There’s an inevitable 21st century move toward the virtual world, say the promoters of an Internet-based event for the RV park & campground sector — a virtual convention called “David Gorin & Associates Presents: The Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II” that will be attended Nov. 10-11 and for 60 days afterward on an on-demand basis exclusively by on-screen conventioneers.
Sponsors of the second annual Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II, produced by Art Lieberman and Deanne Bower of Campground Expositions, New Berlin, Pa., point out that a recent survey found that 91% of Fortune 500 companies participated in a virtual event in 2010.
Many businesses, big and small, have begun spending their marketing dollars in virtual shows and conferences rather than in physical ones, they add. “Witness the growth of such Internet communication programs such as GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar or the growth of teleconferencing in place of corporate people actually traveling to a location to contact business associates,” the release points out. “Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, are becoming another method for companies to make consumers aware of their goods and services.”
“The trade show for many years has been the method of business-to-business or business-to-consumer solicitation,” the release maintains. “These shows, enhanced by educational seminars and social occasions, have been the mainstay of many industries’ marketing. In 1993, according to Wikipedia, the ‘virtual tradeshow’ was first publicly described and presented as “ConventionView” by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman of Visual Data Corporation, now known as Onstream Media, in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. Although not in the present format, their idea gave birth to the modern day virtual trade show.
“Like a physical show, the virtual event contains exhibit booths, conferences and an area where attendees can socialize. Unlike physical shows, virtual shows require no venue, show dresser, travel, hotel stays, shipping, car rentals, restaurant dining or time away from business or home.
“These advantages alone are staggering, but consider this — that speakers need not travel nor stay at a hotel, saving the producer money and making it easier to afford and attract key speakers. Additionally, there are no costs of renting a convention center for a given amount of days, then having to leave it for the next event. That is why many virtual shows run live for two or three days but the booths remain for an additional period (typically 60 to 90 days) in an ‘on-demand’ basis.
“Most dramatically, attendees need not leave the comfort of their homes or businesses to attend and they can leave and return as often as they want. Businesses can afford to have many more of their people attend the show than they would otherwise have had at a live show. Since the only relevant cost of a virtual show is the software that runs the event, costs to exhibitors can be lower and, in some cases, such as the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo, there can be NO cost to the attendee either for the trade show or for the educational conferences. Compare this to attending other shows in the park industry.
“There are dozens of other features of a virtual show that are not possible at a physical event,” the campground industry’s virtual trade show sponsors add. “Reporting facilities for exhibitors are greatly enhanced. They will know exactly how many attendees were present, how long they stayed, where they visited, what webinars they attended, what materials they took with them in their briefcases and how many times they revisited the site. Links can be provided that will take attendees from an e-mail or a website directly into an exhibitors booth, and that booth can look like a standard trade show booth or a cabin, park model, yurt or even an RV.
“Instead of a badge that identifies an attendee, exhibitors will see a ‘business card’ loaded with information gleaned from the registration information. Then a variety of methods can be used to communicate between the parties including a webcam, a microphone or telephone or written chat. The attendee may see or download videos, brochures, flyers, the e-mail address of the exhibitors or go directly to their website. They can hit a ‘buy it now’ button and are taken to the shopping cart of the exhibitor’s website to purchase products or services immediately.
“Webinars are run in a ‘Conference Center’ with a keynote speaker and are recorded and viewable for the entire time the show runs, including the ‘on demand’ period. Because a virtual show is being run on the Internet, speakers may actually be conversing from thousands of miles apart.
“There is no better example of all that a virtual show is capable of than the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo which opens less than a month from now on November 10th and 11th from noon to 6 PM, eastern standard time LIVE on the Internet. The Expo will cover the entire spectrum of outdoor hospitality businesses including campgrounds, marinas, ski resorts, golf resorts, canoeing and paddlesports and dude ranches.”
Next week, they report, a link to the registration will be sent out to tens of thousands of outdoor hospitality businesses, and record attendance is expected this year.
“But what of the physical trade shows?” asks Lieberman and Bower. “Will they disappear as the technology grows? Probably not. There is no substitution for meeting your customers face-to-face, and we don’t mean their avatar. As to the producers of the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expos reaction to physical shows? They say, ‘see you in Savannah in December!’”
Contact Lieberman and Bower by calling (877) 901-EXPO (3976) or by e-mail at email@example.com. Their website, currently being updated, is www.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com. Pelland Advertising, which maintains the Expo’s webpage, can be reached through https://pelland.com.
Mogens Hermansen is what you’d call a working Snow Bird.
He lives in Memphis, Tenn., but spends much of the winter enjoying the sunshine in southern Alabama.
But unlike most Snow Birds, Hermansen and his wife don’t have to worry about trying to reserve a site for their 45-foot Beaver motorhome. They own an RV site at Bella Terra RV Resort in Foley, Ala. (Learn about Bella Terra RV Resort in today’s Featured Video.)
“It’s our home away from home,” said Hermanson, 59, a full-time operations manager for a global packaging company.
In fact, their RV site at Bella Terra is not their only home away from home. The Hermansens also own a site at Traverse Bay RV Resort in Acme, Mich., where they like to enjoy the summer months.
The Hermansens are part of a growing number of RVers who are purchasing RV sites at upscale RV resorts across the country, according to a news release.
“This segment of the industry is generating increasing attention from consumers,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in Larkspur, Colo.
While most campgrounds, RV parks and resorts rent their sites by the night, week or month, there are growing numbers of parks that have started selling their sites, particularly Sunbelt parks that cater to Snow Birds.
Nationally, more than 25,000 RV sites at nearly 200 RV parks and resorts are privately owned, according to David Gorin, a longtime campground industry consultant and principal of MacLean, Va.-based David Gorin & Associates.
That’s still a fraction of the market, when one considers that there are more than 8,000 private campgrounds and RV parks nationwide. But it is a significant trend, and an attractive investment option for working professionals, empty nesters and retirees who want to spend all or part of the winter in the Sunbelt, said Gorin, who also owns Holiday Cove RV Resort in Cortez, Fla., which offers RV sites for sale.
While prices for RV sites vary from roughly $50,000 to $250,000 or more, depending on the park’s location and amenities, the numbers make sense for Snow Birds who plan to spend extended periods of time in the Sunbelt.
“If someone comes down and spends $3,000 or $4,000 a year every winter in Florida, and let’s say they come down five years, they have already invested $20,000 in Florida,” said Eduard Mayer, president and CEO of Elite Resorts Management Inc., which has developed several RV resorts in Florida that sell their sites. On the other hand, many consumers do not want to commit themselves to a single location, which is why most people rent RV sites, Profaizer said.
Most RV resorts that sell their sites also set up rental pools, which enable RV site owners to generate income from their campsite when they’re away. The resorts take a percentage of the rental income to cover their management services.
The economics of modern RV resort development are also leading growing numbers of private park developers to build upscale resorts that sell their sites. “When you consider the cost of land in attractive locations, the cost of design, engineering, permitting and construction costs, it’s almost impossible to justify building a new park for a rental market only,” Gorin said.
And while the downturn in the economy has taken a toll on RV site sales, some RVers have found that they can purchase RV sites through their Individual Investment Accounts (IRAs) and 401K plans, said Tripp Keber, COO of Bella Terra Resort, which recently announced plans to begin building its second phase. “With the income that can be realized through our rental management program and the lot’s appreciation, this represents a great investment,” Keber said.
Many RV enthusiasts also like the upscale nature of RV parks and resorts that sell their sites as well as the convenience of owning their own site.
“The advantage of owning our own site is we can come and go as we please,” said Emile LaChance, an Ontario, Canada, resident who recently purchased a site at Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, Fla. “If you’re renting a site,” he added, “you’ve got to be on a schedule.”
Looking to the future, Gorin said the concept of owning an RV site will continue to grow in popularity, especially in highly attractive vacation destinations and in resort locations within a two-hour drive of major cities. Gorin added that the development of new, upscale RV parks and resorts that sell their sites will also create a new supply of modern RV sites for the rental market.
Two of the park industry’s most experienced and respected expert consulting firms, David Gorin & Associates and DC Westphal Associates, are forming a new alliance that will offer a wide range of consulting services.
This partnership will present a seamless source of expertise covering the vast array of campground and RV park consulting needs of owners, developers, investors, providers of goods and services and professionals serving the RV park and campground industry, according to a news release.
Individually, each firm will draw upon its unique and considerable expertise in the RV park and campground industry to provide integrated consulting services for their clients. Combined, they now stand ready to assist at any stage in park project development, from feasibility studies and site plans to marketing to staff training and more.
“With the volatile state of the industry, now is an ideal time to provide a consulting service that is more comprehensive and streamlined than in the past,” remarked Donald C. Westphal.
“By offering straightforward, accommodating, and inclusive consulting services we will better enable current or prospective RV park owners to plan for a successful business future,” added Gorin.
The team brings a combined total of over 65 years of experience to the camping industry. Together, Gorin and Westphal will provide a one-stop-shop for planning, imaging, marketing and investing.
For more information about this new alliance and the products and services available contact David Gorin at firstname.lastname@example.org or Donald C. Westphal at email@example.com. Additional information is also available at www.campgroundbusiness.com and www.dcwestphal.com.
About David Gorin & Associates
David Gorin & Associates (DGA) was founded in 2002 by David Gorin and specializes in assisting owners, buyers, developers and investors in assessing project feasibility, creating business plans and financial planning for the park business. He is one of the leading experts in the conversion/development of RV resorts for condominium ownership, is an active investor and partner in parks and is also is president and CEO of Best Parks in America, a niche marketing program for highly rated RV parks and campgrounds. Gorin was the president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) from 1987 to 2001. DGA serves a nationwide client base from offices in McLean, Va., and Bradenton, Fla.
About DC Westphal Associates
In 1969 Don Westphal established a landscape architecture and land planning firm dedicated to providing unparalleled design services for the RV, campground, and manufactured housing industries. Over the past 40 years his team has led projects that range in their scope and focus from rustic and green design to resorts and “man-camps.” His many years of service on the various boards in the Michigan association are indicative of his commitment to the industry. Westphal is an active writer and lecturer on subjects of interest to the RV developer. In 2006 he was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind. Westphal Associates is headquartered in Rochester Hills, Mich.