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ARVC's OHCE Includes A 50th Anniversary Bash
Fort Worth, Texas, will be the backdrop to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo (OHCE) this year, an event that will be as big as ever and will also provide a celebration of the association’s 50th anniversary.
When ARVC members, ARVC staff, vendors and other industry leaders get together at the Fort Worth Convention Center Nov. 8-11, they’ll find a streamlined event that still manages to pack more in than ever before.
“This year’s conference is about celebrating the last 50 years and building relationships, new and old, and taking away tools and skills that will make our member campgrounds better and our industry stronger for the next 50 years,” Erica Owens, ARVC director of marketing and events, told Woodall’s Campground Management.
Paul Bambei, ARVC president and CEO, said it looks like there will be strong turnout for this year’s OHCE. “It’s generally been a good year across the country and I think this is a reflection of that. People are looking forward to winding their year down and coming to a great, great venue in Fort Worth.”
Attendees at this year’s OHCE might see even more young faces than normal. “For the first time, we’ve created a special free registration for the young professionals in our association, anybody 35 or younger. There’s a separate agenda for them,” Bambei explained. “They’re going to be exposed to things really designed for the younger mindset — how to get involved with ARVC; how to connect with a mentor if you seek a leadership role. We want to elevate their knowledge base and connection to our association. There are 44 of those young professionals coming.
It’s part of a big-picture effort by ARVC leadership to focus on the future, Bambei said. “We saw this as a way to assure this association has longevity.”
Meanwhile, there’s plenty on the schedule for the bulk of park operators coming to Fort Worth.
After a full day of preliminaries on Monday, Nov. 7 — park tours, leadership workshops, board meetings, state leaders’ meetings and an ARVC Council of Delegates meeting — the OHCE officially gets started bright and early Tuesday with education seminars running all morning. The noon lunch features a keynote session by Gerry O’Brion, a former marketer for Procter & Gamble, Coors Light, Quiznos and Red Robin, whose address is titled “Motivating and Marketing to Millennials. ARVC’s description of the keynote is, “Success takes a different approach today than it did five, 10 or 20 years ago. Businesses with longevity have honed the ability to navigate change. Learn strategies to navigate the next generation of employees and customers. This presentation answers three critical questions about the generations – who they are, what they want, and what you can do about it. You’ll learn ideas you can implement now to attract cross-generational guests and turn them into vocal advocates, and strategies for hiring and motivating Millennials.”
Following O’Brien’s address, attendees will have another three hours of educational seminars. The first day will be capped off by a cracker barrel session.
Wednesday, Nov. 9, will again be packed with educational seminars. Once again, attendees of OHCE will choose from more than 50 topics presented by industry experts, park operators and vendors. The topics cover a wide range, from Wi-Fi to succession planning, from managing reviews to attracting quality employees, from leadership to marketing. There are also sessions on playgrounds and dog parks, reservation systems, growing trophy fish in campground ponds, the Americans with Disabilities Act and providing quality activities for park guests.
After the educational seminars wrap up, ARVC members will have their voting area caucuses, and Wednesday’s events will end with the expo welcome reception.
Thursday will start off with the annual membership meeting and breakfast starting at 7:15, and then the action will move back into the expo hall, where park operators will be able to talk with vendors all day.
“We are on pace to match the number of vendors we had last year,” Owens said. “Texas appears to be a hot bed for park model manufacturers, and because of that we have had to expand our space to accommodate the demand.”
The expo, overall, is an example of ARVC’s streamlining of this year’s event. “We heard attendees say it is important for them ot not be away from their campgrounds for so long, so we condensed the schedule,” Owens noted. “The expo will have the same number of hours, just over the course of two days, Wednesday and Thursday, instead of three.”
Thursday evening will feature the ARVC awards, the charity auction to benefit the ARVC Foundation, ARVC’s outreach arm, as well as the big 50th Anniversary party.
“We’ve seen our awards program grow,” Owens said. “In all categories we have seen an increase in the number of entries. This just shows how campgrounds are seeing the value and importance of the ARVC awards and what it does for their park when they are awarded one of these prestigious honors.
“The ARVC Foundation auction is another area that has grown,” she continued. “We have added more ways for people to participate. This year people can participate even if they won’t be onsite in Fort Worth. People can go to biddingowl.com/arvcfoundation to view the silent-auction items or live-auction items. We are also very excited about the live auction as we have some unbelievable items up for bid, such as a certificate for a Cavco Creekside Cabin (valued at $26,500), a $2,500 gift certificate good towards any Club Car purchase, a Good Sam advertisement package worth $18,300 and more. Items are continually being added, so we are encouraging people to check the site often.”
The online bidding and expansion of the silent auction mean the live auction will be shorter this year, Bambei said. “On the back side of it we are having this huge party themed around the 50th anniversary.” Bambei wanted to leave a bit of mystery to the party, but divulged, “It’s going to be a bit of a curiosity that people should want to attend. People are going to like it. We’ve put a lot of effort into the activities.”
The final day has a short schedule, with the ARVC Foundation Walk for Disaster Relief from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. and a farewell breakfast from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.
For those who don’t want to get up early for the walk around downtown Fort Worth, they’ll have the chance to buy a pedometer earlier in the conference and wear it throughout the conference, earning a T-shirt once they’ve walked two miles, Owens noted.
“It is more important than ever this year that we grow the Disaster Relief Fund as the need has increased due to the significant number of parks impacted by natural disasters,” Owens said, including flooded Louisiana parks Independence Creek Campground & RV Park and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Robert. “ARVC Foundation has been able to provide support because of generous donations from individuals, campgrounds and industry vendors.”
And to cap things off, she continued, “This year we will have a farewell breakfast instead of a breakfast in the expo,” Owens continued. “The farewell breakfast is a great opportunity for attendees to connect one more time with fellow campground owners and operators and to exchange information so they can stay in contact until they meet again at next year’s conference in Raleigh, N.C. We will also be giving away more prizes at the breakfast, so attendees should plan on staying until the very end.”
When all is said and done, Owens told WCM, “What we want attendees to leave OHCE with are new relationships — business and personal — as well as more tools for their tool box. These tools come from attending the education sessions, the vendors they meet in the expo and the fellow campground owners and operators they speak with throughout conference. We also want attendees to see how far the industry has come and how great a community they have helped to create in addition to seeing the great things and people that are to come in the next 50 years.”