Letter to the Editor: Crush your rose-colored glasses

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The original story can be found at https://rvdailyreport.com/industry/rvx-inaugural-event-generates-mixed-reaction/

 

By Andy Zipser

I  wish you had been as skeptical of the KOA fantasy as you were of the Reveal.

If you take a careful look at what KOA displayed, you’ll quickly realize two things:

a) whoever worked up these fantasies doesn’t do much camping; and

b) the target audience for all this is millennials.

On the first point, Airstreams parked backwards in back-in spots, no water or sewer hook-ups anywhere in evidence, tent platforms in the urban setting that are barely big enough for a backpacking tent and accessible only via a ladder.

On the second point, virtually every RV is a small trailer, conversion van or Class C, with nary a fifth wheel or Class A anywhere in sight.

None of the campers strolling through these scenarios looks to be over 40 (and I’m being generous), and an emphasis throughout on eliminating as much human interaction as possible.

Drones and bots delivering goods, electronic kiosks for registration — What does KOA think all this is going to cost the camping consumer?

The one visible price point is in the coastal mock-up, where the registration screen shows a nightly site rate of $60. And yet these are all enormous engineering projects that require many millions in development costs, from construction of a massive causeway in the coastal area to cantilevered RV pads in the mountain setting to many, many acre feet of water for the pool and water park plopped into the middle of the desert concept.

All of which reminds me yet again why we left KOA, which clearly has too much money to throw around (thanks to the 10% franchise fee it extracts) by a headquarters staff living in a bubble of its own making.

Yes, it’s all well and good to push the envelope and imagine what the future might look like, but that exercise should be grounded in something approaching reality.

This exercise is more Walt Disney than John Muir, which is to say, it has essentially nothing to do with nature.

Please grind those rose-colored glasses under the heel of a hiking boot.

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber

A journalist who has covered the recreation vehicle industry since January 2000, Greg Gerber founded RV Daily Report on April Fool's Day in 2009. He also serves as the editor of the publication and website. As an Eagle Scout, he has enjoyed camping for decades and has visited every state except Hawaii. A DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three young women, he has two grandchildren as well. He currently splits his time between Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. Greg can be reached at editor@rvdailyreport.com.

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  • Greg Gerber says:

    I agree with much of your argument, Andy. Yes, it would be costly to develop some of KOA’s visions for a campground of the future. Still, the KOA display was my favorite.

    It was like visiting Tommorrowland in the 1982 version of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It was fun to imagine what life might be like in the future, especially now that we see how many of Walt Disney’s “visions” actually came to pass.

    Allow me to point out a few errors in your argument. If, in 2019, much of a display of camping in the future was targeting millennials, just who do you think will be camping 30 years from now? Boomers will be dead and Gen Xers on life support. Today’s digital native generation and their tween children will be a big demographic group.

    Right now, 85 percent of all RVs sold — and used — in North America are towables. Most of them are travel trailers. If environmental consciousness is increasing, wouldn’t a campground 30 years from now consist mostly of towables and tents?

    The truth is that none of us really know what camping will look like in 2049. I still think it’s fun to imagine.

    Could KOA have spent tens of thousands of dollars creating genuine architectural drawings to exact scale? Of course. Yet, their intent was to have fun and inject some “what if” scenarios into a future campground design.

    Let’s cross our arms, tap our shoes and fly back in time 30 years to 1989. Imagine you owned a campground then, and KOA put on a
    campground of the future display at a trade show.

    How would you have reacted to images of 45-foot RVs with four slideouts, wireless internet, 50-amp power, pull-through sites, landscaped patio sites or people using a computer in their pockets to make reservations?

    How about kids sitting on chairs on concrete pads watching satellite television from an open panel on the RV while mom or dad made dinner in the outdoor kitchen? What about park model RVs? Really, you don’t expect drones and robots to play a major role in 2049?

    My guess is that a great swath of campground owners back then would have laughed and pointed fingers to accuse KOA of being out of touch with reality. But would it have been unrealistic?

    GREG GERBER
    Editor, RV Daily Report

    • Mike says:

      Greg,

      What we call a campground today just might be called a neighborhood in 2049!

      Small mobile housing that’s affordable for the masses and transportable in our ever “Mobile” workforce and lifestyle.

      I’ll check with the “Shadow” and see what he says!

  • Kevin Carlin says:

    Wow. That was one good piece. Nice writing. Very compelling. Do it again! Kevin C

  • Ron says:

    Those were also my thoughts but explained a lot better. Thank you.

  • Dawn Touchard Polk says:

    Well said Greg Gerber!

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