David Gorin: Can Go RVing Aid Campgrounds?
Editor’s Note: The following is a column by David Gorin that appears in the August issue of Woodall’s Campground Management magazine proposing that the mainstream RV industry’s Go RVing Coalition and the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds resume working more closely together in the future in a collaborative marketing effort. To view the entire article, visit the WCM home page and click on the magazine cover.
In recent weeks, a series of meetings and articles have led me to now propose in all seriousness that it is time for the RV manufacturers, dealers and camp- grounds to get together and broaden the focus of Go RVing to include camping. Just imagine, a “Go RVing…and Camping” campaign that stands as the industry’s national brand bringing together all the legs of the industry and wrapping Go RVing and Go Camping America into a single national effort.
The recession of 2008-’10 saw a dramatic decrease in the sale of RVs combined with a steady pace of RV park and campground business and a renewed interest in extended-stay and seasonal camping. While RV sales have rocketed back to pre-recession levels since then, extended-stay and seasonal camping has continued to capture the interest of Americans across the nation. And this strong consumer interest in this camping style has manifested itself in the RV manufacturing side in a couple of significant ways.
As the strength of seasonal camping hit home with the RV manufacturers, they have responded by creating and marketing the largest travel trailers and fifth-wheels as “residential” trailers, seasonal vacation homes, and similar terms focusing on extended-stay use in a single location. These units, while legally towable down the highway, are designed and built for destination use — parked in a campground and used as a vacation home by the owners.
These new trailers and fifth-wheels have blurred the lines between traditional RVs and the recreational park trailers or park model RVs. With the merger of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the RV industry has moved to recognize the critical importance of campgrounds as the home to these extended-stay units and the role that these units will play in the continuing growth and expansion of the RV market.
In the last 18 months, under the leadership of RVIA President Richard Coon, RVIA has created its own Camping Committee, a Destination Camping Committee and the Park Model RV Committee. These committees are moving towards expanding consumer interest in seasonal camping and camp- grounds with new research now ongoing with the Richards Agency that handles the Go RVing program, and with the Park Model RV Committee studying new promotional campaigns under the Go RVing umbrella to pro- mote those units.
On the other side of the industry — at the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) —ARVC President Paul Bambei noted in a recent article on the direction of the campground industry that ARVC re- mains underfunded and unable to con- duct the kind of consumer promotion campaigns under Go Camping America that many feel are necessary to grow the park side of the industry. Having a successful Go Camping America website that attracts a significant number of visitors without having the resources to market camping to the non-camping world and really build the value of Go Camping America as a place to go to for camping information as Go RVing provides for those interested in learning more about RVs, is not enough.
ARVC funding has most likely bumped up against the upper limits of potential dues revenue it can generate. Membership expansion has long proved elusive, with ARVC membership in the 3,000-member range for many years. Even adding another 1,000 members at an annual average of even $400 per member would only bring in $400,000.
And ARVC’s income from other sources — convention and trade show income, commissions or royalties from companies providing member benefits, sale of publications and foundation fundraising — may also be approaching the upper limits. With few national companies serving as product or service suppliers to the park industry, revenue and support from suppliers is also somewhat capped.
So how to fund a campground promotional campaign to educate and inform Americans of the joys and pleasures of America’s campgrounds?
The source of funds for Go RVing are the manufacturers, who pay a small amount of money each time they purchase a certification seal to place on a new RV. Each RV sold by RVIA members has an RVIA certification seal affixed to it indicating it is certified to be in compliance with certain construction standards. RVIA sells the seals to the manufacturers and the price of the seal covers the cost of the RVIA certification and inspection program and includes a Go RVing assessment based on the type of unit sold.
Spreading the costs over the tens of thousands of RVs manufactured each year is a far better option than trying to extract more money from commercial businesses whose bottom line is directly affected by association dues, education and training costs and other non-operational expenses.
About 15 or 16 years ago, the ARVC board held a workshop session to discuss the feasibility of adding a $.10/night “camper promotion fee” to each camping party. It was thought that this fee might even substitute for regular association dues both on the state and national levels. The board agreed to conduct a pilot test at six or eight campgrounds to see if and how consumers would respond to an additional 10 cents per night added to their camping bill. Although the results of the pilot project didn’t show any negative consumer response, the ARVC board voted to table the idea — and it has never been brought back to the table.
The Go RVing program relates directly to the purchase of a new RV. I would suspect that not a single RV sale has been lost or even delayed by the $40 to $60 seal fee added to the cost of the rig — and as a result of this technique of building support, the Go RVing campaign has annual budgets as high as $21 million.
I’d propose that RVIA add to the cost of a seal an additional $15 and earmark the funds for the “…and Camping” component of a new Go RVing…and Camping promotion program. The collection mechanism is already in place and, as RV sales have shown, the slight increase in cost of the RV is in no way an obstacle to the sale.
To download the view article, visit the WCM home page and click on the magazine cover.