The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) is moving the 2020 Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE) to a virtual format this year in response to health concerns related to the COVID pandemic.
The decision was announced following a vote by the ARVC Board of Directors.
“By nature, campground owners, operators and staff thrive on human contact — a major factor in the consideration when determining the option of an in-person event, but ultimately, the current and potential risks and concerns associated with the COVID pandemic, combined with member feedback from two recent surveys, led to this decision,” explained Paul Bambei, president and CEO of ARVC. “Additionally, many of the features ARVC contracted with the host hotel and convention center would be severely limited or unavailable, creating an in-person atmosphere that was not optimal.”
The virtual OHCE 2020 will take place Nov. 2-5 — the same dates the in-person event was scheduled. OHCE 2020, originally planned to be held in Daytona Beach, Fla., is typically a four-day event, including more than 40 educational seminars, a trade show with more than 120 vendors, tours of local campgrounds, ARVC’s Awards of Excellence program and more.
“ARVC is excited at the unique possibilities that using a state-of-the-art platform for a virtual OHCE will offer both attendees and supplier vendors,” according to the press release. “Hosting a virtual conference gives everyone in the outdoor hospitality industry, which includes park owners and their employees from around the globe, the opportunity to join for a forward-thinking event that will bring the industry together to share new ideas for the future.”
“The ARVC team is confident we can produce a unique virtual event that will rival any previous OHCE — an event that will be remembered for years to come as a responsible alternative in the age of COVID and a unique and positive experience for our industry,” Bambei says. “Our team has literally hit the ground running and is already planning to make this year’s event an experience that attendees will find extremely valuable. From listening to our members, it seems there is a wide variety of experiences with virtual events — some good, some not so good. I strongly believe that after attendees experience OHCE2020, the perception of virtual events will be forever changed.”
While it has been a challenging year across the board in the outdoor hospitality industry, the future of camping is bright, with more people interested in camping than ever before as a way of responsibly recreating in the great outdoors. The industry is poised for rapid growth, but attendees need to learn new tools, techniques and strategies that come with these changing trends and business models, explained the release.
“People are craving experiences more than ever, and campground owners and operators need to know how to provide that peaceful feeling of escapism while creating the safest atmosphere possible,” said Paula Horwitz, ARVC’s executive director of education and events. “Just like we would have at an in-person OHCE, our expert speaker lineup at this year’s virtual event will provide engaging learning opportunities designed to provide the instructions and insights campground owners, managers and their employees need to take their campground to the next level.”
A virtual OHCE event will also allow ARVC to deliver significant savings to attendees, reducing registration and travels costs, while still providing an equally robust experience. Increasing the accessibility of the event will create the opportunity for more members of the outdoor hospitality community to participate, allowing for new and varied viewpoints, experiences and networking connections than ever before.
“We are excited to be able to bring OHCE right into your office, living room or wherever you learn best, and focus on making this year’s event the best ever,” Horwitz says. “One of the key hurdles to any in-person event is that folks have to travel, so now that we are making this event virtual we can reach a larger audience and allow even more interested attendees to join us in learning and networking.
“We had to pivot our first Prospective Owners Workshop (POW) to virtual this summer and saw just how impactful a virtual learning experience can be,” she added. “It served as a test case for us, so now we are certain we can build upon that baseline experience, utilize enhanced technology platforms that foster engagement, interaction, and ease of access, and take this virtual OHCE to new heights — all while continuing to meet member expectations for top-class education, networking, and business growth through deals built on the expo floor. Will it be different? You bet. And that is probably the most exciting part! OHCE 2020 isn’t going to be another Zoom meeting. It isn’t going to be just a bunch of talking heads. It’s going to be an engaging event focused on the highest-quality education and networking opportunities, and it’s literally going to be available to a global audience.”
ARVC is working with Conference Direct, a leader in the conference technology field, and is excited about the options and tools available to create a truly memorable and unique experience for attendees.
“We will be making a series of announcements in the coming days and weeks that I believe will have you sharing in our excitement,” Bambei says. “From fully interactive and engaging education sessions (not just listening to talking heads!) to unique and entertaining networking events and innovative ways for everyone to access it all, ARVC has a plan in the works for an event unlike anything our industry has ever seen or experienced.”
Last year ARVC reimagined OHCE to include an improved Welcome Reception, Takeaway Tours, Paws for A Break puppy cuddling stations, membership awards luncheon, reservation management panel, a bingo card to incentivize expo booth visits, interactive Campfire Sessions during the expo and more, to create a unique OHCE experience. Going to a virtual platform will force ARVC to innovate even more new ways to create memorable social moments for our attendees, according to the release.
“Necessity is the mother of invention, so this is an opportunity for us to use new avenues and technology to create amazing ways to entertain and interact with our attendees. We are sure we will find creative and fun ways to blow your minds,” noted Horwitz. “As our move to a virtual conference proves, what worked seven months ago may be obsolete now, so you need to adjust your thinking to survive and thrive.”
More details on the event will be announced soon, including instructions on how to register for the virtual OHCE 2020 event. If you had previously registered for the in-person event, please contact the ARVC events department at (303) 681-0401.