KOA’s O’Rourke Keynotes ‘Back To Camping Summit’ Reveals RVers And Campers Anxious To Be Back On The Road

May 18, 2020

As RV park owners, operators, managers and staff plan their “back to business” moves as safely and efficiently as possible, the Back to Camping Summit stepped out May 10-12 for a virtual event designed to bring the outdoor destination community together.

Over the course of two days, the event featured 18 sessions, 52 partners, 23 speakers and hundreds of park operators to ensure the success of the industry with guidance from a diverse group of industry professionals offering an educational and informational experience. Mark Koep, event producer and the founder and CEO of Campground Views, served as the summit host.

“It was an honor, “said Koep, “to bring together state associations, industry partners, and professionals coming together for a unified purpose – to get back to camping.”

President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) Toby O’Rourke, presented the keynote address, The Camping Comeback, where she focused on the journey ahead for camping, and why it will possibly see a rapid comeback in the age of the coronavirus. O’Rourke mentioned that although KOA saw 23 percent in cancellations beginning in March, July, August, and September reservations are remaining solid.

“Our fall is looking very strong. We hope we will be able to hold on to this. And we know the comeback is always stronger than the setback.”

O’Rourke stressed that the focus over the next 60 days of May and June is essential, as some states being to open. One of the most important moves for the camping industry, she added, is to create an operations plan, to prioritize safety, sanitizing, and staff training in these new processes. Safety is the most critical issue for RVers now.

She described what their surveys found about the current mindset of the public in this time of pandemic within three groups. In the first, people are waiting for a green light, and are prioritizing public health over the economy. They would not go out tomorrow even if they could. Fifty-one percent are very concerned that COVID-19 will infect them or someone they know. In the second group, people said they prioritize the economy over public health but still would not go out tomorrow even if they could. Twenty-six percent of this group is concerned that they or someone they know will be infected by the virus. In the last group, people said they prioritize the economy over public health and would go out tomorrow if they could, despite 12 percent being concerned that they or someone they know will be infected by COVID-19.

O’Rourke added that there is much to be optimistic about when looking at the numbers on who want to travel in the next six months. Fifty-nine percent are eager to get on the road once the virus has passed, while 47 percent are planning to travel more for vacation by car once the pandemic is over. She believes that camping, glamping, and road trips may replace other types of trips this year.

Two essential snapshots she wanted to leave an impression on included to keep looking at how you can modify the RVers experience as situations change; revisit operation plans regularly, and broaden your local marketing to include a national plan.

Much of the information presented during the keynote is also available in KOA’s Special Report on Camping and the Effects of COVID-19, released earlier this month.