Despite Wild Weather, Campgrounds Stay Busy

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Camping remains a popular activity in 2012

Despite omnipresent forest fires in the West that rousted countless campers, record drought across much of the U.S. that dried up recreational lakes, ponds and rivers and a late-summer hurricane in the Gulf, the summer camping season that limped along in many areas seemed to finish on a positive note.

That’s one take on how business is evolving, based on reports gathered by Woodall’s Campground Management.

The two biggest names in camping, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), franchisor of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, each reported seasonal upturns.

Advanced reservations for the 2012 Labor Day Weekend holiday were about 2.5% ahead of the same period in 2011 according to KOA, the world’s largest system of family-oriented campgrounds.

In fact, KOA was running more than 2% ahead of 2011 year-to-date in the number of short-term camper nights in the system as the summer ended.

Even with the unusual camping patterns caused by a Wednesday, July 4 holiday, we continue to have a very strong summer camping season,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Campers continue to show their love for our Deluxe Camping Cabins, which were up nearly 17 percent in camper nights last week alone. Our campground owners continue to add Deluxe Cabins and other amenities to their inventories, and that is exactly what our campers are looking for.”

KOA’s advanced reservations for the rest of the summer were still running more than 5.5% ahead of the same period in 2011.

Overall, on a same-campground basis, revenues are up about 4.5% over 2011, he said.

Meanwhile, at LSI, same-park revenue was up a little over 9% through the end of August compared to the same time last year, reported Rob Schutter Jr., LSI president and COO. Occupancy was up around 4%.

Like at KOA, “rental units continued to be the main driving force behind the increased occupancies at the parks,” Schutter said, showing a 12% increase in park model lodge and cabin occupancies over last year.

Parks that offer RV rentals, typically travel trailers, reported a whopping 80% increase over a year ago, he added.

To read the entire article in Woodall’s Campground Management click here.

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KOA Meets Changing Demands in 50-Year Run

August 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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.




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PCOA Contest to Reward 2 Millionth Site Visitor

July 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA) has launched a contest to mark the 2 millionth visitor to its website at

According to a press release, the winner will receive over 50 free camping certificates good for the entire 2013 camping season. The certificates are valid for one night of camping at participating Pennsylvania campgrounds and have a value of $2,500.

“We are delighted to offer an opportunity like this to the camping public,” said Jason Vaughan, vice-president and chairman of the PCOA marketing committee. “ As we are nearing the two millionth visitor mark to it seemed like a great way to celebrate this benchmark and to thank those camping families who have visited our website.

To enter, visit the website and enter your information. All entries to the contest will automatically be entered into a drawing for one of 10 consolation prices with a value of $100 each.



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Privatization, Donations Help Save Calif. Parks

June 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

When California’s Department of Parks and Recreation announced last year it would be closing a quarter of its parks due to budget cuts, millions of nature-loving Californians were devastated.

But, according to a report by the Huffington Post, there may be some relief ahead.

With the July 1 closure deadline looming, nearly half of the 70 parks originally slated to be shut down have been saved, and the state is in the process of negotiating agreements to keep nearly two-thirds open past that deadline.

The methods used to rescue the parks are varied, but they fall into a few distinct categories. Some received large donations from private individuals or conservation organizations, others were taken over by local municipalities or the federal government and a small handful, most controversially, are being privatized.

Though private companies (both of the non- and for-profit varieties) have long operated inside virtually all of California’s green spaces, having non-governmental groups handle the operation of an entire state park is relatively new. Last year, the legislature passed a bill allowing private organizations to take over the operation of California’s parks without first having to gain approval for each individual decision.

A recent report by the Legislative Analyst Office estimated that, by privatizing the operation of many parks, the state could save tens of millions of dollars each year.

Parks Department Deputy Director Roy Stearns admits that the idea has been met with some hostility. State Senator Noreen Evans, for example, said that park privatization is “inconsistent with serving the public.”

“We’ve gotten some pushback, but people are more and more coming to the realization that our budget has serious problems,” Stearns told The Huffington Post. “There are private companies in the Parks and Rec business that do it well. People shouldn’t see private enterprise as a dirty word. Our main goal is to get though these tough times.”

Other states have considered going the privatization route, but California is the first to actually implement it. Currently, the state is in final negotiations on private operation for six parks: Castle Crags, Benbow Lake, Woodson Bridge, Brannan Island, Turlock Lake and Limekiln.





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KOA Notes 7% Upturn On Holiday Weekend

May 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

All signs still point to a successful 2012 camping year at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).

KOA reported Tuesday (May 29) in a news release that camper check-ins for the May 26-28 Memorial Day camping weekend were up about 7% from the same period in 2011.

“We’re seeing nothing but positive signs for the 2012 summer camping season,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Our annual Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend on May 11-12 was up nearly 10% from last year, and our winter camping season in the Southern states was also very strong.”

Advanced reservations for the rest of the summer camping season are running about 6% ahead of the same period last year.

“North Americans are rediscovering the benefits of the outdoors,” Hittmeier said. “There is no better place to reconnect with family and friends, and no better way to do it than camping.”

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RV Owners Like Lifestyle’s Freedom, Relaxation

April 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Family enjoys RVing lifestyle (Photo courtesy of RVIA)

There’s something about an RV, from tent trailer to Class A motorhome, that makes it more than the sum of its parts.

As reported by the Windsor (Ontario) Star, RV owners aren’t just looking for a place to spend the night, cook meals and hide out of the rain; they are buying into a lifestyle.

Ask anyone who has driven to the Northwest Territories to see 24 hours of sunlight, or has spent a spring or fall enjoying the scenery of Canada’s East Coast — a recreational vehicle is a ticket to a very different kind of vacation.

Ken Maines has been spending weekends at campsites since he was a child. His family owned a series of RVs, and as an adult he continues the tradition. In fact, he now works in the RV industry.

But Maines still takes time away from running Race Track RV in Airdrie, Alberta, to hit the road with wife Charlene and take in the fresh air of the great outdoors.

Maines says the RV lifestyle is about freedom, and it’s a complete 180-degree turn from everyday life.

“When you get to a campsite it doesn’t matter if the Flames lost or the Dow Jones dropped points,” says Maines. “The most important things become ‘what are we going to do this afternoon?’ and ‘what are we going to cook on the open fire?’”

He says it is a joy to be able to park in a beautiful location and go fishing, take a walk or simply relax by the fire. What makes the experience even better, he adds, is that wherever he goes, he meets people with the same priorities.

Not only is taking a trip in an RV a great way to meet new friends, Maines says, it is also a great way to get to know your family.

He says once you get away from all of those distractions at home, you can really have a chance to sit down with your kids and teach them how to fish or make a fire, or just talk.

One of his fondest memories is camping as a child and being taught how to whittle by his grandfather.

“Are you going to teach your kids how to whittle in the backyard? That’s not going to happen — they’re too busy with their Playstations and Nintendos or whatever.”

He adds that people who want to bring all of the conveniences of home along with them have plenty of options. Today’s RVs can include premium stereos, large-screen televisions, microwave ovens and everything else that might make a trip a bit more comfortable.

The RV lifestyle also provides people with the ability to go where they want, when they want.

Maines says instead of taking one trip that may cost $3,000, putting that money every year toward an RV allows people to take vacations, from overnights and weekends to weeks-long holidays, whenever they want.

He says there is so much to discover within driving distance in Alberta, the northern United States and the rest of Canada that there’s no reason to hop on a plane.

An RV owner can take a drive out to Lake Koocanusa one weekend, and then visit the Taber Cornfest the next; take a drive up Highway 7 in Ontario in the fall and see the amazing colours, tour through Quebec — and then do something completely different next time.

“The RV lifestyle is fantastic because you can stay for a day, you can stay for a week, you can stay for a month, or whatever you want.

“It’s whatever you want to do,” says Maines.

When you hook up the tent trailer or climb into the camper or motorhome and hit the road, memories are created.

“Things happen when you’re camping or RVing that would never happen at home,” says Maines. “Every day something happens.”


“I have so many memories of camping and RVing




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KOA Expects Good Crowd at Upcoming Confab

September 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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.


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KOA Launches New Online Campfire Community

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has launched a new online community that aims to give tent, cabin and RV campers an interactive and social experience.

According to a news release, KOA’s “Around the Campfire” community (powered by BlogFrog) is led by six bloggers who provide lively conversations and expertise on road trips, traveling with kids, campfire cooking, outdoor lifestyles and photography.

“As a forward thinking outdoor brand, KOA is truly embracing the power of the blogosphere and social media to its fullest potential by launching the industry’s first online camping community,” said Rustin Banks, CEO of BlogFrog.

From novice campers to those who live outdoor lifestyles, the KOA online community is a virtual place for all outdoor enthusiasts interested in learning and sharing camping strategies and tips, favorite locations, and of course campfire songs and stories. Community members can participate in the latest and hottest discussions, join a forum, share a photo, start a new discussion and live chat with like-minded campers.

“We’ve built a fully interactive online community where our campers can ask experts questions, share stories, find recipes and meet one another,” said Toby Hedges, director of digital marketing at KOA. “We chose BlogFrog for their cutting edge social media conversational marketing technology platform and their relationships with over 65,000 bloggers.”

The “Around the Campfire” community was kicked off with a launch party live chat on Tuesday (Aug. 23) that received over 1,500 replies from hundreds of active participants. The “Around The Campfire” community’s expert leaders discussed travel destinations, outdoor activities, camping tips and more. They also gave away several prizes from Coleman and Cabelas.

To learn more or simply join the community for free, click here.

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August 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Since she launched two years ago, Rue Mapp has been working tirelessly to reconnect African Americans with the Great Outdoors.

According to a press release, her website is filled with stories, photos, videos and event listings that enable African Americans to network with each other for hiking, bicycling, camping, river rafting, rock climbing and other activities in nature.

Mapp will take her efforts a step further Aug. 12-14 when she travels to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada with her nephew and three children for a three-day camping trip in a teardrop RV at Ponderosa Resort in Lotus.

Mapp said that camping and RVing are outdoor activities that, for a variety of reasons, haven’t yet taken hold in the African American community. She is hoping to change that ¬ and let people know what they’re missing.

“I’m not an outsider talking about these things because I’ve always enjoyed camping,” she said. “But I do want to spread the message that these kinds of activities are possible for African Americans in California and across the country.”

To hammer home her point, Mapp plans to do live tweeting, blogging and videotaping of her trip so that the roughly 7,000 African American members of can follow her and share in her experiences.

The press release stated that Camp-California and Ponderosa Resort ( are co-sponsoring her trip along with Auburn-based American River Sales and Rentals, which is supplying the teardrop trailer for Mapp’s use.

“This will be a deliberate application of social media to talk about a real experience and how the camping and RV industries can use social media to get African Americans and others involved in the various outdoor opportunities that are available,” Mapp said.

Ponderosa Resort, for its part, is eager to gain exposure among a market demographic that knows little about the opportunities available to them.

“Rue’s trip will help expose us to a new demographic, for sure,” said Dominic Pugliese, manager of Ponderosa Resort, a scenic, 135-site campground with over 2,000 feet of frontage along the American River. Many of the park’s campsites and rental cabins are located on the river.


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First-Ever Summit on National Parks Scheduled

August 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Leading national park interests have announced plans for a first-ever America’s Summit on National Parks on Nov. 2-3 in Washington, D.C.

According to a press release, the summit will bring together leaders from traditional national park-focused organizations and those from “additional constituencies vital to keeping America’s national parks relevant and appreciated in the future.”

The National Park Service (NPS) has agreed to play a major role in the session, including presenting its Five-Year Action Plan, which is intended to help the agency prepare for success following its 100th anniversary in 2016.

Co-organizers are the National Parks Conservation Association, National Park Foundation and National Park Hospitality Association. Among the summit topics will be strategies for boosting and improving national park experiences, reversing a decline in annual park visits over more than two decades and new strategies for partnerships and cooperation.

Park friends groups, education and health community entities and tourism organizations will join key NPS staff, federal and state elected officials and park advocates at the two-day session. Participation will be limited to approximately 300 persons and is by invitation only.

For information about becoming an invitee, contact Julia Mitchell at


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