The largest attendance in its history and the biggest expo on record are two of the goals for the annual Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Inc. convention scheduled for Nov. 15-18 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
Woodalls Campground Management reported that the convention takes on added significance this time around as it formally marks the franchise’s 50th anniversary, the theme of which is “Celebrate 50 Years of Fun.”
“We expect our largest convention yet,” said Jenny McCullough, director of training and events. “We’re expecting about 600 attendees this year. So far, we’re on track for a great convention. We have more people signed up now than we ever had at this point.”
Along with a multitude of industry-leading learning opportunities and fun, the convention will feature the KOA Expo, including more than 130 vendors offering special products to attending KOA owners and managers, as well as the annual KOA Care Camps Charity Auction to benefit these special summer camps for children with cancer.
A good attendance would be consistent with KOA pronouncements that the camping business has been strong this season across much of the U.S. and Canada.
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In days mostly past, a camper would walk into the wilderness, pitch a canvas pup tent and catch a string of trout for dinner. In today’s era, some families pull into campgrounds in 40-foot custom RVs costing $1 million or more, pulling a trailer packed with four-wheelers.
According to a report in the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, they go camping expecting all the comforts of home: a store, a pool, bike rentals, outdoor movies on giant inflatable screens, pancake breakfasts and especially wireless Internet access so they can communicate with their Facebook friends via smartphones, play stations and laptops.
These two camping experiences share, well, mostly a campfire.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), a company born in Billings 50 years ago, has grown into the nation’s largest franchise camping business. It has survived by adapting and catering to cultural trends.
“What’s true of human nature, from my perspective, is the more you give people, the more they want,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier.
KOA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, marking the growth from a handful of campsites south of the Yellowstone River to 458 franchises, plus 26 company-owned campgrounds. Sporting 1,000 employees, with 73 based in Billings, in some years KOA flies more people out of Billings Logan International Airport than any other local company.
When Jim Rogers proposed that the company move to Reno, Nev., after he was appointed chairman and CEO a decade ago, key executives declined to leave Billings, meaning their circle of contacts might leave with them.
“The franchise business is all about relationships,” Hittmeier said. “I think that became evident and that’s probably the biggest reason why it stayed here.”
To read the entire article click here.
For the Wohlfords of Noblesville, Ind., the Old Mill Run Park in nearby Thorntown is a home away from home. The couple recently graduated from being weekend campers to full timers, staying there all summer long.
But with that upgrade came another — the need to have wireless Internet, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported.
“We would be OK for a weekend,” said Mary Ann, 64. “But when you are full-time, for us, it wouldn’t work. There are just so many things that are (done) through the computer, through the Internet.”
Her husband, Steve Wohlford, agreed. “We need to stay in touch and pay our bills,” said Steve, 66.
It used to be that campers would take their RVs or tents and head into the woods to be rid of the electrical devices that distract and occupy our daily lives. However, as technology has become more mobile, it has become increasingly difficult to disconnect, even in the woods. Today, more campers request that campsites offer Wi-Fi so they can stay connected and campground owners have accommodated this request.
About 72% of privately owned and operated campgrounds, RV parks and RV resorts offer wireless Internet service, according to a 2010 campground operations survey by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Eric Stumberg, founder and CEO of TengoInternet, an Austin, Texas-based company that specializes in providing wireless Internet service to private campgrounds, said the trend started to take off about five years ago. Similar to hotels, campgrounds needed to offer Wi-Fi as an amenity.
For his company, the number of unique connections has increased 50 percent to 75 percent each year, he said. This has been driven by more people connecting and families using multiple devices to do so.
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When Cleyardis Yilmaz joined Thousand Trails two years ago and gained access to all of the company’s recreational vehicle resorts and campgrounds in North America, she didn’t know it would change her life.
According to a report in the Virginian-Pilot, the eighth-grade English teacher visited a campground in Orlando, Fla., in 2010, rented a cabin and discovered she enjoyed the vacation so much that she wanted to find a campground closer to her Virginia home in Lakeview.
She not only found Outdoor World Williamsburg, just off Interstate 64 near Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, Yorktown and Jamestown, but she also found a second home – called a “park model” cottage – that she was able to purchase.
The 28-foot-long unit sits smack dab in the middle of the RV resort, close to the indoor and outdoor pool, adult hot tub and pickleball and miniature golf courses.
Yilmaz makes the 45-minute-to-an-hour drive every weekend to visit her unit, tend to her plants on the deck and partake in the park’s amenities.
“I’m enjoying the adult lounge,” Yilmaz said recently during one of the hottest days of the summer. “I’m working on a puzzle right now.”
While these units are nothing new to the outdoor recreation industry, more and more resorts are selling them and offering sites on their properties where people, like Yilmaz, can get away and own a second home without shelling out a lot of money.
“In the last few years, with the economy being what it is, it’s become – for Middle America – an affordable second-home option,” said David Gorin, executive director of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA).
The park models – called that because they can be parked anywhere – also are know as “recreational, transportable homes,” “park trailers,” “cabins” or “cottages.”
Legally, park models are recreational vehicles, Gorin said, and always have a place in RV parks. But they mainly stay put.
Basically, they are suites of no more than 400 square feet that come in all kinds of configurations, Gorin said.
“In many parks, they are there as rental units,” Gorin said. “If you want to go to an RV park, and you don’t own an RV, you have an option of renting a cabin or park model.”
To read the entire article in the Virginian-Pilot click here.
Yosemite National Park saw near-record numbers of visitors in 2011, but those people didn’t stick around.
USA Today reported that even as visitation has been up at the iconic California park and across the U.S. national park system, time spent per visit in the parks has dropped — declining nearly 15% systemwide over the past two decades.
In places such as Yosemite, the drop-off is much greater. Park spokesman Scott Gediman said fewer people are making the park a destination for a week-long camping trip, instead choosing to cruise through the Valley seeing a few main sites for a few hours before heading elsewhere.
“The way the visitors are seeing the parks is totally changing,” he said. “We’ll see 70-80 buses come through, and maybe one or two of them are spending the night. More and more, people are not just coming here, they’re going to other parks and places as well. We’re finding that vacations themselves have changed.”
The National Park Service trend bucks statistics showing that Americans are increasingly spending more time and money on outdoor recreation, said Avery Stonich, communications manager for the Outdoor Industry Association. Over the past five years, spending on outdoor recreation has increased by 5% annually, according to analysis by her organization.
“People are still making outdoor recreation a priority in their lives,” Stonich said. “While they aren’t going to the national parks, they certainly are spending more time outdoors.”
To read the entire article in USA Today click here.
Tracking over 230 lost site-nights for cabin rentals prompted Denny Quigley to step up and add two more cabins to his inventory at the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort at Kozy Rest near Harrisville, Pa.
“Last year, after hearing the reservation staff telling people we are sorry we don’t have a cabin available, I decided to have them start keeping track of the lost sales,” said Quigley, owner of the 164-site park, in a press release. “I was shocked to see the total lost sales from early July through October to be over 230 site-nights.”
The demand for cabin rentals is at an all-time high throughout the outdoor hospitality industry. Quigley stated that his cabin income is up 20% already this year.
That’s when Quigley started to look at cabin manufactures at the Leisure Systems Symposium, ARVC Outdoor Hospitality Convention and the PCOA convention. “We have a 5W park and I was looking for rentals to meet our standards,” Quigley said. “That’s when we went back to Fork Creek Cabins of Paradise, Pa. We had purchased two cabins from them in 2010 and they have been great.”
Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest was recognized as ARVC’s Medium Park of the Year last December, and Quigley says offering quality amenities is very important. “We really try to go after the ‘WOW’ factor in everything we do,” said Quigley. “It means a lot when we escort our customers to the cabins and hear them say ‘WOW’ when they walk through the door. The next thing we hear them say is that they need to show this to their friends or relatives.”
Fork Creek Cabins was Quigley’s choice because “They pay close attention to the details like the cabinetry and trim work. They use quality materials throughout the cabins. Jonathan Allgyer from Fork Creek cabins has been very flexible to work with on the floorplans and details. We wanted Moen faucets and Jonathan worked with his supplier to see that they were installed. From Dan Allgyer, the owner, to Amos the delivery and setup person, they really have our best interest in mind.”
A few feet inside the warehouses, it smells like any other wood products manufacturing center: sawdust. But, what’s neatly stacked this way and that are no ordinary two-by-fours. They’re curved.
Welcome to Pacific Yurts Inc., a company in Lane County, Ore., that has been the industry leader in the yurt-making business since yurt making became a business, at least on a major scale. Which, according to a report by the Register Guard, makes sense, really, because before a young college graduate named Alan Bair spotted a National Geographic article on Central Asia 40 years ago, these funny-looking round structures were the stuff of nomadic sheepherders.
Those yurts were fashioned from tree saplings strung together with a woven tension band, a central ring at the apex of the “ceiling,” and animal skins stretched around the structure to keep out the wind, rain and snow. What Bair liked was its surface-to-volume ratio, its efficient use of material, and its simplicity. He decided to build one for himself.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Cottage Grove company finds itself smartly positioned to capitalize on a bevy of trends both American and international, from the desire for inexpensive vacation housing to green recreation to downsized lifestyles to year-round camping. It’s why Pacific Yurts survived the Great Recession when another Lane County yurt maker, Mindful Living, didn’t. And it’s why Bair sees a bright future for himself and his 25 to 30 employees.
“We helped create the industry,” he said. “And its uses are only limited by your imagination.”
To read the entire article in the Register Guard click here.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a story authored by Jeff Crider for Woodall’s Campground Management profiling pool lift providers and their boom in business with new ADA regulations pending. To read the entire article click here.
This has been a busy year for the Todd Harris Co. Inc.
The Edison, N.J.-based company supplies portable and permanent swimming pool lifts, which many campgrounds will be required to install by January 2013 to comply with the latest federal accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
But while the prospect of new federal regulations is creating new business opportunities for Todd Harris and other pool lift suppliers, uncertainties about the specific requirements of the new regulations are creating a lot of confusion in the industry.
Carl Bastedo, a regional sales representative for the company, said he routinely receives questions from park operators asking for guidance on the regulations. But even when a park makes a commitment to purchase pool lift equipment, there are several logistical questions that have to be worked out.
“Not all lifts will work with all pool profiles,” Bastedo said, adding that his company typically asks park operators to send photographs of their pools from different angles so that they can determine the best kind of lift to use for their pools.
Park operators also need to determine the weight capacities of the pool lifts they want to use and whether they want to exceed a 300-pound capability.
Park operators also need to take a broad perspective when considering a pool lift, Bastedo said, adding that people needing a pool lift may not only be wheelchair bound guests, but senior citizens with mobility issues or people who are grossly overweight.
“They may not have a hard time getting into the pool, but may need help getting out of it,” Harris said.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice has not spelled out exactly what characteristics constitute a person with disabilities nor is it very clear which parks can get by with a portable pool lift vs. a permanent lift.
The costs of pool lifts can be significant. Portable pool lifts range in price from about $5,400 to $6,600, depending on the model and weight capacity. Permanent pool lifts range from roughly $4,000 to $6,000 or $7,000 on the high end for the equipment alone.
These figures do not include the cost of installation, which is typically handled by outside contractors.
The vendor expo held each year during Kampgrounds of America Inc.’s (KOA) annual convention has always been a popular place for KOA owners to do their shopping for the next season.
But officials report that this year’s expo, set for Nov. 18 at the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., is already shaping up to be one of the largest events in KOA’s 50-year history. The actual KOA Convention begins Nov. 15 at the Gaylord Palms.
“We’ve already confirmed more than four times as many vendor booths as we had at this time last year,” said KOA Director of Training and Events Jenny McCullough in a press release. “We are anticipating that this will be one of our largest conventions ever, with nearly 600 KOA owners and managers from throughout North America attending.”
The increased interest in KOA’s 50th Anniversary convention, both from vendors and KOA owners, mirrors the increase in camping numbers at KOA this year. Billings, Mont.-based KOA is reporting a short-term camper night increase of nearly 5% over the same time last year.
“We’ve added nearly 60 booth spaces to our expo this year just to try to accommodate the increase in interest,” McCullough said. “We’re keeping booths costs the same as last year because we don’t want any vendors to miss the chance to present their products to our campground owners and managers.”
McCullough said all expo vendors are also invited to attend the convention’s final night celebration and KOA Care Camps Auction on Nov. 18.
Vendors interested in securing a booth at this year’s 50th Anniversary Kampgrounds of America Convention Expo can visit www.koaexpo.com, or call 1-800-548-7104, ext. 7413.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) parks throughout North America saw a significant increase in camper check-ins during the Father’s Day holiday weekend June 15-17.
KOA reported in a press release that camper registrations increased more than 5% over registrations in 2011.
The increase was driven, in part, by KOA’s first-ever “Kids Camp Free Father’s Day Weekend” promotion at several hundred participating KOAs. Final camping results for the weekend showed a more than 5% increase in the number of children camping with their parents on KOA parks.
“Father’s Day Weekend was a continuation of the strong camping numbers we’ve seen consistently throughout 2012,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Our positive results during KOA Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend in May, along with Memorial Day weekend and now Father’s Day weekend show that interest in camping is still strong and that 2012 is shaping up to be a very good year.”
Preliminary reservation numbers for the Fourth of July weekend are also strong, even though the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday this year. Advanced reservations for the Fourth of July are on par with 2007, the last year that the holiday fell on a Wednesday.