> SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE! 

A speech by Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard DeVos Jr. helped the Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds of Michigan (ARVC Michigan) post its highest turnout ever for the association’s annual spring convention and trade show.
More than 210 people representing about 110 parks attended the March 22-24 convention, held at the Valley Plaza Resort in Midland, Mich. The three-day event also featured a trade show with 67 vendors, the highest in ARVC Michigan history, said Wayne Purchase, the association’s executive director.
Purchase attributed the high turnout to the quality and caliber of the speakers, including DeVos, son of billionaire Amway founder Richard DeVos; Steve Yencich, president and CEO of the Michigan Hotel, Motel & Resort Association; and Don Holecek of Michigan State University’s Tourism Center, who is developing a strategic tourism plan for the state.
DeVos talked about Michigan’s need to support small businesses, including campgrounds, said Purchase, noting that the role of small business is becoming increasingly important to Michigan’s economy given the problems faced by the state’s auto industry. Michigan is one of only three states in the country that have fewer jobs today than they did two years ago, Purchase said. The other states are Louisiana and Mississippi, which faced widespread devastation following Hurricane Katrina.
Yencich, whose association helped ARVC Michigan reestablish post Labor Day startup dates for public schools, talked about the need to increase Michigan’s state tourism spending from $5.4 million to about $30 million.
Holecek said he’s working on a plan that could help the tourism industry substantiate the need for increased state tourism funding.
Also on hand was Walter Preble of Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), who talked about KOA’s research involving trends in the campground sector. Bob MacKinnon of Murrieta, Calif.-based Mackinnon Campground Consulting, provided three educational seminars focusing on the benefits of conducting guest satisfaction surveys, ways to resolve guest problems and how to develop and market premium campsites.
In addition, Tom Zuidema of McLean, Va.-based David Gorin and Associates, conducted a seminar on how to convert a campground to an RV or condominium resort.
Looking ahead to the summer travel season, Purchase said Michigan’s campground business looks stable, as long as gas prices stay in check. “If we keep gas prices at decent levels, we’ll have a real steady year,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is anticipating a lot of growth. We’ll probably stay even or maybe go up just a small amount.”