Campground of the future? You’re kidding, right?

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By Chuck Woodbury
The giant annual lovefest of the RV industry, called RVX, just ended in Salt Lake City. It’s where RV industry people come to network, gawk at new models, party, and discuss how they can ramp up sales from a half million RVs a year (like in 2017) to 600,000.

KOA’s exhibit this year was about the campground of the future. Check out the screen shots below from the virtual reality tours you can see at campthefuture.com. These ideas rival Walt Disney’s dream of Fantasyland, which he in fact created, while KOA’s vision is wacko fantasy. Do they really believe this? I’m thinking: where’s George Jetson in this picture?


Here’s what KOA’s CEO says
“With the increase in camping popularity comes a greater need to ensure the longevity of camping through smart design and preservation of nature,” said KOA’s CEO Toby O’Rourke. “We believe that thoughtful use of technology and devotion to sustainably growing camping offerings will meet the increased expectations of campers, while further enhancing that connection with nature that camping provides.”

“Connection with nature?” Really?

Understand that very few KOA’s are company owned. Most are franchised operations, run by hard-working small business people — mom, pop and sometimes their kids. After paying a franchise fee, they pay KOA 10% of their sales for the privilege of being listed in the KOA catalog, marketing help, and flying the KOA flag. So you tell me: Could these small-business people ever come up with campgrounds as exotic as these? Could they afford to build them, or even come close?

Okay, the fact is there are some nice KOAs these days: Maybe 10% of the 500 or so of them are really, really nice. But none come close to what KOA is now portraying as the campground of the future.

Here are two examples of future campgrounds as envisioned by KOA. The website mentioned above shows others, equally as unrealistic and economically impossible.

The coastal campground of the future

KOA camp of the future
At this KOA, campers stay in sites along the artificial lagoon, which presumably would be built and paid for by the Mom and Pop owners. Let’s see: If they could actually afford to create such a hugely expensive, idyllic lagoon-campground, how much would they need to charge for a night’s stay? You’re not staying here for $75 a night, that’s for sure.

Next, the urban campground of the future

KOA campground of the future
Now, here’s a great example of providing a “connection with nature.” Do you have any idea how much it would cost to build a campground in this ultra modern urban setting? How much would the land alone cost? If you stay here, the owners would probably need to charge you $500 a night (in today’s dollars) to cover the many millions they’d need to invest in land alone (just a guess).

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Susan

You’re missing the point. The exercise mentions nothing of “this will be done,” but rather looks to say what could be possible with no limits in place. Why not appreciate the creativity and innovation in a space that’s becoming increasingly popular. Will all of this exist? No. Might some of it? Absolutely. I for one appreciate the creativity of it all.

Mark

KOA is dreaming big, I love it.

amy

For the urban campground I guess they could take over land in a city that has shrunk. Detroit for instance is 1/3 of its once large size. They have been tearing down empty houses. There was a proposal to sell land for farming so why not a campground. I wouldn’t want to stay in an urban campground unless it showed up crazy like in the picture with a water park or something. I wouldn’t be there for the urban part.

chipper

Just how much do they think this will cost for a daily or weekly fee? Some people can’t afford a week at a KOA now.

Shelley

Why is this even considered camping? We camp to get closer to the nature experience not to “live” in an manicured amusement park. If people want an amusement park then it should be separate. As others indicated it’s just not financially viable and those of us who just want to get outside and be comfortable wouldn’t be interested anyway. I hope it doesn’t actually come to pass.

Gene Cheatham

Urban camping on a spot competing with multi unit businesses wouldn’t fly – unless you had fees approaching a mortgage. We spun up a plan in 2003 to build one from scratch, had to bail as we couldn’t compete with home builders looking for similar land.

Jerry & Lois

None of these new-fangled ideas aren’t worth much if you can’t find them. What the RV/Camping industry needs is a Trivago/Travelocity/Priceline type app that helps a camper find available spots.

Maybe there is one that I don’t know about but spending days finding a camping spot is not my idea of fun. Right now we are using RVTripWizard and ParkAdvisor, which are helpful, but the responsibility should be shifted to the campground owners to fill up their spots. imho

David reese

Future campgrounds look really nice, they will work well for the wealthy. I can imagine the sites are pricey. Still not my kind of camping. We are full timers, only travel in summer and usually stay in one place all summer. Then again after labor day we slowly work our way back to Tombstone for the winter.

Eric Ramey

“if we build it..They will come” quote from Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams.

If you compare the amount of RV’s that are being built vs the number of campsites being built..we are in need of additional spaces. Like it or not at least KOA is trying to provide a long term solution.

Wendy Busk

Judging from the plethora of expensive sun blockers in RV parks now, I think there are a lot of people with more money than sense. Staying in an outlandish park will have the same draw as does Disney World, despite the cost, and Disney is always full.

Scott Ellis

Do I believe the future of camping *could* look like that? Alas, yes, I do. Personally, I think even $75/night is just a fantastically ridiculous number for “camping,” every bit as completely disconnected from reality as a spot on an artificial lagoon. But people do pay that 75 bucks, or more, regularly and apparently happily, so who knows what else they might spring for to be “close to nature” (cue insane derisive laughter).

The future of *some* people’s camping might well look like that. So long as there are public lands, the future of *my* camping will involve long gravel roads and dead silent nights under the stars . . . for *free*.

Sharbra

I really hope that before KOA embarks on any of these dream campgrounds they take the time to train staff in the art of communicating with each other. I am attending a rally at a KOA and because of basic lack of communication between office personnel, have been moved 3 times in 4 days. If staff is not trained and does not communicate with each other, you do not have happy campers.

Susan banks

New 25 spot camp places are getting lots of pushback, I can not imagine how much to get all this approved, let alone thumbs up from all agencies involved.

Doug G.

Is all this TECHNICALLY feasible? Yes. If not now, certainly in the future. The real question is, is it ECONOMICALLY feasible? As you said, Chuck, not in the current franchise model for KOA. I seriously doubt that corporate KOA could afford to build even one of these ideas. They obviously have not seen or heard how much flak proposed new RV parks get from the people who live near the proposed development. And it won’t just be from the NUMBYs. Environmentalists will jump on many of these ideas because of the purported environmental impact, which there will be some, at least. I look at this as a way for corporate KOA to say they will alwyas be relevant in the industry.

Rory R

My my my, whoever dreamed up those scnarios has found something new, there is no alcoholic beverage or drug on this planet that could cause such a strange vision. Even if they funded these projects and brought them online the costs would probably something like $500 a night. That is truly a pipe dream. They should be flogged and made to walk the plank and fall into that beautiful mountainside view. That was totally ridiculous…

jillie

When I heard that Ocracoke Island was getting a new and better campground I thought O wow. Cool. I love those islands off NC. When I found out it was KOA and how much acreage there was I was floored. I remember something like 7800. Maybe I am wrong but from the looks of it. It is going to be huge. I am a KOA fan because some campsites I have been too? Scare me worse then badly built RVs. Good luck.

KellyR

If “camping” looks like this in the future, it is not camping. Right now, KOAs are not really camping.

Ralph Pinney

Sounds cliche, but I think if you build it, they will come. There’s plenty of high end resorts today to prove the point. Of course, we are on the perverbial beer budget and probably won’t see the inside of those type of RV Parks. Unless of course we win the lottery. Guess I’d better start playing.

Joe S.

I applaud Graybyrd’s tongue-in-cheek, even humorous, imaginative vision of the future instead of staying safely in the past.
The next great ideas will come from bending, breaking, and blending what surrounds us today… not allowing ‘today’ to prevent wondering, “What if…!”
History is full of things that we didn’t know we wanted, or were even possible… until someone believed they were possible then made them happen. We were shown that we did want them, even needed them. I Imagine that many of you reading this remember when the first home computers came about and some people laughed at them. They guffawed, ‘What would anyone do with a computer in their home… write recipes?” Yet… at this very moment we’re all staring at the screen of one! Many resting in the palm of our hand.

Although we don’t know where flights of creativity and fancy might take us… they’re the groundwork of the future.

Charles

I call BS. How about a reasonably large pull-through spot with some shade, clean power, reliable wifi clean restrooms and a decent laundry at a fair price?. I don’t expect my campground to entertain me, but to facilitate my personal adventures. KOA is WAY off the mark on this one.