At the 2023 KOA Convention & Expo held in Las Vegas, Nevada, the IdeaXchange program brought together a panel of experts, each presenting a blend of fresh ideas and practical solutions for the future of campground operations and management.
Their discussions offered a multifaceted approach to shaping the future of the outdoor hospitality industry, ranging from nurturing new talent to embracing smart technologies and focusing on inclusive experiences to refining local marketing efforts.
KOA Internship Program
Ericka Garcia Travis, workforce development manager at KOA, introduced the KOA Internship Program, emphasizing its role in cultivating fresh ideas and blending the enthusiasm of a new generation with the wisdom of experienced professionals.
This program aims to establish outdoor hospitality as a preferred career path, tapping into a world of untapped potential and fostering innovation among young talent, saying, “It had to be structured in a way that elevated KOA’s values, reputation.”
“In addition, we partnered with eight campgrounds that were integral in the success of this program…,” she added. “We also established relationships with several colleges, universities, and organizations.”
Whitney Scott, the senior vice president of strategy at KOA, focused on the critical need for enhanced accessibility in campgrounds. Highlighting that 27% of Americans live with disabilities, Scott underscored the importance of making campgrounds more inclusive.
“The CDC has the disability in three traditional categories: auditory, mobility, and vision,” she elaborated. “Recently they added a fourth: cognitive. This encompasses auditory…, autism, bipolar disorder, even depression.”
This initiative aligns with KOA’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and aims to ensure that outdoor experiences are accessible to all, irrespective of physical or cognitive challenges.
Smart Meters Implementation
Eric Rathburn, vice president of real estate development at the Owned and Operated Assets of KOA (OAK), discussed the potential of integrating smart meter technology into campground management, which promises to optimize electricity usage, offering a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage energy consumption.
“The technology is here and it’s reasonable,” he explained. “So we can use these smart meters to use the data to understand the true usage of electricity on our sites. Each section. each site, we can use it to prevent circuit overload.”
The integration of smart technologies like smart meters marks a significant stride in modernizing campgrounds, leading to enhanced operational efficiency and smarter resource management.
Property Management Strategies
Jill Currier, senior vice president at OAK, shared her expertise in property management, a crucial aspect of running successful campgrounds, where she argues that managing a large portfolio of properties requires a blend of strategic planning and effective operational execution.
“I would argue, though, that we should be looking at getting more return camper nights versus new camper nights,” she said, explaining, “That stat behind me (the presentation) says that in the last eight years, the cost of acquiring a new customer has gone up 222%.”
Currier’s insights shed light on the importance of adept property management in maintaining high standards and ensuring guest satisfaction across numerous campgrounds, with a primary focus on retaining existing guests which would be “a lot easier and cheaper”.
Local Marketing Techniques
Kim Wootteon, vice president of commercial strategy at KOA, offered a deep dive into local marketing strategies for campgrounds. This session highlighted the importance of tailoring marketing efforts to local contexts while aligning them with broader national marketing strategies.
Strategic local marketing plays a pivotal role in boosting campground visibility, drawing in a broader spectrum of visitors, and thereby contributing substantially to the overall growth and success of the business.
The IdeaXchange program at the 2023 KOA Convention presented comprehensive strategies to evolve the campground industry. These initiatives, ranging from nurturing new talent to embracing smart technologies and focusing on inclusive experiences, collectively provide campground owners with innovative tools and approaches.
They aim to not only enhance operational efficiency and guest satisfaction but also ensure the campground industry remains dynamic and responsive to the changing needs of both guests and the environment.
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