Positive trends and strong performance during the past year were outlined in the first-ever annual report by privately held Kampground of America Inc., made available to franchisees during the KOA International Convention, Nov. 14-17 at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
The report, spearheaded by president and CEO Jim Rogers, showed that the Billings, Mont.-based company’s system achieved camper night growth of 1.6% among same-park KOA’s though September, and 3.1% for the summer months.
Other highlights include:
• Registration revenue growth for same-camp KOA’s totaled 5.5% and 6.8% year to date through September, and June through September, respectively.
• The proportion of new KOA guests in 2005 was at its highest point in 10 years – 13.9% in 2005 versus 13.4% in 2004 and 10.8% in 2003. This, KOA’s management points out, is positive because new campers tend to be younger and more likely to camp with kids, to use KOA.com and to make advance reservations.
• Overall camper satisfaction continued to improve at an “exceptional rate,” based on KOA’s three-year-old Kamper Satisfaction Survey (KSS), up nearly two points in 2005 and nearly four points compared with 2003.
• A total of 54% of KOA parks improved their scores in 2005.
• A total of 74% of campers rated their KOA camping experience an “A” while 19% gave their campground hosts a “B” grade.
• On average, as a reflection of brand loyalty, nearly 70% of KOA campers are new to the KOA at which they are staying.
“So, 2005 was a record year for KOA in many forms,” Rogers told RV Business. “The good news is we’ve made progress on all fronts. We’ve made progress for the third year in a row in terms of camper satisfaction and in terms of first-time visitors to KOA. We put another $6 million in registration systems so our camper nights and registrations are up.
“We have all the monitors out there and if I were writing this for stockholders, my shares would go up. The news is very, very good.”
Rogers concedes there was at least one disappointing item in the corporation’s year-end report card – a lack of improvement in terms of what the franchisees feel they are getting from KOA. “Our score dropped a couple of points in overall satisfaction,” said Rogers. “We need to do a better job with communications and training.”
Toward that end, Rogers has reorganized the company’s franchise services leadership, appointing three current executives to key positions in the revamped format, with 22-year-veteran Pat Hittmeier serving as vice president of system development, and Shane Ott as senior vice president, company-owned stores. Carol Preble, a past franchisee, has taken over training and communications as vice president of franchisee services.
Hittmeier’s biggest job, with Ott’s support, is to grow the system’s total numbers from 440 to 500 locations by 2010. KOA’s park network numbers have consistently dropped since topping out at 850 in 1978. While a lot of that retrenchment has had to do with natural attrition, much of it is a result of KOA intentionally paring down its park roster in recent years as it consistently tightens its franchise standards.
A key part of that process has been the introduction of the KSS satisfaction surveys.
“What we implemented during the last three years was an incredibly comprehensive way to evaluate performance,” explains Rogers. “We implemented a camper satisfaction survey three years ago and began to get an incredibly comprehensive evaluation, not driven by an inspector, but objectively from campers over their entire season to evaluate.”
Rogers said Hittmeier and Ott are assigned to grow the KOA system in several ways, including selling franchises to individuals building their own campgrounds; converting independent parks to the KOA franchise brand; acquisition by KOA of an independent park that the Montana company would operate on its own; and buying an undeveloped property, build a park and operate it as a company store.