For the past 17 years, Nory Schultz has called “Town and Country RV Park” home, but no more. Schultz will now call the park, renamed Daytona Speedway KOA home, according to the Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal.
The park is one of two campgrounds owned by the O’Dwyer family that recently joined the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) network. The other park, Orange Isles Campground in Port Orange, is now Daytona Beach KOA.
“We always liked it because of the location,” Schultz said about the park while chatting with friends and fellow campers Wilma and Dallas Jarvis and Gert Panther this month.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Schultz said she moved to Daytona from the Florida Keys. “We were looking for a place with lots of trees because it was so hot in the Keys,” she said, adding she planned to stay in Daytona just half of the year but ended up being a year-round resident.
Besides new names, the KOA affiliation has resulted in some physical changes at both parks, with more to come. At Daytona Beach KOA, for example, the bathrooms have a new color scheme, and there is now a fire pit located on site.
There also are plans to install a fire pit at Daytona Speedway KOA, said Shelly Patterson, who, along with her husband, Lowell, manages both campgrounds.
The new paint job and fire pits are just the beginning of changes planned for the parks, Shelley Patterson said during an interview at the Daytona Speedway office.
“We will change the layout of the park eventually,” she said, adding the owners also want to add cabins at both locations for guests who don’t own RVs but still want the camping experience.
The O’Dwyer family has owned the parks since 1978 but didn’t decide to affiliate with KOA until this year. “It’s a different world out there now,” Brian O’Dwyer said, noting that when his dad bought the site, there was a dairy farm where the flea market now sits.
People now bring their computers with them on vacation, O’Dwyer said. “You have to have Wi-Fi now. If you don’t have it at your park, you can forget it.”
Being able to book reservations online also is important, he said. KOA has a computerized system for its franchisees. “To have a website and to maintain the kind of marketing power that KOA has is hard for an independent to do,” O’Dwyer said in a telephone interview.
Franchisees pay an initial fee of $25,000 to join KOA and annual royalties of 10%. The properties also undergo a 600-point campground inspection each year.
Mike Gast, a KOA spokesman, said the brand’s marketing is what sets it apart. “We are the strongest established brand in North America,” Gast said in a telephone interview from Montana. In 1982, there were nearly 900 KOA-affiliated campgrounds. Through the years, the number declined as sites were gobbled up by development, he said.
“Also, we’re pretty fussy about who we let in,” he said, noting the company has 10 teams of inspectors that travel the country visiting member campgrounds.
One reason the KOA brand has remained strong, he said, is that campers like to stay and spend money with familiar brands.
Better customer service is another thing the KOA brand has bought to both campgrounds, Patterson said. The camp stores, for example, now stay open longer and campers are escorted to their sites after checking in. “There was not a lot of customer service before,” she said, adding the change resulted in hiring more employees. There are now 18 workers at the two campgrounds.
The change also will mean there may be fewer spots in the future for long-term campers, Patterson said.
“We are a campground and by nature, we should be more transient,” she said. While having long-term visitors helps with cash flow between April and September, the campgrounds actually lose money during special event months, such as February, because they are not able to increase the fee, she said.
The goal, she said, is to come up with a better balance.
O’Dwyer estimated less than 25% of his lessees are long-term tenants.
“We want to be a campground, not a mobile home park,” he said.