By Chuck Woodbury
Keep your eyes open for ads and commercials for KOA, the large chain of mostly franchised RV parks. Chances are better than even, I’d guess, that the ads will feature images of cabins — often luxury ones like you see here in this ad for a park near San Francisco.
KOA has found that renting cabins has opened up a huge new audience of potential customers — “glampers” — Gen Xers and Millennials who enjoy some sense of camping, but without roughing it. They don’t need an RV.
Most KOAs are run by couples who work very hard. They may love what they do, but it is, above all, their livelihood; if they can earn more, they are very receptive to how to do it.
The CEO of KOA is a very smart young woman and marketer. She is doing what she is supposed to do — help the company and its franchisees (who give 10% of their gross sales to the company) earn a good income. Nothing wrong with that.
IF YOU OWN A KOA and you believe you can earn more from renting a cabin than an RV space or two, why wouldn’t you level the RV sites and plop down a cabin? I would.
But here’s the problem as I see it: For every cabin or luxury cottage KOA installs, they remove RV spaces. This is at a time when 400,000 new RVs are being sold each year — all of which will need a place to stay.
From Friday’s Woodall’s Campground Management
‘Royal Gorge Cabins in Cañon City, Colorado . . .has been abandoning its RV and tent sites in favor of creating a glamping resort that will soon be comprised exclusively of canvas glamping tents and luxurious rental cabins.’
So what’s good for KOA (increased profits) is not necessarily good for you and me as RV sites disappear. Even if you never stay at a KOA, some RVers do, and each time they do it leaves a space for you at another park.
And it’s not just KOA. Across America, other RV parks are replacing RV sites with cabins, luxury cottages, tee-pees, treehouses, yurts, cabooses and covered wagons!
If the RV Industry Association really cared about you and me beyond our money, its executives would get off their bureaucratic behinds and realize there’s a problem — and do something. As is, the association runs commercials showing campsites on beautiful beaches or right along a mountain stream. But the reality is that for every RVer camping at the beach or by a beautiful mountain lake there are 10 times more holed up in a crowded RV park or a Walmart parking lot.
And, yes, new RV parks are being built. That’s good. But have you noticed that more often than not they’re luxury resorts where you “buy in” for $250,000 or pay $150 a night to stay?
RVing is a headed into a very confusing place!