Florida and Alabama camping reservations were solid this winter and reservations keep coming this spring with an excellent forecast for the summer months, reports the Florida/Alabama Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which staged its  Annual Conference and Expo May 18-19.

The mood was positive and upbeat.

“Most reports were that the winter season was a good one. Some parks were above average, some a little below in part because of severe weather up north which may have delayed some campers from traveling south,” said Bobby Cornwell, association president/CEO/executive director. “Overall it’s been a good year so far and campgrounds in the Panhandle region are excited and preparing for a very good summer season, which is greatly needed following last year’s oil spill. Reservations are up over last year and hopes are high.”

The conference and expo was held at the Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, with 98 people representing 45 campgrounds and 32 vendors.

The event offered a diverse lineup of speakers and educational courses. Topics included:

  • “Water and Pool Safety Issues” presented by Bryan Tolli, Evergreen USA.
  • “How Campgrounds Succeed in the New Economy” presented by Blake Ashdown, SureVista Solutions.
  • “New ADA Rules and Guidelines and Legal Issues” presented by David Eastman, Florida ARVC attorney.
  • “Promoting Your Park through Social Media” presented by Roxi Baxley, Strait Web Solutions.
  • “Where are We At and Where are we Going” presented by Jeff Sims, National Association for RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
  • The keynote luncheon speech was titled “The Laff Factor” presented by motivational speaker Gary Roberts and focused on the importance of bringing laughter into your life and the workplace.

“There was also an entertaining and very funny session resembling the newlywed game which demonstrated the importance of teambuilding and knowing your co-workers called the ‘Co-Workers Challenge’ by Scotty Gunter,” Cornwell said.

“The underlying message of many of the seminars and discussions dealt with how times, the world and the camping industry have changed – mainly due to technology. It’s not business as normal when it comes to marketing your park or providing customer service to your campers. Campers expect more from campgrounds and demand a good experience. They are looking at new ways to plan their camping trips and are using social media and the internet to make these decisions.”

Cornwell said the most pressing legislative issue discussed was the association’s efforts to pass legislation that would create statewide uniform standards for the operations of RV parks and campgrounds – all regulated under one governing statewide authority, as opposed to a variety of inconsistent regulations imposed by local county governments.

“This legislation is important to the industry because it will bring uniformity and clarity to campground operations and greatly enhance the camping experience of the traveling public,” he explained. “It will also bring greater regulatory stability and efficiencies to the Florida recreational vehicle park and campground industry, and provide for potential cost savings and less burdensome regulations for park operators.”

Cornwell said goals for the association include passing legislation to help members with burdensome regulations and fees, improving promotional efforts with a brand new CampFlorida.com website (now being developed by Roxi Baxley), enhancing a social media presence for the association and its members, improving communications and promotional efforts with members and providing them with the best up-to-date promotional options available for them to market their parks, and to operate as cost-efficiently as possible while serving the best interest of members.

“With the goal to provide the industry and their members with the best communications and promotional services available, Florida ARVC announced at the conference that they have contracted with Roxi Baxley, through her company, Strait Web Solutions, to be their marketing and communications director,” Cornwell noted. “Roxi will continue to operate her Strait Web Solutions business, but will also be overseeing and assisting in all of Florida ARVC’s marketing and communications efforts, including the following:

  • • Managing and Maintaining membership data on CampFlorida.com.
  • • Helping with the production and electronic distribution of the association’s newsletters and member correspondence.
  • • Developing and Coordinating PR and Marketing campaigns for the association and Florida ARVC members.
  • • Unifying promotional efforts between the CampFlorida.com website and CampFlorida printed directory.
  • • Assisting Florida ARVC members with their internet marketing, social media and website challenges.

The following people were re-elected to serve on the Florida/Alabama ARVC board for a three year term:

  • Tom Moralee, CampVenice Retreat, Central West Region director.
  • Tim Deputy, Sun-N-Fun Resort, Central West at-large director.
  • Frank Usina, North Beach Camp Resort, Northeast at-large director.
  • George Lempenau, Peace River Campground, Southwest at-large director.
  • Don Hilgeman, Lake Waldena RV Resort, Northwest at-large director.
  • Anne Stephens, Anchors Aweigh RV Resort, Alabama director.

The following officers were selected by the board to be on 2011-12 executive committee (this will be their second and final one-year term in the following officer positions)

  • Chairman of the Board: Bob Little, Flamingo Lake RV Resort.
  • Vice Chairman: Pat O’Neill, CampGulf RV Resort.
  • Treasurer: Tim Deputy, Sun-N-Fun Resort.
  • Secretary: Chris Long, Central Park of Haines City.

Board members and sponsors were acknowledged and honored during the event, including VISITFLORIDA – Gold Sponsor and Evergreen USA – Silver Sponsor. Contributing sponsors were Trailer Life, Leisure Systems and TengoInternet.

The next conference will be May 2012, with a specific date and location to be decided.