The health and welfare of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) two key annual shows were part of the agenda Wednesday (March 11) during a series of seminars hosted by RVIA at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind.

RVIA executives noted that the California RV Show, Oct. 16-25 in at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., and the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show, Dec. 1-3 in Louisville, Ky. are top-of-the-mind right now because of the financial punch they bring to the national trade association.

Given the economic environment, there’s cause for concern, said RVIA President Richard Coon. “Both shows were off considerably this year because of the economy again, and they both need to be refreshed, and so we’re changing those around a little bit,” said Coon. “We’re talking to members about our shows and, quite frankly, trying to encourage them not to pull out. I think what most members probably don’t realize is that 65% of the funding we need to run the association comes from the money we make on those two shows.”

The 2009 Louisville Show will most assuredly be smaller in terms of exhibitors right now, given the rather depressed state of the market. But how much smaller won’t be known until March 23, the deadline for manufacturers to reserve show space. The RVIA board meets March 27 in Chicago and plans to send its space requirements onto the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) staff by April 1.

“In this climate we don’t anticipate selling the kind of space that we sold last year,” noted Mike Hutya, vice president of meetings and shows for RVIA. In fact, Hutya expects at least a 35% space reduction. As space demands shrink, according to the current plan, the Broadbent Arena would be the first venue dropped from the show. Next, the RVIA Show Committee would look to drop space starting in the older, west wing area and move eastward as necessary, she said.

“But we’re working on ways to add value to the show to make it a more valuable experience both for our exhibitors as well as attendees,” she said. “In that vein, during the last show day – typically not the heaviest traffic day – we will add a very high business content seminar. The speaker or speakers, because we may go with a panel, should have some name recognition and be very credible in their field. We want them to deliver information that when the attendees walk out of that room, they say to themselves, ‘I learned something.’”

Meanwhile, the committee is looking to “aggressively market the show,” something it hasn’t hadn’t done all that much of in the past. And the committee is looking to diversify the attendance by appealing to dealers in the marine and outdoor power sports industries and lenders such as credit unions.

Meanwhile, RVIA is revamping the California RV Show, the $500,000 ad budget for which remains intact. However, Hutya said, RVIA will “stretch” those advertising dollars to the max. “The California Show will be totally new – new look, new sound and new ads,” said Hutya, adding that RVIA plans to reduce radio and TV advertising and focus more on the Internet with cross-links to RV-related websites.