Motorhomes fill the Indiana State Fairgrounds during FMCA’s 2017 Convention & Expo (Photo by Shawn Spence)

Things are looking good for the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA97th International Convention and RV Expo, slated for Thursday through Sunday (March 15-18) at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry, marking the first time ever that the Cincinnati-based owners club will welcome towable RV owners into its rally ranks.

“We’re going to have our biggest rally, attendance-wise, since 2011,” FMCA Executive Director Chris Smith told RVBUSINESS.com. “We expect over 2,600 family coaches here on site. To put that into perspective, in 2016 – the last time we were in Perry – we had just shy of 2,000. So just in a two-year span, we’ve increased our attendance by nearly 700 units. Things are going well for us.”

Smith, a former controller who moved up to the executive director’s slot in October of 2016, says the total count of attendee coaches – towable and motorized – could reach 2,700 including late arrivals before all is said and done. Adding in the commercial displays manned by manufacturers and dealers, the total show tally will be closer to 3,000 units with more than 6,000 people on site for a get-together that the owners club likens to “a small city on wheels.”

Exhibitor space is also strong, about 5% ahead of FMCA’s last foray into Perry, for an organization that has been countering the effects of the Great Recession in terms of membership.

“We’ve had two straight years of positive membership growth and we’re easily heading toward a third year in a row,” said Smith. “We haven’t had a streak of positive membership growth since mid-2000 before this three-year run, so everything’s pointing up for us including our recent vote to include towable RV owners as members. Actually, this past week, we welcomed our 1,000th nonmotorhome member. So, things are looking up for FMCA. I can’t complain at all.”

On the doorstep of its Georgia rally, during which more than 100 educational sessions are being held and attendees are invited to tour a wide range of RVs as part of the commercial displays, Smith took a moment to reflect on the membership challenges that FMCA has been facing over the past few years and the fact that it involved, in his view, more than the recession.

“When we experienced our losses, a lot of it had to do with market conditions, but like a lot of companies and organizations that you’ve seen in recent years that at one time were much larger – they (FMCA) kind of fell behind the times,” said Smith, whose nonprofit organization operates with a staff of about 45 part-time and full-time employees. “They kind of got comfortable. They thought, ‘it’s just the way it worked before so it’s going to continue to work.’

 “We’ve done a very good job, I think, in the last couple of years of catching up with the times, doing much more marketing than we were doing before, which was none – especially digital advertising and finding relevant new benefits that people want.

“We now have an unbeatable price for roadside assistance and other services,” he added. “We have technology discounts that will save our members a lot of money. We’re trying to keep adding relevant benefits that make it a no-brainer to join.”