Toby O'Rourke

Toby O’Rourke with her family during a camping trip.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in CEO Magazine. 

Founded almost 60 years ago, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) has grown to become the world’s largest system of privately held campgrounds. Originally joining KOA as Digital Marketing Director, Toby O’Rourke has moved up to lead the company as president and CEO. Using her background and expertise in marketing, she identified an opportunity to overhaul its entire approach to marketing and built a digital marketing department from the ground up.

“We were doing traditional marketing at the time, nothing in terms of digital advertising, digital strategy or social media,” she shares. “Now we have a very robust website with 36 million sessions to our website. We’re actually tracking way ahead of that this year.”

As KOA approaches its 60th birthday next year, Toby is focused on nurturing the brand and continuing digitalization, technology and growth initiatives. While many may view camping as a traditional or old-fashioned activity, KOA is firmly set on creating a future-focused vision with its new brands of glamping, luxury and rustic, helping segment the brand.

“I put a lot of my effort into the modernization of camping,” Toby shares. “We have a mobile app now that is a part of us bringing a lot of camping into the modern age.”

With 525 parks across the US and Canada, there is a demand to establish different brand segments that cater to a range of customer needs. “As the world’s largest network of campgrounds, we felt we needed to say that we’re serious about the experience for our guests.”

The new glamping-oriented brand called Terramor Outdoor Resort, with its flagship property in Bar Harbor, Maine, is one of the most exciting projects Toby is working on as KOA is establishing a whole new segment of its business.

“I’m very passionate about the intersection between luxury and rustic camping, and where we can go with that as a company,” she says. “We just opened last year and we’re continuing to expand this concept to more locations. Right now, we’re in the midst of a big growth phase, and I think that’s the biggest thing I tapped into shortly after becoming CEO.”

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