b'QUESTION & ANSWER nBY BEN QUIGGLEWCMs Outdoor Hospitality Update Interviews KOAs CEO Toby ORourke, During the Growing Franchisors Convention Kampgrounds of America Inc.quarter, campgrounds in Water- the RV Industry Association and (KOA) is in the midst of anotherloo,N.Y.,andElko,Nev.,con- in numerous roles for other out-record-breaking year. The com- verted to the KOA system.doorindustrycommitteesand panysawa36.6%increaseinFour new construction con- forums. Woodalls Campground revenue through September overtracts were signed with KOA inMagazine (WCM) caught up with 2020 and compared to the samethe second quarter. These newORourkeinLouisianaduring period in 2019KOAs highest- contractsjoinninenewcon- KOAs International Convention grossing year in its 59-year his- struction contracts secured inin mid-November and discussed toryrevenueincreasedoverthefirsttwoquartersofthethestateofKOA,thefutureof 29%. year.camping and more. KOA continues to grow its sys- Amidthisgrowth,TobyThe edited version of our con-tem of franchised campgroundsORourke, KOAs CEO and presi- versation follows. To view a video with six new contracts, includ- dent, continues to advocate forrecording of this interview, visit ing an additional four new con- the outdoor hospitality industry,www.facebook.com/woodallscm/struction contracts. In the thirdserving as a board member forvideos. WCM: There has been an amazingones tired and they came to our con- tors that were the most impacted bycampgroundownershipchanging? energy in the outdoor hospitality in- vention to recharge and re-invigoratethat migration were food service andAre we seeing a different type of owner dustry. What momentum is KOA car- their businesses.accommodations. Thats right, smack- now? rying into 2022?WCM: What specific challenges hasdab in our industry. You hear theseORourke: I look at our system and we Toby ORourke: Ninety-six percent ofKOA faced over the last year and whatterms like The Great Retirement andstill have a long way to go in attracting our KOAs are up over last year and 93%challenges are going to most impactThe Great Resignation, but anothermore diversity when it comes to KOA are up over 2019, which was our bestthe company moving into the future? termthatsemergediscalledTheownership. Thats a big passion project year in history. Everyones had strongORourke:Ithinkthelargestchal- Great Reassessment and thats peopleof mine as weve been working on our years. Theyre coming in with all thatlenge facing the industry right now isjust reassessing how and where theydiversity, equity and inclusion efforts momentum behind them, but werestaffing shortages. The recent jobs re- want to work. They want to have moreover the past three or four years. Were acknowledging that its been a toughport showed that 4.4 million peopleflexibility in their jobs, or they want tonoticing the shift in the camper demo-couple of years. Theyve faced a lot ofleft jobs in September and 4.3 millionwork closer to family. I think thats agraphic, and Id really like to see more businessrestrictions,decreasedpeople left jobs in August. Before that,big challenge for the industry becauseof a shift in people of color and under-staffing, border closures, etc. Every- 15 million from April to June. The sec- the hospitality sector, in particular, isrepresentedcommunitiesbeing reassessing the type of work it does.campground owners. The latest jobs report also explainedIve met some great people at the that a third of hospitality workers dontconvention who are new owners who plan on returning. We could look ataredefinitelyfromdifferentdemo-that as a challenge, but I actually lookgraphics than what we typically have at it as a big opportunity for outdoorsourced before. I think that the word is hospitality. We can appeal to these peo- gettingoutthatcampingisagreat ple who have a hospitality background,business to be in. Were trying to ap-experienceandaservicementality,peal to people in different channels as knowingthattheydontwanttogotheyreconsideringanewcareer,a back to traditional hotel or food servicenew shift and were hoping to bring jobs, and we can appeal to them withmore diversity in.what we do, which is outdoor hospital- WCM: Is there still room for a mom-ity.and-pop operator? I think its a challenge for the indus- ORourke: Absolutely. I was at the Na-try, but a big opportunity to also re- tionalAssociationofRVParksand frame how we attract our workforce.Campgrounds (ARVC) Outdoor Hos-Were tackling that head-on at KOA bypitality Expo and Conference (OHCE) trying to find creative ways to appeal toand there were so many corporate buy-theseworkerswhoarereassessingers and people coming from different what they want to do to try to help asindustries, like storage, who are looking we head into next year.to buy parks. I think that the industrys WCM: To what extent is the face ofreally ripe for consolidation, but I think KOAs CEO & President Toby ORourke highlighted at KOAs recent convention that the company is well-poised to tackle future challenges as it enters its 60th year in 2022. 14 January 2022Woodalls Campground Magazine'