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KOA’s Rogers Urges for RV, Campground Link

May 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

KOA's Jim Rogers addresses Power Breakfast audience

Jim Rogers, CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), took his effervescent, pro-camping message to an audience of 400 people from the RV industry today (May 9) in Elkhart, Ind.

As reported by Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM)Rogers was the keynote speaker at the inaugural “Power Breakfast” sponsored by RVBusiness magazine, sister publication to WCM.

Speaking on the theme “Let’s Uncover the RV Camping Future Together,” Rogers identified several camping trends within the KOA system. Among them:

• After a slight downturn in 2011, annual camper nights rose 2.7% systemwide in 2012, led by 6.8% growth in the South Central region and 5.6% growth in New England.

• Camper nights for deluxe cabins soared 23.1% in May to October 2012 over the same period in 2011. This may be creating a big upturn in prospective RV buyers who become interested in camping.

• 58% of campers spent the previous night at home, meaning people are taking shorter trips.

• Social media has become an integral part of a campground’s operation, putting the operator in contact with the public every day.

• Campgrounds have become a “valued oasis” for Americans who live in a “high tech, low touch world.”

Rogers addressed what he termed a “disconnect” between the RV and campground industries, proposing that campgrounds – KOAs in particular – should become showrooms for RV dealers. Current campers are the best RV sales prospects, Rogers maintains, and would be interested in weekend shows over the summer. Or, he suggested, RV dealers could work in tandem with campgrounds to offer a night’s camping at a nearby campground for a prospective RV buyer to test their new unit. Cabin guests also comprise the next wave of new RV buyers, he added.

He said the campground industry also has to do a better job of reaching out to the nation’s minorities – African-American, Hispanic and Asian. These three ethnic groups represent 33% of the U.S. population but just 12% of the camping public.

Rogers also noted that camping is the “perfect answer” to Americans’ quest for “soft rugged” – the demand for an experience with hospitality and comfort.

In conclusion, Rogers said there are sunny days ahead for both the RV and campground industries. Some 70% of current RVers will make a replacement purchase and 25% want a new unit and only 15% of Americans camp – most of those in tents. “The potential upside for RV – and camping – growth is immense,” he said.

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Rogers Staying at KOA after ‘Power Breakfast’

April 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

KOA CEO Jim Rogers

When Jim Rogers comes to Indiana’s Elkhart County next month for the RV Power Breakfast, the Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) chairman plans to stick around through Mother’s Day weekend and stay at the local KOA, according to a press release and a report by the Elkhart Truth.

The weekend, according to current plans, will give local campers two chances to get to know Rogers: They’ll get to screen Rogers’ “Undercover Boss” episode and hear about his experience taping the show, and they’ll also get to help out the KOA charity effort to help children with cancer.

Rogers will speak May 9 at the inaugural RV Industry Power Breakfast at the RV/MH Hall of Fame east of Elkhart, a first-ever event for which some 300 industry-related diners are already signed up. Rogers will bring his camping industry experience to the RV manufacturers and dealer groups in attendance at the breakfast for which tickets are still available at RVBUSINESS.com and at the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

Then, he’ll stick around to help promote the major fund-raising weekend for KOA Care Camps, a network of 52 specialized summer camps across North America for children with cancer. The 10th-annual event raises money to give the children a free week of summer camp.

“KOA Care Camps are very dear to my heart, and I’m so proud that my campers are able to help out these special children at a time when they really need the relief that at Care Camp brings,” said Elkhart County/Middlebury KOA owner Hope Perkins in a written announcement about the event. “For thousands of children each summer, KOA Care Camps are an important part of their cure.”

Rogers said, “I can’t wait to come to the Elkhart County/Middlebury KOA to help our campers get a great start on their summer camping season. We’re going to have a ton of fun, and I know owner Hope Perkins has a full weekend of great activities planned that will certainly make it a weekend to remember.”

Rogers went undercover for an episode of the CBS series “Undercover Boss” in January, and after an ice cream social May 10, campers at the Elkhart County KOA will get to watch the episode and hear Rogers’ insider perspective.

Campers who pay to stay Friday night get the next night free, and get to enjoy a vendor and craft fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including children’s crafts and a fishing tournament. There’s also a haystack supper followed by a silent auction and a live auction benefitting the charity along with the vendor booth fees.

Sunday morning will feature church services, followed by a pancake breakfast.

Campers can make reservations by phone at (800) 562-5892 or online at at http://e2.ma/click/xiq6d/19pjue/9blfs.

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KOA CEO Joins RV Sector at Power Breakfast

April 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

KOA CEO Jim Rogers

When Jim Rogers speaks at the inaugural RV Industry Power Breakfast next month at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., he plans to share good news for the Elkhart-based RV industry.

As reported by The Elkhart Truth, the CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) sees a huge potential for growth in the RV market.

“What’s important for us all to realize is we have just scratched the surface. When you go through a capacity reduction that’s happened in the last five years, when you have to let people go … I think we’re stronger together than apart, and by bringing the three sectors of the manufacturer, the dealer and the campground together we can optimize the potential that exists within the north American marketplace,” said Rogers in a phone interview.

“It’s bigger than the assembly line. You have a community there that needs to see some hope and some opportunity for the future,” and Rogers believes Elkhart County has that hope and opportunity in the RV industry.

Rogers is chairman and chief executive officer of KOA, which owns 26 campgrounds and works with franchisees who run another 461 campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada.

When he got the invitation to speak at the power breakfast, he jumped at the opportunity, and he credits Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of industry publication RVBusiness magazine, with a great idea.“It’s quite the accomplishment because Sherman to me kind of represents the United Nations of the RV world. He brings all the different components together, which I think is one of the things exciting to us,” said Rogers. “The campground sector hasn’t had a lot of engagement with the manufacturers or the dealers,” even though the campgrounds end up as the proving ground for many of the RVs made in the Elkhart County area.

To read the entire article click here.

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Campground Sector Adapting to ‘Big-Boy RVs’

April 9, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

With the big-boy RVs stretching nearly 50 feet, many pulling trailers full of toys, turning and parking in campgrounds can be a problem.

The Billings (Mont.) Gazette reported that people no longer back into campsites, they want drive-throughs. That change and the demand for more modern amenities helped create more work for Doug Mulvaney at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).

“Probably the biggest challenge in the industry in the last 15 to 20 years is addressing the size of the RVs being manufactured,” said Mulvaney, KOA’s manager of facilities development.

While working for the former Montana Power Co., Mulvaney handled underground electrical utilities. He uses that experience to help modernize some of KOA’s 550 campgrounds, many designed decades ago.

“The biggest thing I do, year in and out, is upgrading electric service, usually to 50 amps,” he said.

Campground owners also must respond to RV manufacturers moving the location of utility hookups on the RV. They may have to offer plug-ins on both sides or install front and back sewer hookups, Mulvaney said.

Redesigning curves to allow a wider turning radius for the big rigs and consolidating and angling camp sites for drive-through access are his other duties.

“There are several campground layouts where you kind of look at it and scratch your head,” Mulvaney said.

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Rise in KOA Camper Nights Yields Record Sales

January 25, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

KOA President Pat Hittmeier speaking at the 2012 convention

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) set a new record for revenue in 2012, and enjoyed its second-best year ever in camper night growth since the company began tracking all of its locations on a centralized reservation system in 2005.

According to a press release, short-term camper nights in 2012 at the nearly 490 KOA campgrounds in North America increased by 3.3% over 2011 final figures. Campground registration revenues were up nearly 6% over 2011.

“It was a good year for camping,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “We added 18 great new camping locations in some wonderful spots, and our campers proved, once again, that they love the camping lifestyle and they love KOA.”

The Billings, Mont.-based company reported that results were strong in nearly all areas. KOA’s Value Kard Rewards program, which now has 351,000 members, experienced a 7.5% increase in card sales in 2012.

KOA’s deluxe cabin program also continued to grow in 2012 as camper nights were up nearly 21%. A portion of that growth was driven by the addition of nearly 250 new deluxe cabins at KOA campgrounds. In total, the KOA system now has more than 2,100 Deluxe Cabins at more than 300 KOAs in North America.

Even use of the traditional log KOA cabin, first introduced into the KOA system in 1980, saw growth in 2012. Basic KOA cabins have electricity, but no kitchens or bathrooms.

“We saw a 2.5% growth in the use of our basic KOA cabins in 2012,” Hittmeier said. “That’s particularly interesting, in that we really haven’t added more units to our 4,500-unit inventory of those cabins. That growth was driven strictly by increased use by campers.”

 

 

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KOA to Host Work Kamper Boot Camp March 20

January 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) will be hosting a Work Kamper Boot Camp March 20 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Branson, Mo., KOA campground. The event is open to both current members of KOA’s Work Kamper Program, as well as non-members who may be considering the Work Kamping lifestyle, according to a news release.

The all-day session is intended to add expertise in KOA systems and practices for current KOA Work Kampers, and introduce potential Work Kampers to this career. Along with having the ability to network with fellow KOA Work Kampers, those attending Boot Camp will receive the “KOA Boot Camp Graduate” icon on their Work At KOA website resume; take advantage of one-on-one training to help use the Work At KOA resume website; and also get help finding a job for next season at the KOA Work Kamper Virtual Job Fair.

The Work Kamper Boot Camp is free to current members of the KOA Work Kamper Program. Non-members will be charged a $20 per person fee. The Branson KOA Campground is offering free nights of camping to those who attend the full day of Work Kamper training. A free lunch will also be provided.

Current KOA Work Kamper Program members can register by signing on to the www.workatkoa.com website. Non-members can register by emailing Shari Scribner at sscribner@koa.net. Space is limited.

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KOA’s Rogers Learns From Undercover Mission

January 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) CEO Jim Rogers learned some invaluable lessons about campground operations – good and bad – during his stealth appearance at four KOA parks in California and Arizona last summer as part of the CBS hit “Undercover Boss,” which appeared nationally Friday night (Jan. 11).

The four-year-old Emmy Award-winning series, in which business executives leave the comfort of their corner offices for undercover missions within their own companies, gave Rogers and viewers a rare look inside KOA’s $200 million-a-year franchise campground business based in Billings, Mont. — a system consisting of 488 parks, 26 of them company owned.

When it was all over, Rogers revealed his true identify and spread some of his wealth – $165,000 – to the campground owners and staff he had innocently deceived over the course of the filming.

For those who missed the hour-long episode, Rogers, the head of the world’s largest campground chain, assumes his alter ego and stars as Tim Bickford, an unemployed accountant from San Francisco in the popular series filmed over 10 days last June. A frumpish fellow with his polo shift all buttoned and shorts hitched up, “Tim” allegedly is a contestant touring those four campgrounds for the launch of a pilot TV show.

He was assigned as a “front line” employee at each of the parks.

“My front line assignments on ‘Undercover Boss’ affirmed the importance of creating KOA systems that maximize the time that campground staff members can spend with guests,” Rogers told Woodall’s Campground Management, a sister publication of RVBusiness, prior to the episode’s airing. “I learned that the great people we have on the front lines can always use more time to better know and serve our guests. Our campground owners and their staffs are the real heroes of KOA. Being undercover gave me an unobstructed view of where our business gets done.”

As for his alter ego in the episode, “I’m more like Forest Gump than Jim Rogers,” says the affable Rogers, describing his disguise that included a dyed mustache and a pair of white socks. Rogers, who shaved his signature beard for the show, succeeds in coming off nerdy, once prompting Paul, the guest services manager at the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA in California, to remark, “If I was picking teams for a pickup football team, I would not pick Tim.”

Paul, efficient and engaging, opens up to Rogers and shares his life philosophy, the essence of which is that family and friends come before money. Paul also notes that showing appreciation to employees is important, noting that he was disappointed when KOA upper management failed to show any interest in the park’s regular staff workers like him when they gathered at the campground a year earlier.

Rogers says he realizes that he needs to find more time to listen to other people as a result in part of Paul, who subsequently earned a standing ovation at the KOA convention in November when Rogers announced that he made a $50,000 donation to KOA’s Care Camps in Paul’s name.

Since Rogers spends part of each summer working at KOA campgrounds, taking on the variety of tasks given him – ripping out a tree with a backhoe, paving and doing routine maintenance – came easily to him. What he didn’t like, however, was some of the poor customer service he witnessed first hand, questionable or spotty business procedures and the lack of perceived appreciation from the home office.

Sadie, the overworked office manager at the Tower Park Resort in Stockton, Calif., loses her patience with a potential guest who is kept waiting on the phone for five minutes while she helps campers in her store and blames a system she calls “archaic, not user friendly.” Rogers, who stood by nonchalantly and witnessed the chaos, confesses later, “It was ripping me apart inside.”

At the Ventura Ranch KOA near Los Angeles, Rogers (who is afraid of heights) gets his now well-chronicled ride on an 800-foot-long zipline and helps to adjust some housekeeping practices. “We need to whip this program into shape up here. It’s clear we have work to do.”

Rogers seems most pleased by the KOA in Williams, Ariz., near the Grand Canyon where owners Bruce and Lori are expanding their cabin inventory and want to install a golf course and go-cart track for their guests. When Tim mentions that his typical work week is 40 to 50 hours, Bruce replies that is “half a week here.” Rogers endorses their enthusiasm in striving to make their park the best KOA in the system.

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KOA Marks Strong Year; Adds 18 Parks in 2012

January 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) marked its 50th year in 2012 by adding 18 more locations to its 489-campground system in North America.

KOA, the world’s largest system of family-oriented campgrounds based in Billings, Mont., experienced 3.3% growth in short-term camper nights in 2012, the highest percentage of growth since KOA’s record year in 2007. Registration revenues also increased nearly 6 percent from 2011 figures.

“It was a pretty exciting year, start to finish,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “Celebrating our 50th Anniversary was very special, and it was just fantastic that we saw an increase in camping this year, too.”

The momentum from 2012 continues to carry into 2013 for KOA. On Jan. 11, Rogers will be featured on the Emmy-award-winning CBS reality series “Undercover Boss.” Rogers will go under cover at four KOA locations, learning the day-to-day operations of a campground from front-line staff. “Undercover Boss,” now in its fourth season, won an Emmy in 2012 as the top-rated reality series on television.

The “Undercover Boss” episode will air Jan. 11 at 8 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific), and 7 p.m. (Central and Mountain). For more on KOA’s episode of “Undercover Boss,” go to www.KOA.com.

Campgrounds added in 2012 include: Bluffton/Findlay SW, Ohio; Honesdale/Poconos, Pa.; Butler North, Pa.; Jonestown, Pa.; Travelers Rest/Greenville North, S.C.; Buffalo, Wyo.; Ozark/Fort Rucker, Ala.; Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.; Wildwood, Fla.; Lake Bomoseen, Vt.; Victoria/Coleto Creek Lake, Texas; Carbondale/Crystal River, Colo.; Lynchburg NW/Blue Ridge Parkway, Va.; Clinton/Knoxville, Tenn.; Batesville, Ind.; Salome, Ariz.; St. George/Hurricane, Utah.

KOA’s 18th additional franchise added in 2012 is a yet-to-be-announced campground in the Southeast U.S.

Other 2012 highlights for the iconic camping brand were a record-breaking 2012 KOA International Convention in Orlando, Fla., in November, with nearly 290 KOA campgrounds represented. More than 800 owners and staff attended the event. The Convention’s KOA Expo also set a new record with more than 150 vendors providing their products and services to KOA owners.

KOA’s industry-leading Value Kard Rewards program also saw strong growth in 2012, with an increase in membership of more than 7.5% from 2011.

KOA also partnered with 18 major companies in 2012 to offer KOA campers unique deals on products and services to enhance their camping lifestyles.

 

 

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KOA’s Rogers Relishes ‘Undercover Boss’ Role

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) CEO Jim Rogers helps put the RV park and campground sector on center stage next week by going undercover at four KOA parks in California and Arizona during the Jan. 11 episode of CBS TV’s “Undercover Boss,” the 4-year-old Emmy Award-winning series in which business executives leave the comfort of their corner offices for undercover missions within their own companies.

Rogers, the head of the world’s largest campground chain, assumes his alter-ego and stars as Tim Bickford, an unemployed accountant from San Francisco in the popular series filmed over 10 days in 2012. Rogers assumes the role of a contestant touring those four campgrounds, allegedly for the launch of a pilot TV show.

He was assigned as a “front line” employee at each of the parks.

“My front line assignments on ‘Undercover Boss’ affirmed the importance of creating KOA systems that maximize the time that campground staff members can spend with guests,” Rogers told RVBUSINESS.com. “I learned that the great people we have on the front lines can always use more time to better know and serve our guests. Our campground owners and their staffs are the real heroes of KOA. Being undercover gave me an unobstructed view of where our business gets done.”

In the episode, “I’m more like Forest Gump than Jim Rogers,” says the affable CEO, describing his disguise that includes a dyed mustache, shirt buttoned at the top and white socks. Rogers shaved his beard for the show.

Rogers spends part of each summer working at KOA campgrounds, so taking on the variety of tasks given him – ripping out a tree with a backhoe, paving and doing routine maintenance – came easily to him.

His biggest challenge was when he was asked to ride the zip line at one of the parks. “I’ve always been afraid of heights, so this was difficult,” he said. “I had to put it into my head that Jim is afraid of heights but Tim isn’t. At the end of the day, I am glad I did it. It was a surprise and a thrill. I have ridden many zip lines since.”

And despite his celebrity status among the Billings, Mont.-based franchise network’s personnel – KOA operates nearly 500 franchise and company-owned parks — no one ultimately recognized Rogers. In fact, when he reveals his true identity at the climax of the episode, his colleagues were “flabbergasted,” he reports.

“The CBS crew complimented me on my acting and said I was one of the few bosses who pulled off a character completely,” he said.

Though he had not yet seen the edited version, Rogers said the show provides good PR not just for KOA, but also for the campground and RV business, thanks in part to a Class C motorhome used liberally by the film crew throughout the taping.

“’Undercover Boss’ is great entertainment, but it also does a great service by taking the general public behind the scenes of popular companies,” Rogers said. “Every episode is a case study in business management.”

In particular, Rogers said he got a first-hand look at the cabin and lodging business at the four KOAs and came away with a better understanding of how to fine-tune the ever-growing “covered shelter” business at RV parks.

“One thing that is true for the entire campground sector, not just KOA, is housekeeping. We are moving as aggressively as we can into deluxe cabins but with that comes a housekeeping requirement,” he explained. “There are ways to do that well. We have spent a year finding the right suppliers, but we have work to be more consistent in the delivery of standards.

“I spent 18 years in the casino business,” Rogers added. “I know it can be done. There is a process that is required. We have to deliver on this new service, and I know many owners are saying, ‘We’re not going to do it.’ In our case, we have a certain standard we have to live up to. We have a ways to get there.”

“It’s a great opportunity, a great story, a great show. I hope it does really well for the sector and outdoor hospitality and for KOA,” he said.’s

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KOA’s Rogers to Appear on ‘Undercover Boss’

December 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Jim Rogers, the gregarious CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc., will transform into mild-mannered Tim Bickford, an out-of-work accountant from San Francisco on CBS’s hit series “Undercover Boss,” Friday, Jan. 11 (8-9 p.m., ET/PT).

Rogers has been at the helm of KOA – the world’s largest system of family-friendly campgrounds – for the past 12 years. The company, born in Billings, Mont., in 1962 and still headquartered near that first campground location, now has 489 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

The Emmy Award-winning Undercover Boss show is now in its fourth season.

“My front line assignments on ‘Undercover Boss’ affirmed the importance of creating KOA systems that maximize the time that campground staff members can spend with guests,” Rogers stated in a news release. “I learned that the great people we have on the front lines can always use more time to better know and serve our campers. Genuine engagement, ultimately, is what it’s all about. KOA campground owners and their staffs are the real heroes of KOA.”

Rogers said he welcomed the chance to go undercover, taking on the persona of a “front line” KOA employee.

“’Undercover Boss’ is great entertainment, but it also does a great service by taking the general public behind the scenes of popular companies,” Rogers said. “Every episode is a case study in business management.”

“My experience on ‘Undercover Boss’ once again confirmed to me the importance of ‘sweating the small things,’” Rogers said. “Being undercover gave me an unobstructed view of where our business gets done. Being there were no special advanced preparations for me, and that led to a lot of surprises – some good and some not so good.”

Rogers said he was heartened by KOA frontline staff’s understanding of the “Golden Rule” when serving campers, always doing their jobs in a manner that would exceed a guest’s expectations.

“It was also great to see our franchisees and our staff’s commitment to our charity effort for KOA Care Camps for children with cancer,” he said. “Their support for Care Camps really makes a difference.”

Each week, the Emmy Award-winning show, which is in its fourth season, follows a different executive as they leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their companies. While working alongside their employees, they see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organizations and get an up-close look at bot

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