RV parks and campground franchiser Kampgrounds of America Inc., by 2010 intends to increase its annual camper nights by 30 percent to 6 million and the number of campgrounds in the KOA system from 460 to 500.
The goals were outlined by KOA President Jim Rogers during his keynote speech at KOA’s 2004 Convention Nov. 14-18. Some 500 people representing 225 KOA campgrounds were in the audience at the Hilton at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Attendance made the gathering the second-largest KOA convention ever, and an expo held in conjunction with the event drew more than 200 suppliers. Seminars at the convention included training on CampSight, KOA’s proprietary intranet-based campground-management system, plus sessions on recreational activities, infrastructure and practical marketing.
While establishing KOA’s goals for the next six years, Rogers, generally praised KOA franchise campgrounds for improving overall satisfaction among customers and embracing programs and systems designed to make Billings, Mont.-based KOA more vital to American RVers.
“Sometimes when you think about the future, you have to think about the past,” Rogers said. “What you need to understand is that you’ve made tremendous progress in the last three to five years.”
Particularly important, Rogers said, was adopting bright yellow as a uniform color and signing up nearly 300 franchisees for CampSight, which all KOA campgrounds will be connected to within the next two years.
“We’ve gone through a quality purge,” Rogers said. “We have situations where we have lost people. But we’ve got to have more joining than we are losing.”
Rogers said he was pleased that consumer satisfaction with KOA campgrounds increased this year over 2003, in some areas by double digits. Some 84,000 campers completed consumer-satisfaction surveys and 88 percent gave KOA excellent or good ratings.
Overall, satisfaction with the total KOA experience increased by a percentage point. Satisfaction with staff presence at campgrounds increased by 8 percent, he said, a gain Rogers attributed in part to bright yellow uniform shirts that most KOA employees started wearing last year.
In a skit that opened the general meeting, Rogers pretended to arrive late for his speech from the golf course. Dressed in bright yellow knickers, he drove a loud yellow golf cart modified to look like a Hummer and was accompanied by a parade of about 150 children of KOA franchisees.
The use of yellow – specifically, the shade known as Pantone 109 – has expanded as KOA’s trademark color. The company distributed 24,000 Pantone 109 T-shirts free to franchisees for employees to wear last year and is offering them at a deep discount this year.
Rogers credited the yellow T-shirts with helping customers more easily identify employees, thus raising customer satisfaction with employee presence by 8 points and nudging up by 10 points campers’ overall satisfaction with safety and security at KOA campgrounds.
“That is incredible,” said Rogers, in a wry allusion to the enhanced security measures with which most Americans have become familiar over the past three years. “We didn’t buy any barbed wire. We didn’t buy any guns.”
Rogers said KOA needs to actively confront the security issues that concern RVers today. “The idea of safety and security is not going to go away,” he said. “America is going to be on high alert for a long time. That is now a way of life. And we need to think about our operations with that in mind.”
Ditto for the challenge of fuel costs, which increased substantially during 2004.
“We need to know that we are going to have high-priced gas,” Rogers said. “We can’t talk about it as an excuse. We have to respond to it. It’s here. It’s going to stay here and it may go higher. It may lead to decisions we have to make about RV storage at our campgrounds.”
Significant evidence that KOA is moving in the right direction, he said, is that the number of people visiting KOA for the first time was the highest it’s been in 10 years, as the company and its franchisees recorded about 5 million camper nights. “That’s because of you,” he told franchisees. “People are appreciating what you do for them. People are sharing that, and folks who are getting into RVing for the first time want to stay at KOA.”
Also, Rogers said, “I want KOA to be the first choice when people are thinking about camping for the night,” Rogers said. “I want people to say they want KOA first.”
Rogers said KOA campgrounds should start marketing the people who deliver the campground experience to campers. “I challenge you to open a Woodall’s or a Trailer Life directory and find pictures of service providers,” he said. “You see pictures of facilities – a thousand pages. But you’ll have a hard time finding any pictures in there of the people delivering the service.”
Focusing marketing on people who provide services will separate KOA from the competition, Rogers said.
“We can own this,” he emphasized. “It fits where we need to go as a company.”
He said it was particularly important for campground owners to consider the needs of aging Baby Boomers who are more active than their parents’ generation.
“Enrollment in health clubs in the United States by those people over 55 is up 123 percent,” he said. “What are we doing in our campgrounds to think about their needs? They have high expectations that we have to fulfill.”
At the convention, Steve and Barbara Rabesa, owners of the KOA in Twin Mountain, N.H., were named 2004 Franchisee of the Year and also received KOA’s Founder’s Award for being in the top 10 percent of campgrounds on the Kamper Satisfaction Survey scores.
Workamper News magazine named Leroy and Linda Tyson of Baton Rouge, La., as 2004 Work Kampers of the Year. Most recently the couple worked at the Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus.
Rogers said KOA intends to form a strong alliance with Work Kampers by offering special benefits for working within the KOA system.
“Tens of thousands of Americans are becoming Work Kampers,” Rogers said. “We want to own those people. We want them working for KOA.”