At least five state campground associations will hold spring meetings in April, highlighted by a big meeting at the end of the month in Texas.
Brian Schaeffer, president of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), anticipates between 75 and 100 campgrounds will be represented at the TACO conference, which is scheduled for April 28-30 at the Inn of the Hills Convention Center in Kerrville, Texas. The trade show will feature 40 vendor booths.
Guest speakers include Lori Severson, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO), and Casey Erick, TACO’s attorney, who will discuss topical issues affecting campgrounds.
“We plan to have rapid-fire roundtable discussions featuring various vendors and TACO staff, which will cover a myriad of topics from social media to Wi-Fi to credit card processing to marketing,” Schaeffer told Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM).
Schaeffer said TACO moved up its convention from the traditional May dates to April to allow visitors to the Texas Hill Country to enjoy spring temperatures and the beautiful wildflowers.
On the legislative front, Schaeffer reported that TACO is introducing a bill in the Texas Legislature to clarify the definition of an RV park, specifically to remove the reference to RV parks in Texas Property Code 94, which deals exclusively with manufactured home parks.
“We are tightening up previously passed legislation that has to do with utility companies billing RV parks for actual commodity usage and not per-site administrative fees or commodity allocations,” he said.
Further, TACO is opposing legislation that would move the first day of school in Texas public schools from the fourth Monday in August to the third Monday in August.
Finally, TACO will be opposing various attempts to raise taxes and support various attempts to reduce taxes on small businesses.
TACO also will sponsor a fundraising auction during the convention to support its Government Affairs program, hold board elections and hand out awards to the best small, medium and large campgrounds. New awards this year are “Best Special Event” and “Best Welcome Package.” TACO will be raffling a golf car and several other significant prizes during the convention.
Arizona ARVC Creates Jack Denton Award
The Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Arizona ARVC) has a busy agenda for its convention scheduled for April 24-25 at the Rincon Country West RV Resort in Tucson.
Special guest speakers include Paul Bambei, CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), and Mark Maciha, chairman of the board of regents of the National School of RV Park and Campground Management.
Arizona ARVC Executive Director Jo Ann Mickelson anticipates an attendance of 80, including 20 vendors. The state’s top parks (small, medium, large and mega) will be honored, new officers will be elected and four educational seminars will be offered.
In a related development, the association’s board has created the “Jack Denton Memorial Award” to be presented for the first time in 2014 to recognize any park, campground, owner, manager, supplier partner or legislator who has helped further camping and RVing in Arizona.
The award is in memory of Denton, who died in August 2012. Denton was known as the “father of camping in Arizona.”
“He was a pioneer who went beyond the call of duty to further projects in Arizona such as the Visitor Centers, Scenic Byways and state parks,” Mickelson told WCM. Denton built, owned, and operated his own KOA in Flagstaff for more than 40 years.
More information on applying for the award for 2014 will come out later this year.
Any parks or campgrounds in other states are welcome to attend, Mickelson said. Members of other state associations may attend at Arizona member prices.
Maine Meeting in Tandem with Portland RV Show
The Maine Campground Owners Association (MECOA) will be holding its annual trade show and annual meeting on April 5 at the Fireside Inn & Suites in Portland, Maine.
“Because the event is being held in conjunction with our annual RV show (April 6-7) at the Portland Sports Complex, we expect that between 50 and 70 campground owners will be present throughout the day,” said Kathy Dyer, MECOA administrative manager.
The one-day event, beginning at 9 a.m. is filled with educational seminars and guest speakers such as Lisa Roy, the Maine director of licensing, and Rick Abare, MECOA’s executive director, who will give a legislative update on key issues such as water rights, lodging taxes and local option tax.
An award ceremony is planned during the membership lunch and an auction is planned in which proceeds will go into the MECOA scholarship fund.
The trade show, running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is sold out with 33 booth spaces reserved, Dyer said.
The annual MECOA meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and five new members will be elected to the board.
Scharder Speaking At Virginia Meeting
The Virginia Campground Association (VCA) will hold its first-ever spring meeting April 9 to 11 at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Gloucester Point, Va. About 25 to 30 parks are expected to be represented.
The convention and trade show, featuring 15 vendors, had to be rescheduled after Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic shores and Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia on the original dates of the convention in October, VCA Executive Director David Gorin explained.
The spring meeting will feature guest speaker Bud Styer of Wisconsin; a special seminar on family outdoor programming led by the Director of Environmental Education for the Virginia State Parks; and a seminar wrap-up on the 2013 Virginia Legislative Session and planning for 2014 legislation led by Lauren Schmitt of The Hillbridge Group, VCA's Richmond representatives.
VCA members also are looking forward to an update on national campground association activities from Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of state relations and program advocacy, and a report on a new social media benchmark study being conducted by Evanne Schmarder of Roadabode Productions.
Another feature of the event will be a lobster cookout sponsored by Evergreen Insurance.
South Dakota Marks 50 Years on April 19
The South Dakota Campground Owners Association (SDCOA) is the smallest of the April gatherings but it will still be memorable, as SDCOA is marking its 50th anniversary April 19 in Rapid City with an evening dinner.
The SDCOA is contacting former campground owners to attend and talk about their fondest memories, reported Cherrylee Bradt, SDCOA executive director. She hopes a third of the SDCOA will attend this event.
Paul Bambei made some persuasive arguments during his presentation at the Twin States Campground Conference on why campground owners in Vermont and New Hampshire should join the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
But how many owners decide to join the national association after the ARVC CEO spoke to about three dozen of them on Nov. 10 at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vt., remains to be seen.
“He gave a very strong sales pitch for the benefits of ARVC membership,” said Peter Daniels, executive director of the Vermont Campground Association (VCA). “He gave a lot of examples of large discounts for ARVC members. The music licensing was the biggest.”
As he has done at various state and industry meetings this fall, Bambei told his audience that ARVC is creating unprecedented exclusive value for its members. For example, its new music-licensing program that covers the three major licensors (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC) provides enough savings to offset the cost of ARVC dues next year, Bambei noted.
For parks with less than 50 sites, the annual license savings will total $686. For parks with 50 to 200 sites, the annual savings will total $871. For parks with 201 to 400 sites, the savings will total $973 and for parks with 401 or more sites, the savings will be $1,165. See chart below.
The deadline to realize these savings for the 2013 season is Nov. 30.
“Several of the newer members indicated that is something they should look into,” Daniels continued, while not offering hard numbers on how many might join the national association.
Vermont campground owners are an independent lot, as just four of the 70 members of VCA also belong to ARVC at present, Daniels said. Daniels does not believe VCA has ever been an affiliated member of ARVC.
In New Hampshire, where there are about twice as many campgrounds as in Vermont, the participation rate is better. There, about 30 out of 143 parks that are members of the New Hampshire Campground Owners’ Association are ARVC members.
The association withdrew from ARVC 10 to 15 years ago for reasons forgotten by many of today’s owners, according to Gregg Pitman, executive director, but the spirit of working with ARVC is being revived
He, too, anticipates several New Hampshire parks will join ARVC after hearing Bambei’s presentation
“I see the potential that ARVC membership would be to our members,” Pitman said. “All I can do is promote this as a great option.”
Though New Hampshire has no official ties to ARVC, Pitman has begun to collect ARVC membership dues on behalf of New Hampshire campgrounds and forwarding it to the national headquarters in Colorado.
This act puts New Hampshire in a unique relationship as cooperating with ARVC yet not being identified as a “cooperating” state, he concedes.
To promote ARVC membership in his state, Pitman said he will enlist some ARVC members to record video testimonials which he can share with non-members.
Meanwhile, Daniels said the seminar presentations at this year’s Twin States Conference were well received.
The keynote speaker, Megan Smith, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, set the tone for the spirit of cooperation that Bambei brought up later in his talk when she outlined how Vermont is working with other “upper tier” states (New Hampshire and Maine) to promote tourism in the Northeast.
The 2013 Twin States Conference will be held in New Hampshire, most likely along the state’s seacoast, Daniels and Pitman said.
Paul Bambei is hitting the ground running as president and CEO of the Larkspur, Colo.-based National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), having made his first industry appearances at ARVC’s InSites Convention in Las Vegas in early December.
A marketing and business development expert and entrepreneur who has worked for some well known companies, including Time Inc. and Comcast Corp., Bambei’s extensive business experience, self-confidence and personable nature are said to have made him an easy pick to succeed retiring exec Linda Profaizer at the first of the year.
Bambei (pronounced “Bambi”), whose strengths are marketing and business management, recently co-founded Jookt LLC, the nation’s first high school sports network, serving as its COO for the past four years, producing programs for broadcast television, cable and Internet distribution.
From 2004 to 2006, he was a key advisor to Luxembourg-based Intelsat Ltd., a leading provider of fixed satellites, and he also spent 20 years in senior management positions in the cable television industry, including vice president of operations for Comcast Corp.’s Comcast Media Center in Denver from 1999 to 2003
Bambei, who graduated in communications from Southeast Missouri State University and completed an advanced business management program at Denver University, tells contributor Evanne Schmarder in an ARVC-exclusive Internet interview that he’s eager to improve the trade association’s spirit of team play, to pursue a national marketing agenda and to purchase a new building in the Denver area on behalf of the small business people who make up the bulk of the trade association’s membership.
The 27-minute video, highlights of which appear below, is posted on the www.ARVC.org homepage.
Schmarder: Paul, I understand that you’re an RVer. Tell us a little bit about that.
Bambei: Well, it goes back about 10 years. I happen to be very fortunate in having a wife who loves the great outdoors. She did it as a child and she really convinced me that with our young children this is something that we ought to do, get away from the electronics and the craziness of the concrete jungle in Denver, where I’m from.
So we rented an RV from a local shop in Denver, and that was a learning experience because we didn’t really understand quality of RVs. So, we went to one initially that looked a little bit like what Robin Williams turned in at the end of his RV movie, only we had it at the beginning and it’s (renting) been the way that we’ve taken family vacations every summer since.
The only difference is that now we rent from a vendor who has a very good fleet of RV units. He turns them every year, brings in new, sells them and brings in new models the following year. So we’re delighted that we’re going out in new models, but the passion for RVing is what always counted with us and that’s why we enjoy it so much.
Schmarder: Has it made a difference in your children’s lives?
Bambei: I know it has because we started taking them out when they were three or four years old and initially the thrill was just climbing into the cabover and just seeing the sights from up above the driver cab. Since that time, it’s expanded to "let’s jump in the river and do some fly fishing. Let’s take a hike. Let’s do things we just don’t normally do at home." So, that’s how it has created that quality of life in them, and I have no doubt when they’re older – let’s say I’m hoping that they own an RV instead of renting one, and are willing to take grandma and grandpa with them.
Schmarder: So let’s talk a little bit about business and your background — marketing and technology, small business owner, entrepreneur.
Bambei: That’s correct. I’ve been involved in both. My early career was spent primarily with large corporations. Time Warner is one that I think everybody will be familiar with, later on Comcast. And, of course, those are cable television corporations, very successful ones. I started in a marketing capacity. I was a director of marketing for Time Warner, corporately and that goes back a few years.
It was the early/mid ‘80s when — for those who can remember back that far – those were go go years… So there was a lot of marketing involved, getting the general public familiar with the features and benefits of a product like cable television.
Schmarder: When you talk about the “go go” years of the cable industry, it reminded me of technology today and how it’s quickly evolving and becoming something that really is important in everybody’s business.
Bambei: There are a lot of things about websites and Internet technology that I learned that I think can be very helpful to ARVC. You know, something as simple as putting a video player on the home page I think could really enhance the experience of the consumer because not only is it entertaining, but it provides sight, sound, motion. It’s a reason for them to keep coming back to see whatever is on the consumer Go Camping America site.
Might be relevant to them, might not be, but hey, it’s going to be entertaining. It’s going to be something they’re going to probably enjoy. And it’s a great vehicle, too, to allow the members to get involved. I heard a lot at ARVC’s InSites convention about how cool it would be to just be able to upload videos about their campgrounds and the things they’re doing that are very interesting perhaps to all the other members in the United States, and what better way to portray that than with a video? So those are things on my short list to try and accomplish.
Schmarder: Well, it sounds like you’ve looked at GoCampingAmerica.com, ARVC’s consumer brand, and I think that I read somewhere that you’ve got a lot of plans for the Go Camping America website, to brand that out and generate a lot of consumer awareness.
Bambei: Well, yeah, you never want to jump too fast in your plans before you listen, and that’s what I tried to do at the convention. But my overarching thought from a marketing perspective is to make that consumer site something that is easily pointed to by other media.
And because I’ve been in the cable industry and I’ve worked with the Travel Channel and The Outdoor Channel and The Fishing Network and National Geographic Channel, I have a gut instinct that if Go Camping America is something that is truly universally appealing to the outdoorsman and young families that there’s a partnership that could probably be struck there. Make it something that ARVC and its members enjoy in terms of broad television exposure through one of those channels or all of them.
Schmarder: So, right now, you’re listening.
Bambei: I really believe that sometimes people get in trouble when they move too fast, and, as anxious as I am to move on some of these ideas, I don’t have all the pieces put together just yet, and that’s the value of listening.
Schmarder: When you addressed the group at the InSites Convention in early December, you talked about your three guiding principals – service, communication and teamwork.
Bambei: Yes, and I’ll focus on communications. It’s one of those strange things that needs to go sideways, up, down, vertical, horizontal and that just doesn’t happen on its own. And I think leadership needs to create that by setting a good example.
I’ve heard in my short time here so far that sometimes a member will call the ARVC office and not get an answer, not get a phone answer perhaps or just not get an answer to an e-mail or a question. Those things can be so damaging to the bridging of this confidence that I think we need to really move forward.
So one of my pet peeves, to be honest with you, is to allow that to continue. I simply won’t, and I’m going to make it very clear to the staff back in Denver that that’s first and foremost in terms of priority. We just have to make sure we’re being responsive.
Communication is not just about being responsive though, it needs to be proactive in many ways. When we have an agenda or something of importance that we know needs to get out, it has to get out. And I’ve heard other stories of people not receiving things that other people have received and I think that’s more or less a database issue perhaps where not everybody is plugged in as they should be. Or maybe some balls are being dropped in Denver that can be carried better.
Schmarder: So, this will be a point of focus for you?
Bambei: Absolutely, it’s my goal to make it better. And you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so there are some very cost-effective ways of tracking things that I want to be able to put in place to show the membership how we’re improving. And I think that’s the grace period that I’ve been given.
It’s also my goal to help our members make a profit. That was my life for 30 years and I don’t necessarily believe that just because I’m now the leader of a non-profit that I shouldn’t be responsible for helping members make money. I feel we can facilitate it in many ways.
One is through the website. I don’t think we need to be an order taker for every member, but I do believe that the website can be a lead generator to create interest on the consumer’s part and physically and traceably show that we are sending leads to members’ campsites.
And that’s the top line of any P&L statement, it’s revenue and I think if they begin to see that we are funneling that kind of business to them and that we are attracting attention in the wider media that the members will approve. And although this is not something that will happen overnight, that’s something that I feel can happen.
So I’m talking about the revenue side of the profit and loss statement. On the expense side, if we’re doing our jobs right at ARVC, we can share some very effective ways to reduce expenses, to pick up very cost-effective capital items that every park in the country uses that can help them save money. So that’s how I plan to do it.
Schmarder: Sounds good.
Bambei: And I should add one other thing: I don’t mean to use the word I so much. This is a team effort.
Schmarder: You also mentioned teamwork as a priority.
Bambei: The final pillar of success in my view is the teamwork that I think is so important. And I really don’t think there’s going to be a problem here at ARVC.
Walking in, I had my doubts to be honest with you, I didn’t know how the factions were communicating and getting along and were willing to roll up their sleeves and work together. Now I feel very good about everybody’s willingness to work together toward a common goal.
And I’m elated that in the first day of the convention, we all sat together —100 plus people came together from all walks of the organization — and agreed basically to set an agenda and work together to make some things happen for states and national. And that, to me, is progress. That, to me, is teamwork. It’s fantastic. So, I’m going to be the last guy to let that ball drop, and I’m working with a very excited and capable executive committee and board of directors that understand the importance of that as well.
I’ve got to give great credit to those ladies and gentlemen who have the foresight to put this squabbling behind us and to do something proactive to start pointing things into the future positively. And I feel they accomplished that, so now we’ll move ahead.