOA Work Kampers, those attending Boot Camp will receive the “KOA Boot Camp Graduate” icon on their Work At KOA website resume; take advantage of one-on-one training to help use the Work At KOA resume website; and also get help finding a job for next season at the KOA Work Kamper Virtual Job Fair.
The Work Kamper Boot Camp is free to current members of the KOA Work Kamper Program. Non-members will be charged a $20 per person fee. The Branson KOA Campground is offering free nights of camping to those who attend the full day of Work Kamper training. A free lunch will also be provided.
Current KOA Work Kamper Program members can register by signing on to the www.workatkoa.com website. Non-members can register by emailing Shari Scribner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) marked its 50th year in 2012 by adding 18 more locations to its 489-campground system in North America.
KOA, the world’s largest system of family-oriented campgrounds based in Billings, Mont., experienced 3.3% growth in short-term camper nights in 2012, the highest percentage of growth since KOA’s record year in 2007. Registration revenues also increased nearly 6 percent from 2011 figures.
“It was a pretty exciting year, start to finish,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “Celebrating our 50th Anniversary was very special, and it was just fantastic that we saw an increase in camping this year, too.”
The momentum from 2012 continues to carry into 2013 for KOA. On Jan. 11, Rogers will be featured on the Emmy-award-winning CBS reality series “Undercover Boss.” Rogers will go under cover at four KOA locations, learning the day-to-day operations of a campground from front-line staff. “Undercover Boss,” now in its fourth season, won an Emmy in 2012 as the top-rated reality series on television.
The “Undercover Boss” episode will air Jan. 11 at 8 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific), and 7 p.m. (Central and Mountain). For more on KOA’s episode of “Undercover Boss,” go to www.KOA.com.
Campgrounds added in 2012 include: Bluffton/Findlay SW, Ohio; Honesdale/Poconos, Pa.; Butler North, Pa.; Jonestown, Pa.; Travelers Rest/Greenville North, S.C.; Buffalo, Wyo.; Ozark/Fort Rucker, Ala.; Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.; Wildwood, Fla.; Lake Bomoseen, Vt.; Victoria/Coleto Creek Lake, Texas; Carbondale/Crystal River, Colo.; Lynchburg NW/Blue Ridge Parkway, Va.; Clinton/Knoxville, Tenn.; Batesville, Ind.; Salome, Ariz.; St. George/Hurricane, Utah.
KOA’s 18th additional franchise added in 2012 is a yet-to-be-announced campground in the Southeast U.S.
Other 2012 highlights for the iconic camping brand were a record-breaking 2012 KOA International Convention in Orlando, Fla., in November, with nearly 290 KOA campgrounds represented. More than 800 owners and staff attended the event. The Convention’s KOA Expo also set a new record with more than 150 vendors providing their products and services to KOA owners.
KOA’s industry-leading Value Kard Rewards program also saw strong growth in 2012, with an increase in membership of more than 7.5% from 2011.
KOA also partnered with 18 major companies in 2012 to offer KOA campers unique deals on products and services to enhance their camping lifestyles.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has finalized a new employee benefit program with AT&T to provide a 15% discount on qualifying personal wireless accounts. According to a press release, the discount program is available to ARVC members and their employees.
“These discounts apply only to personal wireless plans and not business accounts,” said Derek Dick, ARVC’s membership manager.
The discount plan includes simultaneous use of voice and data services on AT&T’s mobile broadband network as well as unlimited usage of AT&T’s Wi-Fi network at no additional charge.
To find out more information about the AT&T discount program, visit www.arvc.org, sign in, and go to the “Supplier Marketplace” section and click on the “Member Benefit Providers” tab. There, members will have access to detailed information about the AT&T program as well as other ARVC member benefit programs.