Deb Kohls

Deb Kohls is an outdoor hospitality and recreation expert on travel industry systems. She has an extensive background in enabling technologies, which connect businesses with consumer. She also serves on the Camp California board of directors, a wholly owned subsidiary of CalARVC. She provided the following guest roundtable for the June issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. Contact her at www.linkedin.com/in/debkohls or at (714) 269-1264.

Keeping up with the trends and all the electronic ways to connect with consumers is vitally important to our outdoor hospitality businesses. And even the general travel industry is challenged with managing all the points of connection with the digital consumer in today’s instant access culture. Yet we can learn some very important lessons on collaboration strategies, which enable the travel industry to remain close to their guests and quantify the value of such connections.

Finding Our Voice

From websites, mobile apps and mobile enabled websites to global distribution systems and online review sites, consumers are demanding options, information and immediate gratification. The hotel and airline industry have learned that providing consolidated information through an integrated system enables better inventory control for the individual business owner and provides the traveler with greater single source information in the trip planning experience.

And as the online consumer expects a greater level of choice and even one stop in the dreaming and planning process, the travel ecosystem is evolving to provide increased choice about the “where” to go, “why” to go there, “what’s there” and the “how” to get there. From travel reviews to booking channels, wouldn’t it make sense that the outdoor recreation and hospitality industry get connected to have a voice and share in the economic impacts of travel?

By leveraging the power of the general travel dreaming, planning, and booking marketing channels, there are several options for our industry. Of course we all know the power of online travel sites, both in our own industry as well as general travel. I’m sure you’ve wondered how hotels and airlines are able to satisfy the planning and research stage of vacation planning AND make it easy to confirm travel plans (do any of you still make phone calls to book airlines or hotels?).

The answer is that they found their voice together. By building a system that makes it easy to connect property owner inventory to multiple consumer channels, they stay in control while providing the consumer with instant access and the ability to serve themselves. So whether the guest finds you through your own marketing (direct) or through third-party channels (online marketing sites) property owners can maximize each channel for optimum revenue per booking and quantify each marketing dollar spent.

According to the Outdoor Foundation, 42.55 million people in the U.S. camp or RV. During the recent economic recession the outdoor recreation industry grew approximately 5%, while other sectors including general travel did not fare as well. Yet they learned more than ever how important it is to invest in new technologies to meet the consumer demand for convenience and instant access. With mobile-enabled technologies, near-field communications and social media, they continue to evolve and lead with the ability to capture consumer leisure spending dollars.

With $646 billion spent on outdoor recreation, it is time for us to be heard. And by working together, we can make a difference by leveraging general travel systems and travel-marketing channels to connect consumers to outdoor hospitality travel experiences.