Jim Rogers: KOA Resort Redefining Camping

May 5, 2014 by   - () 2 Comments

photo3Sandy Rogers, wife of Jim Rogers, the CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), perfectly summed up the unique quality of the Cape Hatteras KOA Resort as she pushed a button on the ground floor of the large clubhouse: “How many campgrounds have elevators?”

Answer: About as many as have a floor of suites upstairs from the front desk and camp store.

Welcome to Cape Hatteras KOA Resort, the newest KOA property to adopt the KOA Resort brand, and the first company-owned property to do so.

The campground was nearly wiped off the map in 2011 when Hurricane Irene flooded Hatteras Island. KOA put $6.5 million into rebuilding the campground to the criteria of the KOA Resort brand.

The campground had a formal grand reopening celebration over the weekend, ending yesterday (May 4).

During that time KOA people from all over the country joined guests to show off all the amenities of the resort: An expanded pool, improved sites, deluxe cabins elevated enough to park a car beneath them, and, of course, the eight hotel-like suites — all in addition to hundreds of RV sites, tent sites and basic cabin sites.

“We are redefining it. What is camping? Camping is not about the buildings or the pools, it’s about people and the way we act,” said Jim Rogers, standing near the pool with a steel drum playing in the background.

“What we’re doing is attracting a mix of people who have never been to a campground,” Rogers told Woodall’s Campground Management.

“We call it genuine engagement. At it’s fundamental, it’s providing something that’s missing every day. We block ourselves up, we’ve hooked ourselves up to a phone or an iPad or whatever, we don’t have that genuine engagement. Campgrounds do,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the best and brightest minds in the campground industry put the effort into the rebuilding of the Cape Hatteras KOA Resort. Eric Kelch, KOA’s facilities director for the company-owned properties, led the work. Kelch grew up on a KOA campground in Tennessee and has camping in his DNA, as Rogers put it.

The campground has features designed to block future waves, the main building’s water is heated entirely by the sun, Kelch described. “Everything sparks something else,” he said.

Rogers said, “It’s never one thing, it’s thousands of little things. It’s the best that can be done in our industry.”

So far, Cape Hatteras joins one KOA Resort in Michigan and one in Ohio, but KOA spokesman Mike Gast said more are coming soon.

Many more have adopted the KOA Journey and KOA Holiday brands, with about 110 of the roughly 500 KOAs across North America already using the brands, said Pat Hittmeier, president of KOA. Hittmeier said he expects that number to keep growing.


2 Responses to “Jim Rogers: KOA Resort Redefining Camping”

  1. Chuck Woodbury on May 5th, 2014 3:01 pm

    So . . . “Sandy Rogers, wife of KOA CEO Jim Rogers, sums the unique quality of the Cape Hatteras KOA Resort with the question: ‘How many campgrounds have elevators?’ (which the park does).”

    What does an elevator have to do with camping? What do “eight hotel-like suites” have to do with camping? What does parking one’s car under a rented cabin have to do with camping?

    This is probably all good for KOA and for the Cape Hatteras “cotell” (cross between campground and hotel), but I hope this is not the new definition of camping.

  2. Eric Ramey on May 10th, 2014 7:05 am

    I typically stay at this resort 2-3x during a camping season. They learned from Hurricane Irene and redesigned and rebuilt the cabins and main house so that if another Hurricane Irene type of storm rolled through the OBX the impact would be minimal.

    Also the people that they have hired are some of the friendliest in the business! From walking around and interacting with campers to providing a helping hand (or hands) to a newbie.