Editor’s Note: This was written by Paul Bambei, the president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). Based in Denver, Colo., ARVC is a national association dedicated to representing RV parks, campgrounds and glamping parks throughout North America. You can learn more about ARVC at www.arvc.org.
The editors of Woodall’s Campground Magazine recently asked me to reflect on what our industry had accomplished in 2021 and to look forward to the upcoming year, and I must say there is a great deal to cover — it’s an amazing time in our industry. The past year was one that saw much progress for the outdoor hospitality industry, and I look to the coming year as a chance to continue building off that progress. The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and its many partners led the charge in a number of areas important to every outdoor hospitality business and will continue to do so in 2022.
Advocating for Our Industry
With the leadership of the Missouri Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (MOARC), Missouri became the second state in the nation to pass comprehensive inherent risk legislation — Wisconsin was the first — which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson in July. This legislation is a huge step forward in our desire to ensure no outdoor hospitality business is saddled with legal fees or fines from frivolous lawsuits brought on by campers injured in the outdoors while camping.
Also this summer, the Indiana Campground Owners Association, led by Ron Breymier and Matt Rose, was instrumental in getting the Indiana legislature to pass a guest ejection law, which was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, that clearly defines the difference between ejection and eviction and therefore allows outdoor hospitality businesses in that state to lawfully eject a camper for criminal trespass with the help of law enforcement.
ARVC will be working with other states in 2022 on both inherent risk legislation and guest ejection legislation.
At the national level, ARVC succeeded in getting the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to reclassify RV parks and campgrounds as “Lodging” in the Commercial Facilities Sector rather than “Outdoor Events” — one step closer to obtaining “Essential Business” classification for our industry, which ARVC will be working toward in 2022.
ARVC also unified with our industry partners — the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), RV Industry Association (RVIA), RV Dealers Association (RVDA) and others — to continue lobbying efforts this past year on various topics including tax issues for small businesses. These groups have also come together to create an intra-industry collaboration task force focused on research and data sharing that will help us all improve the perception of value our industry has on the nation’s economy.
Coming Together as an Industry
Advocacy issues, especially at the national level, are often made possible because we speak with one voice. There really is power in numbers. Knowing the importance of unity, the ARVC Board of Directors voted in November to approve a new partnership model for state associations, and it is our hope this new model will make it easier for state associations to join forces with ARVC for the betterment of our entire industry.
We have already had many fruitful conversations with states across the country interested in learning more about this unifying opportunity and will continue these conversations in the coming year.
Also, in November, we welcomed a new state association specifically into the ARVC community — the Georgia Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Georgia ARVC). Led by Bobby Smith and based in Atlanta, ARVC will be fully partnered with ARVC to represent the interests of outdoor hospitality businesses at the state level in Georgia. Excitement about this new association in Georgia has ARVC now working with owners and operators interested in starting associations in other states currently without an association. ARVC is expecting to welcome Utah and Mississippi as new associations in 2022 and has started conversations with members in Idaho, Montana, Washington, New Mexico, Arkansas and West Virginia as well. If your business is in one of these states and you’re interested in working with us, please reach out to Jaqueline Gloria on our team at Jaqueline.email@example.com.
Of course, 2021 wasn’t all positive when it comes to unity as our friends at the Florida RV Park & Campground Association and Alabama RV Park & Campground Association made the decision to de-affiliate from the ARVC community. As we continue to focus on growth and retention in this two-state region, ARVC hired Jeremy Carr, based in Sarasota, Fla., to support ARVC members and the outdoor hospitality industry. He has already been traveling across both states meeting in person and listening to members and non-members alike, so he and ARVC can provide the best support possible.
Providing Growth for All Through Professional Development
In November, we announced an industry-first, scholarship program made available through a generous gift of $1 million by ARVC member and past chairman George O’Leary. This gift will fund fully paid scholarships for members of our industry to attend what will now be called the George O’Leary National School for RV Park and Campground Management. This two-year program continues to provide the industry-leading curriculum owners, operators and managers have been relying on for years to prepare for the day-to-day operation of an outdoor hospitality business. These scholarships will be available beginning with the 2023 program.
In addition to National School, ARVC will also be enhancing its Outdoor Hospitality Education Program (OHEP), utilizing the expertise and experience of a task force chaired by former ARVC Chairwoman Kathy Palmeri. This task force’s work will culminate in an industry seal that recognizes park best practices.
Helping You Solve Problems
Throughout the COVID pandemic, ARVC has been focused on providing solutions to the problems our ever-changing world has presented. From monthly webinars to giving our Resource Library a boost (it’s now full of more than 200 valuable resources), we have been focused on helping you make your business even more successful.
With the ongoing labor shortages, one way we are helping is with the introduction of the ARVC Career Center. Launched in late 2021, the Career Center will help you find and build good teams to start the summer camping season. To check it out and post your first job opening, go to www.jobs.arvc.org.
We’re also focused on research to give you a peek into the minds of campers and into the best practices we’re seeing from successful businesses in our space.
In 2021, we launched our newest research report, the 2021 Generational Camping Report, sponsored by RMS North America, which offers some fantastic insights into what campers of different generations are looking for when they plan their trip, make a reservation and what they expect when they arrive for their stay. This will be an ongoing annual report.
Another annual report is our 2021 Trends and Insights Report, launching at the end of January, which will focus on best practices at outdoor hospitality businesses across the country. You can learn about the most popular amenities, compare your rates to the average in your region and more.
Helping solve the problems you face is our focus and the ARVC team is continuing to listen to the industry and, along with our partners, we’re adapting to meet your needs in every way possible.
Helping Campers Find You
Throughout the past year, many of you have reported higher than normal occupancy rates, but increased marketing opportunities continue to be of high interest for the outdoor hospitality businesses wanting to fully capitalize on the millions of campers hitting the roads. We heard that call as well and added a Plan Your Route tool to the ever-popular GoCampingAmerica.com website.
This new Plan Your Route tool allows for detailed planning from home (using the desktop version) or on the go (using the mobile app). Using Google Maps-level technology, campers can now find your business along their route, read up on your amenities and activities, and book their stay. The friendly user interface makes it easy for campers to find you and for you to increase your occupancy even more.
This feature is now accessible to the millions of visitors each year that go to GoCampingAmerica.com and GoRVing.com, and will continue to improve throughout 2022 and beyond as we don’t see the camping craze brought on by COVID going away any time soon.
As I look back on the past year, there is so much for all of us to be proud of and thankful for, but as I look ahead to 2022 I know there is much more of this to come. We are part of an amazing industry and again, it is because of unity that these great things are accomplished. ARVC will continue to do everything it can to bring our industry together for the benefit of all. That is how we’ve grown as an industry to this point and that is how we will continue to grow into the future. I hope you will come along for the ride!