Hundreds of attendees were able to absorb, listen and learn at the 29th Annual Florida Recreation Vehicle Trade Assocation (RVTA) State Convention Sept. 11-13 at the Coconut Point Hyatt Resort in Bonita Springs.
This year’s annual confab, shortened by one day, stressed education and training that will strengthen members’ organizational strategies, internal workings and market positioning to face an increasingly challenging business environment, according to a news release from the association.
“We wanted to provide attendees with the necessary knowledge and skills to face the challenges the economy will pose over the coming months and years,” explained Lance Wilson, FRVTA executive director. “There’s no question this past year has been difficult, so that’s why this information was so critical.”
Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), gave the membership an update on the national RV Industry. He informed members about the upcoming celebration of the 100th anniversary of the RV Industry, which is estimated to have begun in 1910. As part of the celebration, RVIA will coordinate a series of special events to inform both the media and general public about the progression of the RV Industry and why people go RVing.
LaBella said statistics show the industry has passed through the worst times and that the future appears much brighter as he pointed to June wholesale RV shipments that rose to 15,700 units, their highest monthly total in nearly a year.
He said sales, however, will be slow and uneven, which is why RVIA is aggressively pursuing an active Go RVing national marketing campaign, even with one-third less budget than was available in 2008 due to the economic slowdown. He said new commercials for the Go RVing campaign are now being prepared that will stress economy, fuel efficiency and savings.
“Over 1.5 million consumers have visited GoRVing.com in 2009 and been exposed to our value and affordability messages,” he said. “What’s really encouraging is that web visits this July surpassed last July by nearly 20%.”
He continued, “Overall, the Go RVing campaign metrics of 2009 don’t quite approach the performance enjoyed in past years when a much larger media budget was driving greater response. However, our 2009 results are impressive considering the economic environment we’ve been operating in and show clearly that the Go RVing campaign is helping the industry maintain exposure and keeping us ahead of the competition.”
He estimates the 2010 Go RVing budget will have be $8.6 million with a media budget of $6 million — a $2.5 million increase from this year. “It will be very helpful for the campaign to have this additional money to spend on print ads and TV commercials as we begin to emerge from these tough economic times,” he said. “In addition to an increased media budget for 2010, we will also be helped by the debut of new Go RVing creative next year to help re-energize the campaign and motivate consumers.”
“We are using new, cost-effective production techniques to produce new television commercials using existing Go RVing images and footage. The new ads will retain the emotional appeal of the campaign while stressing the affordability and value of RV travel…powerful messages for this economic climate,” he said.
All this, he said, is another reason for Florida RV dealers to join the Go RVing leads program that has provided 55,000 new contacts thus far this year alone. He further stressed that these aggressive promotions have helped position the RV Industry for faster and better recovery as the economy improves.
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Mike Molino also spoke and praised the FRVTA for being such a close partner, especially in the Distance Learning Network (DLN). He stressed that with the current tough financing situation “nothing happens if nothing is sold.” He further questioned that for some reason none of the government programs designed to open the credit markets for consumer financing has been successful thus far. “Floorplan and retail financing is available, but it’s tough!” he stressed.
Molino also complimented Florida for having the most certified RV Technicians in the nation with 422. No. 2 is Texas with 261.
After a break, FRVTA’s Distance Learning Director, Jim Carr, continued this discussion by stressing to dealer members that the nation in general, and Florida in particular, is losing certified RV technicians at an alarming rate. Saying tech recertification must be a priority, Carr said he’s obtained the names of all Florida-based technicians up for recertification. He plans to contact them and personally visit dealerships to insure the recertification process is completed.
In other business:
- Members elected by acclamation new officers. They are Donnie Davis, president; Larry Schaffer, vice president; Sam Abdo, treasurer; and Rob Rothenhausler, secretary.
- FRVTA Legislative Consultant Marc Dunbar finished the morning session with a legislative roundtable discussion that featured Rep. Eric Fresen, District 111, Rep. Rich Glorioso, District 62, and Rep. Ron Reagan, District 67. Rep. Reagan also is Florida’s Speaker Pro Tem for the 2010 session.
- FRVTA organized a variety of breakout sessions. This year’s topics were Sales Tax/Audit Issues by Brenda Ogle and Kim McCorvey of the Florida Department of Revenue; Strategies for Producing Internet Sales by Sheril Vergara of RH Power & Associates; Advertising to Today’s RV Prospect by Roger Vergara of RH Power & Associates; Dealer Red Flag Compliance, by Allen Monello and Larry Peters of AICE; Increasing Sales by John Mancinelli Consulting and Training; and Small Business/Self Employed Tax Updates by Linda Tuzzolo of the IRS.
FRVTA’s 2010 convention will be Sept. 9-12 Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando.
Shown at left are new FRVTA officers (from left) Donnie Davis, president; Larry Schaffer, vice president; Rob Rothenhausler, secretary; and Sam Abdo, treasurer.