The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) is considering changing some of the duties of association and CEO after the current president and CEO, Linda Profaizer, retires at the end of this year.
“Our current president and CEO has vast responsibilities and we may consider some realignment of duties going forward,” said ARVC Chairman David L. Berg. “We are looking at all staff positions and responsibilities within the organization and may restructure some positions.”
Berg talked about staffing and other initiatives underway at ARVC in an address to members of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), who had gathered at Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville for TACO’s annual spring meeting and convention. Their convention began Sunday and ends today (May 18).
In a subsequent interview, Berg cautioned that no final decisions have been made about the approach ARVC will take to replace Profaizer, who retires Dec. 31. “We want to make sure that our selection process enables us to recruit the best possible candidate for this position,” he said.
In his address to TACO members, Berg also said that ARVC is heavily promoting the GoCampingAmerica website with both print and online advertising initiatives.
He also said ARVC is continuing to take steps to improve communication with its state affiliates and that the national association hasn’t given up on the idea of having TACO become an affiliate of ARVC once again. “We’d like to have you back in the family,” he said, adding, “We (ARVC) need to improve our communication and treat the states as equal partners.”
Berg also lauded former ARVC Chairman Jeff Sims, also in attendance at the meeting, for his volunteer work reaching out to non-ARVC member parks to educate them about the merits of ARVC membership. As of mid-May, Sims had personally visited more than 400 parks at his own expense.
Monday’s TACO meeting also included a presentation by Bob MacKinnon of Murrieta, Calif.-based GuestReviews. “Texas has strong participation in the (GuestReviews) program,” he said, adding that Texas parks had an average score of A-minus in overall guest satisfaction.
Monday’s activities included a tradeshow with roughly 40 vendors, including Topeka, Ind.-based CrossRoads RV, Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc. and Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas, each of which had park models on display.
The day’s activities also included a seminar on Wi-Fi marketing by Frank Drew of Austin, Texas-based TengoInternet and a seminar on “Expanding Your Park” by Kathy and Tony Palmeri of Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Estes Park, Colo,. and Leisure Systems Inc.
While there was plenty of good news to share this week at the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) InSites Convention and Outdoor Hospitality Expo in Orlando, Fla., several InSites speakers told park operators they will need to step up their marketing and customer survey efforts if they want to remain competitive and continue to build their businesses in the months and years ahead. They also need to find ways to maximize and improve guest satisfaction.
“I think the industry outlook really looks strong and robust, but challenging,” said Ron Beard, a Texas-based campground consultant. “I think what’s going to happen over the next five to 10 years is, possible, only the strongest, most focused operators are going to survive, at least in the upper tiers of the business. … And those that don’t quite get it … and (haven’t) locked in on how the business works and the expectations of their customers are going to settle down to the bottom of the business, possibly not making it or going out of business.”
The challenge, Beard said, is rising consumer expectations of what a private park should provide. “What used to be OK really isn’t that OK any more,” he said.
Park operators, of course, have a choice in whether they want to provide the amenities and service that growing numbers of campers now seek. “You can capture and promote and exceed those expectations. You can just barely meet them or you can turn your back on them,” he said.
Beard said it behooves park operators and the private park industry in general to figure out where consumer expectations are going and figure out how to meet and exceed those expectations on an ongoing basis.
Jeff Martin, an executive with Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, said park operators should not underestimate the importance of providing their guests with a positive experience. “At Disney,” he said, “it’s all about service. It’s all about how we make our guests feel. I have guests in my lobby every single day that say, ‘I don’t care that I’m paying $116 a night for an RV site as long as I get the service,’ and that’s what they want. They want the magical memories that we provide them.”
Martin added that for Disney, the priority is “being able to deliver every single day for every single guest that world class experience they’re looking for.”
Of course, one of the best ways for park operators to hone their expertise in guest-experience arena to participate in the GuestReviews online survey program offered by ARVC. This “state-of-the-art” on-line survey service, developed and provided by Murrieta, Calif.-based MacKinnon Campground Consulting, measures 34 different guest satisfaction elements such as site conditions, service, restroom cleanliness, facility appearance as well as their overall camping experience. Survey participants assign letter grades for each survey category, and they will have the ability to type in detailed explanations of problems or concerns.
In addition to participating in the GuestReviews program, Linda Profaizer, ARVC president and CEO, said it’s also important for park operators to update their listings on the GoCampingAmerica website. Several park owners, in fact, acknowledged with a show of hands during an InSites meeting that they had not updated their GoCampingAmerica website listings during the past year.
Profaizer also encouraged park operators to respond to questions they receive through ARVC e-mails from Jeff Crider, ARVC’s publicist, because the information they provide they provide him can help raise awareness about their own parks, while helping raise awareness about camping for the industry as a whole.
Pat Hittmeier, chief operating officer at Kampgrounds of America Inc., said private parks also need to step up their marketing to consumers who live within a day’s drive of their parks. In fact, the latest KOA survey found that 57% of campers spend the previous night home, a statistic that not only underscores the fact that more people are camping closer to home, but the relative scarcity of vacation time that Americans have. “They just aren’t traveling as far as they used to,” Hittmeier said.