Rogers Urges Cooperation at Power Breakfast
Jim Rogers, CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), took his effervescent, pro-camping message to an audience of 400 people from the RV industry today (May 9) in Elkhart, Ind.
Rogers was the keynote speaker at the inaugural “Power Breakfast” sponsored by RVBusiness magazine, sister publication to Woodall’s Campground Management magazine.
Speaking on the theme “Let’s Uncover the RV Camping Future Together,” Rogers identified several camping trends within the KOA system. Among them:
- After a slight downturn in 2011, annual camper nights rose 2.7% systemwide in 2012, led by 6.8% growth in the South Central region and 5.6% growth in New England.
- Camper nights for deluxe cabins soared 23.1% in May to October 2012 over the same period in 2011. This may be creating a big upturn in prospective RV buyers who become interested in camping.
- 58% of campers spent the previous night at home, meaning people are taking shorter trips.
- Social media has become an integral part of a campground’s operation, putting the operator in contact with the public every day.
- Campgrounds have become a “valued oasis” for Americans who live in a “high tech, low touch world.”
The disconnect between the RV industry and campgrounds – which Rogers is trying to close – was apparent throughout his presentation as audience participation on camping questions he posed to his listeners often drew a tepid response.
For example, just a few dozen people indicated that they had watched the television network broadcast in January of “Undercover Boss” in which Rogers worked undercover at several KOA campgrounds. The show garnered huge national ratings and inspired all-time record contacts on KOA’s website for weeks afterward.
To close this disconnect, Rogers has proposed that campgrounds – KOAs in particular – should become showrooms for RV dealers. Current campers are the best RV sales prospects, Rogers maintains, and would be interested in weekend shows over the summer. Or, he suggested, RV dealers could work in tandem with campgrounds to offer a night’s camping at a nearby campground for a prospective RV buyer to test their new unit. Cabin guests also comprise the next wave of new RV buyers, he added.
He said the campground industry also has to do a better job of reaching out to the nation’s minorities – African-American, Hispanic and Asian. These three ethnic groups represent 33% of the U.S. population but just 12% of the camping public.
Rogers also noted that camping is the “perfect answer” to Americans’ quest for “soft rugged” – the demand for an experience with hospitality and comfort.
In conclusion, Rogers said there are sunny days ahead for both the RV and campground industries. Some 70% of current RVers will make a replacement purchase and 25% want a new unit. He anticipates fewer gas price spikes, and camping remains THE affordable getaway/vacation option. Only 15% of Americans camp and most of those are in tents. The potential upside for RV – and camping – growth is immense, he said.