The Northeast Campground Association (NCA) reported a strong turnout for its 49th Annual Camping & Trade Show held March 21-23 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center in Sturbridge, Mass.
Independent park operators representing almost 100 parks in 10 states attended the event, which featured seminars, a charity auction and a trade show consisting of some 80 exhibitors, according to Woodall’s Campground Management.
“It was a lot of fun – a good three days,” reported Cyndy Zbierski, executive assistant to Executive Director David Tetrault for the Stafford, Conn.-based organization, adding that NCA strived to inject a business atmosphere in addition to the conference’s traditional offerings.
True to the title theme of the conference, “Invigorate 2013 – Inform, Influence & Inspire,” the seminars kicked off with a social media session led by Corissa St. Laurent, director of development in New England for Constant Contact. “Everyone who was in there definitely wants us to make sure she’s in the program again next year,” said Zbierski, adding that another popular session covered data security and awareness as it relates to identity protection.
A first-day board meeting resulted in the election of the following new officers: President Judy LaPorta, Little Oaks Campground, New Jersey; 1st Vice President Michelle Ackerman, Sodom Mountain Campground, Massachusetts; 2nd Vice-President Mary Lunderville, Moose River Campground, Vermont; Treasurer Michael Irons, Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort, Maryland, who also serves as immediate past president.
Appointed state representatives for 2013 were Connecticut’s Brian Korten of Water’s Edge Family Campground, Maine’s Pat Kosalka of Sagadahoc Bay Campground, New Hampshire’s Gregg Goldberg of Sandy Beach RV Resort, New York’s Gregg Nicholls of Lake Bluff Campground, Pennsylvania’s Bruce Heasley of Holiday Pines Campground, and Rhode Island’s John Tillinghast of Bowdish Lake Camping Area.
A Friday presentation by Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) based in Billings, Mont., was a real highlight of the conference, according to Zbierski. A talented speaker, Rogers, who recently appeared on CBS’s hit series “Undercover Boss,” led a session entitled “Invigorate Your Campground’s Value” in which he backed up his remarks with data and statistics, specifically keying in on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic area.
At Friday’s NCA Awards Luncheon, the Curtis Fuller Service Award was presented to David L. Berg, immediate past president of NCA, the Maine Campground Owners Association (MECOA) and the Colorado-based National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). He’s also co-owner with his wife Jayne of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Next year’s conference is slated for Mar. 20-22 in Sturbridge on the Northeast Conference’s 50th anniversary.
Campgrounds making up the Northeast Campground Association (NCA) look forward to a busy season ahead, while each having different legislative issues on their respective radars.
Nearly 300 park owners from 10 New England states — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland — gathered March 27-29 for NCA’s 47th Annual Conference on Camping and Trade Show at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center in Sturbridge, Mass.
According to Cyndy Zbierski, NCA’s executive assistant, each state has various legislative concerns on their plates. Among them:
- Length of stay in Connecticut.
- Definition of a campground in Maine.
- Realistic gallon measurement for Title V in Massachusetts.
- Human rights issues in Maryland.
- Presidential candidates visiting New Hampshire.
- Continuing firewood issues in New York.
- Attention to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues in Pennsylvania ( as well as all other states).
- A new governor helping to stimulate tourism in Rhode Island.
- Abandoned trailers and the problems they can cause in Vermont.
- The New Jersey Passport Program, a concerted effort to bring visitors to the state.
“The states in attendance are looking forward to a busy season ahead,” Zbierski noted. “Some mentioned they had not quite as many seasonal sites sold for 2011 due to ongoing unemployment. Those campgrounds that have been attending RV and camping shows in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Canada report that attendance is up at all shows and RVs – all sizes and types – are selling, making dealers and campground owners alike very optimistic.”
She said conversations on gas prices centered around campers continuing to camp while lessening the distance they travel to find a campground, making each state excited about marketing camping in their state as a great vacation option.
“State tourism budgets, always a concern as they decline, were discussed and all were reminded of the importance of working with their state representatives and tourism department leaders to ensure campgrounds are included in state tourism advertising messages,” she said.
Zbierski said from the beginning of the program on Sunday afternoon through the end of the Murder-Mystery Dinner on Tuesday evening the mood during the conference was positive, upbeat, and campground owners were looking forward to opening day as reservations were even or up compared to the past few seasons.
The trade show hosted 86 different companies filling 96 booths to promote their products and services to campground owners and operators.
“Vendors are also very optimistic this trade show season as NCA had 15 new VIP business members included in the show along with 14 other first-time exhibitors at the Northeast conference,” Zbierski said. “The diversity of the trade show floor was exciting to those campgrounds looking for something new and different for their guests.”
Trade show purchases were made for everything from new store products and replacement maintenance equipment to updated technology for the office or campers.
The conference program included 14 one-hour, CPO seminars and three state association meetings.
Two cracker barrels were held in Sturbridge. One session was moderated by Suzanne Mark, of Mark of Excellence, and the other by David L. Berg, chairman of National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
“During both occasions campground owners and staff had the opportunity to share ideas, listen to other opinions and enjoy the chance to network with others in their own industry,” Zbierski said.
The NCA board held a meeting prior to the conference during which officers were elected. The 2011-2012 NCA officers are: president, Mike Irons of Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort in Thurmont, Md.; vice president, Roger Druck of Pine Cradle Lake Campground in Rome, Pa; second vice president, Judy LaPorta of Little Oaks Campground in S. Seaville, Cape May Court House, N.J.; treasurer, Michelle Ackerman of Sodom Mountain Campground in Southwick, Mass.; and past president, David L. Berg of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Representatives were also named for each of the remaining states: Peter Brown of Lone Oak Campsites in East Canaan, Conn.; Gregg Goldberg of Sandy Beach RV Resort in Contoocook, N.H.; Gregg Nicholls of Lake Bluff Campground in Wolcott, N.Y.; Mary Lunderville of Moose River Campground in St. Johnsbury, Vt.; and John Tillinghast of Bowdish Lake Camping Area in Chepachet, R.I.
During the NCA awards luncheon several awards were given. All conference volunteers were given recognition for their service and three $500 scholarships were awarded from the Robert A. Hartford Memorial Scholarship Fund. The recipients were Shelby Bragdon, granddaughter of Fran Goodale, Mineral Springs Campground, Conn.; Joshua Gustine, grandson of Nelson Gustine, Nelson’s Family Campground, Conn.; and Tyler Poirier, son of Paul and Korena Poirier, Tree Corners Family Campground, Vt.
A certificate of appreciation for his years of service to the NCA Board was also given to Mark Wright of Terrace Pines Campground, N.H.
Following these presentations Paul Bombei, newly appointed president and CEO of ARVC, outlined the goals of ARVC as they look to the future in promoting camping and outdoor hospitality working with their members every step of the way.
The luncheon ended with a keynote address by Lori Severson of Severson & Associates on “Owning Your Personal Motivation.”
“She made us think about what we haul around in our little red wagons as we look forward to making 2011 the best it can be,” Zbierski said.
In 2011 the NCA will continue to promote education and networking through partnerships with its affiliate state associations.
Next year’s Northeast Conference on Camping and Trade Show will be hosted by NCA at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center March 22-24.
NCA’s next event is the Great Escape hosted by Timber Creek RV Resort in Westerly, R.I., on Sept. 13-14.
Best Parks in America (BPA) is sponsoring a seminar and the keynote address at the upcoming Northeast Campground Association (NCA) Conference on Camping in Sturbridge, Mass.
Blake Ashdown, a key BPA strategic partner, will present his seminar on March 27 at 1 p.m. on the topic “Marketing in the NEW Experience Economy.”
Ashdown will also present the keynote address that evening starting at 8 on March 28. Ashdown will also be joining Best Parks for the Monday morning meeting of Best Parks in America affiliates and invited New England park owners who qualify for affiliation, according to a news release.
The conference, the RV park and campground industry’s largest regional event, runs March 27-29 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center and will draw campground owners and operators from throughout the Northeast. It also features a trade show.
On Monday morning, the NCA buffet breakfast will take place in the hotel courtyard. The meeting room is right off the courtyard and very convenient to where breakfast will be. Guests are encouraged to pick up their breakfast and bring it to the Dudley Room where the meeting will be held. Park staff attending the NCA conference are cordially invited to join in.
“If you have a campground owner colleague who you feel would qualify and be a good addition to the Best Parks in America family, please invite them to attend the meeting with you,” David Gorin, BPA president, stated. “If you can assist us in enrolling a new BPA affiliate, we will gladly send you a $100 Visa Gift Card to thank you for your assistance.”
Ashdown is a successful entrepreneur who has started 15 businesses over the past 30 years, including 10 RV resorts and campgrounds. His last venture in the park industry was the acquisition, redevelopment and eventual sale of Tropical Palms Fun Resort in Orlando. For the last four years, he has been a professor at the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University where he teaches marketing and business strategy. Ashdown is the president of SureVista Solutions, a marketing research firm that provides marketing tools designed to increase income.
For more information contact Gorin at (703) 448-6863.
Editor’s Note: David L. Berg, current chairman of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and immediate past president of the Northeast Campground Association (NCA), took a good look at the season ahead during the recent 46th Annual Northeast Conference on Camping & Trade Show in Springfield, Mass. A director of the Maine Campground Owners Association and owner of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, Berg essentially sees good things for 2010.
RVB: As we head toward spring, what’s the campground sector look like.
Berg: I think it’s going to be a banner year. The shows are up substantially, reservations are up throughout the Northeast region and many other areas of the country. Units are starting to move again. Obviously, they are still low compared to three or four years ago. But it’s a big improvement over last year in the industry.
RVB: We don’t want to jinx anything, but do you think the campground sector will continue to escape the recession as it did last year?
Berg: Before I would say we are recession-proof, I’ve had years when I was down a little bit. But when everybody else is having terrible years as the economy gets more expensive, people look at the best value for a vacation, and camping clearly is that. Along those lines, camping is a recession-proof business. We had a banner year after 9/11 — the good with the bad — everybody got back to family camping. That wave has held to that day. When people can’t afford the $200-a-day ocean-front hotel, they’ll come back to the $40 RV site and bring their family and sit around the fire. This is going to be one of the years when we see that sight again.
RVB: What issues do you see on the forefront at any level – ARVC, NCA or your state – that are front burner this spring?
Berg: Advertising. Everyone in this business has to advertise and sell what we have and what we have to offer. We have to get out and work more with the state tourism areas and get camping in the state advertising. We’ve worked with Go RVing to get more campground shots. Gasoline is important. It does affect the motorized industry. Gas has leveled off some in the Northeast, and if it stays below $3 it won’t have a big impact on anything. Right now the stock market is going well. Peoples’ retirement accounts are starting to build again. All those things are important to the future of our industry.
People need to listen to their customers and make their parks better. The average customer wants it all. We have to make sure we keep our parks up, improve them, bring in the amenities they want and make them feel welcome.
RVB: What other factors are you monitoring on the horizon — for better or for worse?
Berg: The biggest issue over the last two years has been weather. In the Northeast region, we’ve had rain, and then we had rain, and then we had rain. In early March, we had nine inches of rain in two days. I’m hoping that’s getting out of the system and we’ll have some sunshine.
In respect to being recession proof, there are people who are far worse off. If you’ve got a reservation with a motel, you’ve got until 6 o’clock at night to cancel it. And if the sunshine isn’t showing for the weekend, you cancel it. In the camping world, you are paying a deposit and people will come. You have to give them things to do if the weather is bad.
But the biggest issue in Maine is taxes. We get taxed two or three times, depending on how your park is run. If you have seasonal (guests), they pay personal property tax. I have to pay property tax on the same land they are on. States are in a financial crunch and they are always trying to tax the tourists because they think it’s an out-of-state tax. In Maine, the vast majority of people who camp are local. So it has a severe impact on our economy when the legislature just thinks it’s an import tax. That’s what New Hampshire did. States are trying to put their budget woes on the backs of tourism.
Attendees at the 46th Annual Northeast Conference on Camping and Trade Show March 18-20 in Springfield, Mass.,“Recipe for Success 2010″ were encouraged by incoming reservations for the upcoming season, according to show sponsors.
The trade show attracted 126 representatives from over 70 companies, which filled the third floor of the Sheraton Springfield Hotel.
“Those in attendance were impressed by a program packed with quality seminars, fun events, time to listen and learn from others in the industry, and three state meetings for Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts,” said Cyndy Zbierski, Northeast Campground Association (NCA) executive assistant.
The conference began with four technology seminars conducted by SkillPath covering everything from “Computer 101” in Technology Basics to “Getting the Most of Microsoft Excel” during Technology Plus. The entire day’s seminars were sponsored by Evergreen USA and that evening a winner was chosen for a new Acer laptop.
The next two days provided seven CPO qualified seminars ranging from “Accounting for Campgrounds,” presented by Don Bennett, CPA, CPO and the president and CEO of Campground Owners of New York, to “Management Secrets of a Large Campground That Can Be Used By Any Size Park,” presented by Peter and Barry Brown of Lone Oak Campsites, Connecticut.
All 11 state associations that make up the NCA were given the opportunity to share their individual state’s legislative issues, which included drastic reductions in state tourism budgets, new taxation rates on campsites and continued departments of environmental protection concerns, according to Zbierski.
NCA Executive Director David Tetrault and wife Pat received the Curtis Fuller Service Award during the Awards Luncheon of the conference. The award, established in March 1986, commemorates the unselfish contribution made by Curtis Fuller to the furtherance of camping throughout the United States. The award is in recognition of service given to camping in the northeast over an extended period of time. The service can take any number of forms but shall be unselfish, done in a manner to reflect credit upon the association, and be meaningful in accomplishing the aims of the association.
There are no plans for Tetrault to retire as executive director. He began on Oct. 1, 1990, replacing retiring Gerry Harrison. Pat will continue working with her husband and daughter, however for fewer hours allowing her time to enjoy a bit of free time.
During the board of directors meeting held during the conference a number of new marketing ideas were discussed to continue promoting camping in the Northeast, Zbierski said.
“The board voted to continue several successful NCA marketing ventures, such as NCA’s participation in the Tampa SuperShow in January 2011, the production of an NCA Rack Card listing all 11 states’ contact information and the NCA ad in Camping Life magazine,” she said. “Something new that will soon come out of the Northeast Campground Association’s office is the offer of banner ads to its member campgrounds on the CampNCA.com site and to its business members on the member site CampNCA.org.”
In addition, two $500 scholarships were awarded from the NCA Robert A. Hartford Memorial Scholarship Fund during the Friday awards luncheon. The parents of Cortney Goodale, of Mineral Springs Campground, Connecticut, and Zachary Fulton, of Rest N’ Nest Campground in Vermont accepted the awards for their children.
Special guests included Cheryl Smith, CPO, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) education director; David L. Berg, CPO, Red Apple Campground, Maine, and the current ARVC chairman and Region 1 representative, and also past president of NCA; Marcia Galvin, CPO, Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Massachusetts, ARVC second vice chairman and Region 1 representative; Donald Bennett, CPO, Conesus Lake Campground, New York, ARVC at-large delegate; Norman Boucher, LCN Outdoors, Connecticut, ARVC Supplier Council representative; Janet Keen, CPO, Keen Lake Camping, ARVC Council of Delegates secretary; and Randy Packard, CPO, Pine Acres Family Campground, Massachusetts, ARVC Foundation board of trustees.
Officers elected were:
- President Michael Irons, Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort, Thurmont, Md.
- Vice president Roger Druck, Pine Cradle Lake Campground, Rome, Pa.
- Second Vice President Judy LaPorta, Little Oaks Campground, S. Seaville Cape May Courthouse, N.J.
- Treasurer, Mark Wright, Terrace Pines Campground, Center Ossipee, N.H.
- Past president David L. Berg, Red Apple Campground, Kennebunkport, Maine.
The next NCA event will be the “2010 NCA Great Escape” hosted by the state of New Hampshire at Danforth Bay Camping Resort in Freedom, N.H., Sept. 14 –16. Contact information can be found at http://campnca.org/greatescape.htm.
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.