Nearly 400 Canadian RV dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and campground operators have done something that has never before occurred on a similar scale among their U.S. counterparts: They held a four-day convention designed to educate and unite one another toward a common goal of improving and better promoting their nation’s RV and camping sectors.
 “This is a groundbreaking situation in the Canadian RV industry,” said Roger Faulkner, vice president of sales and marketing for Thor’s General Coach East, of Hensall, Ontario.
The 2003 RV & Camping Convention, the second event of its kind in Canada, with the first convening two years ago in Quebec City, was held Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Calgary, Alberta.
Among those attending were members of the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association (CRVA) of Toronto, Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDAX) of Vancouver and Campgrounds Campings Canada (CCC).
While at the convention, CCC, a Toronto trade association representing campgrounds across the country, adopted a standardized rating system for private campgrounds. Peter Bingeman, past president of Campgrounds Campings Canada, said the same ratings system currently used by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would be applied to campgrounds across Canada.
The program, called Camping Select, requires campground operators to pay for a private third-party consultant to inspect their facilities for cleanliness, amenities, recreation and quality of construction. The consultants’ reports are then provided to campground associations, which publish them in their annual directories.
Bingeman, who co-owns and operates Country Gardens RV Park in Petersburg, Ontario, said the Camping Select program has been successfully utilized for several years in eastern Canada and has won the respect of campground operators who appreciate the value of a standard, industrywide rating system. “This,” he said, “could raise the bar of quality at private parks across Canada.”
Meanwhile, Faulkner, who served as chairman of the group that organized the Calgary convention, said efforts to unify the Canadian RV and camping arenas are gaining momentum.
Convention participants voted to hold their third industrywide convention in October of 2005 in the Maritime Provinces on Prince Edward Island, Faulkner said.
“We’re all in the same canoe,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the past in the RV industry in North America, we’ve all been paddling different canoes in different directions.”
But industrywide events, such as the Calgary convention and the 2001 convention in Quebec City, give dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and campground operators a chance to network with one another to better understand each other’s businesses so that they can find more ways to help each other and better serve the RVing consumer, he said.
Bingeman, past president of Campgrounds Campings Canada, shares Faulkner’s perspective. “There was a time,” he said, “when dealers never talked to campground operators. They were like oil and water. That’s not the case today.”
The Calgary convention, for example, gave campground operators a chance to inform RV dealers and manufacturers of some of the intricacies of the campground business and of the physical characteristics that limit some campgrounds’ abilities to accommodate the largest recreational vehicles.
“Not all campgrounds can accommodate all units,” said Bingeman. “And in some cases, they don’t want to. All campgrounds can’t be all things to all people.”
For instance, some parks are in remote locations that simply cannot accommodate these larger RVs, said Bingeman, adding that dealers should be conveying this kind of information to consumers.
RVDA of Canada President Derek Dobson said the Calgary conference gracefully blended educational seminars with edifying guest speakers and social events.
“It encourages all industry partners to network so we can all appreciate what each of us goes through in running (our) particular businesses,” he said.
Speakers at the Calgary convention included David Suzuki, a winner of the United Nations Medal and one of the world’s leading scientists in the area of sustainable ecology, as well as Lanny McDonald, one of Canada’s most popular hockey players. Among the workshop speakers were John Spader, president of The Spader Companies, Sioux City, S.D.; Harvey Cohen, an expert in closing techniques; and Doug Crapo, president of EXCELeration, a Calgary tourism consulting firm.