Last week, the Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) concluded its annual Convention & Expo, held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event brought together campground owners, industry experts, and enthusiasts, offering a comprehensive view of current trends and future directions.
The event, held from November 14-17, set the stage for a series of insightful discussions and presentations that would shape the future of outdoor hospitality.
Keynote Insights on Self-Leadership
Among the event’s notable highlights was the compelling keynote address by Ryan Leak, who headlined and delivered a thought-provoking keynote on self-leadership. His presentation, titled “Self-Leadership: 7 Tools to Help You Lead Yourself Better & Inspire Others,” focused on the often-overlooked aspect of leadership: self-guidance.
Leak emphasized the importance of self-reflection and personal growth for leaders, arguing that effective leadership starts with leading oneself. He invited attendees to contemplate their personal definition of success, which he suggested is often shaped by one’s background and experiences.
“For you and me, success is often determined by the circle we grew up in,” Leak explained, emphasizing that true success should resonate with one’s own values and aspirations, rather than societal expectations.
He urged leaders to reflect on how they are perceived by those they lead, encompassing aspects such as decision-making, emotional reactions, and communication style. He also stressed the importance of continuous improvement, challenging leaders to seek feedback and always look for ways to better themselves and their operations.
Innovations in Customer Engagement and Experience
Another focal point of the convention was KOA’s innovative approach to customer engagement, illustrated by their achievement of a World-Class Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 70. This score, reflecting high customer loyalty and satisfaction, places KOA alongside globally recognized brands such as Starbucks and Costco.
The score is a key indicator of KOA’s dedication to enhancing the camping experience and its growing popularity among campers. Additionally, KOA launched the “Why We KOA” advertising campaign, aimed at attracting younger millennials and first-time campers. This strategic move, including a prominent billboard in Times Square, reflects KOA’s efforts to reach new markets and broaden its appeal.
The campaign is seen as beneficial for the entire campground industry by bringing in a new generation of campers.
Technological Advancements and Digital Transformation
The next key takeaway is also another testament to KOA’s commitment to innovation. It was further highlighted by their investment in technology, notably in their proprietary campground Property Management System (PMS), K2. This technology-driven approach is expected to drive future growth and operational efficiency, setting a benchmark for the industry.
Additionally, digital transformation initiatives such as “KOA A.I.,” Enhanced Trip Planning, and Dynamic Site Maps were unveiled. These tools are designed to simplify and enhance the guest experience, demonstrating KOA’s focus on leveraging technology to stay competitive in the outdoor hospitality market.
Recognition of Industry Excellence
The 2023 KOA Convention & Expo was not only a platform for discussions and learning but also a moment to honor excellence in the outdoor hospitality industry. At the annual Breakfast Awards ceremony, KOA recognized industry leaders and long-time partners for their significant contributions to the camping and outdoor hospitality sector.
The Breakfast Awards also named the Founder’s and President’s Awards winners, setting the benchmark for quality and service in the industry. Over 400 campgrounds were acknowledged based on stringent criteria combining guest feedback and annual inspections.
The Awards Luncheon further celebrated milestones and innovations within KOA’s network. Unique recognitions, like the presentation of a limited edition bronze to those marking 40 years with KOA, symbolized the deep-rooted relationships formed within this community.
Future-Oriented Strategies and Discussions
The last key takeaway was shown during the IdeaXchange program at the convention, which featured a panel of experts discussing a range of topics aimed at shaping the future of campground operations.
These discussions offered a multifaceted approach to the future of the outdoor hospitality industry, from nurturing new talent to embracing smart technologies and focusing on inclusive experiences.
The KOA Internship Program, introduced by Ericka Garcia Travis, workforce development manager at KOA, emphasized 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.
Accessibility initiatives were also a focus, with Whitney Scott, the senior vice president of strategy at KOA, emphasizing the need for enhanced accessibility in campgrounds.
Scott highlighted that 27% of Americans live with disabilities and underscored the importance of making campgrounds more inclusive for all, including those with auditory, mobility, vision, and cognitive challenges. This initiative aligns with KOA’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and aims to ensure that outdoor experiences are accessible to everyone.
The 2023 KOA Convention & Expo offered a comprehensive look into the future of outdoor hospitality, underscoring the importance of self-leadership, customer engagement, technological innovation, recognition of excellence, and future-oriented strategies.
These key outcomes not only reflect KOA’s commitment to growth and improvement but also set the direction for the industry as a whole.