Editor’s Note: Want some tips on how to stage a grand opening for your campground? Here is some advice from Mike Gast, vice president of communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA). His comments are excerpted from a story by Patricia Schaefer on Grand Opening Success Tips as reported at tips-finance-2.blogspot.com.

Franchising since 1962, KOA has over 40 years of experience in owning, operating and supporting the largest system of campgrounds in North America. There are more than 450 campgrounds in the KOA system in the U.S. and Canada. Communications Director Mike Gast had this to say about planning a grand opening:

What franchisors can do to plan a successful grand opening:
“Involving the local community is key. We use our marketing staff in our Billings, Mont., home office to make contact with the local chamber of commerce for mailing lists, and to produce newspaper advertisements, radio, TV and newspaper news releases and posters. In the case of franchised campgrounds, we will point the campground owners in the right direction, but they will be the ones who need to make the local contacts.”

What franchisees can do to assist in maximizing the success of their grand opening:
“We’ve got several tools available to help our franchisees. For instance, each franchisee has access to a database of campers who have stayed at their campground or at other campgrounds in their region. This database can be used for direct mail or e-mail to market their grand opening.
“We actually have a system that will produce and send direct mail postcards to campers for 50 cents per unit with a 48-hour turnaround. That has worked well for many franchisees. We also have a Hot Deals system whereby franchisees can offer immediate special deals to campers via direct mail, e-mail and the koa.com website. Franchisees often set a special Grand Opening Hot Deal, such as buy-one-night/get-one-night-free to get campers to give them a try.”

KOA franchise owners Pat and Kathy Kennedy, owners of the Bristol/Kingsport campgrounds in Tennessee, have done a great job of marketing, says Gast. So much so that they were awarded the Rising Star Award by KOA, as well as the Founder’s Award and President’s Award by their campers.

In talking with Kathy Kennedy, it becomes evident just how their campgrounds have become a hit. Enthusiastic, devoted to her “campers,” and full of phenomenally fun ideas, she even managed to get this writer — a self-admitted non-camper — wanting to pack my bags and head for Kennedy’s Kampgrounds in Tennessee.

Now in their third year of operations, the Kennedys have had a “grand opening every weekend” since they first opened: Hippity Hoppity Easter Weekend, Alien Space Weekend (Aliens Get One Night Free), and Western Whodunit Weekend, to name just a few. And their most popular weekend yet? “Survivor” Weekend.

Through the use of their newsletter, campsite database, chamber of commerce and other means of “shouting out to the local community,” Kennedy says their approach of novel and new themed events — and lots of fun for the whole family — has brought back their customers time and time again.

Kennedy says they are looking forward to a very successful year. For others who are looking for grand opening success, she says it’s critical to know what you’re going to do and to make a plan. Then get the word out… and tantalize your prospective customer, getting them interested and curious.