Ted Bell, the founder of Kampgrounds Enterprises, Inc. (KEI), was honored with the Darrell Booth Lifetime Achievement Award at Kampgrounds of America Inc.’s (KOA) annual International Convention held in Orlando, Fla. Bell is the eighth recipient of the award since its creation in 2011, according to a press release.
Named after Darrell Booth, KOA’s first president, the achievement award was presented to Bell after nearly 55 years of leadership in the camping and outdoor hospitality industries. Since breaking ground on their first campground in 1968, KEI now operates six award-winning KOA franchise campgrounds.
Bell entered the camping business in 1968 while working as a detective for the Chula Vista Police Department. Seeing the need for improvements to public campgrounds, Bell and his wife, Carol, purchased land to build the San Diego Metro KOA Resort. The company has since grown into a powerful family business with locations across the western United States.
The Darrell Booth Lifetime Achievement Award was created to honor those who dedicate a significant part of their lives to advancing the KOA system and camping lifestyle in North America. Booth, KOA’s first president, was hand-selected by company founder Dave Drum to guide the company and oversaw the rapid growth of the KOA campground system during the 1960s and 1970s. His leadership and foresight allowed Kampgrounds of America, Inc. to grow and prosper even during harsh economic times.
“Much like Darrell Booth saw the opportunity in building the first KOA, Ted’s innovative spirit has made an indelible mark on our industry,” said Toby O’Rourke, president and CEO of KOA. “Ever since breaking ground on his first campground, Ted’s unique vision, foresight and commitment to the mission of connecting people to the outdoors and each other have elevated and refined camping for decades. Our system and the camping industry at large have been made better by Ted and his family.”
What began as one KOA campground in San Diego, Ted’s third-generation family business owns and operates some of the brand’s most successful campgrounds: San Diego Metro KOA Resort, Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA Holiday, Grand Canyon KOA Journey, Williams/Circle Pines KOA Holiday, Flagstaff KOA Holiday and St. Louis West KOA Holiday.
A progressive industry leader passionate about the great outdoors, Bell was an early proponent and visionary of the KOA Owners Association, strengthening the relationship between the KOA brand and franchisees. Additionally, Bell and his family have revolutionized campground lodging, introducing new ways to camp, including Eco Structures glamping tents. Bell is also recognized for his passion and support for Care Camps, a non-profit that supports pediatric oncology summer camps across North America.
Previous winners of the Darrell Booth Lifetime Achievement Award are Richard Cutler, founder of Recreational Adventures Co.; Don Lowe, KOA Holdings board member and CEO of Franchise Services, Inc.; Loren Smith, president of Prairie Kraft Specialties; Chuck Celania, president of Independence Bank; Jim Rogers, former KOA, Inc. president & CEO; Pat Hittmeier, former KOA, Inc. president & CEO; and J. Alan Johnson, executive vice president of Recreational Adventure Co.