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Gorin: Potential Collateral Damage to the Federal Highway Program

August 17, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

David Gorin

As the summer goes on, the House Committee on Infrastructure & Transportation and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works are hard at work trying to develop a plan for a new Federal Highway Program to succeed the current program (TEA-LU) that expired some time ago.

The new legislation is obviously tied closely to efforts in both houses and in both parties to reduce the federal deficit.

Why should the park industry be concerned?

All visitors to RV parks and campgrounds travel over the nation’s road system. The condition of the roads and highways, bridges and tunnels, and the ancillary services and components that are important to travelers (rest areas, highway signage, services for passenger and tourist buses, and the connections between varying modes of travel) are all-important to RVers and campers.

And the ability for RVers to travel safely and in a timely manner from home to their destinations obviously plays a key role in how often and how far RVers will go to enjoy the parks and places they wish to visit.

The federal highway program also provides funding for development and promotion of scenic byways, recreational trails, welcome centers and other important tourist and traveler needs.

Where to reduce the federal highway program in order to contribute to the lowering of federal spending in the coming years is the problem facing the House and Senate, and early indications are that many of the programs that are specific to tourism and travel may be in trouble.

The national park industry needs to stay on top of this issue and work actively with like-minded industry groups and interests. Failure to maintain important travel and tourist related programs at some reasonable level will have a long-term impact on all of our businesses. That impact may not be dramatic in the short run, but it will be more like a slow leak that isn’t a big deal for a year, maybe two years. But as the leak goes on, the impact and downward momentum could become obvious.

Another Discount Club: FMCA’s New Campground Connection

It took a while, but it’s here now: The latest discount club, brought to us by the Family Motor Coach Association.

Just this morning news of new FMCA’s Campground Connection program arrived in the mail. FMCA has created the Campground Connection, a discount program for consumers and a revenue-generating program for park owners (by selling $40 a year FMCA memberships and keeping the first year’s dues). So parks have the privilege of helping build FMCA’s membership while supposedly attracting new guests by providing a 10% discount to FMCA members. What a deal! How did they ever think of that?

Up to now, parks could become Commercial Members of FMCA and were promoted to the FMCA membership in return for their membership. No discounts necessary.

It looks like now FMCA is locked in a new battle for the minds and hearts of the RVer with Good Sam Enterprises LLC, Camp Clubs of America (incidentally owned by Good Sam Enterprises), Escapees, Freedom Resorts, the Happy Camper Club, Passport America and probably several other discount groups. And KOA’s Value Card holders, Leisure Systems’ Club Yogi and several state associations offer similar discounts to loyal customers.

Last month, Go Camping America, ARVC’s national on-line directory of members, jumped into the discount game by offering a limited time 20% off camping deal at participating parks on Go Camping America. It would be surprising only if ARVC wasn’t now considering if and how it might launch its own Go Camping America Camping Club with a discount at parks listed on Go Camping America – ARVC members.

We all know that almost every park that honors any discount program will likely honor any other card that is presented and carries the same level of discount. So if a guest arrives with an FMCA card at a park that is part of the Good Sam park program and not FMCA, will the park deny the FMCA card discount? Doubt it. And if they try to sell the guest a card in their program and the guest declines to buy it, will the park not grant the discount anyway?

Seems like a big discount trap being set out there. The only way to avoid it may be to not accept any discount cards and concentrate on providing great camping experiences that not only compensate for the lack of a 10% discount, but actually is more important than the discount. Most folks I know will tell you that they’d prefer to pay a bit more for a great experience then a bit less for a just OK vacation. And 10% is certainly just a bit more (especially after you put all kinds of restrictions on the 10% savings).

On the opposite side of the discount game, Best Parks in America, a newer national marketing program for highly rated parks, does not offer any discount programs for consumers, preferring to leave the practice of discounts and coupons as part of the marketing strategies of each independent affiliated park.

In the spirit of full disclosure, of course, I am the founder and president of Best Parks in America.

Be On Alert, Small Business People, for Computer Hackers

During the week of July 18, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story pointing out that hacking computer systems and data theft were rapidly moving down the food chain to small business. With the paper’s daily reporting on major computer system break-ins and the theft of data from large banks and consumer companies, this article talked about a small retail outlet that experienced theft of its data stored in its cash register system – theft of credit card information, customer information and sales records.

The moral of the story? As big companies become more sophisticated in protecting their data and systems, the hackers and thieves are simply moving to the new low hanging fruit – small companies and businesses that lack the resources and knowledge to properly protect themselves from hacking and theft. Best to pay attention and take the necessary precautions to assure the security of all of your business and guest data.

Mark Your Calendar for The Virtual Trade Show

Have you ever attended a virtual trade show? If not, now’s the time. As you may already know, Nov. 10 and 11 are the dates for the 2nd Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo. David Gorin & Associates is proud to be the name sponsor for this cutting edge opportunity for outdoor hospitality industry people to participate in this trade show from the comfort of their respective offices or homes.

Never been to a virtual show? It’s easy and convenient. For the uninitiated, here’s a tutorial on how it works: Individuals who wish to attend the show simply log on to www.virtualoutdoorhospitalityexpo.com during show hours (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days). You’ll be asked to register by entering some basic identification. There’s no charge to attend.

You’ll then see the show hall appear on your computer screen. You “visit” booths by browsing the booth lists and clicking on the booths you wish to visit. You’ll be taken directly to the booth on your computer screen.

While viewing the information in the selected booth, you’ll be able to watch videos or download brochures or other information. And you’ll also be able to text message the booth personnel to initiate a conversation or you’ll even be able to converse live with the booth folks via Skype or other systems.

In addition to booths, the show will feature several educational seminars and keynote speakers. To participate, you simply click on the auditorium or conference center at the scheduled time and you will be taken directly to the session. Speakers will be heard directly over the Internet and participants will be able to ask questions either verbally or by text message.

Attendees can return over and over again during the two-day show, and the show content will be available online for 90 days following the actual live show.

Any number of park personnel can attend the show — all at no charge with no travel expense and no time away from work or home. So, mark your calendar now and plan to be there right from your desk! Watch industry publications and online websites for more information and details as the show days come closer.

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He’s also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at (703) 448-6863 or dgorinassociates@aol.com.

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