RVIA’s James Ashurst

Assuming oversight for the first year of the RV Aftermarket Conference, the RV Industry Association faithfully followed the long-time model crafted by the RV Aftermarket Association (RVAA) while introducing features that “enhanced the product for all attendees,” according to RVIA Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing James Ashurst. The conference is slated to run Aug. 13-16 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, Fla.

“When we committed to overseeing the event for three years, we agreed that no changes would be implemented unless approved by the RV Aftermarket Committee and task force,” said Ashurst, noting that the RVAA board voted to join RVIA’s ranks during last year’s June conference. “The nature of the conference has always been to create a business-style forum for RVAA suppliers and distributors to meet directly with their customers for 20 minutes. It’s what we call corporate speed seating.

“We left the premise intact, but we improved the process for how meetings are scheduled, allowing for better spacing between appointments. We heard that people were rushed, so we wanted to create a format where things would flow better between business meetings.”

Part of that initiative is to schedule future conferences at venues that offer suite-only accommodations, as Ashurst noted, “It would better accommodate that business format, again giving attendees more mobility and accessibility when moving from meeting to meeting.”

Ashurst told RVBUSINESS.com that the biggest change to the conference agenda was adding a presentation on research compiled by RVIA that examines RVers’ experiences and thoughts about purchasing aftermarket parts and accessories. 

“In talking with RVAA leadership, we heard over and over again that they wanted to better understand what factors influence consumers when purchasing RV parts and accessories,” he said. “Having this new research is not only good for companies in the aftermarket, but it also benefits suppliers looking to enter that space. It will provide a very good value for conference attendees while also solidifying the aftermarket as part of RVIA.”

Ashurst maintained that RVAA’s inclusion under the RVIA banner has generated benefits and opportunities beyond the conference.

“We had a lot of discussions with RVAA executives leading up to their event last year, pointing out the reasons to join,” he said. “We felt the aftermarket was a bit of an underserved segment of the industry. We talked to them about the resources and assets we could bring to the table, and prior to the conference the board agreed to join.

”It was clear they wanted to work more closely with us and, as a result, I think they now have better representation and an equal voice in RVIA,” Ashurst added. “By being in RVIA there is more and more engagement, and companies have become involved in more RVIA-related activities. Several aftermarket companies came to Committee Week and saw how our committees work. They also had a good contingent that participated in Advocacy Day.”

Steve Johnson, co-chair for the RV Aftermarket Committee, noted that while they have only “scratched the surface” in terms of what the alignment offers, he sees tremendous potential moving forward. “RVIA brings a depth of talent to the table,” he said. “They are providing a lot of opportunities that we didn’t have access to before. The statistical research will be huge and we’re really looking forward to seeing the results in August.”

In turn, Ashurst said RVIA has also widened its industry scope, as RVAA brings another key market under the organization’s purview.

“It’s about us having a more representative voice for the entire industry,” he said. “We are the industry leader in consumer trends and research and it’s important to highlight the aftermarket as a way of keeping current RVers in the industry. It has been highly publicized that our focus is on the consumer experience and the aftermarket is certainly a big part of that.”