Editor’s Note: The following is a story profiling Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) founder Dave Drum. Authored by Steve Bibler, its part of a series of stories commemorating the 50th anniversary of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) that appear in the October issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
KOA founder Dave Drum was born March 7, 1923, in Rushville, Ind., but he grew up on a ranch near Miles City, Mont. He earned a Purple Heart serving with the U.S. Marines in World War II and then served his country again during the Korean Conflict. In between wars, he earned a business degree, in 1947, from the University of Montana.
“He was a cowboy with an IQ of 180,” says former KOA CEO Art Peterson.
He says that in a polite sense, as Drum did all manner of things to better himself.
“He was a smart guy and very successful,” adds KOA historian Jim Graff, “but he soon lost interest when things got up and running at KOA – and Dave moved on to other ventures.”
Drum’s place in the history of Montana, not to mention the outdoor hospitality business, was cemented in 1962 when he took a leap of faith and got into the campground business. His simple idea expanded dramatically during its first decade, with 262 franchises opening in the first seven years.
KOA went public in 1969, offering more than 300,000 shares of stock over a three-year period.
Drum remained active on KOA’s board of directors until 1972 and after selling his KOA shares in 1975, lived in Polson with his wife, Dorothy, and wintered in Palm Springs, Calif.
Everyone who knew Dave Drum has a favorite story about him. For Pat Hittmeier, KOA president, it’s when he was sent in the mid-1980s to negotiate a land sale with Drum for choice property Drum owned near Polson in northwest Montana. KOA wanted to put a campground there. By this time, Drum had already “made millions and lost millions a couple of times,” Hittmeier reckoned.
Hittmeier pitched KOA’s offer while Drum watched the Col. Oliver North trial on TV in his home.
“He started going on over all the things we would do if we built the campground, the kinds of people it would attract and how we might attract people there, but I could never get him to give me a price for the land,” Hittmeier said. “Ultimately, I had to buy land from somebody else.”
In addition to KOA, Drum’s business adventures included cattle ranching, feedlots, apple orchards and land development. He helped establish the Billings Metra, a large complex used for concerts, expositions, sporting events, livestock shows and the Montana Fair.
Meanwhile, Drum served in the 1967 Montana Legislature, was a member of the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1976 against John Melcher to fill the Senate seat vacated by Mike Mansfield.
In 1986 Drum told a reporter for U.S. News & World Report, “(Money) doesn’t mean a hell of a lot because chances are you’re still going to live with the same gal and drink the same whiskey.”
Drum died Oct. 19, 1994, in Billings.
Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Jim Rogers, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), for the October issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. KOA is celebrating its 50th year.
No matter where you turn, you’ll find evidence that future prospects for outdoor activity and campground occupancy growth are extraordinary. KOA intends to combine the best of its past with its best innovation and leadership for the future to assure its continued success for its franchisee partners.
Whether you are reading Dr. Richard Curtin’s “The RV Consumer in 2011,” the 2010 Harris Interactive Research on “RV Perceptions and Purchase Motivators” or the “Outdoor Industry Foundation/Coleman/KOA Special Report on Camping,” you can only conclude that the outlook for all types of camping are outstanding.
Our campers, our prospects and the marketplace they create have changed dramatically, as have the ways we can effectively communicate with them. KOA believes that sales and service strategies going forward must be pro-active and align directly to personal needs, wants, travel/recreational preferences and economics.
KOA will adapt its marketing and services to better attract and serve the ethnic diversity that is present within our population. Today’s outdoor participants are over 80 percent Caucasian. But America’s largest camper base lives in California where the Hispanic population is approaching 40 percent. Population forecasts further confirm a much wider ethnic diversity throughout the United States in the future. These factors represent significant incremental growth for KOA campgrounds.
KOA will further emphasize its operational focus of thinking from the “outside in” not the “inside out.” We think about our customers/guests from their perspective. Outdoor enthusiasts pursue a variety of activities in different ways. A backpacker may own an RV, a kayaker may hike, fish, bike, and use both public and private campgrounds. RVers and campers want greater cooperation between us all. They just want us all to make it easy for them to find and service their gear and to enjoy the many activities that the outdoors provides them.
You can’t pick up your favorite form of media and not see a story about the outdoors. It is prevalent in discussions today as it relates to health, youth, tourism economics, adventure travel, the need people have for an “unplugged” peaceful environment and affordability.
The Harris Interactive study concluded that nearly “10 million households nationwide should be categorized as potential RV owners.” Wow! Curtain’s update pointed out the fact that over one quarter of all former RV owners intend to re-enter the RV lifestyle and that is significant.
The 2011 Special Report on Camping sponsored by the Outdoor Foundation, Coleman and KOA reiterates the magnitude of the camping marketplace. The report on camping estimated that approximately 40 million Americans or 15 percent camp annually. The most cited reason for reducing the number of camping trips was a lack of time due to work and family commitments.
KOA believes that loyal returning customers are the best customers we have. They buy more, recommend to others, reduce marketing costs and are less price sensitive. They are word of mouth/mouse champions and promoters. They also help us by introducing new people to the life style and outdoor fun. And KOA’s one-of-a-kind marketing technologies will only improve its abilities for targeted initiatives and improved ROI’s on marketing investments for our franchisees and the company.
Camper research also confirms that over half of private campground guests today are “regional” if not “local.” Due to time constraints, fuel prices, and the availability of great destination campgrounds close to home, RV families are taking advantage of nearby campgrounds. This trend is here to stay and our campgrounds are rapidly adapting to the different hospitality requirements of these trends.
We know that uncertainty is here to stay. Market indicators substantiate that there are plenty of prospects and a growing interest in camping/outdoors. KOA’s high-tech, high-touch strategies are aligned to optimize these trends for years to come.
Editor’s Note: The following story, authored by Steve Bibler, appears in the latest issue of Woodall’s Campground Management profiling Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) as the company marks its 50th anniversary. To view the entire article click here.
The 50th year of operation for industry leader Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), headquartered in Billings, Mont., reaches a crescendo during the company’s golden anniversary convention, scheduled for Nov. 15-18 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention center in Orlando, Fla.
“I look forward to the largest gathering of ‘KOA Nation’ in history,” President Pat Hittmeier told Woodall’s Campground Management. “Our (advance registration) numbers look like that could happen, which I think is exciting for a 50-year-old company to get that much interest by its participating members to gather.”
The 488-member family, the world’s largest chain of campgrounds, has completed another successful summer season with same-campground revenues through August up 4.5 percent over a year ago, Hittmeier reported. Numbers were up for KOA’s Care Camp Weekend in May, Father’s Day in June, July Fourth holiday weekends and Labor Day weekend.
“I suppose you can say we’re hitting on all cylinders. It’s all working well together this year, it’s hitting its stride,” Hittmeier continued. “It’s been a great summer in every aspect.”
KOA again sponsored a major RV promotion with Keystone RV Co. this year, with a $40,000 Vantage RV going to the grand prize winner, as well as daily and weekly free camping promotions all year long via its social media outlets.
Meanwhile, KOA announced that the more than 350,000 members of KOA’s Value Kard Rewards program earned the opportunity to camp for free Sept. 15at participating KOAs throughout North America. KOA Value Kard Rewards members who stayed as paying guests at a participating campground Sept. 14 received a free night of camping the following night.
And the positive developments are far from over, with a major announcement expected during the convention.
“We have some exciting news to present to them that will get a lot of attention. I am looking forward to that reaction. It will get a lot of attention,” Hittmeier said, without tipping his hand.
KOA’s overall performance underscores what Hittmeier calls the willingness of the American camping public to patronize the best known brand in the RV park and campground industry.
The desire to associate with KOA is apparent as the company continues to work with prospective new franchisees. Several new prospects were in the pipeline as the final quarter of 2012 approached. “It’s touch and go whether we’ll hit 500 by the end of this year,” Hittmeier said. “It would be nice to do that on our 50th anniversary but I don’t know. We’ll see.”
To read the entire article click here.
The ROUTE 66 RV Network recently completed its 9th Annual Rally in Peachtree City, Ga., with network dealers and partners touting the gathering as “the best rally yet,” according to a press release.
Overland Park, Kan.-based ROUTE 66 reported that attendance at the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center was over 200 strong, representing nearly 90% of the network’s dealerships and 30 vendor partners.
“Our rallies are designed to deliver good golf, good food and a great relationship-building opportunity for our dealer management teams and our partners,” said Rob Merrill, partner in the ROUTE 66 RV Network. “And this year you could sense a unity and commitment to the team like no other past rally.”
While many new programs and initiatives were launched during the Sept. 10-12 meeting, the major announcement was the partnership with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), as previously reported on RVBUSINESS.com.
Dave Francis, ROUTE 66 partner, noted, “Suffice it to say, you’ll be seeing the classic ROUTE 66 shield and famous yellow KOA logo together quite a bit in the months and years to come. When you pull the best and largest campground network together with the best and largest RV dealer network like we’ve done, you can’t help but positively impact an RVer’s overall experience and satisfaction.”
Lorne Armer, KOA’s vice president for brand development, attended the rally and addressed the dealers shortly after the formal announcement. “This partnership is a step in the natural evolution KOA has seen occur in camping over the last 50 years,” Armer said. “KOA and ROUTE 66 are always looking for new ways to evolve the industry forward to better meet the needs and serve today’s camper. Quite honestly, our challenge moving forward will be to determine what are the best of the great ideas on the table and focus our efforts there.”
Another major topic of conversation focused on the Internet side of a dealership’s operation. After two-plus years of intensive web development based on dealer input and fine-tuning, ROUTE 66 detailed the performance of its “RV SmartSites” web platform including visits, leads and sales generated.
Steve Francis, ROUTE 66 partner and RV dealer who has led the development of this proprietary platform, stated, “RVSS is doing exactly what is was designed to do for our network dealers who are currently on the platform. Nearly every critical analytic you track and evaluate is up at least 50% over last year’s numbers and still climbing.”
Other announcements during the rally related to the network’s expanding brand promise of “Wherever the road takes you … you can count on us” by introducing an enhanced ROUTE 66 RV Club and new Roadside/Tech24 program. Dealers were also offered a way to not only continue to increase their dealership’s program rebates but also maintain their participation as a branded ROUTE 66 dealer with no annual membership fee.
“The unanimous sense from this year’s rally was overwhelmingly positive,” said Merrill. “Everyone left Georgia with high expectations and an enthusiastic charge to make 2013 our best ever.”
The ROUTE 66 RV Network currently includes 140 dealer locations in 41 states. For additional information contact Merrill at (913) 317-6678.
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.
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.
To read the entire article click here.
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.
Camping is an experience that’s been redefined regularly, especially in the past century since the first RVs started wheeling out into the American countryside.
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash., reported that just a few decades ago, most people would define camping as the heading out to sleep under the stars, sheltered perhaps by a tarp, in a tent or at least in some sort of camping vehicle out in the woods, on a mountain or along a stream or beach.
That’s changed, especially for city folks, where camping may not even require getting out of town.
Riverside State Park’s Bowl and Pitcher Campground is on the west edge of Spokane’s city limits, yet roughly 50% of the clientele at the park’s four campgrounds are locals, said Chris Guidotti, park manager.
More than half of those staying with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) say they were at home the night before arriving at the campground, according to KOA CEO Jim Rogers. That’s a 25% increase over seven years.
Rogers says work demands, kids’ schedules, high gas prices and other concerns are all contributing to the trend. “They just want to stay within reach and go away for shorter time periods,” he said.
And if there are no good hiking or biking trails nearby, many commercial campgrounds have rooms with treadmills, weights and exercise bikes.
The low cost of camping compared to staying in motels or lodges is an attraction that hasn’t changed with trends to more amenities, relatively speaking. Sites at developed campgrounds in California can be found for $30, but you’ll look hard to find a motel room at that price.
The most obvious trend in recent decades are the options and amusements available at developed campgrounds.
To read the entire article click here.
The USA bobsled and skeleton men’s and women’s teams, trainers, coaches and staff members recently enjoyed an evening at the Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) facility in Colorado Springs, Colo. KOA Campground. is a major sponsor and partners with the teams in community events and gatherings around the country, according to a news release. Colorado Springs KOA manager Dennis Schultz hosted the group on June 17 at the request of KOA CEO Jim Rogers, who wanted to invite the team to experience the fun and relaxation of KOA’s outdoor hospitality. “The campground is very close to Fort Carson and the USA Olympics Training facility, so we are happy to support both the local military and Olympics personnel year-round,” said Schultz. The teams enjoyed a variety of activities along with a barbecue dinner. Entertainment was provided by Louis and Pat Jett, a first-year KOA Work Kamper couple. The team was shuttled to the campground on a bus, which didn’t allow room for them to bring a bobsled. Schultz said they promised to send him autographed photos of team members with the bobsled that features the bright yellow KOA logo on the front. “We’re looking forward to putting those pictures up here at the campground. I told them we’ll host them for another party anytime,” said Schultz.
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.