Ohio Association Looks to the Future
A record snowfall didn’t keep 70 people representing 35 campgrounds from attending the Ohio Campground Conference Convention & Trade Show March 7-8 at the Columbus Airport Marriott Hotel in Columbus, Ohio.
“This is crazy weather but the turnout is good,” said Steve Cross, owner of Cross Creek Camping Resort in Delaware, Ohio, who was wrapping up his four-year term as OCOA president as a 20-inch snowfall paralyzed the city.
Cross said the state’s fragile economy was high on the minds of his fellow campground owners as the convention got under way and the 2008 season was about to unfold.
“Most did pretty well last year,” he said. “What will happen this year is anybody’s guess but I think we will do better.”
He projected a decline in cross-country and overnight business but expects an upturn in seasonal and destination campers for the association’s 164 member campgrounds.
Garpow Gives Keynote Address
His comments fell in line with the thrust of the keynote address given on the opening day of the conference by William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA). Despite the stagnant economy in many states, 2008 could be a good year for campgrounds that reach out to local and regional campers, Garpow said.
He noted that gasoline consumption dropped 1.1% in recent weeks, supporting the belief that Americans have finally reached the price point at which they will cut back consumption. “You’ll see that (the result) at your campgrounds. You’ll have more locals who won’t be going to Florida. That’s good news for you,” Garpow said. This also will mean an upswing in the number of seasonal or long-term campers, he added.
Because of the declining value of the U.S. dollar, foreign travel also should increase this summer, he said, as will the RV rental business because fewer Americans are buying new RVs but many will still want to travel, thanks to the success of the Go RVing campaign.
Based on this, plus falling interest rates, 2008 could be a good year to make capital improvements to campgrounds, Garpow continued. He suggested the campground owners look to park trailers as an emerging profit center for their parks.
Park trailers, also known as park models, are built to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations and because of this quality assurance, they have overcome an image problem that plagued the industry in its formative years. In fact, most states have stopped trying to regulate park models because there are so few problems with them, Garpow said.
For example, he cited data collected by the RPTIA on the 100 most recent park models purchased in Ohio that showed 87% of the buyers have already recommended the park trailer lifestyle to their friends and neighbors.
He did not promote any specific company or type of product but encouraged the owners to log onto the RPTIA website, www.rptia.org, to learn more about the association and its members.
Garpow also offered his take on the prospects for a recession to hit the U.S. economy this year. He said the U.S. “may not go into a full recession but come close,” or a recession may occur, lasting six to nine months. Either way, the recovery will be slow and normal growth will not occur until 2010.
Ohio Parks Connection
Dan West, chief of the Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation, explained in his presentation that Ohio’s 23 state parks and its private campgrounds should not look at each other as competitors but as allies as both are “connected at the hip.”
He said private parks are “doing a lot to keep families in the outdoors” and surmised that the private campgrounds’ success in 2007 paralleled the state’s, which saw a 6.2% upturn, to 694,000 camper nights.
He said the campground industry must do two things to remain successful: appeal to Baby Boomers and get more kids outdoors. Installing Wi-Fi at campgrounds may solve both problems, he said. He cited studies showing that 75% of Baby Boomers want to be connected to the Internet when they camp. As a result, Ohio’s state parks are addressing this growing demand by adding three more state parks to the seven that already offer Wi-Fi, he said.
This also may tend to attract young people and teens, who are more interested in video games, to camping, he added. Young people are not being drawn to hunting and fishing, either, he said, which is “a very sad commentary if you look at the industry overall.”
Six Seminars Offered
Seminar speakers and their topics were: Mike Hayhurst of The Frank Gates Companies, on workers compensation; Alice Blackburn from the Ohio Department of Commerce on minimum wage requirements; Jimmy Tumblin of Leavitt Recreation and Hospitality Insurance on insurance tips; Mark Slade from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services on how unemployment laws affect campgrounds; Vicki Cole from Shelby/Mansfield KOA and Sandy Dinkins of Grand Haven RV Resort on recreational planning for teens; and Doug Pollitt from the Ohio Department of Health on food license requirements.
In other business: