b'Outdoor Hospitality Industry Officials Discuss Struggles, PositivesDuring Conference Call with Outdoor Recreation RoundtableBY TRAVIS PRYORAcross the board, members of industries belonging to the Outdoor RecreationRoundtable(ORR) delivered a similar message during a conference call with mediarepresentatives on Sept. 3it has turned out to be a pretty good year, but oh, whatit might have been.Industry leaders from the RV, marine, motorcycle, camping and outfitting indus-tries each told a similar tale of Americans finally being released from COVID-19 quar-antine and flocking en masse to the outdoors in responsible ways that kept themsafe from the virus. slow start due to COVID lockdowns and were not able to hire workers early in theFor many, including the RV industry, the problem was those six or so weeks where season.pretty much everything in the country was shut down. Once things opened up, many of the seasonal workers were not interested in tak-Monika Geraci, senior manager of marketing strategy and operations for the RV ing the jobs because of the increased COVID unemployment checks that were beingIndustry Association(RVIA), pointed to the recent July shipment sent out. As a result, more than half of the campgrounds operateddata that indicated a 15% increase over the previous year. She said with smaller-than-usual staffs resulting in what Basler called em-nationwide, 55% of people buying RVs are first-time buyers and ployee fatigue. He said some campgrounds would like to extendthat some dealers are reporting up to 80% of their buyers are first- their seasons to try to make up for lost ground but cant becausetimers. of the fatigue factor.Production is up the highest among small towable andal- Basler and others praised Congress for passing the Greatthough its a small segment of the industryvan campers, she American Outdoors Act and said its effects on the outdoor indus-said. And now were seeing a second wave of families and pro- try cant be overstated.fessionals who are able to take advantage of remote working and It doesnt necessarily affect the private parks and camp-Monika Geraci learning. But even with all of the good news, were still overall David Basler grounds. We recognize that what it does impact is small busi-down a total of 10% for the year. You simply cant erase those six to eight weeks we nesses in gateway communities near national parks and landmarks, he said. Manylost earlier this year. of our member parks are in those gateway communities. In the outdoor recreationDealerships started reporting record sales in May as soon as COVID-19 restrictions industry, theres a direct connection between improving our public lands and waterswere eased, but with manufacturing lines shut down for a time, there is some catch- and the success of small businesses across the industry.ing up to do. Geraci said all of the manufacturers put a high value on the health and Coinciding with the conference call, ORR released an updated member survey insafety of employees, so most of them were shut down into May, meaning shipments partnership with the Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiativewere still down until June. that reinforced what Geraci, Basler and others were saying.July marked the most shipments during that month in four decades, so the in- According to the survey results, the COVID-19 pandemics impact on the outdoordustry was able to catch up with some of the dealer demand, but that isnt a gap that recreation industry is showing signs of easing, with some turnaround from what wasis going to close overnight, she said. a devastating spring for the industry. The new August data paints a picture of resur-Inventory at dealerships is still very thin, but the manufacturers are working very gence within many sectors of the industry, some areas with record-high sales, andclosely with their dealer partners and supplier partners to meet the needs, Geraci more people and newer and younger consumers prioritizing their time and re-said. sources on outdoor recreation. While the trend is heading in the right direction, itDavid Basler, vice president of membership and marketing for the National As- has not been universal across the industry and more support is needed as many out-sociation of RV Parks & Campgrounds(ARVC), said many campgrounds got off to a door recreation businesses are still suffering and in danger of permanent closure.30 -October 2020Woodalls Campground Management'