Campground Association Continues Advocacy

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Kampgrounds of America (KOA) detailed its continuing lobbying efforts to keep campgrounds open and operating in both the U.S. and Canada. The announcement came amidst increasing COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, Canada.

KOA partnered with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), RVIA and the Canadian Camping and RV Council (CCRV) to work directly with government officials and agencies.

“Last year, as states and provinces enacted stay at home orders and mandated campgrounds to close or limit operations, we knew we had to advocate strongly for private campgrounds,” KOA President and CEO Toby O’Rourke said. “These lobbying efforts proved successful as campgrounds in most states and provinces, in some or all capacities, were allowed to operate as we approached the summer season.”

KOA stated it is closely monitoring changing restrictions for the 2021 camping outlook. In Ontario, recently enacted stay-at-home orders are limiting campgrounds to those who need shelter or have full-season contracts. KOA stated the disruption to recreational camping, during what should be the season’s start, proves camping “still needs an active advocate.”

Late last year, KOA hired two lobbying firms to promote camping and help navigate policy challenges. In the U.S., the network partnered with Faegre Drinker to get private campgrounds added to the critical infrastructure list, maintained by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

O’Rourke connected with CISA’s Commercial Infrastructure sector and is an active participant with the group, KOA stated. The move will help ensure that private campgrounds have “a voice at the table” in promoting their importance as an essential business.

“I am highly confident that campgrounds will eventually be a part of the CISA critical infrastructure list,” O’Rourke said. “We have made really great progress through a proactive approach that will help us in advance of any set-backs this year or unforeseen situations in the future.”

On Capitol Hill, KOA stated Faegre Drinker lobbyists continue to work diligently with Senate and House committee members to elevate KOA and private campground awareness.

“With the help of Faegre Drinker, we are working to set up meetings with over 30 senators and U.S. representatives who are on key committees,” O’Rourke said. “These meetings will include KOA franchisees from their states or districts. We will have local voices directly discussing policy and the importance of the private campground industry with the nation’s decision makers.”

In Canada, KOA stated lockdowns are underway or being discussed. The network is partnering with Crestview Strategy to grant campgrounds the same short-term allowances as hotels, particularly as provinces promote domestic tourism this spring and summer.

Throughout the pandemic, hotels have not faced the same restrictions as campgrounds, KOA stated.

Although there is immediate need to advocate in Ontario because of the province’s recent return to stay-at-home orders, KOA stated it continues to actively advocate for all Canadian campgrounds. The ongoing border closure is placing increased importance on domestic travel in Canada, KOA stated, sparking the push to establish camping as critical infrastructure.

“Our goal is to ensure that our campgrounds across Canada can be fully open this year,” O’Rourke said. “To call last year a challenge in Canada is an understatement. We are focused on making sure camping can return as strong as ever. We are seeking alignment with hotels so that private campgrounds can fully accept both long and short-term business.”

KOA has a “direct interest” in advocating for its more than 525 camping locations across the U.S. and Canada.

“Camping helps people connect both to our natural spaces and to those closest to them,” O’Rourke said. “To me, that is essential and an important cause to champion no matter where people choose to camp.”

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