Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) President Pat Hittmeier has seen a lot in his 34 years in the camping business, but he’s never seen anything like this year’s results at the company’s network of campgrounds.
“We have 91% of our North American KOA campgrounds reporting increases in revenues this year over last year,” said Hittmeier, who has managed several departments at KOA since starting with the company in 1981. He has been KOA’s president since 2010.
“Results like these in this business are just phenomenal,” Hittmeier said in a written announcement. “For most of my career, I’ve seen about 60% of our campgrounds increase revenue in a given year, and 40% be down. There are so many factors that go into a successful season, including weather, that it isn’t often you see all of the stars align like this.”
Hittmeier said during the depths of the recent recession, only 20% of KOA campgrounds experienced revenue increases.
“It’s a fantastic turnaround, and it says a lot about the future of this industry, our owners and the future of KOA,” he said.
Hittmeier credits at least a portion of this year’s success to KOA’s new branding efforts. KOA campgrounds are joining one of three brands — KOA Journey, KOA Holiday or KOA Resorts — to ultimately give campers a better idea of what to expect from their KOA camping experience.
It may be too early to credit the brand name changes for any of the increased revenues, but Hittmeier said he does suspect the improvements made at many KOAs to meet brand criteria are driving revenues.
“KOA owners are making significant improvements in their facilities, amenities, food services and recreational offerings,” he said. “Our owners are, frankly, giving their campers a better experience. We see that in our customer-service scores and in the increases in camper nights. Campgrounds with more amenities, better accommodations and a focus on guest service are logically going to see revenue go up.”
KOA has also beefed up its marketing efforts. For the first time, KOA has television commercials running on several cable television networks in the U.S. and Canada. KOA’s marketing department also oversees the KOA.com website, which has experienced phenomenal traffic growth in recent years, and has seen online reservations climb 27% in the past year alone. KOA marketing manages vital social media and email marketing efforts that keep KOA’s brand at the top of campers’ minds.
KOA also invests heavily in public relations, with substantial stories placed in such media as the New York Times, Toronto Star and USA Today, to name just a few.
Cornelis Bijvank, who owns the Greybull, Wyo., KOA Holiday, said a revitalized U.S. economy helps, but better customer service is the reason his KOA’s revenues are soaring nearly 50% over last year.
“We have very many returning customers who end up staying more days than they originally planned, just because we take such good care of them and they really like it here,” Bijvank said. “If you want to attract more people at a better price, you have to deliver more quality. That’s what we’ve always strived to do.”