Vendors Report Active Agendas at Seasonal Conventions
The leading suppliers to the outdoor hospitality industry wrapped up a busy 2011 season with major trade shows in the final quarter of the year.
Within a five-week span, vendors were crisscrossing the nation for outdoor hospitality-centered shows in Las Vegas (Kampgrounds of America), Covington, Ky. (Leisure Systems Inc.) and Savannah, Ga. (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) Other shows were in Louisville, Ky., and even on the Internet.
These companies – vendors of everything today’s RV park or campground needs to succeed – report good prospects as the year came to an end.
Lewiston, Maine-based Evergreen Insurance has a busy year-end schedule that is typical of other campground vendors.
“This fall/winter season Evergreen is attending over a dozen conventions stretching from Maine to Alaska and including state organizations, national ARVC, KOA and Yogi,” said Lucas Hartford, president. “While some vendors are choosing the route of virtual trade shows, and we recognize the importance of technology, we still feel it is extremely important to meet campgrounds and parks face to face. Insurance purchasing requires someone to trust their agent and this can only done by seeing people and not solely by e-mail, virtual trade shows or video conferencing.
“So this year Evergreen is making sure to see people face-to-face at conventions and then to introduce them to technological tools that we offer that can make their life easier. We have recently revised our website to make it much more client friendly including a new section of client-only articles and information. We have also released a new video produced exclusively for the camping industry that is available to clients on DVD or online which is titled “Emergencies: Are You Prepared?”
Athens Park Homes has seen business increase 17% in “a very flat market,” noted Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing for the Athens, Texas-based park model manufacturer.
“Our Rental Cottage series is our most popular line of cabins because they come standard with a 6-foot front porch and they have very rental friendly floorplans and features. In this economy, people seem more open to renting at a campground or resort than they do purchasing somewhere,” he said.
Athens Park Homes just participated in the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) Fall Conference at the Vineyards Campground in Grapevine. They purchased seven cabins from Athens Park Homes in 2010 and they have helped the campground increase revenue by 30% in 2011. At the conference Athens Park Homes was named the "indorsed provider" for the TACO members.
Ron Romens, president and owner of Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), was excited to introduce the company’s new “H2 Whoa Zone” concept at the trade shows. The “Zone” is a business model whereby a campground owner can convert any waterfront setting into an attraction.
“We have recruited landscape architects and aquatic biologists to give an owner a master plan what that area would look like, then help them with their business model to help them operate that as well,” explained Romens. “It’s a model that works very well in the campground industry. We have done it informally the last few years but will formalize it a little more and put some design parameters around it.”
As for new products, CRS also unveiled the “Zoom Flume.” This inflatable slide is just 9 inches deep and is designed to be set on a hillside and exit into a lake or pond. The flumes come in 30-foot-long sections. “You could link four of these 30-foot sections and have a 120-foot hillside water slide,” Romens noted.
Now is a good time to introduce some economical alternatives such as the “Zoom Flume,” Romens said. “The reason I think the timing is good,” he said, “is all this is very active recreation. It gets kids moving, gets families recreating together. It’s very sustainable. It’s bringing people back to nature. Water parks have been very big for a long time but there is a lot of overhead. It is much less expensive to start up and build a facility like this, even to dig your own lake, and costs less to operate.”
“We set one up in Oklahoma and the owner sold 20,000 day passes in six weeks. You don’t have to charge a lot of money either to create this attraction,” Romens said.
CRS also is showing its Wibit line of inflatable water toys, a new standup paddleboard, mini golf, playground structures and shade structures.
Eric Stumberg, co-founder of TengoInternet, the leading Wi-Fi service provider for the outdoor hospitality industry, says Wi-Fi data usage is up 100% and mobile devices such as iPhones, Droids, iPads and iPods have become the No. 1 devices connecting to the networks.
As a result, he says, “We are showing products and services to increase Wi-Fi network capacity to meet rising guest expectations and services/economics to pay for the higher service level.”
Stumberg expects 2012 to be a strong year.
Jamestown Advanced Products is showcasing its new line of dog park products.
“We see dog park receptacles and agility park equipment as being huge for us in 2012,” said Robb Jones, sales manager for the Jamestown, N.Y.-based firm.
In addition, he added, “We will display our Fire View Ring, which we rolled out earlier in 2011 to much success. Our brand new Smoker Grill will be showcased as well. We also have a new addition to our stable of bike racks, which is called the Cassadaga rack.”
Peter Kearns of Niagara Falls, Ontario-based Mission Management Information Systems said his company is showcasing an upgrade to its www.bookyoursite.com booking system that will allow the camper consumer to better select the site for which they prefer over the Internet. The company is also releasing Campground Manager Software that enhances functionality and improves the accounting and marketing utility of the product, he said.
“The big push will be on the testing and exhibiting of our new iPhone application. We are excited by this,” Kearns said. “The iPhone app will allow campgrounds with Bookyoursite.com to receive reservations booked through a camper’s iPhone and iPad. Later, Android and BlackBerry capability will be added.”
He added, “The next year we are expecting our online booking Bookyoursite.com business to grow in the double figure range and the Campground Manager Software property management side to grow in the single digit numbers. We are seeing more and more parks on the corporate end focus exclusively on the seasonal camper, which should increase business for our transient customers.
Chris Kornely, the self-styled “diva of dump stations” at The Tower Co., reported “an excellent trade show” at the recent KOA Convention where “orders were brisk.”
Manitowoc, Wis.-based Tower is showing its water tower and accessories for campground dump stations and DOGIPOT pet waste products, along with Pick Up Stix for garbage cleanup.
“As we say at The Tower Co., ‘We are good for crap of all kinds!’ At The Tower Co. we want to make the experience of dump station purchase and maintenance as easy as possible and have a little fun too. We are proud to have customers tell us they have had their towers serving their dump station needs for over 45 years.”
LCN Outdoors, Windsor, Conn., promoted RV parts at its shows.
“It’s a good deal for operators if they accept selling parts to people,” said Norman Boucher, president. These include drawer guides, hinges and the like, things that break on RVs and often need replacing.
He also is promoting an energy-saving device from Peak Energy that recycles electricity in your home or small business. “We had it at the NCA convention and sold a bunch of them,” he noted.
Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group showed the company’s Heritage line of pedestals and surface mount boxes, the Xlerator Hand Dryer, electric meters, add a meter kits and water meters used to reduce resource usage, wire and distribution panels, electrical layouts, electrical vehicle chargers, replacement and repair parts and Pagoda light kits.
He observed, “2010 was a very good year for them, so (being) even with last year, it is not so bad, considering. I would say that most parks are cautious and uncertain about 2012. I believe that the outdoor hospitality industry will still outperform other vacation and recreation options and look forward to a good year in 2012.”
Tyler Duffy, president of Campground Automation Systems Inc., Mt. Juliet, Tenn., is promoting his company’s new Sunrise product.
“Sunrise is an advanced reservations management service that combines all types of reservation management needs into a single real-time service,” he told WCM. “Sunrise provides an end-to-end system that includes user-friendly online reservations, a powerful campground owner's management system, convenient self-service express check-in kiosks, and utility control and metering. The elegantly simple user interface is easy to learn and use. Each component is designed to provide a fully integrated, efficient, user-friendly experience.”
He added, “Sunrise provides real-time, online reservations that are fully integrated with the campground owners' management system for efficiency and convenience. Double data-entry is a thing of the past. The system is web-based so not only can customers access reservation information anytime, but the campground owner can manage their business from the park office, home or anywhere else they can access an Internet browser. No more waiting to retrieve important information from the single desktop located in the campground office, or paying multiple licensing fees to purchase copies of the software for separate computers.”
Pete Parafin of Fluid Manufacturing Inc., Lodi, Calif., says he expects sales of the company’s coin-operated shower systems to be “brisk” in 2012.
“Our shower control systems can save the parks big time money in water, sewage fees and utilities to heat the water,” he said. “Not only that, but to provide an excellent opportunity to add a little income to recover costs as well.”
The system enhances customer control of their showers, while creating an income stream to help pay for the cost of maintaining facilities, Parafin noted. In addition, most campers surveyed have been completely supportive of the program.
Enviro Design Products, Dunnellon, Fla., is promoting several waste management products for 2012, including its Grip-N-Lock, a watertight locking nylon sewer cap, and its brand new “Footloose,” a foot-operated, self-closing, odor-proof sewer cap “that’s going to add a new spin on sewer caps,” said company spokesman William Watts.
All three sewer cap models now come in three standard colors, but custom colors are available.
“This year we are discussing with our clients the need to provide increased bandwidth to their guests,” said Jim Ganley of CheckBox Systems, Gray, Maine. “As more travelers carry more devices that are Wi-Fi- and data-enabled, the amount of bandwidth that a property had available even a few years ago is likely insufficient today.
“We have the new HSv4 gateway controller that allows properties to use multiple Internet connections to increase bandwidth – for example, a DSL and cable modems together feeding the same system, or using multiple DSL modems to feed a system.
“We are also updating software to help properties mitigate issues with radio noise and to deal with P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing issues.”
He concluded, “2012 is looking really busy, as we see growth continuing in the outdoor hospitality sector, as well as lots of growth in other areas, such as water parks, amusement parks and public venues.”
Murray Kramer of Kramer Kreations, Pensacola, Fla., inventor of the Murbles game, reports growing popularity of his invention. The game, which resembles bocce, is now in 24 states. He doubled his 2010 sales in 2011 and says, “I think in 2012 we’ll turn the corner big time.”
The Murbles game is gaining traction in KOA stores (he was at the KOA Convention in Las Vegas to drum up new business) and he is making major inroads in Good Sam Samborees and rallies across the Southeast.
"A product that was unexpectedly popular for us in 2011 was our bear-proof trash and recycling receptacles,” said Bob Simonsen, spokesman for R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc./Pilot Rock, Cherokee, Iowa. “We've expanded the product line and had all models independently tested to be bear proof. We expect this popularity to continue in 2012.
“Plus, campfire rings are always popular. And there is a growing trend for site amenities to be in color. Whether the customer needs picnic tables or benches or trash receptacles, there is a demand for these products to be offered in a variety of colors.
He continued, “The last two years have been good for us, and we see that continuing in 2012. In 2009 when the recession first hit, many people were concerned how it would affect the camping industry. I know we were concerned. But as WCM has since reported, people still went camping, but maybe they didn't travel so far to do it. We saw the same thing in our business. Product requirements from campgrounds have been steady to increasing.”
“I would say our primary concern for 2012 is with the state park systems. Many states have been closing state parks because of budget problems. I attended the annual National Association of State Park Directors conference held in Custer, S.D., in September. Park sustainability (keeping parks open) was a big topic of discussion. When state budgets are cut the park directors are stuck in a position of making some tough decisions. Hopefully the worst of state park closures is behind us.”