May '16

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70 • RV PRO • MAY 2016 rv-pro.com grounds work closely with dealerships that are nearby. I think the idea that people are camping closer to home also plays well into the rela- tionship between the campground and RV dealer. If I'm (traveling) from Minnesota to Washington and spending one night, an RV dealership in Billings really doesn't have much connection to that camper. But the reality is, if most of our guests are camping close to home, the night they spent before they camp is at home. It's the same cus- tomer for the dealer as it is for the local campground. That connects those two businesses in a stronger way than it used to. At our campgrounds, we're focusing attention on areas like electrical upgrades, site improvements, and we've seen some great gains overall in the ability for our campgrounds to support bigger rigs, more powerful rigs, from a power usage stand- point, so that's a good thing. The 'Go RVing' campaign is great, and, likewise, we do our own marketing encouraging people to camp and touting the experience they can have. RV PRO: Based on the opportunities and challenges you see, what can people expect from KOA moving forward? Hittmeier: We've been around for quite awhile, over 50 years, and our brand is well-known, but we try to keep our mes- sage fresh. The experience is timeless, and people can resonate with the images they see. Our focus right now is really on attracting new guests. We're trying to reach an audience that's never stayed at KOA before. In our (2016) North Amer- ican Camping report, which is the second year for this particular study, we asked a lot of questions about minority campers; we know that's a market the RV industry is watching, too. The emerging Hispanic market, particularly, we're seeing a lot more of, and Millennials, the 25 to 34 age group, is a much more diverse group than our existing base of customers. We'll continue to focus on improving the outdoor experience for our camping guests, and modernizing our campgrounds, providing a service that meets the expec- tations of today's campers. We've been focused on guest service and the guest experience for almost 15 years now, and we've seen dramatic results. We have very few weak links in our KOA system, and with a franchise that's very important. And we'll continue to set the pace for technology improvements within the industry. We're currently making a huge investment there as we re-write the plat- form for our operating system that all KOAs use to run their front desks and reservation registrations. We see technology as being a competitive advantage, and in the future, I see camping to be much more competi- tive marketplace than it has been. There are fewer locations (available) and there's markets served by multiple properties. From Millennials to Baby Boomers, to the snowbird who stays long term, to the individual going cross country, to the people who are camping 50 miles from their home, we service all those individuals, whether they're staying in tents or Class A motorhomes. It's a real diverse market, and trying to define yourself in that marketplace is always a challenge. KOA is seeing more diverse demographic groups staying at its park these days, including more Millennials (ages 25 to 34) and more Hispanics. KOA actively works to make its parks welcoming to all.

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