The following Insites column by David Gorin of Gorin+Cohen Consulting  appears in January’s Woodall’s Campground Management.

David Gorin

As a very turbulent year wound down, and we were all facing what is likely to be an equally dynamic year in 2017, it struck me that the major campground associations and marketing groups issued very positive and upbeat reports on their annual conventions.

The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) reports that 500 people attended its early November annual convention in Fort Worth. Let’s say that’s generously and roughly 250 campgrounds.

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) indicated that about 300 of its 450 or so franchisees attended the KOA Chattanooga annual conference.

Leisure Systems Inc.’s Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Parks Symposium always seems to attract a majority of its 85 franchisee locations, so lets say that 75 of their campgrounds attended the annual symposium in the Cincinnati area.

And Cruise Inn, the newest of the park marketing systems, held its Third Annual Cruise Inn Conference after the ARVC convention. Let’s assume that out of their 44 affiliates, 35 attended the meeting.

In an industry with an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 commercial parks, a mere 650 parks or about 5% to 6.5% of the commercial businesses showed up at an industry meeting during November.

Where is everyone else? For years, I’ve encouraged business owners to go to a national meeting maybe every three or four years. I’ve long held that the world is run by the people who show up. Now granted that park ownership is not rocket science, but everything changes — technology, demographics of campers and Rvers, recreation tastes and desires, social actions and skills, legislative rules and regs.

Park owners, at least once a year every year, get off the couch, get outside your comfort zone, and see whats going on in your business from an entirely different perspective.

Fascinating Industry People

With this column, I’m initiating a new feature to share with the park industry interesting people whose name and position might be familiar to many in the business but about whom we know only their professional or business personalities. In this column I’ll try to introduce everyone to the more personal side of these folks.

Today, I start this new feature with a special introduction to Art Lieberman, owner of Merchants Choice Payment Solutions (MCPS), a provider of credit-card processing for RV parks and campgrounds. Art’s company provides processing to over 600 parks and has close relationships with a number of state associations and companies providing reservation systems to parks.

Anyone who’s interacted with Art knows that he is an outspoken and flamboyant personality who speaks his mind and delivers top-quality service to his customers. Hope you enjoy this glimpse into Art’s life, times and ideas.

DG: Art, can you give us some background about who you are and how you got to where you are today?

AL: I was born in 1940 in Brooklyn, N.Y. My parents were Larry and Jean. When I was 4, my mother took me to see Oklahoma on Broadway and she saw I loved it so she took me to the theater many, many times. At 7 I started piano lessons and at 17 started working in a recording studio. When I was 18, I enlisted in the Army for three years where I won the All-Army Entertainment Contest in 1960 as a singer and performed all over Europe.

In 1962, I began a 50-year career as a piano entertainer, During those years, I also had businesses which I ran during the day, several of which were successful and one of which was a HUGE failure (in 3 days I lost $250,000), I ran a home delivery supermarket service, I was a trade show producer, and I ran two giant outdoor international food and music festivals. For the last 16 years, I have run MCPS of Central Pennsylvania, MCPS for Campgrounds and HotelStar Processing Service, all dealing with credit cards.

DG: I understand that your office is in a yurt behind your home. Anyone who calls you via Skype can get a tour of the MCPS yurt office. Does your wife ever chase you out of the house and make you sleep in the yurt?

AL: Quite the opposite. She has to get me OUT of the yurt. I just love it in there. Ours is 30 feet, heated and air conditioned, panelled with Pella windows, a microwave, a coffee machine and a refrigerator. My kind of bird cage.

DG: Since you’ve been in the campground business for some 16 years, you must do a lot of camping. When was the last time you went camping and how’d you like it?

AL: There have been several times when we have used rental unit RVs to attend trade shows rather than staying in a hotel. That’s been fun. As a rule, we don’t usually go vacation camping.

DG: Are you thinking of retiring any time soon? If so, what will happen to MCPS when you decide to step away?

AL: I have no intention to retire even though I am 76. However, God may have a different idea. I have told people that someday I might be found slumping over my computer. If that should happen, Deanne Bower would probably still run MCPS. Some of my profits would go to my estate.

DG: I know you tried to promote online trade shows for the campground and outdoor hospitality industry. You promoted two shows and both did ok but not well enough to continue beyond the two shows. Why haven’t online trade shows caught on in this industry?

AL: I hope people take this the right way. The entire industry is not technologically driven. Most campground owners are seniors or close to it and, although they are experts in the outdoor hospitality industry, they are slow to acquire an interest in computers and high tech instumentality. Virtual reality is not only difficult for them to understand, but they love reality, the great outdoors and nature itself.

Is there a personality in the park business that you’d like to know more about? Drop me an email (dgorin@gorincohenconsulting.com) with the name of the person you have in mind and we’ll do our best to highlight them in an upcoming column.

My best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a wonderfully happy and peaceful new year.