KOA’s internship program, meticulously designed to provide young enthusiasts with a comprehensive learning experience that shapes the future of outdoor hospitality, was a topic of discussion at the recent 2023 KOA Convention & Expo held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Speaking first during the IdeaXchange program, Erica Garcia Travis, workforce development manager at KOA, said the KOA Internship Program aims to unlock potential and foster innovation among young people, particularly in outdoor hospitality.
This 12-week, full-time paid internship is specifically designed for students pursuing studies in hospitality, recreation, tourism, and business management.
It offers an invaluable opportunity for hands-on experience and mentorship, providing a practical and immersive learning environment to enhance their professional skills and understanding of the industry.
“And as we’re developing this program… to make a real impact, it had to be structured in a way that elevated KOA’s values, reputation, and exceeded the expectations of the partners that were working with,” Travis explained.
“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.”
Interns in the program have developed unique projects ranging from diversity and inclusion initiatives to solar panel projects, which are not only implementable at individual campgrounds but across the entire KOA system.
The convention also touched upon future trends and strategic approaches, including smart meter usage to manage electricity costs and the integration of renewable energy sources. These discussions emphasized the need for campgrounds to adapt to changing technological landscapes and environmental considerations.
A hackathon session was also hosted, highlighting the technological acumen of the interns, including ideas for enhancing the KOA app and developing futuristic 3D apps, and having the opportunity to present them to their CEO.
“They (interns) had ideas on how to make our KOA app more user-friendly, all the way to potentially develop a futuristic 3D app that uses your landscape to create a very unique site accommodation,” Travis said.
Meanwhile, the convention underscored the ongoing challenges in recruiting and retaining the right talent in the campground industry, addressing the crucial aspects of training and skill development to help retain talented individuals and increase guest satisfaction.
“Retaining talented individuals, keeping them inspired and motivated is very important,” Travis explained. “This will help prevent turnover, positively impact your bottom line, and increase guest satisfaction”.
The program is seen as a pathway to long-term career development in the outdoor hospitality industry. With some interns choosing to continue their journey with KOA, the program stands as a testament to its effectiveness in fostering professional growth and commitment to the industry.
By embracing the KOA Internship program, we’re not just shaping our campground, we’re shaping the very future of the outdoor hospitality industry,” Travis emphasized. This approach aligns with the need for campgrounds to evolve technologically and environmentally.
The program’s impact extends beyond the campgrounds. As one intern shared, “It’s a great opportunity for young college kids… to see what the industry is like and really get some real-world experience”.
“I would encourage owners and managers to be a part of this program. I feel like both parties can benefit from the experience,” said another intern. This reflects the broader vision of strengthening the KOA workforce and the outdoor hospitality industry.
The 2023 KOA Convention’s IdeaXchange program has laid a foundation for a more innovative, inclusive, and technologically advanced future in the campground industry.
It has set the stage for new generations to contribute effectively and for the industry to evolve in alignment with modern needs and expectations.