Editor’s Note: The following is a Q&A with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) Chairman Jim Rogers conducted by the New York Times, discussing the company’s appeal to a broad range of campers and RVers.
For many people, camping evokes visions of fishing, tents and swatting mosquitoes, in areas where outside communication ranges from difficult to impossible. Jim Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Kampgrounds of America, would like to dispel the one-size-fits-all perception that camping often receives. The company, often referred to as KOA, is the largest privately owned system of campgrounds in the world, with more than 485 locations in the United States and Canada. “The campground is an oasis for genuine engagement,” Rogers said. “We’ve redefined camping, as we now have zip lines, horseback rides and pools at many properties.”
Rogers, an Eagle Scout and avid outdoorsman, began at the company as a management trainee in 1972. He then was an executive at Harrah’s Entertainment before rejoining KOA in 2000 as chief executive. He recently talked about maintaining a high level of hospitality while adapting to the tastes of the modern camper.
Following are edited excerpts from an interview with Mr. Rogers.
Q. A recent study conducted by Cairn Consulting Group for KOA found that while 44% of Americans are active campers, 42%, over 46 million people, are noncampers. How do you reach such a large pool of potential campers?
A. People are attracted to camping to get away from the stress of daily life, and we want people to feel comfortable when they’re here. We offer wine tastings and pancake breakfasts. We have to give guests Wi-Fi and child-friendly amenities. People who share their experiences will encourage others to go outdoors as well. We are also seeing a greater diversity of people, as the number of nonwhite campers increased sharply from 12% to 23% between 2012 and 2014.
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