In an unusual five-hour afternoon session in mid-January, 11 former chairmen of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) sat down around a U-shaped table in Tampa, Fla., and recounted some of the highlights and lowlights of their terms in office over the past 20 years.
Invited by ARVC CEO Paul Bambei as a way to “tap the brain trust and to reengage them for high-level strategic guidance and direction,” this meeting was the first of its kind in the history of ARVC but most certainly won’t be the last. It was held in the Embassy Suites Hotel while the 2nd World RV Conference was being held nearby, said Bambei, who chaired the ARVC meeting.
“A lot of anecdotal stories were passed back and forth,” he said. “There was a lot of good laughter. No formal minutes were taken and participants agreed not to reveal details of their discussion.
Invitations went out last summer. “We started with a gentlemen who wasn’t a past chairman but by everybody’s account needed to be there: Herb Strauss,” Bambei said. “He was the first treasurer of ARVC and was very instrumental in the early, ‘dire strait’ days of ARVC, keeping it together and personally bankrolling some of the expenses. It is such a great story.”
Other attendees were former ARVC chairmen Dan O’Connoll, Al Daniels, Irv Banes, Jeff Sims, Chuck Hays Jr., Dick Whalen, Randy Packard, Kathy Palmeri, Mark Anderson and David L. Berg; current ARVC executive committee members Rob Schutter Jr. (chairman), Marcia Galvin (first vice chairman), Terry Munoz (second vice chairman), Tim Deputy (treasurer), Truman Hartshorn (secretary); and Paul O’Neill, former ARVC ex com member.
“We purposely aligned this so our folks could intermingle (at the RV Conference) if they wished. The Florida RV SuperShow was also happening at the same time. It was a good place and the right time” for the ARVC gathering, said Bambei, now in his third year as Colorado-based ARVC’s CEO.
Other former ARVC chairmen were invited but were unable to attend, Bambei said. “I will try to keep it going at least once a year to get their strategic insights,” Bambei said. “They have such a wealth of information and perspective. This was invaluable.”
The group had a combined 500 years experience in RV park and campground management. “They talked about back in the day when they were chairmen, the stress and challenges that were facing them,” said Bambei. “They may have had run-ins with each other over the years, but they always walked out of the room with respect for each other.
“It puts a lot of the current day’s issues in perspective,” he added. “We all surreptitiously came to the conclusion a lot of the issues of yesteryear are still issues today. We kind of vowed not to let that happen in the future. We need to take the bull by the horns and deal with them,” he said. I think there will be some great value in this going forward “Time marks how people have made mistakes and learned from them. That is the greatest learning to be gained.
Meanwhile, a videographer taped 10-minute vignettes with each of the former chairmen for posting on ARVC’s revamped website when its launched in February.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) celebrated its annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in Las Vegas last week, drawing more than 550 park operators and industry officials from across the country, according to a press release.
The Nov. 28-30 conference, held at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, included nearly 50 educational seminars, networking and crackerbarrel sessions, a trade show with nearly 100 vendors as well as the industry’s annual membership meeting, in which top ARVC officials highlighted the continuing strength of the campground industry, the turnaround in ARVC membership as well as the association’s latest accomplishments and new initiatives.
ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter commended ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei for his efforts and leadership in establishing a new headquarters in Denver, hiring new staff and launching nearly a dozen new member benefits, including an unprecedented music licensing program, which provides 60% to 70% off the normal rate for BMI and ASCAP. This program alone will save small parks $700 a year, while large parks could save $1,200 or more.
“I don’t know where we would be at this time if it wasn’t for Paul Bambei,” Schutter said, adding that Bambei has also managed to increase membership above 3,000 parks and reduce ARVC’s operating budget by half a million dollars since he became president and CEO three years ago.
Bambei, for his part, announced several new member benefits, including discount programs with AT&T Wireless, RVBackground Checks.com, Ecolab, Moen Kitchen & Bathroom Equipment and The American Society for Asset Protection. These are in addition to significant discount programs with Ford Motor Co., Club Car and Alliance Laundry Systems, which ARVC negotiated earlier this year.
Bambei noted that savings from many of these programs easily exceeds the cost of ARVC membership, making membership in the association essential for park operators who are interested in increasing their bottom line.
Bambei also reviewed previously announced improvements to GoCampingAmerica.com and announced a major overhaul of the association’s website at ARVC.org, the latter of which would go live during the first quarter of 2013. He said ARVC also plans to publish three print versions of the ARVC Voice on a seasonal basis.
The conference included nearly 50 educational seminars, the largest of its kind in the campground industry, including multiple sessions dealing with employee management, marketing and the latest social media tools.
ARVC’s Expo also featured nearly 100 vendors, who reported brisk sales, reflecting a growing sense of confidence about the campground industry’s prospects for 2013.
Schutter, who also serves as chief operating officer of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., said most campground operators have maintained at least modest growth during the past year, with revenues climbing up to 4% while their occupancies have remained flat or grown slightly. Schutter said the strongest growth involves parks that are investing in rental accommodations.
In other business, ARVC members elected several new officers for the association, who will work with Schutter during the coming year. They include 2nd Vice Chairman Terry Munoz of Thousand Trails in Lake Conroe, Texas, who replaced Michael Gelfand of Terra Vista Management Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Treasurer Tim Deputy of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, Fla., who replaced Pat O’Neill of Camp Gulf in Destin, Fla.; and Secretary Truman Hartshorn of Lebanon Reservoir Campground in Lebanon, N.Y., who replaced Terry Munoz in that position.
New ARVC board members include Bobby Cornwell, executive director of Florida ARVC, who replaced Deb Carter of the Maryland Campground Owners Association; Lynda Phelps of Upriver RV Resort in Fort Myers, Fla., who replaced Tim Deputy of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, Fla.; Tim Wilcox of Gateway Park Campground in Hillsdale, Mich., who replaced Garry Cole of the Shelby / Mansfield KOA in Shelby, Ohio; Dan Wright of The Springs at Borrego RV Resort in Borrego Springs, Calif., who replaced Michael Gelfand of Terra Vista Management, Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Eric Stumberg of TengoInternet, who replaced Ann Emerson of Good Sam Enterprises in Ventura, Calif.; Karl Littman of Candy Hill Campground in Winchester, Va., who replaced Vicki Cole of the Shelby / Mansfield KOA in Shelby, Ohio; and Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group in Kingston, Wash., who replaced Norman Boucher of LCN Outdoors, LLC in Windsor, Conn. Also elected to the board was Al Johnson of Recreational Adventure Company, a Hill City, S.D. company that owns and operates KOA campgrounds.
Based in Denver, Colo., the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds provides private park operators with marketing support services; public affairs advocacy; educational enrichment and networking opportunities as well as major discounts on products and services needed by campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the United States. Visit www.arvc.org for more information.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an interview by Woodall’s Campground Management with Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), following a three-week road trip that took him to many state association conventions and meetings as well as an ARVC board meeting. To read the entire interview click here.
According to Bambei, key issues facing ARVC include:
•Performance Licenses: Foremost on the member benefit front is the completion of licensing negotiations with the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).“The BMI deal is done, which was very important to me, strategically, to get it done first,” Bambei explained, noting that it was one of the three performing rights organizations (PROs) ARVC has been talking with. “It represented 70% of the licensing revenue that ARVC members submitted in 2011. It made sense to get that out of the way first.”
• Membership Status: At the ARVC board meeting held in mid-March in Memphis, Tenn., the board unanimously agreed to keep the current structure relative to “affiliated” and “cooperating” states in place and unchanged, Bambei said. ARVC counts 28 states as having affiliated or full membership status.
• White House meeting on ADA: ARVC undertook a major lobbying effort this year to counteract the impending new regulations through the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to wheel chair lift requirements for public swimming pools. The coalition succeeded in getting a 60-day extension on the new regulations, which would have taken effect in mid-March.
• Benefit Provider Update: ARVC representatives are conducting talks to establish preferred provider status with several companies, including Moen, a manufacturer of faucets and shower heads; Schlage, maker of locks and security gates; and Speed Queen, maker of commercial washers and dryers.
• State Park Membership: ARVC’s attempt to increase its membership by opening the doors to state parks has not been successful in attracting a large number of state parks, Bambei conceded. The initiative, as Bambei explained, was to work with individual affiliated states to do whatever they wanted to do.
The entire 20-member board of directors of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has voted unanimously to maintain ARVC’s existing structure, which includes cooperative and affiliated tiers of partnership with state campground associations.
“The board sent a clear message that our current structure enables us to best serve campground and RV park owners, whom they view as our ultimate customers,” Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO, said in a press release.
The unanimous vote took place March 20 in Memphis, Tenn., after a strategic task force comprised of campground industry representatives had spent more than a year studying the various relationships ARVC could have with state associations and with park owners.
As directed by the board, task force recommendations have been publicly posted on the ARVC.org website since early December for over 60 days. Subsequently, seven state associations and several ARVC members voiced their comments, which were all documented and shared at the Memphis board meeting in March.
The options under consideration included creating a direct membership structure, in which parks could join ARVC directly without having to pay dues to their state association. This option is currently available only to parks in states that are not affiliated with ARVC.
The board also considered creating a federation of state associations in which ARVC and its staff would focus their attention exclusively on the needs of state campground association executives.
But after nearly six hours of discussion, all 20 board members agreed that maintaining ARVC’s existing structure is the best option because it serves the needs of park operators as well as state campground associations.
“All three options had pros and cons that were strongly considered and vetted,” Bambei said. “Each board member was educated on the pros and cons of the three types of structures that were under consideration, and out of that vetting came a vote that was unanimous.”
The actual motion stated “that the ARVC board out of three choices elects to pursue Option No. 2 (Partnership) and to make public to the membership the reasons as to this decision.”
Deb Carter, who serves as executive director of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds and is the ARVC board representative for the affiliated and cooperating state executives, said she was pleased by the “thoroughness and clarity of the education and voting processes” and by the fact that every board member had the opportunity to voice his or her opinion or concern before casting their vote.
“For me, I think the best part of that was the fact that everybody felt free to speak and everybody’s opinion was respected and discussed,” Carter said. “There were no hidden agendas. It had nothing to do with state or national associations. It really had to do with what’s right for our members.”
Carter also sent an e-mail to members of the Campground Association Management Professionals (CAMP) notifying them of the unanimous vote and of the need for ARVC to maintain its current relationship structure with state associations. “I believe that the current form is so far improved from a couple of years ago that we need to give it more time to mature and become more solid and fair to all involved,” she wrote.
ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter, for his part, said he was pleased with the outcome of the vote. “I think the significance of the vote is that it underscores everyone’s desire to maintain relationships with state associations that are out there and established,” he said.
“It truly is a partnership, and it brings the question down the road of how valuable it is to affiliate with ARVC,” said board member Garry Cole, noting that the entire industry has benefited from ARVC’s work on the ADA pool lift issue.
Former ARVC Chairman David L. Berg also noted that maintaining the existing structure puts the onus on ARVC to produce results. “I believe that we need to continue our structure as is and show value to our state execs and members,” he said.
During their Memphis meeting, ARVC’s board also voted to lower the threshold required for states to have a “cooperative” relationship status with ARVC. Under the previous bylaws, 60% of a state campground association’s members had to also be ARVC members for a state to have “cooperative” relationship with ARVC. Under the bylaw change approved in Memphis, state associations can now become cooperative members if 50% of their members are also ARVC members.
In cooperative relationships, ARVC shares 10% of the membership dues it collects from parks with their state association. States that are affiliated with ARVC receive 20% of the membership dues ARVC collects.