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.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) will be offering a free weekend of camping to children on Father’s Day this year.
“We want to encourage families to get out and enjoy all of the benefits of the outdoors, and camping is one of the very best ways to do that,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers in a press release. “Allowing children to camp for free with their children will hopefully encourage more families to share the joys of camping on this very important family holiday.”
More than 400 participating KOA locations throughout North America will waive normal camping fees for children under 17 from June 15-17 in honor of Father’s Day weekend.
“Camping is all about connecting with your family,” Rogers said. “There is no better way to cement that bond than by enjoying each other in the Great Outdoors.”
Kampgrounds of America parks offer “camping any way you want it,” with plenty of sites for any type of recreational vehicle or tent. There are also thousands of KOA Camping cabins available, along with new deluxe cabins that sleep up to six and come with full bathrooms and kitchens.
For a list of KOA campgrounds offering free camping for kids for Father’s Day Weekend, go to www.KOA.com.
All signs still point to a successful 2012 camping year at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).
KOA reported Tuesday (May 29) in a news release that camper check-ins for the May 26-28 Memorial Day camping weekend were up about 7% from the same period in 2011.
“We’re seeing nothing but positive signs for the 2012 summer camping season,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Our annual Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend on May 11-12 was up nearly 10% from last year, and our winter camping season in the Southern states was also very strong.”
Advanced reservations for the rest of the summer camping season are running about 6% ahead of the same period last year.
“North Americans are rediscovering the benefits of the outdoors,” Hittmeier said. “There is no better place to reconnect with family and friends, and no better way to do it than camping.”
Kampgrounds of America Inc.’s (KOA) popular Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend May 11-12 hosted nearly 10% more campers this year than in 2011, according to a press release.
“A combination of great weather, stabilizing fuel prices and fun event planning by our campground owners really brought out the campers,” said Mike Gast, vice president of communications for Billings, Mont.-based KOA. “Of course, it’s the official kickoff to KOA’s 50th birthday, so that didn’t hurt, either.”
Participating KOAs throughout North America logged nearly 42,000 camper nights between last Wednesday and Sunday, a double-digit increase from Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend 2011.
Nearly 400 of the 480 KOA campgrounds in North America participated in the 9th annual event, where campers received a free night of camping last Saturday if they stayed as paying guests on Friday.
The annual event also serves as the largest single fundraiser for KOA Care Camps for children with cancer, the official charity of KOA and the KOA Owner’s Association. KOA Care Camps is a network of 44 specialized summer camps that provide a free summer camp experience for children with cancer and their siblings.
Donations are still being counted from this year’s fundraising efforts, but last year, KOA campers helped raise more than $500,000 to benefit the charity.
“Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend isn’t just the official start of the summer camping season,” said Gast, “It’s also a pretty good indicator of how things might look for the rest of the summer.”
Advanced reservations for the summer months at KOA are running ahead of last year. The increase in KOA’s inventory of deluxe cabins, which feature full bathrooms and kitchens, is also fueling increased camping by bringing in new campers.
“The public’s desire to reconnect to the outdoors is certainly increasing,” Gast said. “Camping is the perfect, affordable answer.”
Those of you who wiggle out of family camping trips by claiming you’re just not into roughing it will have to find another excuse.
A range of camping options and innovations have made it far more comfortable to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the Great Outdoors.
“’Soft rugged’ is what so many Americans are seeking in their outdoor experience today,” says Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, or KOA, which runs about 500 campgrounds around the country. So much so that he now refers to the camping industry as “outdoor hospitality.”
KOA has beefed up some of its campgrounds to include both basic and luxury cabins – the latter being the kind more often equated with family resorts than places to pitch tents. Rental costs $100 to $150 per night. Some sites offer coffee carts, pancake breakfasts, kids’ activities and entertainment.
Campers who want things a bit more – but not much more – rustic can browse the equipment lining the shelves at well-stocked outdoors stores (although some of the fancy new goodies may hike the price of that simple camping trip).
Take, for instance, REI’s Kingdom 8 tent, which is big enough to sleep eight. For $529, the tent is not just waterproof and bug-proof but also has moveable room dividers to create separate spaces with private entrances. Fill it with cots, airbeds and perhaps a ceiling fan created for tents, and you’re bound to get in a good night’s sleep. Toss in another $100, and you can add to it a “garage” to store food or gear — or use it as a place for the family dog to sleep.
Nifty outdoor stoves and cooking gear have made campfire-cooked canned beans and hot dogs moot, unless you really like them.
REI’s camp kitchen, for example, is a folding trove of food-prep workspace and storage – all of which can be carried around in a zipper bag. It even includes hooks for hanging up spatulas, and windproof screens so the elements don’t mess with your cooking.
Coleman, one of the biggest manufactures of camping gear, sells a camping oven that fits handily onto one of the company’s two- or three-burner grills.
To view the entire article click here.
When the Texas KOA Owners Association invited the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) to attend their spring meeting, they got more than a briefing on TACO’s marketing and government affairs services and other member benefits for campgrounds.
According to a news release, TACO executive director and CEO Brian Schaeffer also presented the group with a donation of a free mobi site from AGS. The donation was auctioned off with proceeds donated to KOA Care Camps, the non-profit charity that provides camping trips for children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Schaeffer provided the donation on behalf of his company, Crowley-based AGS, which provides guest guides and web services for more than 600 campgrounds RV parks and resorts across the U.S. and Canada.
“It was a nice thing to do and we appreciate it,” said Marshal Gray, who serves as owner of San Angelo KOA and president of the Texas KOA Owners Association, which had its spring meeting at the San Antonio KOA on April 16.
A non-profit charity of the KOA Owners Association, KOA Care Camps provide funding that enables children with cancer to visit camps that are specially designed to accommodate children with cancer – www.koacarecamps.org.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), celebrating its 50th year, reported the addition of 23 new campground locations throughout North America to its 2012 directory. According to a news release, the new sites bring the total number of KOA campgrounds to 485.
“We do our best to find campgrounds that are just the right fit for our campers and the KOA system,” said KOA Assistant Vice President for System Development Chris Fairlee. “There are more than 8,000 private campgrounds in North America, but we are pretty selective. Not just anyone can fly the KOA flag.”
The 50th anniversary edition of the KOA directory provides campers with not only complete descriptions and “last mile” locator maps to all KOA locations, but also a complete set of state and provincial atlas maps.
“Once again, we’ve done a great job of adding beautiful campgrounds right where our campers want to go,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “For instance, we added two more locations in the Orlando, Fla., area to allow our campers to be right in the middle of the Orlando attractions.”
New KOA campgrounds reported that visitations were up since joining the network. “Being with KOA has already brought our campground a lot more business,” said Robyn Chilson, owner of the Meadville, Pa., KOA. “We have more visibility and the phones are ringing off the hook.”
New KOA campgrounds listed in the 2012 KOA Directory include: Oxford/Talladega/Dandy RV, Ala.; Picacho/Tucson NW, Ariz.; Heber Springs, Ark.; Montrose/Black Canyon National Park, Colo.; Orlando NE/Wekiva Falls, Fla.; Orlando NW/Orange Blossom, Fla.; East Ellijay/Chattahoochee National Forest, Ga.; Waterloo/Lost Island Waterpark, Iowa; Perry Lake/Topeka NE, Kan.; Houghton/Letchworth, NY.; Springwater/Dansville, N.Y.; 1000 Islands/Association Island, N.Y.; Homerville, Ohio; Salem/Lisbon, Ohio; Meadville, Pa.; Hohenwald/Natchez Trace, Tenn.; Bastrop/SE Austin/Colorado River, Texas; Onalaska/Lake Livingston, Texas; Weatherford, Texas; Luray, Va.; Longview North/Mount St. Helens, Wash.; Sturgeon Falls, Ontario; Bas St. Laurent, Quebec.