The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) will be holding its 32nd Annual State Convention Sept. 6-9 at the Hyatt Coconut Point Resort, located just south of Ft. Myers. According to a press release, the theme for the convention is “The RV Mardi Gras…Let The Good Times Roll!” that will feature a “Voodoo Lounge” hospitality room.
Scheduled events during the convention include:
• Sept. 7: A general session kicks off in the morning with an all-industry panel that includes Mark Beecher from Bank of the West; a representative from GE Capital; Don Emahiser from Crossroads/Redwood RV; Bobby Cornwell from the Florida Association of RVs and Campgrounds (FARVC); a representative from NTP Distribution; Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia; and Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon. In addition, FRVTA Education Director Jim Carr and General Council Marc Dunbar will offer an update on the RV training program and the recent legislative session.
• Sept. 8: Morning break-out sessions will provide detailed information to attendees in smaller, more intimate class-room settings. Sheril Vergarra will present selling through social media; Allen Monello will cover dealer compliance issues; Jim will go more in depth with his training session; Scott Stropkai from Statistical Surveys Inc. will take a look at the industry numbers; NTP Distribution will show how to make parts departments more profitable; and Kim McCorvey from the Department of Revenue will cover issues from the State of Florida.
Other activities will include the “Big Easy” Golf Tourney and the “Crawfish” Outing on Friday afternoon and a “Masquerade Ball” Costume/Dinner Party that evening. Saturday’s lunch will again feature “Doubloon Dave” and his “Jazz It Up” Game Show. The convention wraps up that evening with the “Fat Tuesday” Awards Banquet and Silent Auction.
FRVTA said it still has a few sponsorship opportunities and is still taking prize donations for the silent auction and the game show luncheon. For more information or to make a donation, contact FRVTA at (813) 741-0488.
The Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds raised more than $16,000 in its annual fundraising auction Wednesday (May 9) night, which took place during the half-way point of the association’s 2012 Conference and Expo.
Proceeds from the auction will be used to pay for the association’s scholarship fund and educational programs, said Bobby Cornwell, executive director of Florida ARVC, which is holding its annual conference at the Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach.
According to a press release, about 70 representatives from 42 parks in Florida, Alabama and South Carolina were participating in the event along with representatives from 28 companies that provide products and services to the campground industry.
Wednesday’s activities included Florida ARVC’s annual business meeting and an election of board members and officers. Officers selected for one-year terms include Chairman Pat O’Neill of Camping on the Gulf in Destin; Vice Chairman Tim Deputy of Sun-N-Fun RV Resort in Sarasota; Treasurer Chris Long of the Central Park of Haines City; Secretary Don Hilgeman of Lake Waldena Resort in Silver Springs; with Bob Little of Flamingo Lake RV Resort in Jacksonville as immediate past chairman.
Board members elected to three-year terms included O’Neill of Camping on the Gulf, representing the northwest; Ed Schneider of Ocean Grove RV Resort in St. Augustine Beach, representing the northeast; John Parkhurst of Holiday Travel Resort in Orlando, representing the central region; and Carl Ludecke of Olde Mill Stream RV Resort in Umatilla, who will serve as an at-large representative from the central east area. Ray Seigneurie of Newby Management was also elected as a representative for Florida’s southeast region.
Silvana Clark provided an entertaining keynote presentation highlighting some of the things campground owners can learn from reality TV shows, while Jeff Crider, ARVC’s publicist, provided a seminar on how to get your park into the news. An exhibitor reception and trade show also took place in late afternoon.
Jeff Sims, who heads up ARVC’s state relations and program advocacy, served as the auctioneer for Wednesday night’s auction, which took place before a dinner and live music on the top floor of the Shores Resort & Spa.
Today’s activities include a morning tradeshow and several educational seminars, including “Managing the Millennials as Employees,” by Silvana Clark; an update on federal labor laws in Florida, by William Richardson, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Labor; and a presentation by John Barron of GravityFree titled “Making sense of Internet marketing.” A conference luncheon was also scheduled with group discussions, a legislative update and question and answer session.
Based in Tallahassee, the Florida ARVC represents 380 parks in Florida and 18 in Alabama.
Ina Smith swept the mat lying outside the door to her compact recreational van. Her cat, Louise, slept inside.
Smith is a regular winter resident of Sebring, Fla., according to a report in the News-Sun. For 10 years she has repeatedly returned to the Highlands Wheels Estates — when she isn’t exploring New Mexico or South Dakota or going to the races in Daytona.
“I like to travel,” she said, “and as long as I have my health I will.”
There are many people like Smith, people who live on wheels, always eager to drive around the next curve; always delighted to meet up with old friends.
The individuals, couples, and families who live in recreational vehicles or trailers exist in a parallel universe. RVers have an identity, outlook, and language uniquely their own. It is one reason the RV park and campground industry is weathering these difficult times.
“The worst is over,” said Robert Cornwell, spokesman for the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (FARVC). “With the economy and political situation the way they are things are unstable, but better than two years ago, much more positive. Of course, everybody wishes things were better, but given the economy, we’re doing better than many other industries.”
Linda Ekberg, at Holiday Oaks old Plantation Avenue, agreed. “Last year we had a waiting list, this year we had late openings,” she said. “We’re filling them up, but we’re usually filled, or have reservations booked, by September.”
At Sunshine RV Park on State Road 70, Tim Duncan said, “Business is pretty good, but could be better. We’re a little down. I’m hoping it snows — tons and tons of it.”
Cornwell said two years ago the industry was hurting. Dealers selling new RVs were closing, as were some RV parks. The recession caused the plunge in business. Now, changing technology winnows what is left.
With GPS systems, cell phones, iPads, cable and computers, customers often make reservations on the road, rather than in advance. “A lot of people are calling at the last minute,” said Pam Jessup of Bonnet Lake Camp Grounds.
Technology has changed the way parks do business too. “A good 20% of our reservations are made online now,” said Sue Lewis, who with her husband Jim, manages Highlands Wheel Estates.
She added, however, a bigger change was the park’s website and advertising online.
Another shift is the Baby Boomers who are going on the road. Cornwell said because of the economy, the big rise in numbers the industry expected did not materialize, but things would probably “equal out in the end.”
When these younger retirees arrive at a park, however, they expect Wi-Fi and a cable television hookup — at a minimum.
“Parks are having to keep up with the times,” Cornwell said.
Those that have chosen a resort destination model are typically doing the best, he added. Guests are looking for parks with swimming pools, top-notch facilities and opportunities for day trips.
The industry, said Cornwell, while well positioned, is still working its way back.
At the height of the recession, sales of RVs fell drastically. “Banks weren’t making loans for houses, they sure weren’t loaning money for RVs,” he said. What RVs and trailers did sell were used. Cornwell added, however, that sales of new RVs are picking up, which bode well for parks and campgrounds.