Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a Forbes Magazine Q&A with KOA Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers. To view the entire article click here.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has been hosting campers since 1962, and in the five decades since, they think they’ve figured out what Americans are looking for in an outdoors experience. KOA is the world’s largest system of privately held campgrounds with 488 locations across the U.S. and Canada, with over 15 million camper visits per year.
FORBES: How did you get started with Kampgrounds of America?
ROGERS: I spent 26 years in the casino hotel business. I was with Harrah’s forever. I was the finance guy, I was the marketing guy and I ran Harrah’s Reno for nine years. My first job out of college was KOA and I was gone about 30 years and they called me 12 years ago and asked me to come back. Part of this whole process is to try to bring some of the sophistication of the casino business; The casino business is so cutting-edge and the camping industry is so “back of the woods,” so it’s really been a fun assignment to come back into KOA. It’s a great brand with a great reputation; a great business and to pull a few of the things I learned in the casino hotel business with Harrah’s to see if we could make a difference.
FORBES: Is there one nugget that you pulled out of Harrah’s that you’re applying at KOA?
ROGERS: We learned, and it seems so obvious, we learned the customer was what we called the “recognition driven gambler.” The same is true in most hospitality experiences. We really segmented the population in our casino and we found that our best customers or gamblers were those that we could recognize that we could know what their preferences were.
I think we were trying to bring that into camping as well especially on a system that has 500 locations. You are checking in with a 26-foot Winnebago with a Labrador and two kids and you are moving on to another location tomorrow night it would be nice if you could pull into that next location and we would know who you are and what your interests are.