Campground Owners of New York (CONY) held its 47th Annual Conference and Trade Show Nov. 4-5 at the Holiday Inn in Syracuse, where 178 people representing 59 campgrounds attended along with 32 exhibitors.

“The event was very successful and the mood was very positive,” said Don Bennett, CONY president and CEO. “The campground owners were very upbeat about the 2010 season and they are very excited about what 2011 might have to offer.”

Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), was the keynote luncheon speaker and gave an update on the campground industry.

“Rogers said the campground sector of the outdoor hospitality industry is really just seeing there is much more to come and so much room to grow and this is just the beginning for where we are as an industry sector as a whole,” Bennett said.

Rogers also provided a good review and optimistic forecast for New York campgrounds.

“The trend is that camping is an affordable vacation and people are trading down to camping from cruises and other types of vacations,” Bennett said. “People are learning to live with less. And the good news is their expectations are being exceeded.”

Following Rogers ’ address, CONY unveiled a new online reservation system – www.adventuresystems.net – in partnership with Corporate Communications Inc. of Rochester.

CONY members and non-members will be able to offer their guests online reservations through Adventure Systems.

“There are a lot of good advantages and money-saving options for our members,” Bennett said. “It is a great new member benefit.”

On Thursday, attendees learned how to attract more transient revenue to their parks by Clyde Taylor, president of Taylor Communications who spoke on the topic “Transient Campers: How to Attract, Keep and Maximize Their Importance to Your Overall Success.”

“There were 24 participants in this program and for a six-hour program it was very good,” Bennett noted. “The whole goal for the seminar was to try and drive mid-week business. Most campgrounds experience great weekends, but they wish their mid-week was busier.”

Also on Thursday participants learned how to help save a life with CPR certification and training by CONY members Tom Wolfe and Rosemary Curtis.

On Friday Roxi Baxley from Strait Web Solutions talked on social media basics, Greg Taylor from KOA talked about brushing up on customer service and Ed Vandermollen, president of VDM Consulting, discussed making improvements to parks with or without capital expenditures.

“This was very well-attended,” Bennett said. “This seminar was aimed at helping campgrounds using different strategies to increase their bottom line.”

Salvatore Bonetti, who just sold his campground in Maine, held an open forum discussion to help others considering selling their campground avoid the least obvious mistakes and raise the chance for a profitable sale.

In legislative news, Bennett said with the state’s new governor, Democrat Andrew Cumo, CONY hopes to pass an eviction bill sometime in 2011. The bill would allow campground owners to evict a guest if they are not following the rules.

“Right now we are more or less in between governors and there is a whole new slate,” he said. “We have been working on an eviction bill for two years and we are hopeful with the new governor and some of the new representatives we will be able to push that through.”

Recent past successes for CONY include thwarting sales tax on campsites.

Also, CONY is making headway working with the Adirondack Park Agency for more campground-friendly rules in the Adirondack region of the state.

“The agency has redefined some of their regulations and they are becoming more campground friendly than what they have been in the past, primarily in the development of campgrounds and less restrictions on existing campgrounds,” Bennett explained.

In other news CONY has a new board secretary, Rachel Kaiser, Wildwood Lake Campground, Medina. Conference chairperson, Anita Perry, Chautauqua Heights Campground, Dewittville, is stepping down. Rosemary Curtis of Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort in Bath, is taking her place.

Next year’s CONY meeting is set for Nov. 2-5 in Niagara Falls. – Leanne Phillips