Campground Association Management Professionals :: CAMP


Understanding diversity and how to promote it in the marketing of campgrounds, RV parks and resorts was among the topics discussed during two days of meetings of the nation’s top campground association managers.

Kavita Sawh, a training specialist with the Ginsburg Center for Inclusion and Community Engagement at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, gave a two-hour presentation on May 8 to members of the Campground Association Management Professionals (CAMP), which took place in Daytona, Fla., at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort.

“We spoke through what diversity and equity inclusion looks like,” said Sawh, a native of Trinidad whose ancestors were brought to the Caribbean as indentured servants centuries ago.

Sawh said she initially experienced culture shock when she immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of 17, but she has since spent more than half of her life here.

“Typically, when people think of diversity, they think about race and religion,” Sawh said. But it’s more complex than that, she said, noting that diversity also involves sexual orientation as well as the unique types of diversity that take place when couples and families are comprised of individuals of vastly different backgrounds.

Sawh also said it’s important to avoid stereotyping or making assumptions about people, citing herself as an example.

While Sawh herself grew up with Hindu traditions, her 14-year-old son attends a Christian school. Her husband is a mechanic for General Motors. Her baby sister is a data analyst.

Kavita Sawh

Kavita Sawh

“There is a story behind each of us,” she said, “and it plays a role in how we view others.”

“We spoke (at the CAMP meeting) about how inclusion has to be created,” Sawh continued, adding that she immediately put CAMP members to work. “I do a self-reflection where you look at your own diversity, look at who you are and think about who you are, and consider the influences on who you are on everything you do.”

CAMP President Joann DelVescio, who is also executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners and Outdoor Lodging Association, said she invited Sawh to speak to CAMP members because of the continuing need for private park operators and industry officials to become better informed about diversity and of the need to incorporate diversity in everything from their hiring practices to their marketing efforts.

DelVescio added that she invited Sawh to speak to park operators attending the Mid-Atlantic Campground Conference & Trade Show in Orlando earlier this year.

While many campground operators have already launched efforts to diversify their staffs as well as their marketing imagery, Sawh said that while doing research for her workshops she found a number of campground websites that still promote camping as a largely white family activity, particularly among 50-and-older RVers. Sawh said the campground industry can do more to ensure that everyone feels welcome to explore and experience the nation’s campgrounds and RV parks.

“Start by making small changes like changing pictures on your website,” she said, adding, “We’re all human. We all have things that make us connected. For some people, it’s the love of the outdoors. For others, it’s sitting around the campfire.”

These are the kinds of things that can be captured by photography and broaden private parks’ potential marketing base if such photos include people of all ages of diverse backgrounds. Sawh also cautioned park operators against using staged photos to convey diversity.

“You can tell when it’s a posed picture,” she said, adding that private park operators should make every effort to use authentic imagery.

CAMP’s May 8-9 meeting also included presentations by Mark Halzelbaker, attorney for the Wisconsin Campground Owners Association (WACO), on topics concerning “tax-exempt status” and what that means, as well as Wendy Sellers, who talked about artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT and what these technologies mean for associations.

The two-day meeting concluded with a farewell party for Donald G. Bennett, Jr., who recently announced his resignation from the position of executive director and CEO of Campground Owners of New York (CONY) which he had held since 2006. Bennett said he plans to focus his efforts on expanding Merchantry Tourism, a marketing and consulting business he co-owns with his wife, Lisa.

The next CAMP meeting is expected to take place on Nov. 6 in Kansas City, Mo., coinciding with the first day of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo. CAMP is also planning a meeting on Nov. 28 in Branson, Mo., a day before the Campground Owners Expo gets underway.