Consumers, weary from an extended Michigan winter, turned out in record numbers for last weekend’s Northwest Michigan Camper and RV Show in Traverse City, according to a press release.
The show, sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles & Campgrounds (MARVAC), ran March 22-24 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center and recorded the highest show attendance in over seven years.
Thirty-seven new recreation vehicles were on display at the event. Organizers reported that “show visitors were enthusiastic and dealers and vendors were encouraged by the great interest.”
Bill Sheffer, director of MARVAC, noted, “It was great to see attendance was up and it was nice to see so many smiling faces as attendees toured the many units at the show. There were a variety of exciting RV and camper features on display for everyone in attendance.”
All five of MARVAC’s 2013 camper and RV shows had outstanding attendance this year, an indication the industry and the economy have started to bounce back, said Sheffer, adding that attendance, sales and reservations were boosted across the board.
MARVAC is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging growth in the recreation vehicle and private campground industries while contributing to Michigan tourism. For more information, visit www.marvac.org.
Gas might not be cheap, but that shouldn’t keep you off the road come vacation time.
As reported by MLive.com, that was just one of the things the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) Director Bill Sheffer had to say when we called him up, just a few days before the Perani and Event Center’s RV show kicks off. Our question: In today’s economy, with gas prices what they are, is there really any point in buying an RV.
The short version: Yes, said Sheffer.
Below is the longer version, seven reasons from Sheffer you might want to rethink that plane ticket.
1. Gas prices shouldn’t deter you.
Yes, he was being serious.
“When you start to run the numbers,” he said, it might add up driving a vehicle that only gets 10 miles to the gallon isn’t actually as expensive as it sounds when you start to add up what an alternative choice involves: plane tickets, hotel room, restaurant food, and car rentals among them.
“A family of four can go easier on their pocketbook (in an RV) rather than getting on a plane and going to a resort,” he said.
2. You can camp at your favorite resort destinations.
“There’s lots of campgrounds around Disney World. Now, it’s going to be a little bit longer … but if you’ve got the time and the option to do that with a family, it makes for a pretty special trip,” Sheffer said.
3. More people are doing it
Sheffer said RV sales have grown 16 percent over the last year.
“I’m even surprised by that,” he said.
4. RVs might be more more affordable than you think.
There will be 90 RVs at this year’s show, and you can essentially pay whatever you like. Sheffer said the prices range from about $7,000 to $90,000, adding that you can get a nice RV paying about $200 a month.
5. If you’re still worried about gas, you don’t have to drive very far.
If Disney World isn’t in the cards, or even if driving out of state isn’t an option, Sheffer said there are a lot of campgrounds throughout Michigan — even mid-Michigan — that are worth checking out.
“We don’t drive our RV to work every day so it’s not like it’s a big fuel buster because we only use these for vacations,” he said. “You can travel really quite close to home and still travel with your RV.”
6. You’re taking your home with you.
If you’re creeped out by wondering who slept on the hotel room bed last, that’s not a problem in an RV. And the sandwich you’ve been thinking about is never far away.
“When you lay your head on your pillow, it’s your pillow,” Sheffer said. “You have your own stuff, you take what you want. When you ant a snack or a sandwich you don’t have to worry about what restaurant you’re going to.”
7. Make it a group activity.
Sheffer said it’s common for families to hit the road together, often renting campground spaces next to each other.
“Being outdoors is something special,” he said. “When you can get together around a campfire, that’s special.”
And sure, he admitted, you can travel together in hotels, too. But the campground experience is different.
“When’s the last time you went to the person in the hotel room next door and said, ‘hey you want to come over for a s’more?’” Sheffer said.
The RV show takes place this year from March 14-17. Hours are weekdays from 2-9 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Go to the event website for more information.
Despite the challenging economic climate throughout the United States, Michigan-based General RV Center is preparing for another prosperous year, according to a report in the Macomb Daily, Mount Clemens, Mich.
In fact, General RV Center, one of the top RV retailers in the nation, projects $300 million in gross sales with plans to add more than 200 jobs between all of its locations and departments.
“By the time it’s all said and done, that number is actually closer to 300 new jobs,” said Dennis Anderson of General RV Center. “There are a lot of businesses that are starting to rebound in Michigan and the RV business has actually benefited lately.”
General RV Center boasts Michigan locations in Mount Clemens, White Lake, Wixom and Birch Run. It has nine locations nationally and plans to open another in Huntley, Ill., this spring. The Illinois location alone is expected to create 60 to 70 local jobs. In addition, three of General RV Center’s locations — North Canton, Ohio; Jackson, Fla.; and Salt Lake City, Utah — are expanding and adding 20 to 30 new positions at each property.
Anderson jokes that it’s magic, but in reality it’s the fact that people are choosing to stay closer to home on vacations and opting for RVs as the best way to go.
“New data is showing that young families are the fastest-growing group of RV owners,” he said. “I think there’s an overall shift in values among young families and RV vacations are an affordable way for families to spend time together.”
Anderson said people choose to travel by RV for several reasons — one of the greatest being cost.
“If you’re single, you’re probably not going to vacation in a RV,” he said. “If you have a family, though, it can get very expensive very quickly to pay for plane tickets and hotel rooms.
“A lot of people want to go on vacation but they don’t want to go thousands of miles away to do it,” he said. “They’d rather go 100 or 200 miles away so they not only don’t spend as much time traveling but they don’t have to spend as much money, either.”
According to the Macomb Daily, the increase in RV sales has forced a change in vacation destinations with many places creating special RV parks and hotels, including Las Vegas.
“Some of the RVs are like campers, but others are like having a home you just happen to travel with,” Anderson said. “There are different choices for everyone depending on exactly what it is they’re looking for.”
Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan said recreation-vehicle shipments are projected to total 236,700 nationally for 2010, a gain of 42.8% from 2009 shipments.
“We want to promote the fact that there are good things going on not only in the country but here in Michigan as well,” Anderson said.