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California Forecasts Higher Tourism Spending

CalARVC Education Forum logoThis year is shaping up to be another good year for the campground business, despite rising fuel costs, according to California campground and tourism industry officials.

“As long as people aren’t worried about losing their jobs, they’re going to go camping,” Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), stated in a news release.

Speaking at last week’s gathering of roughly 65 parks, 22 vendors and industry officials at CalARVC’s Education Forum and Tradeshow at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Anaheim, Sipe said it behooves park operators to step up their local marketing efforts, since rising fuel costs will likely prompt people to take shorter vacations and travel to destinations closer to home.

Sipe also noted that there could be additional business opportunities for California campgrounds as continuing state budget problems could result in state park campground closures as well as invitations for private companies to manage public campground operations. “This is something we’re watching very closely,” she said.

Other campground and travel industry officials who spoke at CalARVC’s March 1-2 Education Forum were similarly upbeat.

Annie Hess, tourism development manager for the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC), said state officials expect California to experience a 3% increase in domestic travelers this year, while visits by international travelers are projected to jump by 6%.

Travelers in California are also expected to spend more money this year, with domestic travel spending growing by 5%, while international visitors increase their spending by 9%, Hess said, citing CTTC projections.

Tourism, in fact, is one of the four strongest growth pillars of the California economy, said John Severini, president and CEO of the California Travel Industry Association (CalTIA) during his remarks to California park operators.

Travel, tourism and hospitality produced $87.7 billion in direct spending in California in 2009, while having a financial impact on one in nine jobs, Severini said.

Paul Bambei, ARVC president

Paul Bambei, ARVC president

Campgrounds, for their part, can do even more to bolster their share of the travel and tourism business by stepping up their marketing efforts to younger people, said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

“There is a young family demographic that hasn’t been attracted to this industry,” Bambei said, adding that the GoCampingAmerica website has been primarily visited by people who are 55 and over.

That’s about to change, however, Bambei said, as ARVC rolls out new marketing and public relations initiatives that are designed to capture the attention of Generation Xers, who range in age from 27 to 40, and Echo Boomers, who are under 26.

These initiatives will include video outreach promotions and a redesigned GoCampingAmerica website that includes an e-coupon discount program to promote camping at participating ARVC-member parks as part of the national “Great Outdoors” promotion in June.

Bambei added that ARVC’s marketing and public relations efforts will focus on attracting growing numbers of young families to private campgrounds without alienating existing customers.

One thing that bodes particularly well for the campground industry, Bambei added, is the fact that camping is the most affordable vacation option. Having a “recession proof marketing message” should resonate with young families, he said.

In addition to providing California park operators with presentations by top state and national campground and tourism industry officials, the CalARVC Education Forum included several marketing and social media training seminars by Evanne Schmarder of Roadabode Productions Inc. as well as a session on how to make your ads sizzle by Rick Wiseman, Camp California Marketing’s advertising director.

Bob MacKinnon of GuestReviews.com provided a workshop on how to respond to negative customer reviews, while Larry Brownfield of Kampgrounds of America (KOA) led thought provoking seminars on park management and how customers can see things differently than campground operators do.

Gary Pace and Deb Kohls of Leisure Interactive also held seminars detailing the latest requirements for PCI compliance and credit card security as well as an overview of electronic travel marketing distribution channels.

John Pentecost from the law firm of Hart, King and Coldren also provided seminars on the latest laws and recommendations involving RV park rules and regulations and eviction procedures.

The trade show itself featured over 22 vendors, including representatives from Cavco Industries, Airwave Adventures, Affinity Group Inc., Southeast Publications USA, Evergreen USA, Southwest Insurance and Wilcor International. For more information, visit www.calarvc.com

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