KOA CEO sees bright future for RV industry
Posted: 04/16/2013 at 12:00 pm
By: Justin Leighty
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Kimberly Kroubetz, left, and her daughter Ashley, both of Minnesota, decide what wholesale RVs to purchase for their lot during the Forest Hills RV show on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, at the Dynamax complex in Elkhart. (Truth Photo By Delayna Earley)
Rick DePaul, left, and Gene Cronin, right, walk down a line of fifth wheel RVs during the Forest Hills RV show on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, at the Dynamax complex in Elkhart. (Truth Photo By Delayna Earley)
Thirteen-year-old Trey Runyon of Syracuse checks out the top of a unit at the Elkhart Dealers on the Road retail show on April 29, 2012, while visiting with his grandparents. International RV, Great Lakes RV, Elkhart RV Center, Wana RV Center and Nexus RV put on the Elkhart Dealers on the Road retail show at the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)
Stanley and Alice Warble of Goshen check out a Class A motorhome by Thor at the Midwest RV Super Show Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame for the first time. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)
Betty and Larry Owens of Auburn, Ind., check out the front of a Class B-plus motorhome at the Elkhart Dealers on the Road retail show April 29, 2012, at the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum. (Truth Photo By Larry Tebo)
Cody Beachy (left) and Sam Jordan raise flags as they set up Newmar motorhomes at the RV open house on C.R. 17 south of C.R. 14 on Sept. 16, 2011. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen)
The chairman of Kampgrounds of America sees a huge potential for growth in the RV market.
“What’s important for us all to realize is we have just scratched the surface. When you go through a capacity reduction that’s happened in the last five years, when you have to let people go ... I think we’re stronger together than apart, and by bringing the three sectors of the manufacturer, the dealer and the campground together we can optimize the potential that exists within the north American marketplace,” said Rogers in a phone interview Monday, April 15.
“It’s bigger than the assembly line. You have a community there that needs to see some hope and some opportunity for the future,” and Rogers believes Elkhart County has that hope and opportunity in the RV industry.
Rogers is chairman and chief executive officer of KOA, which owns 26 campgrounds and works with franchisees who run another 461 campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada.
When he got the invitation to speak at the power breakfast, he jumped at the opportunity, and he credits Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of industry publication RV Business, with a great idea.“It’s quite the accomplishment because Sherman to me kind of represents the United Nations of the RV world. He brings all the different components together, which I think is one of the things exciting to us,” said Rogers. “The campground sector hasn’t had a lot of engagement with the manufacturers or the dealers,” even though the campgrounds end up as the proving ground for many of the RVs made in the Elkhart County area.
If manufacturers, dealers and campgrounds work together, “there’s so much opportunity,” he said. Campgrounds and dealers share similar geographic areas, and campgrounds provide an automatic audience for dealers and manufacturers for people interested in the lifestyle that recreational vehicles serve, he said. “There’s a lifestyle and this is a chance to accelerate that,” Rogers said.
“We have a huge opportunity in the fact that 15 percent of Americans camp. There’s so many people that don’t camp, 85 percent. How do we get more people into this opportunity?
“There’s a diversity consideration that we have not had a real effective way to reach Asians, African Americans, Latinos. The population’s changing dramatically in this country and we have to put our heads together as an industry to figure out how to serve that. That’s growth potential. Imagine where we can go,” Rogers said.
In fact, the industry’s Go RVing campaign is working to expand into the Latino market, hoping the RV lifestyle will appeal to the strong family culture of that market, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.
Rogers said over the years he’s seen a more diverse crowd coming to KOA sites. Many come stay at cabins or park-model trailers, which KOA calls deluxe-model cabins. Rogers said that while some in the RV industry dismiss those campers as unlikely to become RV owners, “the people who are in those units may be first timers, and they tend to be a diverse segment. There’s an entry point to get them to hospitality, and we’re saying, ‘Hey, maybe you’d like the lifestyle,’” he said.
He looks forward to getting together with the broader RV industry at the breakfast May 9, and said while it’s great, “it’s just a start. We need to make sure there are follow-up meetings and discussions,” he said.
Goldenberg said he hopes to see that happen and wants the event become an annual gathering.