Editor’s Note: The following is a special message from Larry Troutt, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and owner of Topper’s Camping Center in Waller, Texas. Troutt urges RV dealers to act today if they wish to save up to $393 on the full registration price to attend next month’s RVDA convention in Las Vegas.

If historical events and trends are repeated over time, then I may have glimpsed into the future of our industry during a recent visit to the RV manufacturing capital of America and its museum, library, and Hall of Fame.

According to what I saw there, demand for RVs has soared to record-setting levels in the wake of past recessions. Product quality has steadily improved over the years even without dramatic design innovation. Americans have preferred the RV lifestyle for more than a century.

These things were on my mind while preparing to attend the upcoming RVDA convention in Las Vegas and while writing my chairman’s report, published recently for the September issue of RV Executive Today magazine.  

I saw many restored relics of RV hardware from the 1800s to the latest 2010 models displayed near Elkhart, Indiana in the museum of the RV/MH Hall of Fame. Not surprisingly to an RV dealer like me, a large number of features from the past have been recycled into the latest models. While there are no slide-outs on the museum displays, nor platforms on pop-ups for carrying off-road toys, nor rear-mounted, diesel engines on older motorhomes, the floor plans and body contour lines and product types have remained similar for many decades.

Not even toy hauling RVs are a modern-era novelty. I thought they were until I dug deeper into the Hall of Fame library and found photos of a toy hauler travel trailer from 1940.

My experience as an RV dealer during the past 25 years parallels the documentation spanning 100 years of RV industry history which I saw during my visit inside the Hall of Fame museum and library:

Economic recessions have come along every decade or so. RV sales have been very strong and profitable in the aftermath of some. RV product design has not changed dramatically but rather evolved slowly over decades. Public interest in traveling with RVs has always increased.

Based on what I’ve seen of our industry’s past, I’m thinking positively about its future. I’m looking forward — right now — to being a viable part of our industry’s future.  That’s why, like me, many other RV dealers are planning to take a break from survival mode and get together during the first full week of October at the RVDA Convention at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

All the RVDA volunteer leaders will be there to review what’s happened to our industry and discuss how we can begin the process of rebuilding our businesses for the future.

I’m personally inviting you to join us.

As you know, many of the traditional fall dealer incentive trips and manufacturer meetings have been canceled or significantly scaled back, so the RVDA convention will be the only opportunity for all of the industry to get together and talk about some of the issues facing the RV business.

Our workshops will focus on acquiring floor plan financing, getting more buyers qualified, improving sales, Red Flags compliance as well as new products and services we can sell to add to our dealership’s bottom lines. Brand committees will also be meeting during the convention, providing dealers opportunities to meet face to face with principal decision makers with the factories where their specific lines of campers are manufactured. With the adverse economic conditions of this year, such meetings will be more important than ever — won’t they?

My dealership, just like yours, is facing big challenges for the remainder of this year. I could tough it out alone. But I choose to draw on the strength and knowledge of many others to improve on my chances for success. 

I’d like to see as many of you as possible at the convention and workshops — not just to reflect on the past, but more importantly to plan for the immediate future.

I’ll plan on seeing you there. To register click here: <http://www.mmsend9.com/ls.cfm?r=139898490&amp;sid=7342510&amp;m=811239&amp;u=RVDA_VA&amp;s=http://www.rvlearningcenter.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Convention6&amp;CONTENTID=9130&amp;TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm>