While admiring the grandeur on display at one of North America’s most picturesque coastlines, administrators for the Canadian Recreation Vehicle Association (CRVA) tackled some burning issues during its June 19-21 Annual General Meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“We had never traveled to Newfoundland to hold our board meetings,” said CRVA Executive Chairman Shane Devenish, noting the group’s 42-year history. “The island is absolutely spectacular. The province is unique in that it costs $5,000 to ship an RV from Elkhart, so units cost more. But there are still a lot of RV owners along with 70 campgrounds and 10 to 12 dealers, so the province is an important part of Canada for the RV industry.”
While covering a lot of ground at the executive meeting, Devenish told RVBUSINESS.com that tariffs were the primary focus. Although RVs are currently excluded, the situation still ranks as a looming problem.
“We feel very fortunate that the tariffs do not list RVs at this time,” said Devenish, noting that recreational boats are impacted. “If they do add RVs, dealers would be paying an extra 10% for units before they even cross the border. There are a lot of our dealers that wouldn’t be able to afford the on-the-spot 10% tariff and many would consider canceling their orders after the July 1 date takes effect. It would be devastating to the industry, especially with sales booming. We were up around 29% for the first quarter, and if we continued on that pace we will be reaching a new record for shipments.
“We have stepped up our lobbying efforts with MP’s and are working closely with our U.S. counterparts to rally against the tariffs,” he emphasized. “It’s the uncertainty that is really troubling. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Devenish noted that the cost of components, particularly appliances, had risen which translates to a higher price tag on RVs. “In some cases, we have seen the price of an RV go up a few thousand dollars,” he related. “We haven’t seen a reaction as yet from consumers — they’re still buying RVs. But it’s another unknown. Historically, when the dollar is more volatile then discretionary sales will be impacted.”
In addition to tariffs, CRVA also took aim at the industry’s pressing need for training and recruiting more service personnel. “We have to attract younger people,” Devenish stated. “We are intent on growing our training and getting a lot more qualified apprentices.
“We are working with RVDA of Canada to support their objective at opening new training centers in eastern Canada,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to set up a dedicated service center as RVIA just announced. Right now, RVDA works in partnership with community colleges in Alberta and in British Columbia but we all would like to see colleges in eastern Canada available for training.”
He added, “RVDA of Canada and CRVA are talking with RVIA about the curriculum they’re putting together for the Elkhart service center to compare, support and improve the programs that are currently available here.”
Devenish said other areas of focus included the industry’s Go RVing Canada initiative which has seen a lot of traction through its “Wildhood” ad campaign while executives also reviewed the association’s five-year plan and “what our future looks like,” according to Devenish.
“It was one of the most productive meetings we’ve ever had,” he noted. “We invited our industry partners which included RVDA of Canada, RVIA, Go RVing Canada and the Canadian Camping and RV Council. We held a reception after our general meeting on June 20 where we met with local campgrounds and RV dealerships to discuss RVing in Newfoundland. Plus, of course we were all able to enjoy Newfoundland’s beautiful scenery and nuances so it was a very productive and very memorable three days.”