A landmark piece of legislation establishing guidelines for RV dealers and manufacturers operating in Florida led a list of initiatives laid out during the 27th Annual Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) State Convention Sept. 6-8 at the Sanibel Harbour Resort and Spa in Fort Myers.
“The bill, which will go into effect Oct. 1, provides a baseline for doing business in the state of Florida,” said Lance Wilson, executive director for FRVTA, noting that the association had worked closely with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) on the franchise law. “It mandates that all OEMs and dealers must have written agreements specifying the rights of both parties regarding the sale of RVs.”
Wilson said that key points in the law are providing dealers with a protected territory while also establishing a succession plan for owners.
FRVTA’s gathering, held for the fifth year at the Sanibel resort, attracted around 275 attendees representing 125 companies in the RV, campground and outdoor industries. In addition to a full slate of activities, including the association’s annual golf outing, members participated in seminars and breakout sessions covering a broad range of topics.
“We were pleased with the turnout, especially since things have been a bit tough out there,” Wilson said. “We’re gearing up for the snowbird season, so there seems to be a positive outlook among our members. I’m just glad we’re going into the season, instead of coming out of it.”
Bobby Cornwell, executive director for the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (FARVC), updated attendees on the health of the state’s campground industry, noting that Florida “remains the nation’s number one camping destination.” He said that on average, the state’s campgrounds and parks were reporting 52% occupancy this year, emphasizing that the January through March period was “full-up.”
Cornwell covered several trends emerging in the industry, highlighted by the influx of more campers traveling with families and added interest in “vacation ownership properties.” He also addressed the need for continued upgrading by park owners, noting that the “campground of the future” would be equipped with larger sites and pull-throughs to accommodate bigger rigs, more streamlined processes for check-in, on-site Wi-Fi and more rental park models and cabins.
Cornwell, however, said the biggest issue facing the state’s campgrounds was a reduction in available sites. “The question we’re looking at is if the parks are indeed disappearing,” he said. “The answer is yes and no. Interestingly we have more licensed campgrounds and sites than we did three years ago. But the problem is, many of these are not available in the peak season because they’re filled with full-time or seasonal campers.
“The reality is that the state owns most of the available land. One thing we’re looking into with regard to the January-March period is the possibility of working with the state to privatize some of that land.”
Other highlights from the convention included:
• Jim Carr, education director for FRVTA, outlined the nearly 2-year-old Certified Service Center program. Dealers need to meet eight criteria to gain certification. Carr, who handles on-site inspections for FRVTA, told attendees that the network had grown to 20 certified service centers with several others in the program pending certification.
• RVIA president Richard Coon provided an outlook on the RV industry, while also outlining RVIA’s ongoing efforts to weigh in on proposals in Congress concerning new CAFE standards. “We’re going to spend some money to convince people to be reasonable and not crazy,” said Coon, adding that RVIA had hired two full-time lobbyists to address the issue.
• FRVTA re-elected board members to the second year of two-year terms. Executives include President Sherry Perkins, Tri-Am RV, Ocala; Vice President Donnie Davis, Cummins Power South LLC, Tampa; Secretary Gunars Mansons, American Insurance Agency, Oakland Park; and Treasurer Larry Schaffer, Rivers Bus and RV Sales, Jacksonville.