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.”
The San Diego Metro KOA Campground was named 2013 KOA Franchisee of the Year on Friday (Nov. 16) during Kampgrounds of America’s annual International Convention at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla.
The San Diego Metro KOA is the first repeat winner of the award in KOA’s 50-year history. The Bell Family, owners of the San Diego campground and another park – Williams/Grand Canyon KOA in Arizona – also won the award in 1985.
“The Bell Family is a perfect choice to be our top campground for 2013,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “The Bells have three generations currently working at the campground. That park has literally been their lives for the past 45 years.”
The San Diego Metro KOA is a tree-lined jewel in the heart of Chula Vista, just south of downtown San Diego. Patriarch Ted Bell built the campground in 1967 while working his “other” job as a detective for the Chula Vista Police Department. His son, Mike worked at the campground since age 13 and made the KOA his full-time job right after college. Mike’s sons and daughter – Josh, Clint and Molly – were all raised on the campground and all still working for the family business.
“The Bells run a very tight ship, and they do everything right,” Hittmeier said. “Their values, work ethic and desire to provide the best experience possible for their guests align perfectly with Kampgrounds of America.”
Don Lowe, CEO of Franchise Services Inc. and a former executive with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), was honored recently with the Darrell Booth Lifetime Achievement Award by KOA.
Both Franchise Services Inc. of Mission Viejo, Calif., and Kampgrounds of America Inc. of Billings, Mont., are owned by KOA Holdings Inc., according to a news release.
The award, named after Darrell Booth, the first KOA president, was presented during Franchise Services Inc.’s recent national convention in Baltimore. Lowe currently heads a franchise management company that includes Sir Speedy, PIP Printing and TeamLogic IT. Sir Speedy and PIP are the largest printing and marketing services franchises in the world.
Raised in rural Kentucky, Lowe learned that fairness and integrity were prized values that could shape an organization. Lowe first joined the KOA Holdings family in 1972 as KOA’s national merchandising director. His KOA career included many promotions, and he was the senior vice president of KOA prior to his Sir Speedy assignment. Lowe’s franchise expertise was considered exceptional, and he demonstrated his natural leadership through a philosophy of fairness and respect to build relationships with franchisees.
When KOA was looking to acquire another franchise company, they learned of Sir Speedy, a struggling printing franchise that was in bankruptcy. KOA purchased Sir Speedy in 1978 and selected Lowe to lead the revival of the new sister company.
Under his direction, the Sir Speedy franchising model and its business practices changed dramatically — beginning with the franchisor/franchisee relationship. That solid relationship allowed Sir Speedy to lead its network through many changes, including offering consumers the newest technology offerings of color, faxing, desktop publishing, digital printing, print-on-demand, online ordering and document management.
Under Lowe’s leadership, Sir Speedy Inc. realized unprecedented growth that positioned the company to expand, and prompted the creation of a holding company, Franchise Services Inc. (FSI).In January 1996, FSI purchased MultiCopy, the largest franchise printing chain in Europe. Later that same year, FSI had the opportunity to purchase PIP Printing, the nation’s first quick printing franchise brand. Under his leadership as CEO, FSI has gained worldwide market share. Today the company includes more than 500 locations in 13 countries.
During his career, Lowe has helped over 1,500 people fulfill their desire to own their own business, control their own destiny and provide for their families. Lowe’s son, Richard Lowe, is now president and chief operating officer of Franchise Services Inc.
The Darrell Booth Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to deserving individuals whose values and achievements mirror those of Booth, who laid the foundation for Kampgrounds of America Inc. to become the world’s largest and most successful system of family-oriented campgrounds. The first recipient of the award was Richard A. Cutler, a founding partner in the Cutler and Donahoe Law Firm in Sioux Falls, S.D., and also president of the Recreation Adventures Company, which owns and operates 10 KOA campgrounds in the U.S.
Franchise Services Inc., (FSI) is a franchise management company that owns the franchise brands, Sir Speedy, PIP Printing and Marketing Services, Signal Graphics, Copies Now, MultiCopy and TeamLogic IT. Franchise Services has a 40-year history managing award-winning brands that support the small- to medium-sized business market. The company’s brands and worldwide affiliates encompass more than 500 locations in 13 countries. FSI’s brands have received numerous awards and recognition including; the Franchise Times Top 200, Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, Quick Printing Top 100, Printing Impressions 400, Franchise Times Fast 55, Franchise 50 and the International Franchise Association’s Franchisee of the Year Award.
Kampgrounds of America is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2012. KOA was born on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Mont., in 1962.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and the ROUTE 66 RV Network are partnering to extend benefits to members of both companies, according to a press release.
Under the new partnership, KOA’s 350,000 Value Kard Rewards Program members will receive 10% discounts on parts and accessories at all ROUTE 66 RV Network locations. In return, the more than 150,000 campers who carry the ROUTE 66 RV Network membership card will receive 10% discounts on camping at any KOA location.
In addition, KOA Value Kard Rewards members will have access to special monthly product offerings at Parts66.com, the online store for ROUTE 66 RV Network, as well as camping content and tips from the ScenicROUTEOnline.com website. KOA campgrounds will also be listed on ROUTE 66 RV Network websites and online applications.
All ROUTE 66 RV Network dealers will receive a KOA dealer kit that includes the KOA directory as well as other materials to distribute to members; free listings on the world’s most visited camping website, KOA.com; and integration with KOA’s growing online social media and KOA Kompass email newsletter communities.
“This is a great opportunity to expose both KOA’s and ROUTE 66’s services to customers that haven’t had access to before,” said KOA Vice President for Brand Development Lorne Armer.
Dave Francis, partner for ROUTE 66 RV Network, noted, “This is truly a win/win situation for both companies as well as all of our loyal guests and customers,” Francis said. “KOA and ROUTE 66 RV Network are a perfect fit.”
KOA is the world’s largest network of family-friendly campgrounds with 488 locations throughout North America. ROUTE 66 RV Network, with headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., has nearly 150 dealer locations in 41 states.
Despite continued hot temperatures over much of the continent, as well as fires in the western U.S., Kampgrounds of America (KOA) locations in North America hosted more than 100,000 campers this Labor Day holiday weekend.
The number of KOA campers staying at one of the 484 KOA locations in North America was up nearly 1 percent over the results from Labor Day Weekend 2011, according to a news release.
“We saw double-digit growth over last year in several locations,” said KOA Vice President of Communications Mike Gast. “The Labor Day holiday weekend continued our growth trend for the year.”
So far, year-to-date, KOA has seen a 2.5 percent growth in the number of short-term camper nights in the KOA system, compared to the same time period in 2011.
States and Canadian provinces that saw double-digit camper growth over the Labor Day weekend included British Columbia, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma and Oregon.
Kampgrounds of America is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2012. KOA, the world’s largest network of family friendly campgrounds, was born on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Mont., in 1962.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) reported that advanced reservations for the 2012 Labor Day Weekend holiday are running about 2.5% ahead of the same period in 2011 .
With just a week to go before the last major summer holiday of 2012, reservations at KOA’s 484 campgrounds in the United States and Canada are still rolling in at a pace well ahead of the same period last year, the Billings, Mont.-based company announced in a news release. KOA noted it is also running more than 2% ahead of 2011 year-to-date in the number of short-term camper nights in the system.
“Even with the unusual camping patterns caused by a July 4 holiday last month, 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% 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 are still running more than 5.5% ahead of the same period in 2011.
Meanwhile, KOA announced that the more than 350,000 members of Kampgrounds of America’s Value Kard Rewards program have the opportunity to camp for free on Sept. 15 at participating KOAs throughout North America.
KOA Value Kard Rewards members who stay as paying guests at a participating campground Sept. 14 will receive a free night of camping the following night.
“It’s our way of saying ‘thank you’ to these very special members of the KOA family,” said Lorne Armer, KOA vice president of brand development who oversees KOA’s Value Kard Rewards program. “We want them to have the chance to get in at least one more fun camping trip with their families before fall officially arrives.”
Nearly 400 KOA locations throughout North America are participating in this special offer to KOA Value Kard Rewards members. Although membership in KOA Value Kard Rewards is not required to stay at any KOA campground, the program does offer savings on camping, Kamping Points that can be used for future camping savings, as well as special offers from KOA partners.