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BEHIND THE YELLOW KOA SIGN
 
(2015 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: E. LISA MOSES



The KOA camping scene is a world away from the 2006 comedy RV, starring the late Robin Williams. Think deluxe cabins with comfortable beds, air conditioning and satellite TV.

Since 1962, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) has provided safe, healthy environments where road trippers can pitch a tent or hook up an RV, and enjoy services such as free hot showers, restrooms and convenience stores. While camping has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, it remains an enjoyable way for parents to reconnect with their kids, just as a generation ago they did with their parents.

According to Michael Gast, vice-president of communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc., today’s campers are looking for a more complete experience with various levels of entertainment and food services. In response, KOA’s 485 “full-service” parks across North America offer everything from pancake breakfasts and evening barbecues to professional recreation staff and zones of activities and interests for adults, children and pets.

Going a step farther toward helping campers zero in on parks that fit their needs for a particular trip, KOA has rebranded into three styles for vacationers: Resort, Holiday and Journey. “Each brand has standards for services and amenities designed to meet the expectations of various types of travellers,” adds Gast.

Rustic Resort Lifestyle

At the top of the collection are KOA Resort campgrounds, which are ideal for multi-generational family vacations. Among the extras at this level are patio RV sites, deluxe cabins with linen service, planned activities led by recreation staff, on-site food service and group meeting space. KOAs across North America offer nearly 3,000 deluxe and more than 4,500 basic cabins.

Dave Barton, owner of Ontario, Canada’s Ivy Lea KOA, points out that deluxe cabins are a big attraction for those without RVs or tents. “They are ideal for people who want to enjoy the camping lifestyle but are not interested in roughing it.” Fuelling part of the huge growth in this sector are boomers, including grandparents who want to camp with their families but do it in style and comfort. Among the special features offered by his park are a jumping pillow, laser tag in the woods and an outdoor movie theatre with a gas fireplace. Future plans include a mining-themed outdoor minigolf area built into a hillside.

KOA Journey campgrounds cater to short stopovers with long pull-through sites that help make setup fast and easy, have well-lit after-hours check-in service, and offer a good selection of RV supplies. KOA Holiday parks serve as a base camp for exploring an area, or a fun place to stay with activities for everyone.

To build on the standard benefits that come with each stay, campers can opt to earn discounts and deals through the KOA Value Kard Rewards program. Through this loyalty program, members can earn points that can be redeemed for savings at various KOA locations, or with program partners such as the Route 66 RV Network, Rayovac and Pet Travel Centre.

The Canadian Connection

Gast is pleased to report that Canadian KOAs “often lead the way in innovation, and have certainly helped accelerate our efforts to implement ‘green camping’practices at all of our facilities.” These include recycling and using non-chemical cleaners in bathrooms that do not damage septic fields.

Another major source of pride across the system is KOA Care Camps for children with cancer (koacarecamps.org). “Every KOA in our system holds fundraisers for this cause, often big events attracting huge crowds,” he says. In 2014 for the first time, the annual campaign raised more than $1 million, with the 34 Canadian KOAs contributing almost $100,000 for distribution to their 11 Care Camps. This success allowed the company to bump the total number of Care Camps to 94 from 52.

KOAs also capture some of the most scenic and exciting locations for camping—and Canada boasts some of the best. “At the Hinton/Jasper KOA we have a great site at the top of Jasper National Park. In the Maritimes, we have several including the Gros Morne/Norris Point KOA in Newfoundland, ”notes Gast. “And if you haven’t tried at least one of the three KOAs in the Canadian 1000 Islands of the St. Lawrence Seaway, you really haven’t seen the area the way you should.” Two Canadian sites have also won the KOA of the Year award: Toronto North/Cookstown KOA and Barrie, Ontario KOA.

“While every park is different and each is independently owned and operated, our company-wide training systems ensure consistent and superior service for all visitors,” says Gast. “We work every day to enhance their experience—from what the kids will be doing to what’s available in the local areas.” And that is what’s behind the big yellow sign, keeping Kampgrounds of America in a leadership position for more than half a century.

Travel Planner

KOA’s interactive website, koa.com, is packed with goodies for the camping community, including information on the locations, amenities and activities of KOAs in Canada and the U.S. Also posted online are videos of camper stories, recipes and camping tips. In addition to the website, the new KOA mobile app (available at the Apple App Store and Google Play) offers trip planning and booking. Just find a campground you’re interested in, search the available inventory for the dates of your visit, view photos featuring accommodation—including floor plans of cabins—and then book your reservation. The annual printed KOA Directory is also available free at every campground.

 
 
 
 
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