Campground Owners of New York (CONY) reports that its staff and board of directors hosted 91 campgrounds and 25 vendors at informative single-day zone meetings and trade shows held March 27-30 in Queensbury, Kingston, Liverpool and Batavia, N.Y.
According to a report by Woodalls Campground Management, topics discussed ranged from Justice Department rulings on pool accessibility for the handicapped, to survey data, legislative issues, and summer marketing programs, according to a news release.
Clyde Taylor, president of Taylor Communications, served as keynote speaker at each meeting, with an address titled, “What If?…Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurs. They Can Guide Your Future Thinking.” Taylor’s presentation took a very candid look at the outdoor hospitality industry – specifically camping and RV parks in New York state – from an entrepreneur’s viewpoint, focusing on “what’s coming” in our industry and what owners, operators and managers should be doing to address both the opportunities and the challenges that lay ahead.
After each meeting, attendees could apply to be a part of a case study of campground business operations Taylor will conduct this summer, with results to be revealed later this year. Interest was high, and eight different operations will be selected to participate in the case study.
Mike Papp, CONY board president and owner of West Canada Creek Campsites in Poland, N.Y., noted, “Clyde has really challenged us to step up our game. We are not ‘just’ a campground, we are an entrepreneurial business that generates a great deal of revenue and provides opportunities for other businesses in the areas where we’re located. (Taylor’s) presentation was inspiring and his new micro-focused case study should give us very exciting insights into our industry.”
Of particular interest to attendees at the zone meetings was the recent action by the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued a 60-day stay on the enforcement of new regulations regarding handicapped accessibility to pools and spas, while it collects more public comment on the issues of ramps and lifts. The regulations were implemented in 2010 as part of changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act, which require pools have two accessible means of entry (such as a ramp or lift) and that spas have lift systems for use by handicapped persons.
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Campground Owners of New York (CONY), the trade association for privately owned campgrounds in New York state, hosted its 48th Annual Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry, Nov. 3-5 at the Sheraton on the Falls, Niagara Falls.
Woodalls Campground Management reported that the event drew nearly 200 people representing 70 campgrounds, the largest number of campgrounds represented in at least five years according to Donald G. Bennett Jr., CONY president. In addition, 36 vendors displayed their products and services at the trade show.
CONY reported that the three-day event featured educational seminars and networking opportunities for campground owners, as well as the annual meeting of the association.
“The fact we were in Niagara Falls was a big step up for us,” said Bennett. “We have never had a facility like this for the conference. It was a dynamic facility.”
On Nov. 4, keynote speaker Ruby Newell-Legner, founder of RubySpeaks, presented, “Seven Star Customer Service: Starting at the Top to Impact the Bottom Line.”
During the business meeting, CONY elected Mike Papp of West Canada Creek Campsites in Poland, N.Y., as its new chairman. William Perry of Chautauqua Lake KOA, was chosen first vice chairman. Other officers chosen were Laurie Bulluck, Rainbow Shores Campsites, Pulaski, second vice chairman; Gregg Nichols, Lake Bluff Campground, Wolcott, third vice chairman; Rachel Kaiser, Medina Wildwood Lake KOA, Medina, secretary; and Ed Marden, Camp Bell Campground, Campbell, treasurer. Scott Sherwood, Spruce Row Campground, Ithaca, is serving as past chairman.
On Nov. 5, attendees honored Randy S. Lehman, owner of Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort in Bath, N.Y., as he was inducted in the CONY Hall of Fame. Lehman, who is also a Certified Public Accountant, is a longtime member of CONY, and was honored for his volunteer work as the CONY accountant, his service as a campground owner and his many other contributions to his community and the CONY association.
Lehman and his wife, Janet, have developed and managed Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort for 33 years. He was introduced to the camping industry at an early age, as his parents owned Distelfink Campground in Manheim, Pa. There he acted as a general “go-to” guy for the daily maintenance tasks of emptying the garbage cans and holding tanks, cleaning bathrooms and working in the store.
CONY also presented awards to three campgrounds. Recipients were:
• Best Brochure: Jones Pond Campground, Angelica.
• Best Mailer Piece: Chautauqua Lake KOA, Dewittville.
• Best Website: Lake George RV Park, Lake George.
The Chairman’s Award was given to Bennett for service to the organization.
The association will hold its 2012 convention Nov. 1-3 at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park in Lake George, N.Y.
The executive committee of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) convened Thursday (Sept. 15) and decided to ask the board of Campground Owners of New York (CONY) to reconsider its decision to leave ARVC.
ARVC’s request appears in a letter sent today to CONY Chairman Scott Sherwood, ARVC Chairman David L. Berg told Woodall’s Campground Management.
CONY’s board met Monday and voted 11-2 with one abstention to un-affiliate with ARVC. (It was previously reported that the vote was unanimous.) ARVC announced CONY’s decision in a news release issued late Wednesday. Disagreements over ARVC’s willingness to offer free trial memberships to state parks as well as discounts to campground companies with multiple parks in multiple states were the main reasons for CONY’s un-affiliation decision.
“We had lengthy discussions about the CONY situation,” Berg continued. “Our No. 1 goal is to do everything within our power to continue a strong working relationship between ARVC and all its affiliates, including CONY. I see great value in doing whatever it takes to reverse that decision for the betterment of all our memberships.”
Berg said ARVC has several options, depending upon how Sherwood and CONY respond to today’s letter.
Berg also contacted CONY Executive Director Donald G. Bennett Jr., and asked him to reconsider his resignation from the ARVC board as an at-large member. He said Bennett said he was happy with his decision and would not withdraw it.
In such situations, the ARVC chairman has the authority, pending board ratification, to name a replacement to fill an unexpired board term. Berg said he has some names already under consideration and hopes to name a successor before the ARVC conference in Savannah, Ga., in late November.
Berg stressed that “none of us in leadership in ARVC is accepting” CONY’s departure and he hopes the decision can somehow be reversed.
Berg said he is unaware of any other states that are considering similar action to CONY’s.
Campground Owners of New York (CONY) is preparing to end its affiliation with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), citing disagreements over ARVC’s willingness to offer free trial memberships to state parks as well as discounts to campground companies with multiple parks in multiple states.
According to a news release issued by ARVC, CONY’s decision caught ARVC by surprise, since ARVCs board of directors had specifically given states the ability to “opt out” of both initiatives.
“This is called working together at the state and national level, as it should be,” said ARVC Chairman David L. Berg.
The CONY board met Monday (Sept. 12) and after considerable discussion voted unanimously to leave ARVC, Donald G. Bennett Jr., CONY executive director, told Woodall’s Campground Management.
“ARVC’s new initiatives were deemed by the CONY board to be in direct conflict of the CONY mission statement,” Bennett explained.
The CONY board deemed that ARVC’s membership offer to state parks would tend to harm private enterprise within the Empire state.
In New York there are 118 state-run campgrounds which comprise 16,000 campsites, Bennett said, not counting two federal campgrounds and between 25 and 30 municipally owned and operated campgrounds. He estimated that 65% of state park money comes from general fund.
CONY board members felt, as do some other state associations and park operators, that the state park offer was simply funding their competition.
“I don’t think this scab had to be picked off,” Bennett said.
Noting that ARVC currently reaches just 3,000 of the nation’s some 8,000 private campgrounds, Bennett added, “There was a lot of room to grow in our own sector rather than jump on this (state park membership).”
Bennett also subsequently resigned immediately as an at-large member of the ARVC board. He had chaired ARVC’s governance committee.
CONY had been a longtime ARVC member and has around 200 RV parks and campgrounds in its membership.
The CONY board will refund ARVC membership dues for the coming year it has already collected, Bennett noted.
The CONY board also encouraged CONY members to rejoin ARVC on their own if they desire, Bennett added.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from anybody, but we have heard loud and clear from a lot of members who want to have a choice. I think a prudent campground owner would belong to both,” Bennett said.
In the meantime, the CONY board has spent considerable time on strategic long-range planning to help improve the organization, Bennett said. “We will not spend time and resources on things that do not support our organization’s mission statement.”
More from ARVC release
In the ARVC release, Berg said ARVC turned down a request by New York State Parks to participate in a trial membership in August after learning of CONY‟s discomfort with the proposal. ARVC has also been sensitive to CONY‟s concerns about the ramifications of having the national association offer membership discounts to campground companies with multiple parks in various states across the country.
“ARVC openly welcomed states to “opt in‟ or “opt out‟ without pressure of any kind, based solely on the fact that the state would receive increased park members and dues,” Berg stated. “In fact, when the motion was passed to authorize ARVC to negotiate this concept with multi park/multi state operators, it was clearly stated in the motion to ‘only pursue deals that are financially beneficial to both state and national.’”
Berg noted that CONY will remain a member of ARVC in good standing through the rest of the year and said they hoped CONY‟s board would reconsider its decision during that time.
Berg also noted the numerous benefits CONY members receive as a result of their ARVC membership, including 20% to 30% discounts on supplies from Sherwin Williams, John Deere, Staples, Home Depot and other companies.
“Recently, we’ve added new benefits, such as wholesale pricing on the entire Skyline park model trailer line, which allows you to save thousands of dollars on just one purchase, most-favored-nation pricing on LP gas, and, soon to be announced, a simple, no-nonsense national blanket license fee agreement with the music companies to save money and cease, once and for all, the constant harassment.
“We are also currently working on several other national discount programs, such as Waste Management and satellite TV services with Dish Network, with pricing such as the motel industry enjoys, that can save our members considerable money as well,” Berg said.
ARVC has also made other improvements, which include hiring a nationally respected law and lobby firm in Washington, D.C., to monitor the daily flow of national and state legislation in New York and elsewhere that affects the private park business, and designing an entirely new Outdoor Hospitality Education Program, which ARVC will unveil at its annual conference in Savannah, Ga., later this year.
Marking its 45th year of operation, the Northeast Campground Association (NCA) drew a strong member contingent as it hosted the annual Northeast Conference on Camping and Trade Show March 19-21 in Springfield, Mass.
Executives for the Stafford, Conn.-based organization reported that attendance at the event, held for the first time at the Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, showed a slight increase over last year. NCA is comprised of associations representing 11 states throughout the Northeast region.
“Our numbers were solid,” said Cyndy Zbierski, NCA conference coordinator. “We were up from last year, which was our goal, especially after hearing that some of the other shows were down around 40%.”
According to Zbierski, attendees expressed a “cautious optimism” for prospects in 2009 as the industry faces the ongoing challenges of a contracted economy. “The overall mood seemed to be that this season would be as good or better than last year,” she said.
Other comments included:
- “We are optimistic it’s going to be a good year,” Randy Packard, owner of Pine Acres Family Resort in Oakham, Mass., told RVBusiness. “It may not be a banner year, but the year-to-date reservations are exceeding 2008 at this point. “The other side is that our ancillary sales could be flat, or maybe even down a little, because people are cutting back on spending.”
- Donald G. Bennett Jr., executive administrator for the Campground Owners of New York (CONY), noted, “I think the reason for optimism is that camping offers two things – it’s a family activity and it’s affordable. Camping is the perfect way to get the family together again and, for a weekend, it’s not that much more expensive than staying at home. I think the theme for our industry is family.”
- “I believe we’ll probably be at last year’s levels – maybe down 5% in terms of occupancy,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), who led one of most highly attended seminar sessions. “But in the scheme of things, that’s not bad compared to hotels and motels. Our sector of the travel and tourism industry is going to hold up OK. People are still going to want to travel.”
An overriding theme during the board meeting, and throughout the conference, was the emergence of rental units as an option for people that didn’t own RVs or were not interested in tent camping. It targets the growing trend among consumers to economize by traveling closer to home and for shorter periods of time.
“My premium cabins are my biggest seller right now,” said Packard. “That’s a 40-foot unit, air-conditioned, with a full-house kitchen and screened porch located on beautiful sites. They rent for $1,500 a week, which is cheap compared to other vacations, and people can come and have a great vacation.”
“Destination parks are doing fine,” noted Profaizer. “We are seeing people camping now Thursday through Monday – maybe a little longer weekend than in the past. They may not be camping as many weekends, but they are spending longer weekends in one spot. One factor may be that some people are without jobs.”
“Rentals are going extremely quickly this year,” said Marcia Galvin, human resources director for the 450-site Normandy Farms Campground, Foxboro, Mass., who also conducted a seminar on motivating employees and being a good leader. “You are seeing a lot more families who aren’t accustomed to RVing, but they are looking to find an affordable vacation with their families. We have cabins and yurts, and those are very popular.”
Zbierski noted that the trend was particularly beneficial to NCA member groups due to the close proximity of the northeastern states. “If people travel in a 200-mile radius, it’s possible they could be in several different states,” she said.