b'KOA 2020 VIRTUAL CONFERENCEhadnt heard feedback from a lot of vendors, all indicationsshow that vendors did really well at the show. Our total visitors at the expo during the convention wasover 10,000, she explained. Now that number goes up everytime someone enters the hall, so there wasnt physically 10,000people that visited the site, but it does indicate that we had alot of people coming and going. We also have numbers thatshow a lot of people were clicking on booth displays and reallyengaging with the content that was available. That was one of the things that we were probably mostconcerned about, having gone to other shows and hearingfrom vendors from other shows that no one came to theirbooth and no one engaged them, Nash continued. So, weare very pleased with the result, and the level of interest fromattendees.On the workshop side, Humphrey said that some educa-tional sessions had close to 200 people attend them and duringthe conventions general sessions there were over 300 peoplethat attended each of those events. Gamification was also utilized to encourage more individ-uals to take part in sessions and the expo. KOA gave away agrand prize of airfare and a hotel room to its convention in 2021along with a variety of other prizes including gift cards. KOAs Virtual Convention featured an immersive environment, including an expo that was completely 3D.KOAs President and CEO Toby ORourke opened the firstday of KOAs 2020 Virtual Convention reflecting on a challeng-BY BEN QUIGGLE ing, but ultimately successful, year.What began as a year of uncertainty,KOA Sees Success with Virtual Convention Format, ORourke spoke of the dramatic growthin demand for camping after the easingof stay-at-home orders across NorthNotesHighEngagementNumbersDuringExpo America. She also spoke of KOAs suc-cess in lobbying to keep campgroundsopen as essential service providers forKampgrounds of America Inc.s Virtual Convention fea- We havent sent out our survey to full-time RVers and traveling workers.tured an immersive environment with a campground theme measure what attendees liked or didnt Campgrounds,andinparticular Toby ORourkeand a 3-D expo, something that was a unique break from other like, but the feedback we have received KOAs, are essential for the well-being of North Americans,virtual conventions this past Fall.so far has just been tremendously posi- said ORourke. Im proud to be part of an organization that isAttendees were greeted with a campground scene that tive, Humphrey explained. The whole united in a mission of connecting people to the outdoors andwas familiar for the more than 300 campgrounds that were convention really went beyond our ex- each other as that is what we have all needed most this year.registered to take part in the event. Surrounded by cabins, a pectations.Pointing to the challenges of other sectors of the travel in-small RV lot, campstore and other unique features, there were Featuring a 3-D expo that allowed dustry such as hotels, air travel and cruise lines, ORourkewaypoints and signs that guided users to each section of the users to explore a convention hall by vir- noted that the U.S. and Canada have seen a 45% and 60% de-convention. Kama Humphrey tually walking by booths and interacting crease respectively in total travel spending. Hotel occupancyWoodalls Campground Management (WCM) caught up with booths much like they would at an in-person event, San- fell below 50% in 2020.with Kama Humphrey, KOAs director of training and events, dra Nash, vendor relations manager, told WCMthat many at- But thats not the trend we have seen at KOA, ORourkethe day after the Nov. 16-19 convention ended. She said that tendees told her it was great once they figured out how to noted. We are down just 3% from a record year in 2019.the KOA team had a lot of confidence in what they had built move around.More exciting, KOA has seen an influx of people either newand that for the most part everything went seamlessly.On the vendor side, Nash also noted that while she still to camping or returning to camping. This year, 26% of camperswere first-time guests and 20% returned tocamping after a hiatus. This means nearly halfof all guests in 2020 either started camping forthe first time or restarted again. Of note, thesenew campers tended to be younger and weremore likely to travel with families.ORourke also dubbed 2020 the year ofthe RV. Manufacturers scrambled to meetdemand and KOAs research agreed. Accord-ing to a special COVID edition of the NorthAmerican Camping Report, 54% of camperssaid they were more likely to buy an RV as aresult of the pandemic.Thebigquestionis,willthesenewcampers keep camping in 2021, assertedORourke. Yes, I believe so. In fact, 43% ofnew campers say they are likely to continuecamping next year.Central to attracting these new camperswas KOAs ability to adapt quickly in an ever-changing environment. ORourke spoke to theimportance of continuing to identify opportu-nities and pivot to meet them. This progres-sivenessappearsinnewprogramsandinitiatives across the KOA brand.In addition to ORourkes remarks, WhitneyScott, vice president of marketing, spoke tothe agile shift in marketing that assured KOAswere supported at the local level amidst dif-fering state and local COVID restrictions.Our 2020 marketing plans went out thewindow, said Scott. We took a hyper-localapproach and created tools to help our camp-grounds directly. These efforts really helpedus move forward quickly and recharged our24 -January 2021Woodalls Campground Management'