Despite negative economic forces buffeting the recreation vehicle industry, RVs and RV travel continue to be perceived positively by the media and the public, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) PR team reported Tuesday morning (Dec. 2) at the kickoff event to the 46th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella discussed the RV industry’s favorable media image, as well as critical issues facing the industry before an enthusiastic audience during “A Heart-to-Heart Talk with RVIA Public Relations” at RVIA’s Outlook 2009 breakfast.
Thompson and LaBella described the positive media coverage that resulted from aggressive outreach by RVIA public relations, showcased in RVTV — a video presentation of the best in 2008 RV news and entertainment. Highlights included segments on NBC’s Today show and the nationally syndicated Wall Street Journal Report, touting the continued ovalue of travel as fuel prices soared.
RVIA’s 2008 Vacation Cost Comparison Study and RV travel research were major factors behind the positive coverage in a difficult year.
“Our research helped us make an extremely important point,” said LaBella, “that RV sales are down because of external forces beyond the industry’s control, not because RVs are becoming unpopular.”
RVIA cost comparison and owner research was a major factor behind the positive coverage in a difficult year. “Our research helped us make an extremely important point,” said LaBella, “that RV sales are down because of external forces beyond the industry’s control, not because RVs are becoming unpopular.”
The presentation also addressed four critical challenges facing the industry, and how RVIA is working to meet them. The issues included:
Thompson and LaBella reported that RVIA is working to remind lenders that RV buyers have long been among their most reliable customers. Delinquency rates for RV are half that of other consumer loans. At the same time, RVIA is telling consumer media that financing is available for qualified buyers.
To preserve towing capacity, RVIA is pursuing a multi-pronged strategy. In addition to government relations efforts, RVIA is participating in American Recreation Coalition’s Futures Project — an effort that brings together those in the recreation industry that rely on towing, including boating, equestrian, and snowmobiling. This group is holding a series of planned meetings with motor vehicle manufacturers to learn about key features of future family vehicles. The coalition will also explore how recreation products can be modified for easier towing.
To lead the discussion of marketing to America’s increasingly diverse population, Thompson and LaBella invited diversity experts Gary and Valerie Berman to the stage. In a fast-paced and entertaining presentation, the Bermans led the audience through some key facts and figures about America’s rapidly growing Hispanic population, and offered tips on how to embrace, engage and profit from this vast developing market.
Thompson and LaBella closed by discussing America’s growing interest in “going green.” The industry is experiencing increased interest from media and consumers about how manufacturers are increasing fuel economy and taking advantage of emerging green technologies. Thompson and LaBella announced results of new “green” research conducted for RVIA by PKF Consulting, which found that families taking RV vacations actually generate a smaller carbon footprint than families traveling on an airplane, renting a car and staying in a hotel. They emphasized that going green is good business. According to RVIA research, 70 percent of RV owners are interested in buying RVs featuring environmentally-friendly materials that help promote renewable energy and sustainability.
“Will we be ready to meet these challenges?” said Thompson. “I think we will. We’re a close-knit industry built on relationships and working together. We’ve been through economic downturns and turmoil. We know from first-hand experience that this industry will rebound, and be stronger than ever.”