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The 2014 Kampgrounds of America (KOA) convention kicked off this morning (Nov. 13) in Charleston, S.C.

During the welcome breakfast, KOA President Pat Hittmeier and Vice Presidents Lorne Armer, Jef Sutherland and Toby Hedges updated the crowd – representing most of the 500 parks in the KOA system – on what’s been happening across KOA the past year.

“The optimism that is abundant in this room and for KOA and this brand is pretty amazing,” Hittmeier said.

KOA operators gather at welcome breakfast to kick off convention

KOA operators gather at welcome breakfast to kick off convention

The crowd at the convention represents near-record attendance, Hittmeier said, due in large part to that optimism. “Together we’re nailing it,” he told the U.S. and Canadian operators in the convention center.

In 2012, operators saw 5.1% registration growth over 2011 while in 2013 registrations rose 7.3% above 2012. For 2014, KOA is on pace for 8.5% registration growth from 2013. In all, that means 21% growth at KOA since 2011. “Never have I seen numbers like this,” Hittmeier said.

Armer detailed partnerships with Jayco Inc. and Keystone RV Co., as well as RV rental companies, that bring in millions of dollars in registrations across KOA – and also bring in more contacts for KOA to target in marketing.

Sutherland focused on software redevelopment and the work KOA put into saving franchisees money on credit card processing fees.

Hedges, who serves as marketing chief, noted, “I couldn’t be more thrilled about how things are going. We’re starting to reach new guests and we’re increasing loyalty in our campers with the ‘What’s Behind the Yellow Sign?’ campaign. Hedges reported the initiative raised KOA revenue by $9.9 million.

Following the breakfast, attendees moved into day’s slate of educational sessions.

The expo trade show – featuring 116 vendors, a third of them new – will start Friday evening, with the convention wrapping up Saturday night.