KOA Adds 12 Franchisees So Far This Year
The sluggish 2008 economy appears to have had little effect on the steady rate of independent campgrounds choosing to join the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) system.
In 2007, 28 independent campground owners chose to convert their properties to KOA franchised campgrounds, one of many record-setting accomplishments seen by KOA last year. The national economy is a different story in 2008, but the conversions are once again adding up, with 12 properties joining the KOA franchise family during the first six months of 2008, according to a KOA news release. This brings the current number of KOA Kampgrounds to 453.
The 12 new KOA Kampground franchises added through June 2008 are:
KOA Vice President of System Development Pat Hittmeier said, “I believe that we can attribute our continued high conversion rate to the strength of the KOA brand.” Hittmeier said that the most valuable benefit of a branded franchise system is the attraction of new customers, and this benefit may be most evident during a weak economy. The KOA brand is especially strong. Internal surveys show that the KOA brand is recognized by 90% of North American RVers.
KOA data show that campers are so loyal to the KOA brand that most – 86% – have stayed at other KOAs before. They also trust the brand enough to explore other campgrounds that are part of the KOA system: 70% of short-term campers are first-timers at the particular KOA they’re staying at.
The nationally-recognized brand appeal was clearly demonstrated to Shelby/Mansfield, Ohio KOA campground owners Garry and Vicki Cole. “During the first 40 years we operated our campground, our guests came from Ohio and the surrounding states. Within two years of becoming a KOA, our guests’ homes were in 45 states and provinces and three European countries,” Garry said. Hittmeier said the Coles’ experience is the norm at most campgrounds joining the KOA system.
In a tight economic year, independent campground owners may be looking at a wider range of options to increase business, including adding a franchise. “Ultimately, campground owners want to have the greatest number of camper nights they can,” said KOA Franchise Sales Manager Chris Fairlee. “The people who’ve chosen to become KOA franchisees have decided that becoming a KOA Kampground gives them the best opportunity to increase that number.”
In addition to the brand, technology is also an important consideration for owners. In today’s world, it’s challenging to stay current with technological advancements in any industry. It is both time- and labor-intensive, and cost-prohibitive in many cases. “In terms of technology, our franchisees have a complete turn-key proprietary software system in KampSight that includes a no-transaction-fee service, real-time on-line reservations, automatic updates and upgrades, and training programs that allow them to have the best of all worlds: low costs, ease and efficiency,” Fairlee said.
Finally, converts are finding that, as Jim MacArthur of the new Dayton/Pomeroy/Blue Mountain KOA said, “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
MacArthur explained, “It’s easy to get ‘tunnel vision’ when you’re working on the campground day in and day out. You lose touch with what’s going on in the industry. We found that being part of the KOA system helped us create ways to enhance the camping experience at our campground.” MacArthur’s campground now has an outdoor movie screen, ice cream socials, and a series of summer themed weekends.
KOA is also making it easier for independent campground owners to consider becoming a KOA franchisee with their satisfaction guarantee. New franchisees are guaranteed their money back within a specific time period if they don’t see the KOA value. “We’re happy to reduce their risk with a money-back guarantee because we know that if they get experience with the brand, they’ll be happy for the long run,” says Hittmeier