Nearly 60 percent of the participants in the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll believe that the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) National RV Trade Show should remain in Louisville, Ky., largely because of its convenient location for Indiana-based RV manufacturers and suppliers, as well as many of the nation’s retailers.
“Louisville is a known quantity that works well for everyone,” said one retailer in a rather typical response. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It is the most centrally located facility to manufacturers and dealers.”
In other responses regarding the 42nd Annual National RV Trade Show, held Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center (KFEC):
* A total of 44.5 percent of the respondents felt their companies had done “above average” in terms of show sales, while 34.6 percent posted “average” performances and 15.7 percent did “tremendous.”
* The strongest show product trends were diesel-powered Class A motorhomes (23.6 percent), light-weight towables (22.8 percent) and mid-priced fifth-wheels (18.2 percent).
* Forty-five percent gave RVIA an “A” for the association’s management of its national show, while 43.5 percent gave it a “B” and 10.5 percent a “C.”
On the essay response question regarding the future location of the Louisville Show, again, the majority want to stay in Louisville while nearly 30 percent – 29.3 percent – would move the show out of the Bluegrass State immediately. Their most popular options: Las Vegas, Orlando or New Orleans.
“It’s time for a new venue!” one survey respondent argued. “Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans,* ORLANDO!!, Las Vegas, L.A., Dallas and *Indianapolis!!, all have excellent facilities and would welcome the convention while providing higher levels of service.”
Several said they would like the show to relocate to a warmer climate. “We are tailoring to a recreational lifestyle and we go to the coldest place on earth right after Thanksgiving,” quipped one respondent. “Doesn’t make much sense to me.”
Some are simply tired of going to the same place every year, while several West Coast participants would like to see the show take place closer to home.
One popular suggestion that would probably make RVIA show coordinators’ heads spin: Move the convention to different venues each year to make it easier for smaller dealers to attend.
But some worried that if the show was moved to a location with distracting activities that dealers may be inclined to spend more time engaged in activities outside their core businesses. While some conceded this could happen, they said it wouldn’t necessarily limit the business activity at the show.
“A destination like Las Vegas will draw a large crowd,” one survey participant said. “Sure, you will lose some folks to the tables, but they will get their business done first, then gamble.”
“Moving to a warmer climate that also doubles as a vacation spot (Vegas) would keep people around longer,” said yet another respondent. “Nobody goes to Louisville for a vacation in December,” he maintained, adding that the Louisville Show currently “dies in the last 1.5 days since there is nothing else in Louisville to do. Everyone comes on day 1 and then takes off.”
Some did criticize the general quality of the Louisville show venue, the KFEC. “The Expo Center is very difficult to get around in and find everyone and see what you want to see,” maintained one manufacturer. “Concessions are really extremely bad and always have been. (There is also a) lack of space to eat, other than standing in a crowded aisle. (I’m) not sure where to go, but definitely think that other venues need to be explored.”
The fact that Louisville has been working to upgrade its convention site, however, was not lost on all respondents.
Meanwhile, several survey respondents said the show’s timing is actually more important than the location. “Personally,” said one aftermarket distributor, “where the show is isn’t as pivotal as when the show is. It seems strange that a show with the importance of the Louisville show would close the year and not open it.”
Another respondent had a similar viewpoint: “I think it makes more sense to discuss the timing of this show (than) the location. Products displayed have been on dealer lots for as long as six months, except for a few ‘new’ models. Would it not make more sense to have this show earlier and make it the ‘new model introduction’ show and save the manufacturers and dealers the expense of traveling from dealer meeting to dealer meeting in the busy selling months? The dates of this show, if moved forward, would dictate the location based upon availability of sites.”