Strong Attendance, Optimism Show at ARVC
When the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) met this week in Knoxville, Tenn., for the annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE), optimism was evident.
"We have attendance from the campground side nearing or exceeding 600, which puts us roughly 200 above where we were last year in Vegas," said Rob Schutter, Jr., president and chief operating officer of Leisure Systems, Inc., who served as chairman of ARVC until Thursday (Nov. 7). ARVC's membership grew over the last year, Schutter said, going from 2,890 to 3,030 members.
"I think overall the industry was up. Industry reports say it's up about 3.8%, which tracks a little higher than the previous five years where I guess the annualized rate's right around 2.4. Everybody's coming off a pretty decent year," despite weather problems in regions of the country. "Most parks are reporting very strong growth in rental properties, and that's essentially being seen across the country," he said.
"I think the majority of what we're seeing is trying to encourage our membership to understand the data we're talking about." ARVC rolled out a new tool for members to compare their operations to similar parks, and conference attendees heard again and again that guest feedback is valuable.
Schutter's successor as chairperson, Marcia Galvin, said, "I'm looking forward to the road we're currently on. When I first started on the board, the road was very bumpy with no destination in mind five years ago. Now it's a smooth road, there's a clear destination," she said.
Galvin is state executive of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners (MACO) and is part of the multigenerational family operating Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort in Foxboro, Mass. She noted, "I think we're going to need to partner with RVIA (the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association), RVDA (the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association), have open communication. Campgrounds are going to need to keep the infrastructure up to accommodate the units that are coming down the line, so the communication between those partners; legislation, we've got to keep an eye on that with Obamacare, small businesses are going to be put under considerable hardship with finances if we don't keep our lobbyists working in Washington."
She wants to see a focus on "the big picture, make sure that everybody is going to be in a good position, campgrounds, to make memories for families down the road."
One way ARVC is working to do that is by changing their education program, both to simplify and to increase the professionalism, and the association is continuing to roll out the new Outdoor Hospitality Education Program, replacing the former Certified Park Operator program.
Paul Bambei, president of the association, told members, "The year 2013 showed remarkable progress for our association, as ARVC continued to focus on enriching member programs and growth." He detailed the education changes, new discounts for members on outdoor equipment and propane, and the music-licensing deal which allows members to save significant amounts on royalties paid for publicly played music.