David Gorin is the former president of ARVC and is currently the president of Best Parks in America and the principal of David Gorin Associates LLC. He wrote this column which appears in the April issue of Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM). He can be reached by e-mail at david@bestparksinamerica.
It’s pretty common knowledge that February and March are really busy months for the park industry, no matter where you might be. In the Sunbelt, it’s the height of the winter season where parks are going full blast and hopefully full occupancy. In the northern tier of the country, parks are busy with booths at RV and camping shows in their market areas and with state and regional association conventions. Just ask Jeff Sims how busy he is from mid-February to the end of March!
There are two important industry events that seem to float a bit below the radar of most of the industry – the annual session of the National School of RV Park & Campground Management held the third week of February and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Annual Meeting, typically held in early March.
I was pleased to be able to attend both meetings and would like to share some observations with you on these two events.
The National School
I’d like to think that one of the most significant legacies of my role in the industry since 1987 is the National School of RV Park & Campground Management held annually since 1994 at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, W.Va. The recently concluded session was No. 20. We estimate that more than 1,000 individual parks have had owners, managers and other personnel attend the school over the years.
One of the most frequently asked questions about the school is “how did the school wind up at Oglebay and not in a more central and accessible location?”
The quick answer: Oglebay is part of a public park system – one of the first in the nation that operated under a rule that said it must be self-sufficient and not rely on tax dollars. Early on, the professional park executives at Oglebay realized that they had to develop a year-round base of visitors to keep the facilities operating and financially viable. So they added a holiday light festival that became one of the East’s most popular tour destinations between Thanksgiving and late January. These folks also decided that they had expertise in the park business that could help other public park systems improve their operations. This led them into doing consulting, and that led to a relationship with North Carolina State University and thus Oglebay became home to a number of NC State and other recreation-oriented schools throughout the winter months. A great strategy for asset management. In 1992, when the National Association of Campground Owners was looking for assistance in creating hospitality training programs, Al Daniels, owner of Normandy Farms Family Campground in Massachusetts, received a training video produced by the Oglebay Department of Continuing Education, headed up by Bill Koegler and Lisa Railing. To make a long story short, Al forwarded the video to NCOA headquarters and the contact with Lisa about the video led to a visit to Oglebay and thus the School of RV Park & Campground Management was born.
The key players in the early days included Al Daniels, the chairman of the new foundation; Erv Banes, president of the National Association of Campground Owners and a park owner from Frankenmuth, Mich.; and Herb Strauss, a national board member and NCOA treasurer; and yours truly. We were joined by representatives of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. (Please forgive me if the titles are not quite right – been a long time).
Right from the outset, Oglebay provided very important administrative and early financial support and they continue to do so to this day. With the experience of operating many schools for many years, they have the infrastructure and systems in place to efficiently manage and operate many aspects of the school. In addition, the resort itself has been a model in meeting changing consumer wants and needs, keeping up to date and reinvesting in its facilities and amenities, all providing an excellent laboratory for hosting the park school.
And that’s why the school is at Oglebay and hopefully will remain there for many years to come. It is a retreat center, a resort, a hospitality laboratory and a wonderful school host – perfect for an RV park and campground management school.
The just finished school session that concluded on Feb. 24 is perhaps the most outstanding session the school has experienced. There was a sense of purpose and seriousness among the students, that combined with a positive and energetic spirit, we haven’t often seen in years past. The student body is as diverse as can be imagined in this industry ranging from younger men and women moving into family businesses, a Desert Storm and Iraqi war veteran building a new park, several students from Native American tribes in Utah, to owners or managers of large independent or franchised parks.
And the school faculty really hit its stride this year. It’s always been an excellent group of volunteer instructors but this year the combination of this student body and this faculty seemed to jell just a step ahead of previous years. This year’s school session seemed to be a home run.
Having praised this year’s school, I must admit that the real word on how good the school was has yet to be received. Each year, the students evaluate each class and provide feedback on content and teaching. Takes some thick skin to read those evaluations some times but I’m anxious to see if the student feedback matches my comments on the quality of this year’s school.
Secrets to Success
When I think about what contributed to the success of the school this year, what was new and different? There are two significant factors that come to mind.
First, the connection among students through a closed student and instructors only Facebook page created, monitored and motivated by Board of Regents Member and instructor Tracie Fisher was a great innovation this year. I think this Facebook communication played a key role in building and fostering relationships among the students and between instructors and students before, during and after the school. I think it was a major contributor to the spirit and seriousness of this year’s school. Thanks to Tracie for introducing this social media connection to the school.
The other significant factor this year was the week-long presence of Karl Littman, owner of a Virginia campground, school graduate and advocate, and chairman of the ARVC Foundation. Karl’s personality and persona, his enthusiasm for the school, his public comments and speaking, his youthfulness that matched many of the students, his great big smile throughout the week and his regular visits to the library late at night to work with the students all made him a star for the week and added greatly to the spirit that pervaded the school campus. Thanks, Karl, for devoting your week to promoting the school and the Foundation. It’s good to have someone at the helm of the Foundation that really “gets it” and can convey the message.
Facebook and Karl Littman: the new sauce on an already great recipe for success.
Thinking of coming to Oglebay? Feb. 20-25, 2014. See you there?
The RVIA Annual Meeting
I remember former RVIA President David Humphries once telling me that one of his principals of association management was whatever the association board decides is important enough to do, must be done thoroughly and the right way from the outset. Anything less, any cutting corners, means it’s not all that important and it’s an activity that should be skipped.
Although Dave is now happily (I expect) in retirement, his successor as RVIA president, Richard Coon, and the entire RVIA operation surely continues to subscribe to that philosophy. And the RVIA Annual Meeting I attended on March 4 and 5 surely reflected the importance and the serious nature RVIA attaches to its annual meeting.
Although there were less than 100 people at the meeting, from my perspective, it was truly a first rate experience in every way. Outstanding presentations by speakers Jim Rogers of KOA, an economic outlook presentation by Dr. Lowell Catlett and a panel of top industry executives from the dealers, bankers, manufacturers and suppliers highlighted an information-packed morning session.
Jim Rogers is a charismatic speaker and an excellent spokesperson for the camping sector. There’s probably no one better to keep the RV manufacturers in the loop and help them understand the campground sector. It is generally quite refreshing to see a new interest among manufacturers in the park business. For many years, there seemed little interest in our business. Whatever the reason for the new outlook, it’s certainly appreciated.
The actual membership annual meeting included carefully constructed and expertly delivered details of RVIAs activities over the last year. Excellent RVIA updates provided by Richard Coon, Mac Bryan (RVIA’s vice president of administration and essentially their CFO), and Jim Ashurst (RVIA’s vice president of marketing/advertising and the head of Go RVing) covered the most important areas of association activities. And a special presentation by the president of the American Recreation Coalition, Derrick Crandall, on the outlook for outdoor recreation on public lands was outstanding, providing the industry with a complete picture of this important topic. With public lands being a primary place RVers travel to, the ability and receptivity of these lands to camping, campgrounds and RVs are critical.
I was quite taken by the financial report. RVIA is the custodian of a very healthy reserve, approaching $21 million if my recollection is correct. With an annual budget of over $8 million, having 2.5 times operating budget in reserve really is at the top of the scale in the association world. With it, RVIA is in a solid position to weather the economic downturns that may come along but is also well positioned to take every advantage of circumstances and conditions.
Coming out of the recession, the meeting was upbeat with a bit of caution in the air. The Class A motorhome sector is showing signs of a somewhat resurgence. The towable sector is carrying the industry. RVIA’s manufacturing membership is down from a peak of around 105 to now about 67. Richard Coon pointed out that at its peak, on average manufacturers were selling around 2,500 units a year; today, with fewer manufacturers and rising sales, the average has risen to about 4,500 units per manufacturer. So fewer manufacturers serving a growing market hopefully will lead to stronger companies better positioned to face any future economic disruptions and possibly able to step up product research and innovation – the backbone of any real expansion of the industry.
One interesting discussion heard in the hallways and over lunch centered on how to remove some of the hassle factor that accompanies the ownership of an RV. Jim Rogers in his presentation talked about all of the buttons, switches, gauges and dials, the need for more new owner training and simplifying the life of the RVer. Many retirees that own RVs take on that ownership as their new job. Younger owners who don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours preparing, fixing, adding or subtracting from their RV are likely to find the rig to be a real hassle then a pleasure. Maybe I’m reading my own views into the conversations that I heard, but be that as it may, in many cases the hassle factor is impacting on sales – especially of motorhomes.
Congratulations to RVIA on not only a successful Annual Meeting, but a good kick a– year!
Two great events – the management school and the RV Industry meeting. Two views of the industry from different perspectives.
The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) has successfully launched a brand new website for the association at www.arvc.org.
“We’re really pleased with the way the site has come together,” Jennifer Schwartz, ARVC’s senior director of marketing communications and partnerships, stated in a news release. She added that ARVC tapped Indianapolis, Ind.-based WebLink International Inc., a leading provider of websites for trade associations, to develop the new site.
“ARVC.org has been redesigned to incorporate the most relevant and compelling content,” Schwartz said. “It provides enhanced functionality and easy to use tools to better serve our members as a more complete, centralized member resource for member benefits, news and upcoming events. It’s everything you need to know about ARVC and ARVC-related opportunities.”
The website features ARVC’s educational, operational and marketing resources, updates on legislative and regulatory affairs, as well as information on ARVC Foundation programs and industry support.
“We anticipate that ARVC.org will quickly become the ‘go to’ resource for our members,” Schwartz said, adding that the website also has an online community forum where ARVC members, supplier partners, and state leaders can exchange ideas and opinions about topics of interest to them.
“The website also includes a searchable database of suppliers that we didn’t have before,” Schwartz said. “Now it’s very easy for our members to find providers of products or services they are searching for. We’ve also made it so that suppliers can update their business listings whenever they want to ensure that they can keep the most accurate and up-to-date information in front of our members.”
ARVC members can also use the website to process payments for membership dues as well as their attendance at conferences and workshops provided by the association.
Based in Denver, Colo., ARVC is the only national trade association exclusively representing the interests of privately owned RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. Membership is comprised of RV park and campground owners and operators, industry suppliers, franchisers and others committed to promoting the growth and welfare of the RV park and campground sector of the outdoor hospitality industry through development and implementation of legislative, regulatory, educational and promotional programs and activities. ARVC is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization. Visit www.arvc.org for more information.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has released preliminary details about the 2013 Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE) in Knoxville, Tenn. Nov. 4-8.
ARVC posted the following notice this week on its revamped website:
Outdoor hospitality is all about enjoying the great outdoors, so naturally, we’re very excited to have the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains as our backdrop for the 2013 arvc Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE). It’s your chance to join hundreds of your fellow park owners and operators at the Knoxville Convention Center for the premier event of the RV park and campground industry.
OHCE offers you a choice of over 40 educational seminars, all of which are Outdoor Hospitality Education Program-approved and presented by nationally recognized speakers and leaders in the industry. New this year! We’ve expanded our educational content to give you even more learning opportunities. ALL educational seminars, from Tuesday through Friday, are now included in your full registration fee!
You’ll also have opportunities to participate in cracker barrel discussions, network with your peers and attend enjoyable social events. Plus, the Expo will provide you with the convenience of “one-stop shopping” with more than 100 exhibitors demonstrating the latest products and services that can assist you in your park operations. You won’t want to miss this information-packed event. You’ll return to your campground with a wealth of new ideas, insights and industry contacts.
All sessions will take place at the Knoxville Convention Center unless otherwise noted. The schedule is subject to change.
Monday, Nov. 4
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. SPOT Tour
Noon-5:00 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
Tuesday, Nov. 5
7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. SPOT Tour
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Specialized Course Options
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Specialized Course Lunch
2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Educational Seminars
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Joint 20 Group Meeting
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Cracker Barrel
Wednesday, Nov. 6
7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Educational Seminars
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Opening Luncheon with Keynote
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Voting Area Caucuses
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Welcome Reception/ Expo and Trade Show
Thursday, Nov. 7
7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Annual Meeting Breakfast
8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Expo and Trade Show
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Expo Lunch
3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Educational Seminars
6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Awards of Excellence Banquet
Friday, Nov. 8
7:00 a.m. – 3:30 a.m. Hospitality Desk Open
7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Foundation Walk for Disaster Relief
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Supplier Council Breakfast
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Expo Breakfast
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Expo and Trade Show
12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Foundation Lunch and Auction
2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Educational Seminars
6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Closing Reception
Campground operators narrowly avoided the imposition of a new National Electric Code (NEC) code requirement, thanks to proactive efforts by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and its industry partners.
A proposal to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) National Electric Code (NEC) suggested a new code requirement that would have required campground operators to ground each electrical pedestal with copper grounding rods at a cost of $70 to $100 each, according to a news release.
Wade Elliott, ARVC’s representative on the NEC Panel, said the proposed requirement was made by an NEC panelist who suggested grounding each pedestal like a separate structure, even though pedestals are already properly grounded.
“If we hadn’t been there to intervene, this new regulation could have cost a 100-site park owner $7,000 to $10,000,” Elliott said, adding that the potential cost to private park operators across the country would have exceeded $32 million.
Elliott, working in concert with Doug Mulvaney of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Bruce Hopkins of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), who also sit on the panel, launched a coordinated effort to delay implementation of the proposed code requirement.
Elliott, who owns Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group, a leading pedestal supplier to the campgrounds across the country, said he is not aware of any accidents or studies that would justify the proposed copper ground rod requirement.
“While we were not able to kill the proposal, we were able to delay its implementation by NFPA for another three years,” Elliott said.
ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei alerted members of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners of ARVC’s watchdog efforts on their behalf during WACO’s annual meeting this week in Stevens Point, Wis.
Based in Denver, Colo., the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds is the only national trade association exclusively representing the interests of privately-owned RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. Membership is comprised of RV park and campground owners and operators, industry suppliers, franchisers and others committed to promoting the growth and welfare of the RV park and campground sector of the outdoor hospitality industry through development and implementation of legislative, regulatory, educational and promotional programs and activities. ARVC is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization. Visit www.arvc.org for more information.
The Carolinas Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CARVC) will hold its spring meeting April 9 at Camp Clearwater in White Lake, N.C.
There will be a CARVC Board of Directors meeting at 10 a.m., which is open for all members to observe. “This is a great opportunity to see how the board functions, and the work that is being done to market our industry and our member parks,” said Dana Gabriel, association president. “It is also a perfect opportunity to become more involved through committee work, or as a future director.”
At 4 p.m., CARVC will hold its first regional meeting of the year. On the agenda is an ARVC Update, so members can stay abreast of what is happening in the outdoor hospitality industry nationwide, followed by a panel discussion on “How to Make the Most of Your ARVC Benefits.”
CARVC will also conduct a presentation on “How to Update Your GoCampingAmerica.com Listing.”
“ARVC has put a great new gateway in place that allows members to update park profile information and add photos,” Gabriel noted.
Dinner that evening will be at Giorgio’s Italian Restaurant and Pizza in Elizabethtown. Dinner is Dutch.
Camp Clearwater has very generously offered free RV camping for those who would like to overnight.
For more information contact Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (803) 568-8892.
Editor’s Note: The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) posted a news release on its website today (March 6) about the federal government’s sequestration. Portions of that post appear below.
With no political solution in sight, ARVC is working alongside the U.S. Travel Association and others on several fronts to develop a strategy to help end this man-made crisis. Our coalition is:
- Engaging media to voice the travel industry’s concerns.
- Communicating directly with Congressional offices to inform them of the deep impact the sequester will have on travelers and its ripple in the economy.
- Activating a grassroots mobile messaging campaign that easily bridges frustrated travelers with lawmakers.
- Developing economic research to paint a picture of the realities stemming from these reductions.
Amplifying Travel’s Impact in the Media
- We are aggressively engaging with media outlets aimed at both policymakers and the public. Statements from the Travel Association on the sequester have already received widespread media coverage. The association is also considering select advertisements to highlight the impact of the sequester on travelers and to ask Congress to “Draw the Line” – travelers have waited long enough.
Informing Congressional Leaders on Both Sides of the Aisle
- We are communicating directly with Congressional offices, particularly those in districts where travel has a particularly strong economic effect, informing them of the deep impact the sequester will have on American travelers and its broader effect across the economy.
- Mobile messaging is a creative way to bridge frustrated travelers with lawmakers. Our Power of Travel Coalition is encouraging grassroots advocates to text “DELAYED” to 877-877 to receive a reply with information on how to contact Congress on the sequester.
Developing Research that Indicates the Sequester’s Economic Impact
- U.S. Travel’s economists are conducting research on the actual economic impact of the sequester, including trips that may be canceled due to the additional travel difficulties that the sequester will bring. We will share the results of that research with our members, Capitol Hill, the press and the public.
There is absolutely no excuse for travelers in one of the world’s most advanced nations to suffer through a travel process that wastes their precious time and resources. With the launch of the sequester cuts, we will call on travelers to rise up and make their voices heard. We continue to point out to Congress that travel is driving post-recession recovery by creating jobs faster than the rest of the economy and that these cuts could derail our recovery.
By no means do we intend to discourage travel. It’s time for Washington to solve problems rather than make travel delays worse. We will actively monitor and proactively seek to influence action on the sequester and other issues in ways that benefit our industry and promote economic growth.
ARVC members are also invited to the National Issues Conference for an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Congress.
The following column was provided by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and appears in the March issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) is continuing to expand its roster of discount programs for private park operators and their employees across the country.
The association launched a new employee benefit program with AT&T in December that provides a 15% discount on qualifying personal wireless accounts.
The discount plan applies to personal wireless accounts and includes simultaneous use of voice and data services on AT&T’s mobile broadband network as well as unlimited usage of AT&T’s Wi-Fi network at no additional charge.
ARVC Announces New Health Insurance Plan
ARVC is also now making affordable medical, dental and vision plans available to its members, which can be purchased as packages or on an à la carte basis.
The ARVC Health Insurance Program is being administered by Warrenville, Ill.-based JBLG Health, the nation’s largest health insurance provider for business and trade associations.
Key coverages and benefits include:
- Premium savings.
- A wide variety of choices for coverage from HSAs to PPOs for members, their employees or family.
- A shrinking deductible: 20% deductible credit each year you do not meet your deductible.
- 10% healthy member discount and preferred rates.
- Optional free Health Savings Account.
- Optional PPO or traditional health plan with extensive networks.
- Plans with a $20, $25, $30 or $40 co-pay for doctor visits.
- Wellness benefits and Prescription Drug Card.
- Worldwide coverage, 24-hours a day.
- Enhanced wellness benefits based on PPACA Guidelines effective September 23, 2010.
- Tele-Express, phone application – no paper applications to complete.
- Dental Insurance available with or without medical.
- Vision Insurance available with or without medical.
- Critical Illness coverage available that pays cash benefit directly to you.
- Disability coverage available with a benefit of up to $15,000 per month.
Some insurance plan features are subject to state availability and may not be available to all ARVC members. To learn more about the options available to lower your health insurance costs and maintain comprehensive coverage, call the ARVC office at (303) 681-0401.
ARVC Taps Past Chairmen’s Insights at Florida Meeting
ARVC recently convened an unprecedented meeting of 12 of its past chairmen and other top officials stretching all the way back to the 1980s.
“We had more than 500 years of experience in the room,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO, who organized the Jan. 17 meeting in Tampa, Fla., as the first of what he hopes will be an annual meeting of ARVC’s past chairmen.
“It was a great opportunity to hear of their most extreme challenges, the things they accomplished and the great stories of the early history of ARVC,” said Bambei, who timed the meeting to coincide with the Florida RV SuperShow and the 2nd World RV Conference.
But Bambei and the ARVC Board of Directors did more than listen. They also engaged a video crew to tape interviews with former chairmen, several of which will be posted on ARVC’s online channels in the coming months.
“We captured the unique opportunity to create a living history of ARVC and the campground industry itself with these interviews,” Bambei said.
In addition to creating a living history of ARVC, Bambei said the past chairmen provided the association’s current leadership with insights that will help guide them as the organization continues its strategic planning and develops new programs.
Attending the meeting were several longtime park operators who held top positions with the National Campground Owners Association (NCOA), the precursor of today’s ARVC. They included Dan O’ Connell, formerly of O’Connell’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Amboy, Ill., who served as NCOA president from 1986 to 1987 in addition to serving on the original Board of Regents of the School of RV Park and Campground Management; Albert Daniels of Normandy Farms Campground in Foxboro, Mass., who served as NCOA president from 1988 to 1989; and Ervin R. Banes of Frankenmuth Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Frankenmuth, Mich., who served as NCOA president from 1990 to 1991.
Former ARVC officials attending the meeting included Herb Strauss of Papoose Pond Family Campground and Cabins in Waterford, Maine, a founding chairman of the School of RV Park and Campground Management and former NCOA and ARVC treasurer who served as ARVC’s first vice chairman in 1992; Jeff Sims, ARVC’s current director of state relations and program advocacy, who served as ARVC chairman from 1997 to 1998 while he owned and operated Compton Ridge Campground in Branson, Mo.; Chuck Hays Jr. of Far Horizons 49er Village in Plymouth, Calif., who served as ARVC chairman in 1999; Richard J. Whalen, who served as ARVC chairman in 2000 while he operated Dunedin Beach Campground in Dunedin, Fla.; Randy Packard of Pine Acres Family Camping Resort in Oakham, Mass., who was ARVC chairman from 2001 to 2003; Kathy Palmeri of Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Estes Park, Colo., who served as ARVC chairman in 2003 and 2004; Mark Anderson of Camp Chautauqua in Stow, N.Y., who served as ARVC chairman in 2008 and 2009; David L. Berg of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, who served as ARVC chairman in 2010 and 2011; and Rob Schutter, COO of Leisure Systems Inc., ARVC’s current chairman.
Editor’s Note: The following story was written by Terri Hughes-Lazzell, former editor of Woodall’s Campground Management, and appears in the March issue of WCM.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) new Outdoor Hospitality Education Program (OHEP) seems to have been well accepted by the rank and file in the RV park and campground industry, with more than 80 enrolled in the program in the first year.
Of those, 74 students signed up for February’s The National School of RV Park and Campground Management program at Oglebay in Wheeling, W. Va., according to ARVC.
While it will take some time for individuals to complete the requirements for the entire program, there are students enrolled in each certificate level of the program, according to Barb Youmans, senior director of membership and education for ARVC.
Currently, the Outdoor Hospitality Professional certificate is the most popular with more than 50 enrollees. That is the third tier in the program and is targeted at those who have successfully completed the second tier, have a third CPO recertification or completed the ARVC Management two-year program and have 24 months experience in an ARVC member park or pre-approved facility.
The OHEP is purposeful and measures the knowledge of the participant, rather than time spent at a training, says Saundra Bryn, managing partner of Desert’s Edge RV-The Purple Park, Phoenix, Ariz. Bryn, a former educator and curriculum development expert, assisted ARVC in developing OHEP.
“The new program has competencies that are measurable,” Bryn explains. “People must demonstrate either in writing or verbally their knowledge of that area.”
The National School of RV Park and Campground Management provides the components necessary to complete the Outdoor Hospitality Professional certificate program and ARVC encourages its members to attend the school, but it is not required, according to Youmans.
OHEP participants can gain their knowledge from other sources, such as the Better Business Bureau or an insurance organization. But, they will be assessed.
The Outdoor Hospitality Education Program has four tiers. To gain credentials for each tier, participants are required to submit a completed tier specific task book and accompanying portfolio for review by a committee. The committee either requests additional information or recommends ARVC Education award the credential.
Each competency area is made up of primary goals, which are then broken down into specific tasks. The areas are:
- Outdoor Hospitality Associate Certificate (OHA) for those who are new to or considering entering the industry.
- Outdoor Hospitality Generalist Certificate (OHG) for those who have successfully completed the OHA, worked in the industry at least 12 months or are a Certified Park Operator (CPO). Participants will learn how to enhance the customer experience and help to reach business goals.
- Outdoor Hospitality Professional Certificate (OHP) for those who have successfully completed the OHG, or a third CPO recertification or completed the ARVC Management two-year program and have 24 months experience in an ARVC member park or pre-approved facility.
- Outdoor Hospitality Executive Certificate (OHE) for those who are responsible for long-term strategic and business planning for one or more businesses in the industry and have successfully completed OHP, or lifetime CPO certification and 48 months experience in an ARVC member park or pre-approved facility
“It’s real and it’s relevant,” Bryn says. “This program is helping them (the participant), helping the business and helping the industry.”
Upon completion of each level, students receive a National School of RV Park and Campground Management certificate.
Editor’s Note: WCM Publisher Sherman Goldenberg interviewed a number of vendors at the 2012 ARVC conference in Las Vegas. In this final installment of a series published online, he shares his findings in a story that appear in its entirety in the January issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
Veteran campground consultant Bud Styer, of Bud Styer & Associates, Lodi, Wis., insists that park operators who make the right moves these days can go a long way toward controlling their own financial destinies. “Looking at the campground business,” said Styer, who also represents a group of 12 Wisconsin campgrounds under the heading of Camping for the Fun of It, “we grew between 2% and 4% this year. We’ve been very active with different kinds of themed weekends and we have a lot of rental units. But I’ll tell you, the industry has evolved today to be all about family and experiences. And if you can’t provide the experience, they are going to go elsewhere.
“The days of just going to a campground and relaxing and looking at the fire — there are a lot of people who still do that — but the growth is in the experience,” said Styer, an ARVC board member. “You’ll see zip lines, waterparks, dog parks, unique rental units, yurts, cabins, gazebos, Conestoga wagons. They want that experience — and the parks that are delivering it are seeing growth.”
Styer, at the same time, is a big booster of the annual convention hosted by the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO), for which he also serves as a board member. While WACO’s last convention in March drew a crowd of 565 park operators and industry representatives, he sees more growth for the next round, March 20-23 at the same venue in Stevens Point, Wis.
“We have the largest trade show in the country,” said Styer. “The ARVC show has 117 vendors. We average 195. And in 2013, we’ll have 50,000 more feet. Our hope is to have 250 vendors by March. We’ve invited all our neighbors (parks in neighboring states). They have shows, yet the vendors only have one thing on their mind: they want buyers in front of them who are ready to buy.
“We’ve designed our show so that we want our people to come with trucks and trailers prepared to buy things and haul them home. We want our vendors to have show specials and understand our people are here to buy. So give us a great product and give us a great price and everybody wins.”
Leisure Interactive Making Waves With Integrated Hercules Software
Located at a visible front-row display at the ARVC Expo was Orange, Calif.-based Leisure Interactive LLC, a leading provider of online reservation technology, front office software, property management solutions and consumer marketing networks for campgrounds and RV parks and a growing variety of other applications.
Leisure Interactive first made a name for itself in the campground circuit as Friend Communications. But the name was changed a couple of years ago because “Friend” didn’t really reflect the company’s evolving mission, explained President Gary Pace, a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. executive. “So, as we started moving from Reservation Friend as just an online booking engine and we saw the technology, we finally caught up to build a fully integrated platform, which included property management, distribution to websites and portals and supporting different kinds of companies, we named the new (software) product Hercules.”
Although the bulk of Leisure Interactive’s business today is still directed at the RV park and campground sector, Pace said the company has been “dabbling” in other niches in the outdoor recreation sphere and morphing its software as it goes to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of different allied business sectors in the outdoor hospitality space.
Look for more on this California company and its expanding reach into campgrounds — including state parks — plus the marine industry and mobile applications in a future issue of WCM.
Fairmont Park Trailers Gaining Ground in U.S. ‘Cabin’ Business
Bryan Cira, general manger of Fairmont Homes, was manning a booth in Las Vegas to promote a new vinyl-sided rental cabin, a hyper-affordable recreational park trailer selling as a show special for $17,995. Adding to that pricing edge, Cira reported, is the ability of his Nappanee, Ind.-based firm to ship long-range units two-at-a-time on one frame, thus splitting the freight in half.
“We also are promoting the fact that Fairmont Park Trailers is the fastest-growing park model company out there,” said Cira. “We’ve grown enormously over the last five years, and a lot of people aren’t really aware of us. And there have been a lot of park model manufacturers go out of business the last few years, and they (potential customers) are happy to see somebody in it the way we are in it. I know the park model industry was down this year, but Fairmont’s park model sales were up more than 35%.”
Further separating Fairmont from its competition, Cira maintained, is the fact that his cabins are built out of a housing facility.
“Instead of getting basic RV construction, our homes are built like a house — 2-inch by 4-inch interior walls, thermopane windows, residential cabinet design, hardwood stiles, half-inch side panels, dovetail drawers, all the advantages you’d get in an expensive modular home you are getting in a park model,” said Cira, whose firm had a “great” product showing at RVIA’s Louisville Show that same week. “We also have a lot of economies of scale because of the size of our housing company. We can offer prices like $18,000 for a fully equipped park model where other people don’t have that kind of ability.”
AGS Re-establishes Name Under New Independent Ownership
Area service guides are the long suit of AGS, a well-known name in the RV park and campground business that was owned and operated until 2011 by Good Sam/Camping World. Now running the show as a division of Texas Advertising and overseeing two dozen rep teams on the road all over the country and Canada are new owners Brian and Debra Schaeffer.
Brian, as most in the campground business well know, also serves as executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
Establishing its name under the new ownership remains a key emphasis for AGS, which relies heavily on those rep teams, many of whom have established solid relationships with customers over the years.
“We acquired AGS about a year-and-a-half ago,” reported Michael Moore, general manager of AGS, Crowley, Texas, who was also promoting a related website service, TXAD Internet Service. “Some of the work is to establish the ‘new’ AGS. We have all new products. We have a whole new attitude as far as what we are promoting out there. Coming to the shows is part of that. It’s trying to re-establish that relationship, whether they did or did not have the greatest relationship with the old regime.”
AGS’s guest guides are available in different formats with customized covers for park operators to hand out to their customers.
“When you get the RVer to check in, they need some information on not only the park, but the area, too — where to go, how to get there. And what we do is sell sponsorships in the community to produce that directory,” said Moore. “The local Mexican restaurant and local RV dealer can take a sponsorship, and those people are responsible for financing, essentially, the directory we then create, design, print and ship out.”
All is all, he added, things are going well. “Yes, it’s going great,” said Moore. “We’ve been very pleased and busy. “
Editor’s Note: WCM Publisher Sherman Goldenberg interviewed a number of vendors at the 2012 ARVC conference in Las Vegas. In this second of several installments that will be published online, he shares his findings in a story that appears in its entirety in the January issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
“We are up about 7% year-over-year, and someday we hope that we will get back to pre-recession levels,” said Wade Elliott, president of Utility Supply Group, a Seattle-area firm that markets electrical-utility site hoses, electric and water meters, distribution panels and other items related to RV and MH park and marina structures. “Seven percent is good. We’ll take it and continue to grow from there.”
The biggest obstacle in returning to a pre-recessionary pace of business right now is economic uncertainty, Elliott observed. “I think the economy is still wondering about where we go from here. I’ve always been of the mind that my customers, being consumers themselves, don’t spend money when they don’t know what’s going to happen this year. So, they’ve deferred a lot of purchases and maintenance. I think there is a lot of pent-up demand there.
“At some point,” he added, “people are going to say they have to fix the things they’ve got. They’ve got to do the upgrades they want to do. In order for parks to stay even, they’ve got to continue to put capital into their own parks. That pent-up demand at some point is going to break loose — and be good for the industry and for myself and my competitors.”
An ARVC board member who experienced increased traffic as an exhibitor at the Las Vegas conference, Elliott was elected to ARVC’s Supplier Council at the conference, and that’s not a job that he takes lightly. “We need to get suppliers more involved and to be more of a force for good inside the organization — someone who has some leadership, a force to be reckoned with, not in a negative sense,” said Elliott. “We want to be someone that the membership and the staff listens to. More suppliers being heard means they have more worth inside the organization, meaning you get more suppliers advertising and selling to the membership.”
Red Rover, a Fledgling Player in the Campground Biz, Exhibits at ARVC
Making its first appearance at an ARVC Conference were representatives of Red Rover, a marketing company set up as a subsidiary of Southern Pines, N.C.-based Trident Marketing intended to create new customers and drive them to campgrounds to fill empty campsites using state-of-the-art social media, web-based and high-tech marketing technology.
And President Robert Bouse, a former KOA executive who operates out of Austin, Tex., says Red Rover had a “phenomenal” show that “far exceeded expectations.”
“It wasn’t an accident,” said Bouse. “Through publications we did teaser-type ads to get peoples’ interest starting in September to bring them to the concept that Red Rover was something, but they didn’t know what it was. And then each month we added a little bit more to the teaser so that by the time they got here, people were asking, ‘what is this Red Rover thing?’
“Once people found out there is no cost to entry and no contract and the only time it costs them anything is when we actually send them a customer and that it’s a pay-as-you-go marketing program, they’re receptive to the idea,” he added. “We spend all the money, do all the research, drive all the customers in and don’t get paid until they actually show up.”
Trident, employing a variety of social media marketing tools that the firm utilizes in generating $59 million a year in sales leads for the nation’s second-largest reseller of DIRECTV satellite television service, itself owns six campgrounds comprising Travel Resorts of America.
“Nobody is doing that level of marketing in campgrounds,” said Bouse, noting that his company employes 30 webmasters, 40 social media people and 20 IT workers. “So, our company has looked at that and combined our 30 years of expertise in campground operation with our marketing expertise and is taking it to the industry.”
LCN Outdoor’s Boucher Says ‘Most People are Optimistic’
Business has been pretty good this year for LCN Outdoors LLC, Windsor, Conn., according to owner Norman H. Boucher, whose wholesale distributorship purveys a wide variety of items utilized by campgrounds for the retail store and elsewhere — everything from RV supplies to toys, novelties, apparel, swimming and suntan products, fishing equipment, kayaks, electrical products, fire rings, picnic tables and energy-saving devices.
“The year’s been OK,” said Boucher. “We’ve been on about par with last year, and last year wasn’t a bad year for us. Now, we’ve diversified. We’ve got more electrical boxes that we are selling. That’s helped us out. The toys — that part of the business seems to be slowing down a little bit. But all the other stuff that we’re picking up is making the difference.”
Long story short, Boucher’s sense of the RV park and campground business in general right now is pretty upbeat. “Most of the people are optimistic,” said Boucher, standing in front of his ARVC conference booth. “They’ve made the proper moves in the last two to three years that keep them going, especially those people who are coming to conferences like this and learning about what’s going on, what’s coming out new, learning the real meaning of outdoor hospitality, learning about the water parks and spray parks and camping cabins and park models, the importance of those in growing their business.
Next: Fairmont Gains Ground in Park Trailer Business