KOA’s lesson about eggs and baskets

Did you try to make an online reservation by logging into koa.com between Wednesday morning and earlier today? If so, this is what you saw: “Sorry we missed you. We’re busy setting up camp. Figuring out those tent poles, stocking up the Deluxe Cabin fridge, or backing up an RV takes time even for us! We apologize for interrupting your travel planning. To make a reservation, please call the campground and they’ll have you on your way to happy camping in no time!”

All of which is to say that KOA’s website was down for more than 48 hours, with no public explanation and not much guidance as to when it would be back up. Home office teams were “diligently working behind the scenes” to fix whatever the problem might be, according to Diane Eichler, KOA’s vice president of marketing. Did that mean they were holding up tent poles in various configurations in hopes of getting a better signal? No clue.

Well, stuff happens. And eventually all those diligent worker bees figured things out and apparently got the system back on line. But if there’s one take-away from all this, it’s that every KOA franchisee that already has its own independent website should make sure it hangs on to it. While that may seem like an unnecessary duplication or expense, it’s an insurance policy that pays off–not only at times like these, but against the day when a franchisee decides that maybe being a KOA is no longer in its interest.

It’s far easier to have an established website than to create one from scratch on short notice. And as KOA has demonstrated in the past, it’s not above a vindictive response to apostate franchisees that leave its system, having claimed in responses to Google searches for such campgrounds that they are “permanently closed.” For a business that doesn’t have an alternative website of its own, that can amount to a near-death experience.

Meanwhile, KOA was looking out for its ducklings by posting their phone numbers on its landing page for the benefit of would-be reservation makers. No telling how that worked out, given that many campgrounds are struggling with abbreviated office hours and insufficient numbers of desk clerks because of the overall labor crunch, which has been felt especially acutely throughout the hospitality industry. But if you’ve been trying to make a reservation at a KOA and all you’ve been getting is a busy signal or taped response, good news! You can go back online, the way God intended camping reservations be made.

Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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