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Nearly a third of the 166 people who registered for the Life on Wheels (LoW) RV education conference preceding the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa., were non-owners, according to LoW founder and director Gaylord Maxwell.
And that bodes well for potential RV sales, said Maxwell, an author, former teacher and ex-RV dealer.
“I was very much surprised,” he said. “At our Idaho conference in July (non-RV owners were) more like 8%. But Idaho is a long way off and it takes a special effort to get there. It’s more likely that an avid RVer would come to Idaho as opposed to someone who had to buy an airline ticket to get there.”
The 3 1/2-day conference, held Sept. 7-10 at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pa., offered technical and practical classroom courses for RV owners and potential owners. The session is among three conducted annually by LoW on the ins-and-outs of RVing. Subjects covered in around 20 90-minute seminars include technical matters, safety topics and RV lifestyle lectures by Maxwell and other industry experts.
The interest among non-RV owners is important, particularly with the soft RV market, Maxwell said. “The fact that it came up to the average here, I think is impressive,” he said. “I know that one of the couples that attended our session bought a big fifth-wheel. And we know of two other couples who were close to buying.”
Maxwell’s report coincided with early word from manufacturers and others at the Hershey Show, which closed Sunday. Several companies said they had met or exceeded their pre-show sales goals.
The 14-year-old LoW program has held a conference in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Show, among the largest U.S. retail shows, since 1997.
“We have created a lot of buyers and we’ve made a lot of people more avid buyers,” Maxwell said, adding that more than 10,000 people have attended Life on Wheels conferences.
LoW is sponsored by about 50 manufacturers, dealers, suppliers and campgrounds, and is based at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. Plans call for 2009 conferences March 17-20 in Tucson, Ariz., June 14-19 in Lewiston and Sept. 13-16 in Harrisburg.