Editor’s Note: The following is a column penned by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia appearing in the latest issue of RV Executive Today examining the public lands access issue.
As debates over the federal budget continue in Washington, we’re getting reports from several states that public lands access is in jeopardy. Road closures in Arizona and Oregon are occurring in the national forests, sometimes surprising users. Roads that are open to RVers and other outdoor recreationists one day are closed the next.
We’ve been told that the Forest Service is closing roads because the agency is spending so much money fighting fires. Keeping people out is now a “fire prevention” measure. The Forest Service has pledged to get stakeholders involved in deciding which roads are appropriate for continued use and which are not. RVDA is working with the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) and our dealer leaders to keep the dialogue going, but the concept of keeping people off public lands to save money is not good for our industry.
It’s reached the point in Arizona that even law enforcement officials are confused as to where people can go and where they can’t. Gene Elms, law enforcement branch chief for Arizona Game and Fish told the Arizona Daily Sun last month that “the inconsistency in the Forest Service’s implementation of new restrictions across the different forests is likely to cause confusion for anyone hunting or recreating on forest lands.”
This idea of closing off access to public lands clearly goes against the wishes of American voters. According to a recent public opinion poll commissioned by the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), national parks are cherished by an overwhelming 95 percent of likely voters.
This survey, conducted by the bipartisan pollster team of Whit Ayers, a Republican, and Peter Hart, a Democrat, found that more than 80 percent of those likely voters have visited a national park at some point in their lives, and nearly nine in 10 say they are interested in visiting a park in the future.
At a meeting sponsored by ARC in Washington last month, the pollsters said that while the survey did not cover all federal land agencies, it is likely that similar public support would apply to other public recreation areas.
It’s clear Americans favor protection of public lands – along with access. However, this kind of balance is hard to find in Washington these days. It will be up to the outdoor recreation community to educate both returning and newly elected officials in Washington about the economic impact of maintaining access to national forests and parks, as well as the consequences for preservation if people are discouraged from using public lands. People don’t value things that they don’t – or can’t – use.
RVDA and its allies will continue to push for a balanced approach that keeps outdoor recreation accessible for our customers.
Canada’s RV industry — with retail sales of 41,745 units, up 25.1% in 2010 vs. 2009 — appears to be rapidly emerging from the economic decline. By segment, motorhome sales were up 58.6% while towables climbed 23.2%.
Canadian wholesale shipments for the first three quarters of the year increased by 66.2% to 51,650 units, according to the Canadian government agency Statistics Canada.
”We aren’t where we were in ’07 and ’08, but we definitely are on the right track,” said Eleonore Hamm, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). ”The Canadian economy is getting better all around.”
Retail sales in the U.S. in 2010, meanwhile, were up 7.8%, a smaller percentage than in Canada but that increase represented a much larger volume — 156,537 total units.
Behind Canada’s good fortune: To put it simply, the global recession has taken less of a bit of America’s northern neighbor.
”The Canadian market is growing at a much more rapid pace than the U.S. market,” said Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys, Inc., the Grand Rapids, Mich., company that monitors North American retail sales. ”And on the motorized side, the Canadian market is much smaller internally. The trailer market is four times larger than the motorized market but motorized sales are growing faster. Things are going pretty well up there.”
Hamm noted that the recession didn’t hit Canada until fully six months after its effect was being been in the U.S. ”Our dealers had time to see what was happening in the U.S. and adjust what they were doing,” she said.
Canadian retail RV sales also have benefited from the Canadian and U.S. dollars being closer to par than they were earlier in the decade, which makes units sold in Canada less expensive for the consumer.
”RV prices have come down just because of the dollar,” Hamm said. ”Most of the RVs sold in Canada are imported from the U.S., and the product you would have bought a year or two ago is actually cheaper right now.”
Hamm said lower pricing due to the dollars’ parity has a double edge. ”It helps dealers bringing in product,” she said. ”But people still shop the Internet for cheaper products in the U.S.”
That, she maintained, can be a fool’s choice.
”Often, they don’t factor in freight costs and taxes at the border. Is it cheaper? The initial price might be, but when they factor in everything else, ultimately the answer is ‘no.”’
Cross-border competition from Internet-savvy RV dealers also has driven down prices for the Canadian buyer.
”Our guys know they are competing with the Internet, so their pricing and margins have been a lot smaller than they have been in the past,” said Dan Merkowsky, executive vice president of the RV Dealers Association of Alberta (RVDA Alberta).
The trend toward smaller towables seen in the U.S. also is obvious in Canada. ”Dealers sold a lot more pull trailers vs. fifth-wheels,” Merkowsky said.
In fact, more than three times the travel trailers were sold in Canada than fifth-wheels — through November, 26,201 versus 8,322, respectively.
Larry Boyd, executive vice president of the Canadian Recreation Vehicle Association (CRVA) who produces six RV shows in Canada, said there is an influx of younger buyers as the economy recovers.
”We saw way more younger families at our shows,” Boyd said. ”There’s no statistical data. It’s just that I see what I see. Young families are really starting to get into the lifestyle.”
”It’s not a surprise,” said Angele Lapointe, a spokesman for Go RVing Canada. ”People are trying to find ways to keep on traveling, but on a budget. RVing is a great way for families to spend time together without having to spend money on hotels and restaurants and the like. With RVs, families have more control over their travel.”
Registrations for the 2010 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo are up about 10% overall and 12% for Canadian dealers, according to organizers of the event that runs through Friday (Oct. 8) at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
”Registrations look great,” said Eleonore Hamm, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). ”We have a few more dealerships than last year.”
Some 500 people are expected to attend the con/expo during which RVBusiness magazine (and RVBUSINESS.com) will host its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards tonight (Oct. 6) with a reception and dinner at the Rio hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President & CEO Mike Schneider and keynoted by conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter.
While the award eligibility has been expanded this year to include recreational park model dealers, the format will include five Blue Ribbon retailers and one individual receiving the Dave Altman Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s con/expo is focusing on business processes designed to help dealerships coming out of the economic downturn.
”People are getting out of the survival mode, but everybody still needs to watch revenues and expenses, and that’s what we are going to be talking about in many of the workshops,” said Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communication for the U.S.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). ”This convention is focused on helping dealers focus on management in all areas of the dealership.”
Most ”Partners in Progress” brand committees made up of dealers who sell specific manufacturers’ brands met Monday and Tuesday and got an early look at the results of the RVDA’s Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) that is comprised from ratings surveys completed by retailers.
Aggregate DSI results will be distributed later with DSI awards being presented at the 47th Annual RV Trade Show Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. ”We moved up the release of the DSI results so that the brand committees could use them in their meetings with manufacturers,” Ingrassia said.
The five-day gathering, which marks RVDA’s 40th anniversary, will offer about 50 seminars and workshops on subjects that include the RV industry’s immediate future, F&I, employee education, wholesale financing, the use of social media, parts and service and RV rentals. The expo which opened Tuesday night has more than 100 exhibitors,
Dirk Kempthorne, former secretary of the Interior who drove to Las Vegas in his own motorhome, was the keynote speaker Tuesday during the con/expo’s first general session.
RVDA and RVDA of Canada will hold their annual meetings Thursday morning.
Go RVing Canada recently announced the winner of its “Top 100 Spots to RV in Canada” Centennial Contest.
Lloyd Blue from Camrose, Alberta, won the contest through a drawing that took place on Aug. 6, after entering his favorite spot to RV in Canada – Two O’Clock Campground in the Kootenay Plains ecological reserve, according to a news release.
Go RVing Canada, in partnership with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), launched the month-long contest on July 6 in commemoration of the RV Centennial. This contest, engaging RV enthusiasts across Canada, allowed Canadians to submit their favorite spot to RV in Canada for a chance to win an Apple iPad.
“We had over 570 entries during the contest,” said Go RVing Canada Spokesperson Angèle Lapointe. “It was absolutely incredible to read all of the submissions and it really makes us realize how fortunate we are to live in such a great country.”
The complete list of favorite Canadian RV destinations is available on Go RVing Canada’s website, www.GoRVing.ca, and consists of answers submitted by Canadians from coast to coast.
Some of the top spots to RV in Canada include: Kluane Lake (Yukon), Pacific Rim National Park (British Columbia), Eagle Lake RV Resort (Strathmore, Alberta), Douglas Provincial Park (Saskatchewan), Spruce Woods Provincial Park (Manitoba), Algonquin Park (Ontario), Gaspésie (Québec), King Neptune Campground (Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia), Cavendish Sunset (Prince Edward Island), Fundy National Park (New Brunswick) and Gros Morne (Newfoundland and Labrador).
“This event is a true testament to the RV lifestyle,” added Lapointe, “which clearly remains a popular vacation choice for those who are looking for an affordable vacation that offers freedom, flexibility and fun.”
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada) Richmond, B.C., has renewed its partnership with Federated Insurance as the national trade association’s official recommended property and casualty and group benefits insurance provider for RVDA Canada members.
“Federated Insurance has extensive experience in the RV industry and their expertise and professionalism has been continually proven over the past six years of our relationship,” states Chairman Kim Stone. “It is their dedication and commitment to our members and our industry that has earned them our recommendation for P&C and Group insurance for a further three years.”
Working with the RVDA Canada, Federated Insurance offers members an exclusive Association Advantage program as well as many specialized programs and services including RiskWise for RVDA, RecoveryWise, The Right Road, Trauma Assistance, Knowing HR Matters and more.
Inquiries are directed to an assigned Risk Service Coordinator or local Federated Insurance offices.
The fifth Canadian RV and Camping Convention will take place Nov. 5-8 at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA of Canada) and the British Columbia Lodging and Campgrounds Association (BCLCA) sponsor the biennial event.
Approximately 300 people representing Canadian RV dealerships, manufacturers and campgrounds are expected to attend the event, which features workshops, a trade show, campground tours and nightly entertainment.
“We always have fun at these conventions,” said Louise Morel, executive director of the convention organizing committee. “Unlike some conventions where attendees ‘spread out’ after hours, this group stays together. Everybody is there, together, 24/7. It makes it more intimate. You get to meet people and socialize with them. It’s a good time to talk with dealers and campground owners from other parts of the country. They really do learn from each other.”
Seldom has that need to network been more important than this year, following the economic downturn, which though not as dramatic in Canada as in the U.S., has still been felt by many in the industry.
“It’s been a tough economic time for everybody,” Morel said. “We are more focused on regrouping and looking toward the future as everybody is.”
There are bright spots.
“From what I’ve heard, campgrounds have done very well,” she said, noting that, like in the U.S., many Canadian campers have chosen to stay closer to home. “Most of the campgrounds I’ve talked to were sold out most of the season, even though the weather didn’t cooperate, especially in the East.”
Meanwhile, RV manufacturing is down in Canada this year, and dealer sales have been spotty, again, depending upon the economic prosperity of a given province, she said.
Still, as of early October, 80% of the RV dealers who attended the last national convention, in 2007 in Ottawa, Ontario, have registered for this year’s convention, Morel said, which she considers to be a good sign for the future.
Organizers have lined up five keynote speakers for the event. They are:
- Jim Carroll, international futurist, trends and innovation expert and author of “Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast” and ”What I Learned From Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward Thinking Innovation.”
- Michael Campbell, British Columbia’s most respected business analyst. He is best known as the host of Canada’s top-rated business show — “Money Talks” — heard across the country on the Corus Radio Network. Each week Campbell and his guests track financial trends to help listeners find ways to maximize their investments.
- Peter C. Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership, America’s leading marketing, advertising and public relations agency serving travel, leisure, hospitality and entertainment clients. The agency represents clients in every category of the travel industry through seven offices across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. The firm’s Research & Brand Strategy Group is regarded as one of the most respected sources of insights into the emerging travel habits, preferences and intentions of North Americans.
- Michael Vickers, popular speaker, entrepreneur, educator and author. His dynamic, humorous and insightful sessions coach thousands of professionals to grow individual and organizational performance. His success is completely built on his personal experience. A consummate entrepreneur, he is a graduate of his own franchised retailing enterprise, a manufacturing and distribution company and a highly successful publishing venture.
- Rick Antonson, president & CEO of Tourism Vancouver, British Columbia, which was very instrumental in procuring the winning bid for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver. He knows first hand how ideas are born and then how partnerships develop to take a concept from just a dream to reality.
Five Professional Workshops
In addition, professional workshops lined up are:
- On the topic of “Trends, Economic Value and Future Opportunities of the RV and Camping Industry,” presenters are Joss Penny, BCLCA executive director; Michelle Carr, manager of Outdoor Sector Development, British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts; and Chris Bower, general manager, NK’MIP RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia.
- Randy Sobel, Sobel & Associates, a marketing, training and consulting company to the automotive retail sales industry, will present two workshops, “How to Increase your Profits by $1,000.00 per Sale! (Changing times require changing techniques)” and “New Product Selection Techniques: Manage Inventory and Increase Gross Profit!”
- Ted Davis, vice president of product development for DealerTrack Canada, will speak on the topic “Using Technology Solutions to Increase Efficiency and Profitability in Your Dealership.”
- Will Slattery will speaker on the topic “IntensiFI’… is all about F&I.”
Campground Tours Offered
Conventioneers will have two opportunities to attend campground tours this year.
The first tour begins before the convention. From Nov. 3-4, participants will visit four British Columbia campgrounds — Fort Camping at Fort Langley, Burnaby RV Park in Burnaby, Riverside RV Resort and Campground in Whistler and Living Forest Oceanside RV & Campground in Nanaimo. The fee of $399 plus tax includes travel, lodging and meals.
The second tour is a free, all-day event (8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.) on Nov. 5 and will be a visit to Oceanside RV Park in Saanichton.
The campground tours have been part of the convention since the inaugural event, in 2001 in Quebec City, Morel said.
Not only campground operators, but also industry suppliers and dealers attend the tours, Morel noted, as it affords everyone a chance to see campground operations in other provinces.
20-plus Vendors at Trade Show
The trade show, featuring more than a score of industry vendors, is scheduled for Nov. 6-7 in the Victoria Conference Center, which adjoins the hotel.
Besides Thursday’s all-day campground tour, nightly entertainment includes:
- Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m., opening reception.
- Friday 5 to 10 p.m., cruise in Victoria’s inner harbor aboard the 135-foot Queen of Diamonds. Dinner will be served aboard the elegant cruise ship while music and a casino will keep passengers busy as they glide past the sparkling lights of Victoria.
- Saturday, dinner with entertainment by The Timebenders show band.