Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Thor Industries Inc. have entered into a new partnership to market Airstream’s iconic silver trailers as on-site rental units to KOA franchisees.
“The fastest growing segment in our business right now is lodging and accommodations,” said Shane Ott, president of Billings, Mont.-based KOA. “It made sense to expand our portfolio of offerings to franchisees beyond the traditional camping cabin or camping lodge park model as we know them today. Bringing these two brands together, we thought, would be pretty powerful.”
The announcement was made during KOA’s 2008 Jamboree Nov. 8-10 at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach (S.C.) & Convention Center with 600 franchisees in attendance representing 260 parks. Overall, KOA has 460 campgrounds, 28 of them corporate-owned.
“The fact that Airstream has a sense of style, a sense of quality, a sense of timelessness, were other real exciting pieces for us,” said Ott, who reported that onsite lodging at KOA campgrounds has grown 12% in 2008 compared to last year. “There is growing demand there. And we are going to introduce a lot of campers to the Airstream experience.”
To get the Airstream program started, KOA will purchase 25 trailers for its company-owned campgrounds, the first five of which will be located at the Las Vegas KOA. “We hope to have them there by the end of the year, because the period between Christmas and New Year is traditionally our busiest week of the year in Las Vegas,” Ott said.
The other KOA-owned Airstreams will be sited at KOA facilities in Bar Harbor, Maine, Key West, Fla., and other locations, Ott said. “They will be very popular, demanding well over the $100 price point per night,” he added.
“These two companies make more sense (teaming up) than any two partners that I can think of,” said Richard “Dicky” Riegel III, COO of Thor, parent to Airstream Inc. “We believe in the viability of the growth potential in the destination camping market.”
The goal of this unusual partnership is twofold – bring non-RVers into KOA campgrounds and, secondly, to urge campers to try out Airstream trailers and ultimately build sales on Airstream dealers’ lot.
Bob Wheeler, president of Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream, said that the trailers being offered to KOA franchise holders would be standard production units that have been “ruggedized” for heavy use.
“They are full-fledged Airstream trailers,” Wheeler said. “The only thing we’ve done is make them appropriate for high occupancy by people that don’t own them.”
For example, he said, fabrics have been treated to better resist stains and units will be equipped with linoleum floors, rather than carpeting. Also, systems such as water heaters and furnaces will be secured so that renters can’t fiddle with them.
Plans are for the units to be in service for five years and then refurbished or sold.
When KOA Airstream trailers are retired and sold on the used market, Wheeler predicted they would bring a premium because of the fact that they are Airstreams with low mileage. “The residual value of Airstream trailers will be tremendously high compare to a ‘white box’ traditional trailer,” Wheeler said.