Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Inc.’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Toby O’Rourke has been promoted to the new role of chief franchise operations officer for KOA.
In her new role, O’Rourke will take responsibility for both KOA’s brand marketing and its franchise operations, President and CEO Pat Hittmeier said, and will have oversight over all KOA departments except finance and KOA’s Company Owned Properties Division.
“Choosing the next leader of KOA’s franchise enterprise is one of the most important contributions I can make,” Hittmeier said of his decision to promote O’Rourke to her new role. “I considered a host of qualities necessary to make the largest positive impact on our business and our future. I wanted this key individual to have a future perspective, always be seeking new knowledge, be respected, be unselfish and be a good judge of human nature.”
Hittmeier said it was important he find someone who understood the importance of balancing the needs of KOA franchisees, campers and the company.
“I have confidence that Toby O’Rourke has all of the qualities I was looking for,” he said. “In her time with KOA, she has reshaped our brand image, become the ‘go-to’ person for our staff, introduced valuable new processes and has become well respected by our franchisees.”
He said O’Rourke is also recognized as a marketing leader in the camping and recreation industries.
O’Rourke first came to KOA in 2011 as director of digital marketing.
Prior to KOA, she was the digital marketing manager for Whitewave Foods in Broomfield, Colo. She also served as the assistant brand manager for Silk Soymilk while at Whitewave Foods and also for the Hillshire Farm brand for the Sara Lee Corp. in Downers Grove, Ill.
Prior to her marketing career, O’Rourke gained experience in software development and management consulting.
O’Rourke has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Her promotion is the second major announcement from KOA in a week, after longtime CEO and Chairman Jim Rogers stepped down — though retaining a seat on the board — and Hittmeier assumed the title of CEO.
After 15 years at the helm of Kampgrounds of America Inc., Jim Rogers will be stepping down as KOA’s chairman and CEO.
KOA President Pat Hittmeier has been promoted to the role of president and CEO, effective Jan. 1.
“In Jim’s tenure, he has transitioned KOA into a dynamic and progressive company and built a foundation of customer service that has elevated KOA to a premier position in the camping marketplace,” said Oscar Tang, chairman of KOA’s parent company, KOAH Inc. “His ebullient personality and organizational strategy have built a corporate culture that will be to KOA’s benefit for many years.”
Rogers will continue to serve as a member of the board of directors of KOAH Inc. and will consult on special projects for KOA.
Hittmeier will also serve on the board of KOAH Inc.
Rogers also serves as a member of the KOA Care Camps Trust board of directors. The KOA Care Camps Trust raises funds to support more than 100 specialized summer camps throughout North America for children with cancer.
Rogers came to KOA in 2000 as the new president and CEO after a long career with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. in Nevada. He rose to the rank of senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Reno. He had previously worked for KOA for two years in the early 1970s.
Hittmeier has had a 34-year career at KOA that has seen him in leadership roles in several key KOA departments. Early in his KOA career, he worked in KOA’s Company Owned Properties Division, and later was in the field, involved in the construction of several new KOA properties.
He’s also served as the leader of KOA’s Franchisee Services Department, a complex operation that provides education and support services to Kampgrounds of America’s 490 locations throughout North America.
Hittmeier was also the vice president of the KOA System Development Division. He was named chief operating officer of KOA Inc. in 2009 and was promoted to president in 2010.
“Pat has done an outstanding job as KOA’s president, leading the company to achieve record financial and quality results for the past five years,” Tang said. “Pat’s many years of experience and success will ensure a seamless succession for KOA staff and its franchise system as he takes on his new position as chief executive at KOA.”
Campers may already be planning a final camping trip this fall, but one lucky Kampgrounds of America (KOA) camper will be making that trip in a brand new Airstream travel trailer, according to an announcement from KOA Inc.
KOA and Airstream — two of the most iconic names in camping — have partnered for the 2015 “What’s Behind The Sign?” giveaway.
Campers can enter the contest once each day through Oct. 31 on the KOA Facebook page or at www.behindthesigngiveaway.com.
The contest is open to residents of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all Canadian provinces, except Quebec.
Advanced reservations for the holiday weekend are up more than 8% over the same time last year at the 486 locations in the KOA system in North America.
The Memorial Day results are the latest indicator of another strong year of summer-season camping at KOA, according to an announcement from KOA Inc.
“Our short-term camper nights are running almost 12% higher than at this point last year,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier.
“All indicators,” he continued, “are that this trend will continue as more and more campers discover what we have waiting for them behind our yellow sign.”
KOA Care Camps Big Weekend Numbers Up
Camper nights for KOA’s Care Camps Big Weekend May 8-9 were up 5.2% over last year. That event serves as the major fundraiser for KOA Care Camps, a nonprofit organization that supports a network of more than 100 summer camps for children battling cancer. In 2014, the charity raised a total of more than $1 million from all sources to support KOA Care Camps.
This year, campers who stayed as paying guests at a participating KOA Campground on Friday, May 8 received a night of camping on Saturday, May 9 for just $10. That entire Saturday camping fee went to benefit KOA Care Camps, and $110,000 was raised in just a single day.
Father’s Day Weekend Reservations Skyrocket
Advanced reservations for camper nights for the June 19-21 Father’s Day Weekend are currently running nearly 38% higher than the numbers from this time last year, and 4th of July Weekend camper night reservations are nearly 17% over 2014 figures.
KOA is celebrating its 53rd Anniversary in 2015. KOA, the world’s largest network of family-friendly campgrounds, was born on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Mont., in 1962. For more information, go to www.KOA.com.
For years, franchisees of Kampgrounds of America (KOA) touted their sites as the best in America — until a survey of campers found out otherwise, recalled Jim Rogers, chief executive officer of the world’s largest organization of privately held campgrounds.
The San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Tribune reported that Rogers addressed a group of about 30 students and budding business owners Wednesday (May 6) at the SLO HotHouse, an initiative created by Cal Poly, the San Luis Obispo Community, and the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Rogers spoke about his decision to seek customer feedback through a thorough analysis and how that led to specific improvements such as replacing the front desk clerk, repairing infrastructure or adding visitor-friendly amenities such as pools.
Several of the franchisees — who cater to RV travelers in addition to recreational campers — had to take a close look at their businesses, he said, such as replacing a family member at the front desk or adding a pool or deluxe cabin.
The company also improved customer satisfaction by increasing interaction between customers and KOA sites’ owners.
The owners who made a point to engage with more campers at their sites showed improved ratings for customer service.
“What we’ve discovered through studies is that people remember and appreciate meeting the owner, and they want to come back after they do,” Rogers said.
The executive with a background in the hotel and casino industry said he’d make trips to KOA campground sites and talked with franchisees who proclaimed their site was the best KOA in America.
“Everywhere I’d go, they’d say, ‘We’re the best in America,’” Rogers said. “I’d ask them, ‘Well, how do you know that?”
Rogers said the company decided to use a system that asked customers to give an evaluation and score of their experience, and the result was a surprise for some franchisees.
“We had our convention in Las Vegas and told people where they ranked,” Rogers said. “A lot of the people went into the bathroom and cried. They thought they were number one, and it turns out they’re 236th.”
Rogers said the ratings caused initial shock and some denial, but the subsequent upgrades to their sites — whether it was personnel or campground improvements — were valuable.
“It was one of the best things we could have done,” Rogers said.
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The Estes Park (Colo.) Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground, located at 2051 Big Thompson Avenue in Estes Park, opened for the 2015 camping season on Friday (May 1), the Trail-Gazette reported.
The Estes Park KOA is one of 485 open-to-the-public KOA campgrounds in the KOA system in the U.S. and Canada.
“As KOA begins its 53rd year of providing quality camping to North American families, we are proud to claim this campground as part of the KOA family,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “No matter where your travels take you, we have a KOA campground nearby tailored to your needs. Just like this local KOA, our folks in yellow shirts are always ready to give you a top-notch camping experience.”
To celebrate 53 years of serving campers, KOA is partnering this summer with Keystone RV Co. and Cabela’s to offer a great prize package through the “What’s Behind The Yellow Sign? Giveaway.” Beginning today (May 4), campers can enter to win a new Keystone Passport 171EXP (valued at $19,500) and a Cabela’s prize package worth $2,000.
The giveaway will run through August 30, 2015. Enter at www.BehindTheSignGiveaway.com.
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Under terms of the lease agreement, KOA will assume operations of Sam’s Town RV Park, one of the largest and most well-known RV parks in the Las Vegas Valley. Effective Wednesday, the park will be renamed the Las Vegas KOA at Sam’s Town, and become KOA’s exclusive home in Las Vegas.
“We are thrilled to welcome KOA to Sam’s Town, and look forward to a successful and mutually beneficial partnership,” said Steve Thompson, senior vice president of operations for Boyd Gaming’s Nevada region. “KOA is a highly trusted, globally-recognized hospitality brand, hosting nearly one million households each year. By teaming up with KOA, we will significantly increase our national exposure, introducing millions of new customers from around the world to the Sam’s Town brand.”
The agreement returns KOA to Boulder Highway, where the company opened the first Las Vegas KOA in 1971. As one of the most popular destinations for RV enthusiasts in the country, Las Vegas has long been one of KOA’s leading locations.
“KOA offers the best in outdoor hospitality, and we are interested in providing campers a premier place to stay in Las Vegas,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Sam’s Town is a beautiful facility with top-tier services run by a great group of people. The partnership is a winning combination.”
With nearly 500 spaces across two parks, Las Vegas KOA at Sam’s Town will offer both 30- and 50-amp full-hookup sites, spacious pull-through sites, and extended-stay opportunities. The park is fully landscaped, offering shade trees, grass and designated pet areas. Campground amenities include two pools with hot tubs, laundry and shower facilities, cable and Wi-Fi, and a communal barbecue area.
Opened in 1979, Sam’s Town is one of the largest and most established gaming resorts on the Boulder Strip. In addition to a 133,000-square-foot casino, the property offers a wide array of unique amenities, including award-winning restaurants like Billy Bob’s Steakhouse, Willy and Jose’s Cantina and the Firelight Buffet; live entertainment nightly at Roxy’s Lounge; an 18-screen movie theater; a 56-lane bowling center; Shepler’s Western Store; and Mystic Falls Park, home of the Sunset Stampede Laser Light Show. The property also offers regular free shuttle service to the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas.
Las Vegas KOA at Sam’s Town officially opens at 5225 Boulder Highway on Oct. 1. To reserve a stay, or for more information, visit VegasKOA.com, or call (800) 562-7270. For more information on Sam’s Town, visit www.samstownlv.com.
Since MGM Resorts International decided to close the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground near Circus Circus and make it the City of Rock, campers have known their time was limited, television station KLAS reported.
MGM is making room for the Rock in Rio open-air venue; making it the end of an era for the 350-space campground that has sat north of Circus Circus for 35 years.
Guests staying at the campground say this KOA isn’t your typical RV park.
“I like it very much because it’s so close to the Strip and you can walk there. It’s really great. I didn’t expect it was possible to be so close,” said Peter Ofner, visiting from Austria.
Beginning in May of 2015, all of that will change. The Rock in Rio USA festival is expected to host 300,000 people over two weekends in May.
Camper Becky Quigley, who is visiting from Nebraska, isn’t sure where she will stay in the future.
The next closest RV park to the Strip is downtown.
KOA plans to make an announcement about the move of the campground soon, according to the campground’s site on KOA.com.
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Across the nearly 500 North American campgrounds in the KOA network, check-ins were up 1.9% from Wednesday through Sunday and total camper nights were up 6.2% compared to last year’s Labor Day period, looking at same-campground comparisons.
KOA is still compiling numbers for the peak summer season, since KOA includes this week as part of that season.