b'2021KOA CONVENTIONnBY BEN QUIGGLEKOAs CEO Highlights Big Year forSystematConvention, Names Award-Winning ParksMany of the Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) owners in attendance at KOAs International Convention in Baton Rouge, La.held Nov. 15-18took a chance to breathe and relax after a very busy 2021 season for most parks in the over 515-park system.The conventions theme was All In, All Out, and it focused on the successes that the system has realized over the past few years, including the implementation of a new reservations platform, K2, in all KOA parks and the tremendous growth in camp-ing numbers. KOAs International Convention keyed in on the companys successes and the things it is Kama Humphrey, KOAs director of training and events, told Woodalls Camp- focusing on for the future. ground Magazine (WCM) the sys-tem has been, all-in on a lot of the big projects and that now its time tonew parks are being built right now, she noted. go all out and celebrate, since a lot(You can read about the health of the KOA system, and the work ORourke and of those projects have been com- KOA are doing to support the industry in WCMs exclusive interview on page 14.) pleted.Other speakers, including Darin Usleman, KOAs COO, and Whitney Scott, KOAs Hundreds of attendees took partCMO, spoke about marketing and operations during the opening general session, in a welcome reception Nov. 15 atand the work the system is doing to support KOA owners.the Red Stick Social that featured aLunch featured the announcement of KOAs annual Founders and Presidents Mardi Gras theme, including beads,Awards. Each year KOA gathers guest surveys from more than a quarter-million KOA A reception to kickoff the convention featureda live brass band and Louisiana- campers following their campground stays. That important guest feedback, paired a brass band.themed food. A small, on-site bowl- with results of an annual inspection process, qualifies KOA campgrounds across the ing alley provided attendees with anU.S. and Canada for these awards.opportunity to compete against one another. TheKOAPresidentsAwardisKOAs convention is a family affair for many, and kids Toby ORourke, KOAs CEO and president, kicked off the conference Nov. 16 withpresentedtoKOAcampgroundsenjoyed playing on a Jump Pad during the expo. a morning business update and a look at trends. that excel in providing great camp-ORourke highlighted that 40 new franchisee contracts had been signed since theing facilities and consistently high companys last convention and noted that the event was about allowing franchiseeslevels of guest service. The recipi-to recharge.entsofKOAspremiereachieve-KOA is thriving through this pandemic, not just surviving, she explained. Wement,theKOAFoundersAward, have the most recognized name inprovide the highest quality camping camping. We are united under a sin- Educational sessions focused on trends and topicsfacilities,whileexceedingKOA gularmissionandthathasres- specific to KOA owners.guests expectations. onated with thousands of peopleYou can view the whole list of across North America.winnershere: Were heading into our 60th yearhttps://tinyurl.com/3224tenr in 2022, and we cannot contain ourJudi Holler, a speaker who uses excitement and enthusiasm for thisimprov to relate her message, provided the conventions keynote, on the morning of brand and this business, ORourkeNov. 17.added. We go forward unapologet- During a special lunch that day, KOA also handed out its Rising Star Award and ically with confidence, enthusiasmPark of the Year Award.and affirmed in what we deliver andTheIndianapolisKOAHoliday,ownedandoperatedbyDavidandLori the role we play in the lives of ourVaughan, was named the KOA Park of the Year for 2022, and the Willcox/Cochise campers.KOA Holiday, owned and operated by Dennis and Penny Crull, was named the ORourke highlighted a 16% increase in people camping in 2021 versus 2020, withKOA Rising Star Campground for 2022. (You can read more about these parks on 56 million households expected to have camped in 2021.page 3.) Fourteen million households will have camped for the first time between lastKOA officials also took part in the companys Idea Xchange, which highlighted in-year and this year, she said. This is largely driven by perceptions of safety. Sincenovative, future-thinking ideas that are being incorporated into the system. Most the beginning of the pandemic, weve asked people to rank different travel options.eyes were focused on a new pedestal by Jamestown Advanced Products that com-In terms of safety, camping is always at the top of the list.bines a normal RV pedestal with an electric vehicle charger. (You can read more ORourke noted that 2019 was the companys previous best year on record, butabout this on page 6). that 2021 is going to blow it out of the water.KOA also highlighted a compostable toilet that it has developed for use in areas Currently, we are up 13% in camping nights over 2019 and 32% in registrationthat are off the beaten paths at KOA parks. A new lighted bench that runs off solar revenue over 2019, she pointed out. Compared to last year, were up 16% in camp- was also an eye-catcher. KOA officials noted that it would allow park owners to pro-ing nights and 34% in registrationvide seating and lighting in areas where electrical infrastructure does not exist. revenue.Finally, KOA has developed a more modern look for its famous A-frame main ORourke said that 96% of KOAsbuilding. It comes with different looks and packages for different settings and fea-saw more revenue over the last year,tures a variety of energy-saving options. with 93% up over 2019 figures.More than 120 vendors took part in the full-day expo on Nov. 18, with vendors re-Ouradvanceddeposits,rightporting to WCM that traffic remained steady throughout the day.now, are 45% ahead of where theyDwayne Hill, a comedian/magician, performed during the conventions final wereatthistimelastyear,shenight celebration, which also featured the annual Care Camps auction that provided noted. Yes, I do think that at someVendors reported staying busy throughout KOAsfunding for the work that charity point things will flatten out, but Idaylong expo.does to help kids dealing with Vendors noted that there was a lot of energy duringdont think it will flatten out over thecancer enjoy a week at camp. the expo as park owners are looking to add ameni- nextyear. WeareprojectingthatThe live auction raised more ties or lodging units.next years registration revenues willthan $300,000 for the charity. In be up 13% over this year.addition, a raffle for a new all-ORourke told franchisees that it means the system cannot go back to doing thingselectric Ford Mustang Mach-E, a the way they were done before.50/50 drawing, a silent auction We have to be adjusting our operations and making changes to our businessesand other fundraisers also were right now, so we can continue to catapult our businesses, she explained. This is aheld, raising more than $460,000 prime opportunity for us to get our rightful seat at the table in the travel and tourismforCareCampsduringKOAs industry. We havent always had that before, but weve proven to be formidable. Whileconvention. other forms of travel lagged in the pandemic, we soared.NextyearsKOAconvention ORourke also highlighted the amount of new investment coming into the systemwillbeheldinOrlando,Fla. with 12 conversions and 13 new construction contracts over the past year. TwentyWCM WOODALLSCM.comJanuary 2022 19'