Superb Seminars Highlight Fla. ARVC Meeting
The Florida Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (FARVC) held its 2013 Annual Conference & Expo May 15-17 at the Holiday Inn Harbourside Suites in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla. The 35 vendors and 95 attendees representing 45 campgrounds made the 2013 conference “probably the most highly attended show we’ve had in six or seven years,” according to Bobby Cornwell, FARVC president, CEO and executive director.
Cornwell said one reason was the high caliber of the seminars offered. “You know, every year we say it’s the best something, but it does seem to be this year that our educational courses were superb,” he reported. “People just seemed to be really into the topics, and most of the seminars were standing-room-only.”
One seminar in particular that received kudos was given by John Barron, representative from web design company Gravity Free, who spoke on Internet marketing and how to improve a campground’s online presence. This was Barron’s second appearance at FARVC’s annual conference. Cornwell said Barron will come again in 2014, and that another “really great” session was the luncheon keynote address by Tim Richardson titled “Success by Choice, Not by Chance.” Richardson also moderated a campground owner panel and Q&A session.
Other seminars given were Kampground of America Inc.’s (KOA) Larry Brownfield speaking on “Driving Business to Your Campground,” Ron Mason from James Moore & Co. on accounting and tax issues and the BP oil spill claim process and National ARVC CEO and President Paul Bambei with updates on member benefits and services, including the Music Licensing Discount Program and the new GoCampingAmerica.com site.
Cornwell said Bambei was also part of an Industry Trends Panel with Lance Wilson, Florida RV Trade Association executive director; John Waldron, Florida Outdoor Recreation Coalition executive director; and Robert Bouse of Red Rover.
“All the educational sessions were very well-attended, entertaining and valuable,” Cornwell said, while “fun” events included a dinner and live auction that was moderated by Brownfield and raised about $23,000 for the association.
Cornwell said a portion of the conference that was of particular interest and positivity was the legislative update and legal review given by Marc Dunbar and David Eastman, FARVC’s legislative consultant and legal counsel, respectively. The two were key players in the successful passing of a legislative bill that brought “some much-needed changes to Chapter 513 to reflect more current industry practices and help reduce unnecessary regulations that were burdensome to campground operators,” Cornwell explained, saying the bill was in the works for several years.
The bill, HB 969 and SB 938, clarifies what occupancy means in the context of RV parks and the current interpretation of the law that lot spacing and setbacks are set at the time the RV permit is issued. It also repeals an out-of-date statute relating to rate posting and advertising. “We had that whole section deleted from the statute, so now we don’t have that looming over our campground owners’ heads.”
Cornwell said now that those statues’ objectionable portions have been dealt with, there are no looming legislative issues on the organization’s radar – at least for now. “We’re always on the lookout to reduce fees and regulations that the campgrounds are hit with, mostly on a county basis.”
The annual meeting portion of the event included elections (resulting in no change to the board of directors or executive committee) plus a State of the Association address by Pat O’Neill, chairman, and a treasurer’s report from Chris Long, all carrying good news. “In short, the association is doing well and is in good financial standing,” Cornwell stated.
He said membership and advertising revenue are both up and the CampFlorida.com site has been redesigned, while new member programs and services include individual mobile website design services. He said campground members are being heavily promoted online and in print through the “CampFlorida Directory,” website and mobile site. The publication recently received the “Best Directory of the Year” award from National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and, according to the FARVC website, is used by 1.5 million campers worldwide planning on or currently camping in Florida. The award was presented by O’Neill along with another National ARVC award, “Executive Director of the Year,” presented to Cornwell at its 2012 conference in Las Vegas.
The FARVC conference tends to be one of the largest in the country, something Cornwell attributed to several elements, including the convenient location and the quality and emphasized promotion of the educational sessions, but he mostly credited the shift in the economy and resulting positive outlook.
“Probably the biggest thing this year that’s different is just the excitement and participation by campground owners. Everybody stayed around to the end, and the crowd was very lively, very enthusiastic, very happy,” he described. “Camping’s been doing great in Florida, and campgrounds are getting excited. I think we’re finally on the upswing and there’s a renewed positive outlook for the RVing and camping industry.”
Special contributing sponsors for the 2013 FARVC conference were VISITFLORIDA (Platinum Sponsor), Evergreen USA (Silver Sponsor), Leisure Systems Inc. (Contributing Sponsor) and Southeast Publications (Contributing Sponsor).