Editor’s Note: Linda Profaizer, retiring president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), shared her parting comments in the ARVC Report, which was distributed Tuesday (Nov. 2) on the Internet. Those comments follow.
This is my last official message in the ARVC Report as President of ARVC. I can’t believe that 10 years has passed since I joined the association and have spent 40 years total working in this wonderful industry. The years have flown by and each year has been exciting and filled with new things – I can truly say never a dull moment!
I have met many great people over the years and can’t say enough about all of you park owners and managers. I really admire and respect you for your chosen avocation of owning/managing an RV park or campground. You wear many hats – I think at one time I counted 27. I learned this early on from so many of you in the industry. One of the best experiences I had over the years was working in a park and seeing first-hand what you go through on a daily basis. Of course it was like grandparents with grandchildren – at the end of the week, I got to go home!
I truly believe this industry is special – everyone is very sharing which is unusual in competitive businesses. You are the life blood of the RV industry. You provide the fun and the experience that RVers and campers have and ultimately help determine if they will stay in the lifestyle. You are that important link to the consumer.
If I’ve learned anything over these 40 years, it is that it’s constantly a challenge to stay on top of trends, to provide what your customer wants. I do know the fallacy in the theory “if you build it they will come.” Maybe that worked in the Iowa ball field, but not in reality. It takes lots of hard work and marketing. There are so many ways to market and you have to try them all to determine what works the best for you.
Ten years running this association is enough. It’s time to let new blood in and take the association to the next level. It has truly been a great experience. I’ve had wonderful chairmen and boards to work with and have learned so much.
Don’t be surprised if you see Tony and me traveling the highways and byways. I mentioned something about a fifth-wheel and he jumped on that, having wanted a diesel truck for many years. I’m “retiring” from association life, but certainly not from life. There’s a big world out there and a lot more to be done.
My very best wishes to all of you. We have a wonderful staff at ARVC and they continue to work hard on your behalf. Soon you will have a new president/CEO and I know that the ARVC board will choose the very best person for the job.
I hope to see many of you at the InSites Convention and Outdoor Hospitality Expo. Come for the learning, come to see current and new vendors, come for the sharing of information, come for the fun – but by all means come!
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (ARVC) upcoming InSites Convention and Expo in Orlando, Fla., will have more than 20 seminars and panel discussions, plus a tradeshow with more than 120 exhibiting companies.
Participants will have the opportunity to learn how the Disney Co. provides its guests with the ultimate in customer service at its Fort Wilderness campground during the Park Operators on Tour event and through Disney’s “Innovation in Action” behind-the-scenes tour.
“We think this year’s convention will be one of the most informative we’ve ever had,” said Linda Profaizer, ARVC president and CEO.
InSites will be Nov. 9-12 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.
Despite the economy, Profaizer said convention enrollment is ahead of last year, both for attendees and vendors, many of whom are facing increasing competition for private park business. InSites attendance is also getting a boost from ARVC marking f the 40th anniversary of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.
Park operators who arrive in Orlando in advance of the convention will have a chance to participate in two, 8-hour seminars, which are being offered on Sunday, Nov. 8. These special seminars include:
- “What you need to know about OSHA,” a daylong seminar by J.J. Keller & Associates, which specializes in accident prevention. Participants will learn about materials handling, fire safety, hazard communication, blood-borne pathogens, slips trips and falls in addition to learning about the kinds of questions and concerns that should be communicated with OSHA representatives. InSites participants pay only $25 for this seminar, thanks to Evergreen USA, which has underwritten most of the cost of this seminar.
- “FUNdation day of recreation,” a daylong seminar in which park operators learn how to develop their own arts and crafts classes, tie-dye t-shirt classes and other fun recreation programs. The cost of this seminar is $125 and includes lunch as well as arts and crafts materials.
Other seminars that are included in the cost of InSites admission will cover many other areas of interest to campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, including social network marketing; marketing through direct mail; guest game and activity planning; team building strategies; as well as estate and succession planning.
Other important seminars include:
- “The Americans with Disabilities Act,” a 1 1/2- hour seminar by Dr. J.R. Harding, a disability expert, regarding proposed changes in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, which are slated to take effect Jan. 1. Participants will have a chance to voice their concerns to OSHA during a public comment period before the new rules take effect.
- “Renewable energy in America,” a seminar led by Howard Boothroyd of Energy Management Partners, Nokomis, Fla., in which park operators will gain a basic understanding of green construction principles so that they can incorporate some of these concepts into an overall business plan.
- “Identity theft and its potentially crippling effect on you as a business owner,” by Gary Quigley, CPO of Kozy Rest Kampground in Harrisburg, Penn.
- “Reducing Resource Usage,” and “Understanding the National Electric Code-Making Process,” both by Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group.
- “How to protect your trees and your park from invasive insects and diseases of trees,” by Frank Lowenstein of The Nature Conservancy.
- “What public affairs can do for you,” by David Gorin of David Gorin & Associates.
The convention will also feature panel discussions, including a state of the industry panel with Profaizer; Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA); Pat Hittmeier, COO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA); Vic Nolting, vice chair of Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI); and Ron Beard, CPO of Ron Beard & Associates in Austin, Texas.
Gorin and Aubrey King will also lead an open forum updating the ARVC Public Affairs Program, while Bob MacKinnon of Murrieta, Calif.-based GuestReviews.com will provide an update on ARVC’s GuestReviews program, also in a forum format.
For a complete listing of InSites seminars, panel discussions, networking opportunities and information on participating vendors as well as enrollment forms, please visit www.arvc.org or contact ARVC headquarters at (303) 681-0401
Occupancy in the nation’s campgrounds was up about 3% over the Memorial Day weekend, but there’s a new trend emerging: Many campers are waiting until the last moment to book sites instead of planning ahead.
That’s what Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, reported to the Go RVing Coalitions at its Monday (June 8) meeting during RVIA Committee Week in Washington, D.C.
”People are making their reservations later than they did before, but reservations are coming in,” she noted during the afternoon session at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.
”Memorial Day would be a great example of that. We didn’t know what the weekend would be like until a week before when reservations really came in. There was a 3% increase in reservations and occupancy this year compared to last year.”
All things considered, Profaizer said park operations are anticipating a decent — but not spectacular — year.
”While they might be having a decent year, it’s not going to be setting any records,” she told coalition members. ”We are all concerned about our businesses. They’ve been affected (by the economy) like we all have personally. We just have to keep promoting the benefits of camping.”
Profaizer, at the same time, said that a new market appears to be developing with people who are new to camping.
”We are seeing an increase in tenting, and please do not ignore the tenting market because tenters become RVers,” she said. ”They come into the campground and they see people enjoying the RV experience.”
Curiously, Profaizer feels that the general public has a lack of understanding about what camping and RVs are about.
”We are finding there is an amazing lack of knowledge on the part of the non-camping public about what it means to go camping,” Profaizer said. ”They don’t even realize that RVs have toilets in them or that campgrounds are not primitive-type camping.”
As for the Go RVing marketing campaign itself, ARVC, with almost 4,000 members, has seen a decline in participation. Perhaps as a reflection of the economy, only 160 parks have made voluntary contributions to the program so far this year — down from about 450 last year — with an average contribution of $178 per park. Although ARVC had a goal to contribute $50,000 to the Go RVing campaign this year, so far only $28,500 has been raised.
”That’s really not good,” said Profaizer, whose trade association has never been a major financial contributor to the pan-industry program.
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.
The board of directors of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) on Saturday (April 4) voted to rescind the 4% increase in annual dues, which had been scheduled to take effect in January 2010.
“Given the continued weakness in the economy, our board felt that our members should not have to pay for any further increases in membership dues in 2010,” said Linda Profaizer, ARVC’s president and CEO, in a news release.
Saturday’s vote followed several days of meetings and strategy sessions involving members of ARVC‘s board of directors and executive committee.
Based in Larkspur, Colo., ARVC is the largest association of private campground operators in the world, with roughly 3,750 affiliated private parks throughout the United States.
The economy may be mired in recession, but that hasn’t stopped private campground owners in Pennsylvania from investing in new campsites, cabins and other upgrades for the upcoming camping season.
“The recession is temporary, and most campground and RV park operators believe that it behooves them to move forward with their improvement plans to remain competitive with other travel and tourism options,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), in a news release.
As a result, she said, many private park operators are investing in new facilities and amenities this year, which include everything from cabins to activity centers and miniature golf courses, skate parks and waterslides. For example:
- Buttonwood Campground in Mexico plans to invest $160,000 in improvements this year, including a miniature golf course, a new satellite cable TV system, an upgraded Wi-Fi system, laundry facilities and two park model cabins.
- Elizabethtown / Hershey KOA is spending $150,000 to build a new swimming pool complex and rebuilding campsites to better accommodate today’s larger RVs in addition to extending its Wi-Fi and cable TV access.
- Hershey Highmeadow Campground is planning to spend about $400,000 this year on campsite and cabin upgradess.
- Kozy Rest Kampground in Harrisville is investing $300,000 in improvements this year, including two full-service cabins, a new maintenance building, a new bathhouse and laundry, as well as the installation of sewage service to 22 of its campsites.
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Mill Run is investing $300,000 in numerous improvements this year, including a new activity center, new tables and barbecue grills, new restrooms and a new laundry facility, expanded swimming pool decking and three park model cabins, which boost the number of available cabins to 26. The park has 226 RV and tent sites.
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Quarryville, which added a $2 million waterpark as a major attraction last year, is spending more than $400,000 this year in 11 new cabin rentals, including six park model cabins and five site-built cabins that will boost the total number of available cabins to 40.
The push by private park operators to improve their facilities has been going on for many years. In fact, three quarters of private park owners made an average of $147,508 in improvements to their parks in 2007, according to the National Operations & Economic Survey of RV Parks & Campgrounds, which was sponsored by the ARVC Foundation and conducted by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Profaizer cautioned that not every park is investing in capital improvements this year, and some may hold off on projects until later this year until they get a better sense of where the economy is going and how their business is doing.