High gas prices have yielded relatively little impact on occupancy levels at private campgrounds this year, according to Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) who is addressing state campground associations nationwide this spring.
Speaking most recently to park operators attending a Mar. 13 meeting of the Louisiana Campground Owners Association at the Yogi Bear Park in Robert, La., Profaizer said the latest Woodall’s/ARVC occupancy reports reflected an average of 53% occupancy on weekends and 44% during the week over the period leading up to Valentine’s Day.
“It appears that the industry is off to another good season,” she said. “We have heard nothing but positive reports from the RV shows. Attendance seems to be up and our state executives are reporting that they have handed out far more directories this year at shows than last year.
“Several Snowbelt parks expressed that they have felt the effects of higher gas prices with delayed visitation by their winter guests,” she added. “Some RVers may be staying closer to home or are staying in one place for a longer period of time, but they are still traveling.”
Profaizer also reminded park owners that a survey conducted in the aftermath of last fall’s hurricanes found that the price of gasoline would not affect RVers’ travels until the price rose to $4 per gallon.
While Profaizer noted that RV shipments are expected to modestly decline this year, 2006 is still expected to record the third highest yearly total in 28 years. These declines, she said, would primarily affect motorhomes, but also folding camping trailers and truck campers, which tend to be purchased by those most sensitive to rising interest rates and smaller gains in real income
Profaizer also referenced economist Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, who has indicated that favorable population trends could still push RV shipments above the 500,000 mark within the next five to 10 years.
Profaizer noted that ARVC continues to make progress in its marketing efforts, with significant upgrades being made to the GoCampingAmerica website. “We are in the process of calling member parks to update their membership profiles,” said Profaizer, a former executive for Woodall Publications Corp. “Unbelievably, many of our members have never updated their park information on the GoCampingAmerica website. It would be a shame to launch our new website with minimal information. All members can help by downloading the member profile on the ARVC.org website and filling it in and either e-mailing it or faxing it to the office.”
Updated information also is needed, she added, because MapQuest is getting ready to produce a second version of its camping atlas and will utilize information from the GoCampingAmerica website to complete that process.
ARVC is also finalizing plans for a state branding strategy aimed at driving more business to ARVC-member parks, she said.
At the same time, ARVC is continuing to seek voluntary contributions for its industry promotion fund to support Phase IV of the Go RVing Coalition’s national advertising campaign in addition to ARVC’s own public relations outreach and the GoCampingAmerica website.
“As of the end of February,” Profaizer stated, “we have total contributions of $48,500, which is almost $10,000 more than the same time the previous year. Our goal is to raise at least $125,000 – a goal we have never achieved. Last year, we were able to contribute $85,000 toward the Go RVing campaign and we hope to be able to exceed that this year.”
Contributors to the GoRVing national advertising program receive access to unlimited leads and promotional photos, and a listing on the Go RVing website.
On the legislative front, Profaizer said ARVC is again supporting passage of a “Gateways” Senate bill aimed at bringing private enterprises near major national parks into closer communication with federal authorities for planning purposes. “We have also commented on the proposed National Parks Management Policy and the importance of optimizing public access to the national parks, while urging efforts to reduce the impact of unfair competition,” she said.
Profaizer said ARVC is working closely with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to address customer satisfaction issues. “Richard Coon, newly appointed president of RVIA, attended our business forum meeting the beginning of February and talked about his association’s concern for our sector of the industry and their desire to work together,” said Profaizer. “Mike Molino, president of RVDA, met with all of us earlier in the meeting for a discussion of the Go RVing Committee on Excellence and its newly broadened direction to play a more active role in identifying customer satisfaction issues and developing solutions to increase contentment among RV owners. The objective of this expanded committee is to promote a cooperative approach within the industry to solve key quality issues in the hope of improving customer satisfaction.”
Profaizer said five ARVC members are serving on five newly created task forces, which are addressing key dealer/manufacturer customer service issues, including the availability of spare parts, warranties, industry-wide training, dealer support and product quality.
In terms of disaster relief, ARVC raised $31,550, which has been used by four parks. Profaizer said just over $18,000 remained in the fund and that more contributions were needed.