More than 110,000 campers flocked to Kampgrounds of America (KOA) parks over the Memorial Day Weekend, according to a written announcement from the Billings, Mont.-based company.
The 486 KOA locations in North America saw 3% more camper check-ins this year, compared to results from the Memorial Day Weekend in 2013. Thus far in the 2014 camping season, KOA has seen an increase in short-term camping nights of nearly 5% compared to the same period in 2013.
KOA campgrounds saw a more than 6% increase in camper nights during the recent KOA Care Camps Big Weekend May 9-10, and advance reservations for the rest of the summer season are also running ahead of 2013 results at this point in the season.
“Campers are obviously anxious to get back outdoors and camp after a long, hard winter,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Our owners are making significant investments in improvements in their campgrounds, and we know campers are going to appreciate the enhanced camping experiences they are going to have on KOAs throughout North America.”
While camper interest in KOA continues to grow, there are still plenty of good campsites and cabins available throughout the summer, KOA reported.
Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. is the newest approved provider for KOA Deluxe Cabins, according to Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) Senior Business Development Consultant and Cabin Program Manager Mike Atkinson.
“Adding Forest River to our line of approved cabin suppliers adds healthy competition and increases the purchasing options for our campground owners, while maintaining the quality of deluxe cabins being added to the KOA system,” Atkinson said in a press release.
Other approved deluxe cabin suppliers include Cavco Industries and General Coach of Canada.
Kampgrounds of America now has 2,200 KOA Deluxe Cabins, which include full bathrooms and some kitchens, located at more than 334 KOAs in North America.
A million copies of the new 2014 edition of the Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) directory have rolled off the presses and are now available to campers throughout North America.
According to a press release, this year’s edition has a few enhancements as each of the 486 KOA campground listings was increased to one-third of a page and may include a full-color photograph supplied by the campground.
Also new this year, the traditional state grid listing of campground features and amenities has been replaced by colorful icons that will give campers instant information on a campground’s offerings without the need to leave the campground’s listing. The KOA directory also contains detailed state and provencial maps, as well as “last mile” locator maps that make the directory a true North American road atlas.
Copies of the new directory have already been shipped directly to the homes of hundreds of thousands of members of the KOA Value Kard Rewards Program. Directories are also available free of charge at all open KOA campgrounds in North America.
The 2014 Directory is the first “consumer” marketing piece that speaks to KOA’s three new brand positions – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort. More than 110 KOA owners have already adopted one of the new brands for their campground. The new brand positions are designed to better identify campground services and amenities for campers, aiding them in making their camping trip plans.
“The directory is one of our main communication devices to reach campers,” said KOA Vice President of Marketing Toby Hedges. “Our goal this year is to tell the story of ‘What’s Behind The Yellow Sign?’ while putting the directory into the hands of KOA campers as quickly as possible.”
Again this year, the KOA directory is also available in digital format. Campers can view or download the digital directory by clicking here. The directory can also be ordered by mail through the KOA.com website.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) named the Fredericksburg/Washington D.C. South, Va. KOA as Campground of the Year during last week’s international convention in Austin, Texas.
The campground, owned and operated by Susan and Ron Hart, has been part of the 486-campground KOA system since 1976, when Susan’s father purchased and developed the property.
“The Harts are true believers in the KOA brand,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier in a press release. “They have always done a wonderful job of using the tools we offer to better develop their campground for their campers. It’s a wonderful place, and absolutely deserving of being our 2014 KOA Campground of the Year.”
The quiet campground, nestled in the Virginia countryside, is surrounded by four historic Civil War battlefields. Kings Dominion Amusement Park is also close by, as is George Washington’s boyhood home.
The Harts met on the campground as teenagers, when Ron came to work for Susan’s father. Although the two owned and operated a local tour business for several years, they jumped at the chance to purchase the park in 2000.
“The campground was our parents’ baby, and we feel so fortunate to have been given this blessing,” Susan said. “KOA has always been there for us over the years, and it’s so special to be honored as the KOA Campground of the Year from among the hundreds of deserving franchisees.”
Lazydays RV and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) have reached agreement on the sale of the Lazydays RV Campground in Tucson, Ariz., to KOA.
According to a press release, the campground will now be known as the Tucson/Lazydays KOA Campground. It will join 486 other locations in the KOA system throughout North America.
Lazydays RV CEO Tim Sheehan said the agreement with KOA includes a marketing agreement that allows the two iconic outdoor industry brands to work together to promote both the campground and Lazydays RV, which will continue to operate a Lazydays RV dealership and service center at the Tucson site.
“We are confident that Lazydays RV and KOA, working together, will provide an unparalleled RV ownership and camping experience for guests,” Sheehan said. “KOA and Lazydays will also work together to increase awareness of our businesses among our respective customers.”
KOA President Pat Hittmeier said Lazydays’ culture of “extraordinary customer care” fits well with KOA’s focus on guest service.
“I’m confident that the synergy created by combining our two respected brands will exceed our expectations at all levels, Hittmeier said. “It was quite evident as this transaction developed that KOA and Lazydays have a healthy amount of respect and trust for each other, which allowed us to proceed to this point. We’re looking forward to a very bright future at the new Tucson/Lazydays KOA.”
The agreement on the Tucson property will be finalized in early November, after KOA completes the due diligence process at the campground.
The Port Huron, Mich., KOA, owned and operated by Howard and Shirley Stein, is the first campground in the Kampgrounds of America Inc. system of 485 locations in North America to be designated as a KOA Resort.
According to a press release, the Port Huron KOA, a former KOA Campground of the Year, has been an important part of the system for more than 23 years. The campground sits on 70 acres just a one-hour drive from Detroit or Flint.
The campground includes a western town complex, ice cream parlor, a fleet of rental bikes, sports complex and its own passenger train. An adjacent amusement park also has two water slides, a plunge pool, bumper boats and go-carts.
The western town includes an opera house/theater, restrooms and laundromat, a trading post gift shop, grocery store, Mad Dog Saloon food service and soda bar, and the sheriff’s office.
Owner Howard Stein is a native of Port Huron. He developed the campground from a small 160-site facility to more than 450 sites that includes single and double-room cabins, deluxe cabins, deluxe patio RV sites and shaded tent sites.
“We look at the transition to becoming a KOA Resort as a mere alignment of our longtime philosophy,” Stein said. “Our development has always been driven by the desires of our guests, and being the first KOA Resort is a perfect fit for us.”
Over the next few years, KOA campgrounds across North America will be rebranded as either a KOA Journey, a KOA Holiday or a KOA Resort campground.
David and Cathleen Kuebler, owners of the Traverse City (Mich.) KOA Holiday campground, have a real problem.
“We’ve been adding more four-person Deluxe Cabins with linens and at this point, we’re having trouble keeping them empty,” says David. “We have upgraded them with patios, furniture and propane BBQs. People just love them. Right now we have 10 Deluxe Cabins with linens, and we will need to continue adding more due to the demand.”
It’s that kind of forethought that keeps the Keublers at the forefront of the industry, according to a news release. They’ve owned the campground for 19 years. For the 14 years they’ve been with KOA, they’ve used the KOA Quality Assurance program as their roadmap to keep the property in great shape; earn the Founder’s Award, KOA’s highest quality recognition, four times; and maintain a Net Promoter Score of an astonishing 87%.
By keeping up with the latest camping trends and best investments – like KOA’s Deluxe Cabins – the Kueblers were able to easily meet KOA’s criteria for becoming a KOA Holiday campground.
”KOA has not let us down in our many years associated with the brand,” says Cathleen.
KOA Holiday Campgrounds, such as the Traverse City KOA Holiday, are great base camps to explore the area, and include family activities and additional amenities to make these KOAs great getaways for short vacations. They will also all feature KOA Deluxe Cabins, which include full bathrooms and may include full kitchens.
“We work toward having a great score for our Quality Assurance and we’ve read about and have kept up with any changes, so all we have needed to do is tweak a few items to be ready to go as a KOA Holiday,” says David.
Because the Kueblers are savvy KOA businesspeople, their main focus is serving their campers. “The campers love concrete patios, cable TV, quality Wi-Fi, paved roads and more. Our motto has always been: Be clean and friendly, provide great service, and give campers something to do.”
Summer camping numbers at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) locations continued to grow, bolstered by more than 16% growth in camping over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
KOA reported Monday (July 8) that short-term camper nights for the Fourth of July holiday increased 16.3% over the same period in 2012, according to a press release. Year-to-date, Kampgrounds of America’s 485 locations in North America are reporting a 2.5% growth in camper nights, compared to the same period last year.
“Camping numbers have been very strong all year,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Despite some weather challenges in certain areas, we are looking at significant growth in 2013.”
Advanced reservations for Labor Day Weekend are running nearly 12% over the same period last year, and overall camper nights for the remainder of the summer peak season (now through September 8) are running about 4.6% over the same period in 2012.
For more information on Kampgrounds of America, go to www.koa.com.
Camping numbers at the 485 Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) locations in North America over Memorial Day Weekend matched the strong growth KOA experienced over the holiday weekend last year.
According to figures released Tuesday (May 28) by KOA, more than 100,000 campers stayed at KOA campgrounds over the 2013 holiday weekend – the traditional start of the summer camping season.
“Our camping numbers were essentially flat to what we saw on Memorial Day Weekend in 2012,” said KOA Vice President of Marketing Toby Hedges. “But that is still very good news, since our numbers in 2012 were up more than 6% over the Memorial Day Weekend numbers in 2011.”
Hedges said this year’s numbers would likely have easily exceeded those in 2012, except for the large amount of adverse weather in much of the U.S. last weekend.
KOA advanced reservations for the 2013 summer peak season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) continue to be strong at more than 8% over the same period in 2012. Advanced reservations for the 2013 Fourth of July holiday alone are running 15% over the same period in 2012.
Summer camping at the 485 Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) locations around North America is off to a fast start, according to numbers released this week by KOA, the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds.
KOA’s advanced registrations for the Memorial Day Weekend are up more than 4% over the same period in 2012. Advanced reservations for the entire summer peak season (Memorial Day to Labor Day) are even stronger, showing an increase of 8% for that period compared to 2012.
“The 12-day period surrounding the Fourth of July holiday is actually up more than 14% over that same period in 2012,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “All indicators show a strong summer camping season on the way.”
According to a recent survey by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), an estimated 14 million Americans will enjoy the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend in an RV. The survey also said 71% of RV owners intend to use their recreational vehicles more this summer than they did last year, and an additional 21% intend to use their RVs at least as much as they did in 2012. Only 5% reported that they intend to decrease their camping.
Kampgrounds of America officially launched its summer camping season with its 10th Annual KOA Care Camps Big Weekend May 10-11. More than 12,000 KOA camping families stayed more than 25,000 camping nights during the event. Campers who stayed as paying guests on Friday, May 10 received a free night of camping on Saturday, May 11. The event also serves as a major fundraiser for KOA Care Camps for children with cancer, a network of 55 specialized summer camps for children with cancer located throughout North America.
After almost 20 years and $5 million donated to camping for children with cancer, KOA’s Care Camps program executives have decided it’s time to take it up a notch.
As reported by Woodall’s Campground Management, Care Camps board member Wade Elliott said a marketing company was invited to the February board meeting for discussions about “further refining and defining ourselves, and helping us find where we should be.”
That entails setting new goals and “re-energizing” the whole program, said Mike Gast, vice president of communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA). “We want to pay more attention to it than we were able to do,” he explained. “It’s been averaging $500,000 a year that we’ve raised for Care Camps and it’s been on a steady climb, and we just want to keep that going.”
There are three audiences KOA and the Care Camps board need to connect with, he said. The first is campground owners. “We have new owners that are buying campgrounds all the time, so it’s a constant re-education process” to bring those new owners into the loop.
Next are the directors of the Care Camps themselves. “These independent cancer camps put in requests for funding and we try our best to raise it. We have to stay in better contact with them in order to gauge their needs and make sure they’re getting what they need to operate the camps so the kids don’t have to pay anything.”
The third group with perhaps the most untapped potential, Gast said, is KOA campers. “We need to educate our campers about Care Camps and help them establish an emotional attachment with these kids and what we’re raising the money for,” he said.
One effective way to do that is the Come Camp & Care With Us annual event held each May at participating campgrounds, also called “The Big Weekend.” Campers who stay as paying guests on Friday night get Saturday night for free. Gast said it’s a “huge kickoff to the camping season” for all the campgrounds, but it’s also the largest single fundraiser event for Care Camps. This year’s event takes place May 10-11.
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Kampgrounds of America Inc (KOA) graduated 39 new KOA owners representing 23 campgrounds during two sessions in February and March at its KOA University in Billings, Mont.
The new graduates were schooled in KOA facilities development, financial planning, human resources and hiring practices, merchandising, marketing and recreation, along with other important facets of campground operation, according to a news release.
The specialized, one-of-a-kind training is designed to get new KOA owners off to a fast start in campground operations, and introduce them to the many proprietary KOA tools and support mechanisms at their disposal.
“This has been a wonderful experience,” said Scott Jacobson, owner of the Denver East/Strasburg, Colorado KOA. “The best takeaway was the knowledge that we are not along, and that help is just a phone call away. Open communication with KOA is the key to success for all of us.”
Kampgrounds of America hosts six KOA University sessions each year for new KOA owners and managers at its KOA Home Office facility in Billings. Training sessions are also scheduled for April 8-11, May 6-9 and Oct. 7-10.
Since the creation of KOA University in 1970, more than 22,000 campground owners and managers have graduated from the program.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has added two campgrounds in Florida owned by Geoff and Hiromi Goetz. The couple currently operate three facilities in the state.
According to a press release, new additions to the national network are the Wildwood KOA and the Lake Panasoffkee/I-75 KOA.
Geoff Goetz has been in the campground business for nearly a decade, after a career in residential home building and developing.
“I kind of ‘backed in’ to the campground business indirectly,” he said. “My father and I bought a piece of property that was being used as a mobile home park. Once we took out the mobile homes, we rented RVs on the land and learned how much easier the tenancy laws are for RVs.”
He added, “Then I met the people who drive those RVs, and now they’re my favorite part of the business. Most campers are very kind – so many of my guests have offered to take me fishing or out to lunch! They are also very diverse, so they expand my perspective.”
Goetz was attracted to KOA because of the level of brand recognition, noting, “People know KOA even if they don’t know RVing.” He was also encouraged by KOA’s money back guarantee to new owners. “That tells me that they believe in their own ability to perform,” he said.
He attended the 2012 KOA Convention in Orlando, which was just 20 minutes from his home. “I was amazed at the number of people there,” said Goetz of KOA’s largest gathering ever. “I learned a lot about the KOA Cabins program, including management and maintenance.”
Another topic at the convention was KOA’s new plans for brand positioning. “I’m all for it. I think it’s awesome and I think it makes perfect sense to our customers,” he said. “There is a perception in the RVing community that KOA is expensive. The folks who are traveling through want a place to spend the night, where they aren’t necessarily paying for amenities and services they won’t use. My Wildwood KOA will be a KOA Journey as soon as possible.”
Geoff also finds the KOA Rate Your Stay camper survey very useful. “We read and use the feedback all the time. We’ve made several changes and improvements based specifically on our guests’ Rate Your Stay comments.”
The recent appearance by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) CEO Jim Roger on “Undercover Boss” garnered unprecedented attention for the KOA brand, its campgrounds and KOA owners and staffs, according to a news release.
KOA was featured in the Jan. 11 episode of the award-winning “Undercover Boss” show, now in its fourth season on CBS.
“We were absolutely blown away from the reaction across North America,” said Rogers, who took on the persona of Tim Bickford, a mild-mannered, out-of-work accountant from San Francisco.
“Undercover Boss was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to both receive totally unfiltered feedback from employees and our franchisee partners, as well as promote KOAs new deluxe cabins, destination attractions, Care Camps, and outstanding guest service to over 9 million viewers,” Rogers said. “We showed North America the great diversity of KOA’s outdoor hospitality.”
The KOA episode of “Undercover Boss” was the seventh episode of the show’s fourth season, and grabbed the second highest ratings of any show since the season premiere last November.
The KOA episode also “won the night” for CBS, ranking first in households watching; first in actual viewers and first among both adults in the 25-54 age group and the 18-49 age group. The ratings were up 20% over the “Undercover Boss” episode from the previous week.
The show also provided a bump for KOA.
Reservations across the 485-campground KOA system were up 17% for the weekend of Jan. 11-13, compared to the same weekend last year, and reserved nights at the four KOA properties featured in the episode were up 169% over last year.
KOA’s popular KOA.com website also benefited, with a 128% increase in visits versus the same weekend last year.
“The web traffic on Jan. 11 nearly matched the traffic we would normally see during the weekend before the Fourth of July weekend,” Rogers said. “That is traditionally our busiest weekend of the year for web traffic.”
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) drew a record crowd of park operators and exhibiting expo vendors Nov. 15-18 for its 50th Annual KOA International Convention at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. – a significant “Golden Anniversary” moment for the Billings, Mont.-based park franchisor that came on the heels of a strong business year despite plenty of natural and political headwinds.
Among them were some of the hottest temperatures on record accompanied by insufferable drought conditions over half the country and wildfires in Colorado and other western states that curtailed to an extent the regular summer season for the 486-park system of which 26 facilities are company-owned.
“The KOA system proved to be strong enough to increase camper nights and revenue and grow our footprint, all in a year when the economy and consumer confidence were sluggish, heat records were set across the country and gas prices fluctuated, but remained high,” KOA stated in its annual report released at the convention at which the company’s senior management introduced a bold new “brand positioning” initiative.
As of late October, in fact, the nearly 500-park system rated among the “Top 50 Franchisors” for the fourth year in a row in Franchise Business Review’s annual survey, was reporting:
- Systemwide camper nights up 2.2% over 2011 with registration revenue 4.7% ahead of 2011’s.
- Growth in every North American region except the Mid-Atlantic, with Western Canada leading the pack on a 14.9% increase in camper nights and an 11.6% uptick in registration revenue.
- Increases in long-term RV camper nights for the summer season, May through October, of 12.8% with registrations up 14.3% for the same period.
- Value Kard Rewards loyalty card sales and renewals up 7.3% on revenue growth of 5.1%.
- KOA.com visitation hiked 27%.
- Deluxe cabin rentals, a key point of emphasis right now for KOA, up more than 20% with registration revenues growing 19.5%.
New Branding Unveiled
In a rather bold attempt to step away from the common perception of KOA over the past half century as a basic “roadside” lodging option for those navigating the Interstate highway system, KOA took the opportunity at its Florida convention to introduce a rather bold new “brand positioning” program through which KOA parks are to be promoted in three separate categories based on their amenities and general use by the traveling public.
The idea, says KOA CEO Jim Rogers, is to step away from a “one-size-fits-all” perception of KOA parks in the public’s eye and, in the process, to generate new business among consumers who will have a better ability to match their expectations with the park at which they choose to spend the night, the weekend or an entire vacation.
“Yes, along with this celebration, ” noted Rogers, “we’ve also introduced a major initiative to take us forward for the next 50 years, and Pat and his team have put it out to the system over the last three or four months in terms of the documentation on what we refer to as ‘brand positioning.’ We’re in such good shape in terms of the satisfaction of the system, the energy in the system and the leadership that’s been demonstrated to take advantage of what I’ve been talking about for years in growing the outdoor hospitality world and capitalizing on all those opportunities.”
The end result of this innovative new approach, a concept borrowed in part from the hotel business that’s often referred to in the industry as “segmentation,” is that parks are to be categorized and promoted to the public in the future as “KOA Journey,” “KOA Holiday” and “KOA Resort” facilities instead of simply “the next KOA down the road,” so to speak.
“We have to appreciate that this is where we have come from and that our research tells us that there are still millions upon millions of campers in this country that think of us as an Interstate system,” said Rogers, who is set to appear next year in CBS’s popular, 3-year-old “Undercover Boss” reality show. “This is what we are here to talk about – how we begin to break through that perception.”
“We use the term brand positioning,” said President Pat Hittmeier, “and what we’ve done is we’ve provided what might be called descriptors for three different groups of business based on how our guests use us today. So, there’s a ‘Journey KOA’ for the guest spending one night with us and moving on to another place. Then, there’s the destination park, which would be a place where you would go have an experience either at the park or, because of where it’s located, sort of as a base camp experience where you might be able to visit things around the area and spend multiple days at this park. We’re referring to those as the ‘Holiday KOA.’
“And then a sub-set of the Holiday KOA, which would be a place that has an abundance of services and facilities, would be the ‘Resort KOA.’”
All things considered, Hittmeier maintained, this new way of looking at KOA’s franchised and corporate-owned parks is not a “good, better, best” type of formula, but one that should instead appeal to an Internet-minded world in which a demanding and time-starved public has increasingly exhibited a “need-to-know” or a “know-before-you-go” sort of attitude. And KOA’s management believes these new brand positionings will not only help set those expectations, but, according to the plan, ultimately drive new business to KOA campgrounds.
“Now, in combination with that, we’ve sort of rolled in with this some new quality assurance requirements for our campgrounds,” said Hittmeier. “So, it’s not just a name. We’ve done a lot of deep research over the past ten years and worked with some focus groups and some qualitative studies to determine how and why people use us, and those requirements are part of getting into this brand positioning. So, campgrounds are not going to be able to just hang the sign up tomorrow without having to make sure that they meet these qualifications that we can then market to that particular defined camper to help drive that business.
What does Hittmeier anticipate with regard to the franchisees’ reception to this new approach, which is to be dialed in over the next couple of years and will be reflected in signage, the directory and website? “You know, based on the kind of reaction we’re getting here with this record crowd, I’d say that we were on the right track,” Hittmeier told RVBusiness. ”We laid things out on the first day and have been talking about this new program in the hallways and we’ve got a lot of momentum going with this right now, and I think it’s going to be very big.”