Time for A Change of Pace

It’s been more than 10 years of writing Inside the Beltway for Woodal’s Campground Management and primarily reporting on what’s going on that impacts the park industry “inside the Beltway”, the insiders term for what goes on in Washington DC and the federal government (the Beltway’s that circular highway that surrounds the nation’s capital). Being inside the Beltway denotes “insider” knowledge of what goes on in government. Being inside the Beltway also denotes a cynical if not sinister view of what’s happening in our government and country.

It’s time for a change as I spend less and less time inside the Beltway, and more and more time in the real world outside of DC. So with this column I bring my era of reporting on Washington and its impacts on the park industry to an end and it’s with a great deal of pleasure that I embark on a new direction – offering in-sites, observations, comment and commentary on the business side of the RV park, campground, outdoor hospitality, recreation and tourism industries.

This change of direction coincides with the new ownership of Campground Management. Since its beginning, Campground Management has been published monthly by Woodall Publications and the monthly tabloid was known as Woodall’s Campground Management. Woodall’s is to be congratulated on publishing this monthly and providing an information service to the park industry for many, many years.

It is fitting now, with the demise of the Woodall Campground Directories and merging of Woodall’s into Good Sam Enterprises, that the ownership of the monthly newspaper transition into the hands of another company � G & G Media, led by longtime RV industry journalist Sherman Goldenberg. Sherman has a long and admired history with the RV and park industry having served as the editor of RB Business magazine for many years and having been the publisher of Campground Management for the last few years.

As Sherman and his colleagues assume ownership of Campground Management, the information available to park owners and operators through a publication exclusively serving the park industry interests, is for the first time, coming from an independent journalistic voice. Yes, some advertisers may try on occasion to exert some measure of influence on publications where they place their advertising, but no longer will Campground Management editorial be controlled and influenced by the brands, subsidiaries and business interests of the former Affinity Group and the current Good Sam Enterprises. No longer will the primary purpose of Woodalls Campground Management be to promote Affinity or Good Sam products or services and to put the Woodall name in front of every park owner and operator every month as a way of enhancing that brand’s image and as a way of greasing the advertising sales process that powered Woodall’s – ad sales in the Woodall Campground Directory.

Aside from Sherman’s monthly publisher’s column in RV Business, an occasional editorial by Greg Gerber or a guest writer in Gerber’s RV Daily Report, and perhaps an infrequent letter to the editor that appeared in Campground Management, the content of the daily and monthly industry information channels – WCM’s daily email news briefs, the RV Daily Report, RV Business Daily email service, the weekly Industry E-News and the ARVC Voice – are primarily filled with new releases issued by various sources or association information and promotions. There’s little if any analysis of what’s being reported, little comment on the information being shared, and little independent editorial voice to discuss industry issues, concerns and to raise questions that might need to be answered to help understand what is really going on in the park industry.

I hope in the coming months to provide analysis and comment, add an independent voice and ask the questions that I believe many in the industry would like to see asked and answered.

As I launch this new column, it is important to embrace full disclosure as an important part of being an objective voice in this publication. In each and every issue, there will be at the end of each column, or in the column when appropriate, a statement of disclosure so that readers can be comfortable that the editorial content is offered fairly and openly. After 25+ years associated with the park industry, I have no axe to grind and I hope I have a reputation for openness and fairness.

As the months go by through the rest of 2012 and into 2013, I hope this column is of interest to the readers and look forward to engaging in email, phone and when practical, personal conversation with you. Please feel free to communicate your thoughts, ideas, comments, and criticisms so that we can together have robust discussion of the many issues of interest to the folks in the park business.

Industry Meeting Changes Coming?

The annual RV Industry Association trade show held for years in Louisville right after Thanksgiving is under considerable pressure from Elkart, IN area manufacturers who several years ago launched Open House programs at RV factories in Elkhart. As the Open House program has expanded and dealer attendance has grown, RVIA is experiencing some decline in the number of attendees at the Louisville show.

And with the Open Houses taking place in September around the time of the annual RV Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas, that association is also facing some pressure on its meeting attendance.

Add to this the recent incorporation and welcome back of park trailer manufacturers into the RVIA family, it’s likely that the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) may lose some park model exhibitors to the RVIA show now that the welcome mat is out for them in Louisville.

RViA has been exploring a possible move to a new location and a new time, probably in September or October. That move and date change has been put on hold and RVIA has recently announced it will remain in Louisville at least through 2014.

Discussions have been reported between RVIA and RVDA about a joint meeting and I would expect that it will inevitably happen in the next 3-5 years at the latest. It’s just sound common sense in today’s economic environment not to take advantage of the efficiencies of such a joint meeting.

Surprisingly, the reports of an RVIA – RVDA coordinated meeting has been silent on the possibility of adding the third industry leg to the meeting mix. There’s been no mention that I’ve seen or heard about adding the park industry to this mix.

As RVIA and RVDA experience some turmoil and likely changes in their meeting schedules, ARVC is also experiencing similar issues. Having held the annual ARVC convention in direct competition with the RVIA Louisville show for some years, ARVC is committed to one more year (2012) in Las Vegas on the same dates as the Louisville show, but is then planning a convention and show in Knoxville earlier in November 2013.

So is it out of the question to have an all-industry working group explore the feasibility and desirability of an all-industry event bringing manufacturers, dealers and accommodators together in one city during one period? Imagine an industry-wide annual celebration. Imagine a joint meeting of the boards of the associations. Imagine seminars with the top minds sharing ideas for continued industry growth and prosperity? Sure, putting this together would be complex and might have to entail some give and take on everybody�s part, but the excitement generated and the spirit and cooperation could propel each industry segment to greater expansion.

Watch Out for the Feds! They May Be Coming at You!

It’s been reported in recent months but it’s worth repeating this industry alert: There are real efforts underway in the US Forest Service to experiment with new campground models including private investment in campground upgrades and operation, seasonal campsites on public lands, RV and other recreational equipment storage, and longer term concession or operating permits. Recent meetings between US Forest Service and Department of Agriculture senior executives and private sector interests included representatives from the largest campground operating companies, large concession companies, ARVC and other related associations.

It is clearly time for the park industry to revisit the fair competition issues that have hovered over the park industry for a generation and prepare for what could be a significant change in public policy that may bring about a change in the competitive balance between public and private interests.

SIDE BAR

In the Spirit of Full Disclosure…who is David Gorin and why is he writing for Campground Management?

Just to put all the cards on the table in this inaugural column, here are my disclosures.

From 1987 to 2001, I was the President & CEO of ARVC and during those years played a key role in every association initiative from the changing of the name to ARVC (from the Natl Assn of Campground Owners), to the growth of the CPO program, to the expansion of Go Camping America to an online consumer directory, and to the founding and operation of the School of RV Park & Campground Management. I encouraged the ARVC Board to create the ARVC Foundation and I wrote the initial IRS non-profit application to create the Foundation. And I was instrumental in writing many of the association’s policies including its statements of Government Competition. I left ARVC of my own accord at the end of 2001 to pursue other interests in the park business and in other ventures.

From 2002 until the end of 2010, together with partner Aubrey King, we represented ARVC’s interests in Washington to the Executive and legislative branches of government. In 2011, ARVC dropped our services in favor of a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.

Since 2002, I’ve operated David Gorin & Associates, a consulting firm that now exclusively serves investors, developers, owners and others with an interest in the RV park and campground business. I’ve worked with over 150 clients during this period.

In 2004, I created Best Parks in America and I’m the President of that national brand and marketing association for highly-rated RV parks. Best Parks is an association of parks. I own the intellectual property for Best Parks in America and other brands that may be commercialized in the coming months and years.

In 2007, together with a partner, we acquired an older Florida RV park, demolished it and re-developed the park into the showcase property it is today. I was the managing partner from 2007 to 2010.

Best Parks in America is a Supplier Member of ARVC. David Gorin Associates was a Supplier Member from 2001 until 2010 when the recession caused a decline in consulting. David Gorin Associates has been a member of RVIA since 2002 and continues to hold that membership.

Since 2002, David Gorin Associates has provided management services to the Virginia Campground Association.

I can be reached at david@davidgorinassociates.com and at 703 448.6863. Let’s talk.