After two final seminars on compliance issues this morning (Nov. 10), the books will have officially closed on the 2017 Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) International Convention/Expo at Bally’s in Las Vegas.

By all accounts, this year’s edition of the annual Con/Expo – sponsored by RVDA, RVDA of Canada and the Mike Molino RV Learning Center – was highly successful.

And beyond final attendance numbers, which are expected shortly – although pre-registrations were up about 7% – dealers and vendors told RVBUSINESS.com the Con/Expo had a certain “buzz” and “energy” about it this year.

Tim Hyland

• Tim Hyland, president of Wells Fargo CDF’s RV Group, which was a Platinum Sponsor of the Con/Expo, said it’s a “great show because it focuses on education.”

“We support it because we believe in the development of dealers and dealer business. As we all work together to make the industry work well, having good, solid, well-trained businesses – whether it’s a dealership or a finance company or a manufacturer – I just think it’s very positive, and we want to support that,” he said.

“One of the reasons we’re focused on education is, we’ve all learned the time to change is when times are good because you have the resources, the time and energy to be able to do that,” he continued. “Times are good right now and you want to make sure that you’ve got your business running really well, and not just taking advantage of a good market, because you can cover up a lot of problems when there’s a good market. Take advantage of this time to learn, get educated, use these resources to create a good business that’s sustainable through all cycles.”

Jeff Hirsch

• Jeff Hirsch, CEO of Camper’s Inn RV, which has 19 dealerships in the Eastern U.S., said the Con/Expo is the one event throughout the year that’s a “true dealership event.”

“With that being said, it is truly built for the future success of our RV dealers, RVDA members. I think that because of its purpose, it allows us to build a convention that supports many facets in helping a dealership better understand the important things that they have to look at, not only today but in the future,” Hirsch said.

“The other thing I would say,” he continued, “is that the Con/Expo serves a lot of unique purposes. One of the purposes for me that I enjoy most is seeing my old friends. It’s a networking event, unlike any other event within the industry. How it differs is that Open House and Louisville are great events, but they’re sale-oriented events for the manufacturer. This isn’t about sales; it’s about education. It’s about networking, learning and it’s about just new ideas and new products.

“Just last night,” he added, “I was going through the Expo and seeing all the advances in technology and social networking and website design. To some degree it’s overwhelming, but this is where we’re going as an industry. In that regard, the Con/Expo is extremely relevant for today’s RV dealer.”

• Sean Raynor, general manager of IDS, a major supplier of Dealer Management Software (DMS) products and services, said the 2017 Con/Expo has been the “biggest event I’ve seen in terms of the show in a very long time.”

“The traffic has been great and everybody’s very positive. The industry’s doing very, very well,” Raynor said. “The other comment I’d like to make is I’m starting to see now, this year especially, dealers who previously had just brought themselves or one other person are now bringing more of their management team. You’re seeing controllers and other department heads that normally haven’t been able to make the trip. I think that’s really great because it’s more exposure for a bigger part of the organization.”

Jamie Dodd

• Jamie Dodd, owner of Dodd RV in Portsmouth and Yorktown, Va., said the Con/Expo was a “great show with a lot of great vendors, a lot of great speakers, and overall good attendance.” Dodd said he especially enjoys catching up with longtime friends, but added this year he was able to gather some good insight for improving dealer operations.

“A lot of it, at least for us, is in the service and parts side of our dealerships. We got some good nuggets from the teachers here on that,” Dodd said. “We’re looking to improve our performance in service and parts. It’s really going to help us be able to focus in on the service side of it and help us keep up with the demand for service, which is sky high. It’ll help us shorten our backlog of work, which is several weeks now.”

• Noting that some suppliers and other vendors have stepped up their game when it comes to display booths, MORryde Sales and Marketing Manager Jack Enfield said he and his team “very much enjoyed” the Con/Expo this year.

“We’ve been consistent attenders at RVDA over the years and we find this one to have a little bit more energy,” he said. “It definitely seems to be a little bit up in attendance and we’re seeing the right people. We’ve enjoyed being here, and we plan on coming back again next year.”

Dave Schutz

• Dometic Corp.’s Senior Vice President of RV OEM Sales Dave Schutz said his company is able to see many of the dealers from the western U.S. and Canada at Con/Expo who might not make it to the Louisville Show.

“I might add that, this being the first year that I’ve come to the show, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of the OEM leadership at the highest levels who attend,” Schutz said, noting the Expo floor was shoulder to shoulder with people. “Especially here today, the arena floor is filled with a lot of people having a lot of conversations and they’re all doing business. It really appears to be something.”

• John McCluskey, owner of Florida Outdoors RV in Stuart, Okeechobee and Sebring, Fla., said the Con/Expo is a “fabulous show, every year it seems to get better and better.” He added, “I’ve been to a couple of the sessions now, and I have to say the speakers are good. They’re new, and they’ve got fresh ideas. That’s what we want. Give us something to take home and implement in our dealerships to make us stronger. We’re all coming off some really good years, so you can get kind of complacent. But you come here, figure out a new idea or two, and then go back home and be even more successful next year.”

• Rich Elliott, sales manager at Progress Manufacturing, parent company for Equal-i-zer and Fastway Trailer Products, said the Con/Expo is great not only for business, but to get together with longtime friends.

“We also like how it’s focused on educating the dealers,” he said. “They’re here with the agenda to learn more, and so it’s great to have the time to talk about how our products can help, how their dealerships are doing, and how they can be better – and how the industry as a whole can be better. We love the agenda of the association. I’ve come every year.”