May '16

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rv-pro.com MAY 2016 • RV PRO • 67 RV PRO: You've been with KOA for decades – 35 years and counting – and have worked in a variety of roles. What would you say are the biggest changes you've witnessed in that time? Hittmeier: Well, the reason people camp hasn't changed at all in my 35 years. People still go to get away and for relax- ation, leisure, being with friends, social- izing, that kind of thing. The social atmo- sphere that's unique to camping, it's very different from their normal day. If anything's changed, I think there's always a desire to have more from the equipment people use – RVs, of course, are bigger, they have more amenities – to the experience people are having. People want to be entertained a little bit more than they used to be. Our campgrounds are made up of a lot of different experiences, so getting out in front of the curve, letting the guests know what they might expect at any particular KOA, is very important. Staying closer to home has been a trend for many years now, so it's shorter vacation time periods versus traveling cross-country. You're seeing people – because of gas prices, primarily, and the economy, secondarily – traveling and taking longer trips, but I think that paradigm shift that happened is still occurring today. People are choosing to recreate closer to come. And it's really not about the dollars anymore, it's about the time people have. You can't go from Michigan to California in a long weekend; it just doesn't work. Those kinds of things have gradually changed the markets available to camping. At one time, we had a lot of campgrounds on transient routes, and some of those loca- tions just aren't supported anymore with current traffic and they're gone. There was a time when KOA had a little over 800 properties – we have a little less than 500 now – but those locations just didn't make sense anymore. But it's still a very robust industry, and things are looking great for the coming year, for sure. RV PRO: What's a "typical" day like for you as president – and now – CEO at KOA? Hittmeier: That's the thing I like most about KOA. There is no typical day. Every day is different. Of course, in running the company, the main thing you want to focus Hittmeier says KOA's biggest focus currently is upon improving the outdoor experiences associated with its campsites, such as patio space, secondary seating areas, campfires and gas-fired barbecue grills and other amenities not typically found in RV parks today. The campground system has also put KOA cabins in many of its campgrounds.

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