One of the most game-changing exhibits on hand for the 550 attendees at the recent National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (ARVC) annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo was that of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, where Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher of the all-new Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory, was working to spread the word on the rollout of Good Sam’s first consolidated campground directory.
Some 425,000 copies of the new print directory, a merging of two respected titles, Woodall’s North American Campground Directory and the Trailer Life Directory of RV Parks & Campgrounds, were to be released in December. And the fact that they’ve been combined is big news in the accommodations sector, as the two were often referred to as the “Bibles” of the campground arena for millions of traveling RV enthusiasts over the years.
The two publications had been co-published since the mid-1900’s by Good Sam Enterprises LLC and its predecessor, Affinity Group Inc.
The consolidation was announced earlier this year.
“I wasn’t sure what park owners were going to think when we went from two directories to one because Woodall’s is a strong brand, as is the Trailer Life Directory,” said Emerson. “But, overwhelmingly, park owners have said ‘yes.’ They have one set of directory rep teams to work with, one marketing plan and one marketing investment and rating system to understand.”
Emerson, at the same time, is spearheading the announced expansion of the Good Sam RV Park & Resort Network from her Ventura, Calif., offices in what amounts to another new twist for Chicago-based Good Sam as it seeks to extend the reach of its discount camping network to a host of new North American park operators. Emerson says things are going well with that as well.
“We started in 2012 with 1,667 Good Sam Parks in the network,” Emerson told Woodall’s Campground Management, now an independent publication based out of Elkhart, Ind. “We are ending the year with 2,133 Good Sam parks in the network. We’ve had explosive growth. The great part about that is you still have to maintain a certain rating before you can be invited to the network. We didn’t lower the quality of parks.”
So, Good Sam has been getting the word out on both fronts at the ARVC Conference and elsewhere. “We’re talking about the Good Sam brand and how the power of one investment in our directory gets you exposure to our Good Sam members, which is 1.3 million members,” said Emerson. “We also have our AAA relationship intact, the hallmark of the non-Good Sam RVer. Through a contract, AAA buys hundreds of thousands of our print directories and gives them to their AAA clubs throughout the country, and those clubs either give them to their members free or for a small charge.
“And we still have our circulation through our bookstores, obviously through Camping World, which is a big circulation channel for us as well. There are 100 Camping World (RV rolling stock and parts and accessory sales) locations.”
On the digital side, Emerson reports, the Trailer Life and Woodall’s websites are also being merged as Good Sam parks retain aggressive web exposure on the Good Sam Club site. “We have mobile apps in the digital market as well,” says Emerson. “What we do is walk into a park operator and say there’s one investment that they need. And they need to do it through Good Sam. And we work really hard to also promote our non-Good Sam parks. You can be in our directory without being a Good Sam Park.
“We obviously work really hard taking care of our Good Sam-member parks as well. Our rep teams are walking into parks and telling them we have one story to tell,” she added. “When you are with Good Sam, you are reaching this entire market, print and online.
More than 220,000 Trailer Life readers were invited to choose from 100 brands and cast votes online at www.TrailerLife.com for their favorites in 25 categories such as Fifth-Wheel Trailer, Campground/Resort and Satellite Hardware. Among the winners are recognizable names such as Keystone RV Co., Camping World, Jayco Inc., Banks Power, Pilot Flying J and Cracker Barrel.
As true RV enthusiasts, Trailer Life readers are the experts. The Readers’ Choice Awards gave readers an opportunity to share their knowledge and recognize the companies that make their passion possible.
“We’re excited to tap into the wealth of knowledge Trailer Life readers have gained during years of experience as RV owners and travelers,” Good Sam Enterprises Chairman Marcus Lemonis said. “Trailer Life readers know what works best, and for the first time — and moving forward on an annual basis — we’ve asked them to rate their favorite RVs, campgrounds, products and ancillary services.”
“The winners are the best of the best in the RV industry and we thank our loyal readers for participating in this valuable asset to the pages of Trailer Life magazine,” Trailer Life Publisher Bob Livingston said. “Congratulations to all the winners for being at the top of their game.”
Trailer Life 2012 Readers’ Choice Award Gold winners and their respective categories are:
- ADCO Products for Travel Trailer Cover.
- Banks Power for Performance Add-On, Camping World for RV Retailer.
- Carefree of Colorado for Awning.
- Colorado for State to RV In.
- Cracker Barrel for Sit-Down Restaurant.
- DirecTV for Satellite Provider.
- Dometic for Refrigerator.
- Equal-i-zer for Travel Trailer Hitch.
- Ford for Truck.
- Goodyear for Tires.
- Great Smoky Mountain Jellystone Camp-Resort for Campground/Resort.
- Honda for Portable Generator.
- Jayco Inc. for Folding Camper and Travel Trailer.
- Keystone RV Co. for Fifth-wheel Trailer.
- Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp. for Truck Camper.
- Lucas Oil for Fuel Additive.
- Pilot Flying J for Fuel Station.
- Protect All for RV Cleaner.
- Reese for Fifth-wheel Hitch.
- Rhino Linings for Truck Bed Linings.
- Shell Rotella for Engine Oil.
- Thetford for RV Toilet.
- Winegard for Satellite Hardware.
Gold, silver and bronze levels were honored in each category, and the winners will be presented with their awards at the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show this week in Louisville, Ky.
For a complete list of winners, visit www.TrailerLife.com.
About Trailer Life Magazine
Trailer Life is the best-selling general interest RV publication in the country. Established in 1941, the magazine covers all RVs, including travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, folding trailers, pickup campers and motorhomes. Trailer Life readers share an active interest in exploring the world and a love of RV travel. In every issue, RV enthusiasts will find road tests, RV advice, travel features, product evaluations and RV maintenance information.
Trailer Life is published by GS Media & Events, a division of Good Sam Enterprises LLC (GSE). GSE and its wholly owned subsidiaries serve the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American outdoor and recreational vehicle market.
Trailer Life Directory and Woodall Publications, publishers of “North America’s top two campground directories and leading campground search websites and mobile applications,” announced today (Nov. 21) that they will be “uniting” to form a single “super directory” North American print edition in 2013.
According to a press release, the two companies will join forces to “inspire travel by bringing the highest quality, most complete and accurate information about RV and camping travel to the most engaged RVers and campers in North America.”
On announcing the merger Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of parent Good Sam Enterprises LLC, said, “The consolidation of the two directories into one ‘super directory’ will provide our customers with a single source for their RVing and camping travel planning. The coming together of these two brands enables us to serve as more than a directory, and will represent an ‘everything RV guide’ for the consumer to be inspired to fully explore the RV lifestyle across North America.”
“This merger will also allow us to drive more business to our RV park and campground advertisers and to our network of Good Sam Parks,” continued Lemonis. “We know that our success is predicated on the success of our customers, and combining the strength of the industry’s two leading directory brands is just one way in which we can ensure we are serving the needs of our campground, RV park and resort customers. Advertisers have asked us to consider a unified directory so that they can focus their marketing spend in one powerful vehicle. Thus we made this decision with our park and campground partners very much in mind, to provide them one ‘super directory’ which will be the ultimate marketing showcase for them.”
Beginning with the 2013 edition, a new campground directory under the Good Sam brand “will emerge from the best of both Woodall’s and Trailer Life directories, representing nearly 130 years of combined industry service and campground expertise.” The release stated that this new directory will offer higher circulation and even more online and mobile application marketing opportunities to campgrounds and parks. This combined directory will utilize the Trailer Life 10/10/10 rating system, with some enhancements borrowed from the Woodall’s rating system. The ratings as always will be based on personal visits by directory representatives.
Other improvements to the 2013 combined directory will include state and provincial points of interest, the RVers “Bucket List” for 2013, tips to improve your RV and camping lifestyle, 10-Minute Tech Tips, RV maintenance advice, how to buy or sell an RV, dealers and service station locations, games, puzzles, recipes and coupons. The directory will also spotlight the Good Sam RV Park and Resort network, “the largest affiliated park network in North America,” featuring more than 1,700 RV parks and resorts where Good Sam members can save 10% on nightly camping fees.
Both the Trailer Life and Woodall’s brands will continue into 2013 and beyond according to the company. Woodall’s regional directory editions will continue to be published in 2013, in an exclusive partnership with AAA, and Trailer Life Magazine will continue to be published on a monthly basis. Likewise websites, online directory search, and mobile applications will continue to exist for both brands.
The combined 2013 combined directory will not affect the distribution and circulation of the 2012 Trailer Life and Woodall’s directories, websites and mobile applications, as both the Trailer Life and Woodall’s 2012 directory editions will be available to consumers just the same as past years.
“We have some great enhancements for our advertising partners planned for our 2013 ‘super directory’ and are excited to share our plans with the industry at the upcoming ARVC Conference,” said Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher of the new combined directory. “Not only will we have more exciting marketing tools for parks to connect with avid RVers and campers, we will also expand our number of field teams to permit them to spend more time working with individual parks on their marketing program.
“We also want to assure our advertising customers that our 2012 Woodall’s and Trailer Life Directory circulation commitments will be met through our various distribution channels, beginning in December of this year and continuing throughout 2012. And we will continue to connect campgrounds with active RVers through our three websites, www.trailerlifedirectory.com, www.woodalls.com and www.goodsamclub.com, as well as through our mobile applications for both Trailer Life and Woodall’s directories.”
The release stated that the 2013 combined directory will take advantage of the previously separate circulation strategies for each brand. The Woodall’s Directory has been distributed through bookstores, mass merchant chains, Camping World stores, RV dealers and campgrounds, while the Trailer Life Directory has been primarily distributed to the Good Sam Club members and through internet sales. The combined directory in 2013 will utilize both these distribution strategies to reach all the active, affluent RVers and campers that each of these brands reached separately in the past. Campground search tools for the combined directory will also be available at www.trailerlifedirectory.com, www.woodalls.com and www.goodsamclub.com websites, as well as on campground search mobile applications for both iPhone and Android.
“Having this ‘super directory’ under the Good Sam brand will give our advertisers greater share of mind with the market’s largest RVer database, the combined 4 million plus avid RVers who are members of Good Sam and customers of Camping World,” added Lemonis. “While advertisers will benefit from the larger consumer audience, RVers will reap the rewards of a single source for all their RV travel planning needs. Publishing this combined directory under the Good Sam brand will be a powerful unifying strategy for our entire organization, and will further our mission to grow the Good Sam brand, Good Sam Club, and our Good Sam Park network.”
RVers in the market for a new model RV are in luck. The new RV Buyers Guide 2011 from Trailer Life and Woodall’s has been published.
The 176-page directory lists more than 400 motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, truck campers, folding camping trailers and sport utility recreational vehicles, according to a news release.
Each RV’s profile includes information about construction features, dimensions, popular options, RV weights and towing capacities, standard features, engines on powered RVs, and available options, all of which help buyers compare models from different manufacturers. Floorplans and warranty information are also included.
The guide costs $7.99 and is available from its publishers, at some newsstands and at RVbookstore.com.
Trailer Life magazine is now on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TrailerLifeMagazine.
‘”Like” the page to get updates of the RV industry, see exclusive photos and videos and connect with a community of RVers who share your lifestyle,” states a news release.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is the parent company of Trailer Life and RVBUSINESS.com.
This week’s ARVC Business Forum, held on the campus of Keystone RV Co. in Goshen, Ind., featured a typically lively give-and-take among the leadership of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and some of the nation’s key campground vendors.
Forum members met in conjunction with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Committee Week and Annual Meeting functions held not far away in downtown South Bend. The week’s agenda also included an industry party in recognition of what RVIA has designated in 2010 as the RV industry’s centennial.
The ARVC Business Forum brings together members of the ARVC Executive Committee and key players in the RV parks and campground business to discuss topical issues.
Shane Ott, director of campground relations for Thor Industries Inc., Keystone’s parent company, who helped orchestrate the meeting at Keystone, said the forum meeting at an RV company, a first for the forum, will help narrow “the huge gap” between the campground and RV industries. “There is no reason we shouldn’t do this more often,” he said.
A few forum highlights:
Mark Anderson, former ARVC chairman and owner of Camp Chautauqua Camping Resort, Chautauqua, N.Y., reported that his park and many others in the East “had almost a perfect Memorial Day weekend,” providing “a great start” to the season. The summer’s outlook for the Northeast is good as travel is up, he added. He noted that while the state of New York is “broke,” the governor found funds to reopen the state parks, which Anderson considers “an important baseline to private campgrounds.”
Vic Nolting, vice chairman of Leisure Systems Inc., franchisor of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, Milford, Ohio, began by summarizing, “In general, things look oh so much better than last year.” He then deferred to LSI’s COO, Rob Schutter Jr., who went into greater detail. Schutter echoed Anderson’s holiday observation. He said business in the Northeast is “leveling out” after “a disaster last year,” due to weather.
Schutter, noting that Yogi operators are seeing an upturn in campers’ ancillary spending after a 2%-3% downturn in such spending last year, reported that the rental market at Jellystone Parks is “through the roof,” thanks in part to its non-dependence on good weather and the growing number of visits of campers new to the Jellystone system.
LSI’s rental business was up 8% in 2009 and he expects another rise this year. The rental business, which puts campers into lodges and cabins, is bringing a lot of non-traditional or first-time campers, added Nolting. They explained that many Jellystone Parks maintain good working relationships with area chambers of commerce and hotels, which also spurs business. Cabin rental rates were $145 a night in 2009 and have been raised by $10 a night for the 2010 season, said Schutter, adding that LSI opened its first company-owned park this year in Bloomington, Ind.
Cindy Halley, publisher of the Trailer Life RV Parks and Campgrounds Directory and vice president of Good Sam Club marketing, Ventura, Calif., reported that TL’s rep teams are well underway in their collection of data and advertising sales for the 2011 directory. Team members “are very upbeat and expect a better year overall,” she said. On the club side, membership growth is exceeding forecasts and currently totals about 950,000. Good Sam Club members average 62 years of age and are typically retired, empty nesters. However, she added, the club is always trying to recruit younger members.
Eric Stumberg, president and co-founder of Wi-Fi provider TengoInternet, Austin, Texas, reported that TengoInternet’s acquisition of Nomad ISP is complete with Nomad’s clients integrated into Tengo’s in May, bringing its market penetration to some 800 parks and between 67,000 and 100,000 guests a month, depending upon the season.
Wi-Fi remains a key criteria in RVers’ decision on where to camp, he noted. He sees mobile point of sale terminals, such as an ice cream cart that accepts credit card swipes, becoming the next popular phase in parks and campgrounds. He is targeting 25% growth for 2010.
David L. Berg, ARVC chairman and owner of the Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, said business appears to be “back to where we used to be.” He had sold out his 140 sites for the July 4 holiday by Memorial Day and his tent and popup trailer sites sold out first for the first time ever.
Berg, at the same time, said he remains “boggled” by the growth and popularity of the cabin business. He charges $120 a night for a cabin, even though “the motel down the street charges $29.” He can explain the willingness to pay more because customers “want it all today, the safety, the experience…” He also is getting into the RV rental market, charging about $1,000 a week to rent a unit on-site.
Al Johnson, president of Recreational Adventures Co., an 11-park chain based in Hill City, S.D., reported “an exceptional Memorial Day” and stated that nine of his 11 KOA-affilitated properties are ahead of plan so far this year. He has begun to replace aged cabins with new park models. He is putting on hold an overhaul of RV sites until he can better determine size requirements for the next RV generation. He, too, saw more guests with tents and folding camping trailers last year, but said it’s too early to tell whether that trend will continue this year.
David Gorin, who wore multiple hats to the forum as a campground consultant, ARVC lobbyist, park owner and state association director, reported that his Holiday Cove RV Resort in Bradenton, Fla., experienced a 25% increase in business last year, with his rental business up 20%-25% annually.
Gorin says he sold approximately half of the lots for sale in his park in the last 19 months. As director of the Virginia Campground Association, he said that state’s parks are looking for a good year, but that they’re concerned about whether the Gulf oil spill will make its way eventually up the East Coast. Meanwhile, Gorin says his Best Parks in America network has grown from 22 to 63 parks in the past year, has recently finished a long-term strategy session and will be publishing its first print directory. Finally, Gorin announced that he will be building a new 250-site RV park in Palmetto, Fla.
Ann Emerson, ARVC Business Forum chairwoman and vice president of Woodall Publications, publisher of the Woodall’s North American Campground Directory, Ventura, Calif., said sales consultants are reporting overall that most parks are doing well. In general, parks near metro areas are still faring better than those in remote areas. And there’s a serious concern among tourism-related business operators — parks among them — in many Southern and Southeastern locales regarding the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill, prompting some owners to defer decisions on marketing expenses.
Emerson began a discussion on the explosion of social media in the campground business. At her parent company, Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), parent company of RV Business and Woodall’s Campground Management, almost all the websites have a Facebook page and each publication has at least one staff member assigned to increase its social media presence and AGI is developing a SmartPhone “app” for both of its campground directories. This discussion elicited comments on mobile marketing, which fueled a wider discussion on the explosion of mobile phone use in society. Some 90% of all U.S. homes have cell phones, and a significant percentage of Woodall customers have SmartPhones, she said. Stumberg noted that one study showed that almost as many people today access the Internet via their SmartPhones as from personal computers.
Bruce Hoster, president of Coast to Coast Resorts, the membership camping wing of AGI, said, “We think membership camping is due for a renaissance.” He cited a number of ways Coast to Coast is attracting new parks and members to the concept. As an aside, he observed that membership campgrounds are finding new revenue streams by developing storage facilities for their members’ RVs while they are not camping. For example, one membership park developed a 7-acre storage facility and realizes an estimated $1 million in revenue in annual storage fees. He reported that Camp Club USA, AGI’s discount camping club, “has come back strong after seeing a slight dip during the recession” with high renewal rates and is up to nearly 50,000 members. Coast to Coast, which has taken membership camping under its wing, sponsored a membership camping conference in February in Las Vegas and will sponsor another in February in New Orleans. He is working to make inroads with developers of hotel and condo complexes to consider integrating campgrounds into their projects, he said.
Pat Hittmeier, president of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Billings, Mont., said camping was “soft” over the winter, hindered by cold weather in its Southern campgrounds. But it’s taken off since May and was up 7% through Memorial Day. KOA is projecting an 8% increase through Labor Day, said Hittmeier, adding that use of the Internet to make reservations is up 12% over last year, a reflection of more business in general and the migration of campers to the Internet.
KOA has 4,000 units in its lodging pool and that business is strong, he said. Lodges make up 13% of the total KOA sites, but the company is aiming to raise that figure to 20% at 50% of its campgrounds. KOA also is looking to increase its first-time visits, which now make up 15% to 19% of its total guests.
ARVC loyalist Ian Steyn, owner of Jellystone Castle Rock Campground, Castle Rock, Colo., noted that his business is up 38% year-over-year, and 2009 was a good year for his business. He discussed an integrated approach to promoting the outdoors with other hospitality businesses in his community seeking to make it the epicenter for outdoor recreation in his state.
Larry Weaver, park model sales manager for CrossRoads RV, Topeka, Ind., briefly outlined the preferred park model program his parent company, Thor Industries Inc., has established with ARVC. Weaver stressed that campground owners should make sure they buy “ruggedized” park models for their rental units and refrain from features such as carpeting that will not hold up well under the rigors of long-term use.
“RVers spend vast amounts of time in the great outdoors, so it’s only natural that they want to help preserve and improve the environment they enjoy so much,” said Sue Bray, vice president and executive director of the Good Sam Club. “These two initiatives give participants the opportunity to make a real difference for generations of RVers to come.”
More than 9 million people in the U.S. now own RVs. For thousands of RVers, The Rally is the event and vacation destination of the year. RV newbies and veterans alike will gather to share the wildly popular recreation lifestyle through seminars, exhibits, entertainment, games and meetings with industry experts from around the world.
The Rally is an annual event hosted by the Good Sam Club, the world’s largest RV owners’ group with more than 1.5 million member families nationwide, along with Camping World President’s Club, Camp Club USA, Coast to Coast Resorts, Woodall’s and Trailer Life and MotorHomemagazines. All the organizations are either owned by or affiliated with Affinity, the nation’s largest provider of outdoor recreation clubs, services, media and events, headquartered in Ventura, Calif.
RVBusiness magazine and RVBUSINESS.com are also owned by Affinity.
Going Green contest participants are asked to submit an initial outline of their projects by April 10 to Bob Difley at email@example.com, or by mail to “Going Green” ideas contest 2009, 2575 Vista del Mar Drive, Ventura, CA 93001.
Daily admission is $10 for adults, and a second day’s free pass can be obtained at The Rally site; children 12 and under are free. Admission is also free for Albuquerque area Boy Scouts and their immediate families on Sunday, April 19, provided they wear their Boy Scout uniforms. RV sites start at $169 for two people. Additional information and registration can also be found online at www.therally.com.
For more information, visit www.therally.com. To learn more about Brawdy’s adventure, log onto www.brianbrawdy.com or www.wonderexplorebelieve.net.