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The nation’s campground business is being fueled by a number of positive developments, including record RV sales, increased consumer interest in leisure activities with family and friends and favorable publicity of the RV lifestyle.
Campground operators need to do more, however, to strengthen public awareness of the benefits of camping, particularly given the increased competition from other leisure travel businesses, according to top officials of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
That was one of several key messages ARVC officials presented to several hundred of the nation’s campground operators as they converged on Savannah, Ga., to attend the annual InSites Convention & Expo.
The Dec. 1–4 event, which ARVC co-hosted with the Professional Paddlesports Association and the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), featured numerous educational seminars, the largest trade show in ARVC’s history and an awards banquet. And during the annual meeting, ARVC President and CEO Linda Profaizer and ARVC Chairman Kathy Palmeri updated campground operators on the state of the campground business and the latest developments involving their Falls Church, Va., association.
During her keynote address, Profaizer said the nation’s campground operators have benefited from news stories that stimulate consumer interest in camping and RV travel.
“We’ve generated media coverage in daily newspapers from the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, magazines from Holiday Travel to Parents, online coverage on sites like CNN.com, MSNBC and Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, and television coverage following the multigenerational travels of a family as they took a six-week RV trip staying at ARVC member parks and rediscovering family on the Today Show. But we need your help to keep that momentum going,” she said.
“To the more than 350 parks that have already contributed over $53,000 to the GoCampingAmerica National Promotion program, please accept our most grateful appreciation and thanks. But we are still far short of our $120,000 goal, which enables us to make a contribution on behalf of our membership to the Go RVing national advertising campaign and to help promote the lifestyle and opportunities available to the public at our member parks.”
Profaizer also called on campground operators to participate in the ARVC-Woodall’s national occupancy survey, a first of its kind survey that provides campground operators with benchmarks against which they can measure the performance of their own businesses. Profaizer said the survey is also designed to help raise the economic profile of the campground sector by calling public attention to the economic benefits that private campgrounds and RV parks provide to their communities.
“I want to thank all of you who participated in that survey and encourage more of you to do it,” Profaizer said. “I know it takes an extra effort and is one more thing for you to do, but your industry needs you to participate. We had 200 plus people sign up to participate, but while we got signatures, that didn’t necessarily translate into action.
“As our industry’s profile has grown in the national travel and tourism community, we quickly recognize that we need more information, more data, and more research to tell our story. What are our occupancy numbers week to week, and month to month? What’s our impact on the local community? How are reservations looking for the summer? These are the questions being asked and we need to be able to give a solid answer based on facts.”
Palmeri, who owns Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Estes Park, Colo., said the marketing challenges are readily apparent, even as the RV industry enjoys some of the strongest sales in the past 25 years. “The RV/camping lifestyle continues to take center stage in America’s travel and tourism community,” she said, “though I do have to tell you that all areas of leisure travel have picked up considerably this year.”
She said that campgrounds “provide the perfect spot for families to enjoy their vacations and we need to do the best job we can of selling that lifestyle.”
Palmeri noted several ARVC achievements in 2004, including the adoption of a new strategic plan; an increase in ARVC’s membership to 3,858, which she credited in large part to the efforts of ARVC’s state affiliates; and increased collaboration and interaction with RV industry associations, including the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
In addition to presentations by senior ARVC officials, the four-day-event included the largest trade show in ARVC history, with 180 exhibitors filling 250 booths and 97,000 square feet of exhibition space.