They are concerned about the economic impact of a possible war against Iraq, but RV industry leaders and company executives remain upbeat in their outlooks for the RV market in 2003.
David Humphreys, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which represents RV manufacturers and supplier firms, said he is not second-guessing the forecast of a 5% increase in shipments this year, which was formulated late last year by Dr. Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center.
But Humphreys cautioned that important circumstances are beyond the industry’s control. “We’re sort of in uncharted territory,” he said.
Meanwhile, Craig Jensen, principal of Blaine Jensen & Sons RV in Kaysville, Utah, and a former chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), said he has expanded his inventory because he is confident sales will remain strong. “I think people are going to be there for us,” he said. “It’s been two years of negative talk. The war talk has been going on for a long time. People are saying, ‘I’ve got to live my life and do what I want to do.’ ”
If there is a war against Iraq, Jensen also believes it would be of short duration with marginal economic impact.
Doug Sieler, vice president and general manager of S & S Camper Manufacturing in Kalispell, Mont., also remains optimistic. “I think we’re going along better than last year,” he said.
Optimism is apparent in the campground sector as well, where many parks are planning to upgrade their facilities this year. An example is Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Estes Park, Colo., owned in part by Kathy Palmeri, the new chairwoman of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
“Reservations through the fall were very weak,” Palmeri said. “But as of Jan. 1, reservations seem to be tracking quite well, along the lines of last year.”
However, Palmeri added that it’s getting more difficult for campgrounds to forecast their volume because travelers are booking reservations much closer to their time of arrival. “The booking cycle is dramatically shorter than it used to be,” she said, noting that more than half of the visitors to Colorado are making their reservations less than 30 days before their arrival.
“I think people are looking for deals,” she said. “They’re just evaluating their choices closer in. And they have the flexibility to do it because none of us are full all of the time.”
But, in general, Palmeri said her customers’ attitudes are “very positive” so she is optimistic about the coming season.