David Gorin

It’s been more than 10 years that I’ve been writing Inside the Beltway for Woodall’s Campground Management and primarily reporting on what’s going on that impacts the park industry “inside the Beltway,” the insiders’ term for what goes on in Washington, D.C., within the Beltway highway encircling the nation’s capital. Being inside the Beltway implies “insider” knowledge of what goes on in our federal government and, at times, projects a cynical if not sinister view of what’s happening in the halls of government.

Now it’s time for a change as I spend less and less time inside the Beltway, and more and more time in the real world outside D.C. So with this column I bring my era of reporting on Washington and its impacts on the park industry to an end and it’s with a great deal of pleasure that I embark on a new direction – offering insights, observations, comment and commentary on the business side of the RV park, campground, outdoor hospitality, recreation and tourism industries in a column we’ve renamed “InSites.”

This change of direction coincides with the new ownership of Campground Management. Since its beginning, Campground Management was published monthly by Woodall Publications Corp. and the monthly tabloid was known as Woodall’s Campground Management. Woodall’s is to be congratulated on publishing this monthly and providing an information service to the park arena for many years as the Woodall’s brand changed hands from Illinois-based Woodall’s to California-based Affinity Group Inc. and was subsequently renamed Good Sam Enterprises LLC early last year.

It is fitting now, with the closing of the Woodall’s North American Campground Directory and merging last year of the Woodall’s brand into Good Sam that the ownership of the industry’s monthly newspaper transitions into the hands of another company – G & G Media Group LLC. G & G is a 16-month-old Elkhart, Ind., firm led by respected veteran RV industry journalist Sherman Goldenberg, who served as publisher of both RVBusiness and Campground Management for Affinity Group Inc. until early 2011, and his partner, Beverly Gardner, a well known veteran publishers’ rep who had represented WCM for more than 30 years as part of Beverly Gardner & Associates.

As Sherman and his colleagues assume ownership of Campground Management, the information available to park owners and operators through a publication exclusively serving the park industry’s interests is for the first time coming from an independent journalistic voice. Yes, while some advertisers will inevitably exert some measure of influence on publications in which they place their advertising, no longer will Campground Management’s editorial generally be controlled and influenced by the brands, subsidiaries and business interests of Good Sam Enterprises as a means of driving Woodall’s directory sales.

Aside from Sherman’s monthly publisher’s column in RV Business and an occasional editorial in Greg Gerber’s RV Daily Report, the content of the daily and monthly industry information channels – including WCM’s daily e-mail news briefs, the RV Daily Report, the RV Business daily headlines, the weekly industry E-news and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ ARVC Voice – are primarily filled with new releases issued by various sources or association information and promotions. There’s little if any analysis of what’s being reported, little comment on the information being shared, and little independent editorial voice to discuss industry issues, concerns and to raise questions that might need to be answered to help understand what is really going on in the park industry.

That said, I hope to help fill that void in coming months by providing analysis and comment and generally adding an independent voice and asking the questions that I believe many in the industry would like to see asked and answered.

As I launch this new column, it is important to embrace full disclosure as an important part of being an objective voice in this publication. In each and every issue, there will be at the end of each column, or in the column when appropriate, a statement of disclosure so that readers can be comfortable that the editorial content is offered fairly and openly. After 25+ years associated with the park industry, I have no axe to grind and I hope I have a reputation for openness and fairness.

As the months go by through the rest of 2012 and into 2013, I trust that this column will be of interest to the readers and that they will contact me via e-mail or phone or, when practical, personal conversations. Please feel free to communicate your thoughts, ideas, comments, and criticisms so that we can together have robust discussion of the many issues of interest to the folks in the park business.

Changes in the Wind for the Industry’s Key Trade Shows

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s annual National RV Trade Show, held for years in Louisville right after Thanksgiving, is under considerable pressure from Elkhart, Ind., area manufacturers who launched Elkhart’s Annual RV Open House Week four years ago throughout that northern Indiana city as a relatively efficient and low cost means of showing new model equipment each fall – Sept. 17-21 this year – to as many as 4,000 visiting dealer personnel.

As the Open House program emerged over the past four years and its dealer attendance has grown, RVIA is being challenged to deal with the status of its Louisville Show.

So, too, is the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association having to review the timing and location of its annual RVDA Con/Expo, held for years in Las Vegas in the first week of October.

Add to this the recent incorporation and welcome back of park trailer manufacturers into the RVIA membership family and it’s likely that the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) could lose a few park model exhibitors to the RVIA show now that the welcome mat is out for them in Louisville.

RVIA has been exploring a possible move to a new location and earlier timing, but that’s not likely at this point until at least 2015.

Discussions have been reported between RVIA and RVDA about a joint meeting and I would expect that it will inevitably occur in the next three to five years. It’s just sound common sense in today’s economic environment to take advantage of the efficiencies a joint meeting should offer.

Surprisingly, the reports of an RVIA-RVDA coordinated meeting have been silent on the possibility of adding the third industry leg to the meeting mix. There’s been virtually no mention that I’ve seen or heard about adding the park industry to this mix.

As RVIA and RVDA experience some turmoil and likely changes in their meeting schedules, ARVC is also experiencing similar issues. Having held the annual ARVC convention in direct competition with RVIA’s Louisville Show for some years, ARVC is committed to one more year (2012) in Las Vegas on the same dates as the Louisville Show, but is then planning a convention and show in Knoxville earlier in November 2013.

So is it out of the question to have an all-industry working group explore the feasibility and desirability of a pan-industry event bringing manufacturers, dealers and accommodators together in one location at the same time? Imagine an industry-wide annual celebration. Imagine a joint meeting of the boards of the associations. Imagine seminars with the top minds sharing ideas for continued industry growth and prosperity? Sure, putting this together would be complex and might have to entail some give and take on everybody’s part, but the excitement generated and the spirit and cooperation could propel each industry segment to greater expansion.

Watch Out Because the Feds May Be Coming Your Way!

Although it’s been reported in recent months, it’s worth repeating this industry alert: There are real efforts underway at the U.S. Forest Service to experiment with new campground models including private investment in campground upgrades and operations, seasonal campsites on public lands, RV and other recreational equipment storage plus longer term concessions or operating permits. Recent meetings between Forest Service and Department of Agriculture senior executives and private sector interests included representatives of the largest campground operating companies, large concession companies, ARVC and other related associations.

It is clearly time for the park industry to revisit the fair competition issues that have hovered over the park industry for a generation and prepare for what could be a significant change in public policy that may bring about a change in the competitive balance between public and private interests.

In the Spirit of Full Disclosure, Some Background on the Author

In the spirit of full disclosure, who is David Gorin and why is he writing for Campground Management?

Just to put all the cards on the table in this inaugural column, here are my disclosures.

From 1987 to 2001, I was the president & CEO of ARVC and during those years played a key role in an array of initiatives – from changing of the name to ARVC from the National Campground Owners Association to the growth of the CPO program, the expansion of Go Camping America to an online consumer directory and the founding and operation of the School of RV Park & Campground Management. I was instrumental in writing many of the association’s policies including its statements of Government Competition before leaving ARVC of my own accord at the end of 2001 to pursue other interests in and out of the park business.

Partner Aubrey King and I represented ARVC’s interests in Washington from 2002 until the end of 2010 when ARVC switched to a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.

Since 2002, I’ve operated David Gorin & Associates, a consulting firm that now exclusively serves investors, developers, owners and others with an interest in the RV park and campground business. I’ve worked with over 150 clients during this period. In 2004, I created Best Parks in America and now serve as president of that national brand and marketing association for highly rated RV parks. I own the intellectual property for Best Parks, an association of parks, and other brands that may be commercialized in the coming months and years.

As if that wasn’t enough, another partner and I in 2007 acquired an older Florida RV park, demolished it and re-developed it into the showcase property it is today. I was the managing partner from 2007 to 2010.

While Best Parks is a supplier member of ARVC, David Gorin & Associates was also a supplier member from 2001 until 2010 when the recession prompted a decline in consulting. David Gorin & Associates has been a member of RVIA since 2002 and since 2002 has provided management services to the Virginia Campground Association. The company name has since been changed to David Gorin Associates.

You can reach me at [email protected] and at (703) 448.6863, and I’d welcome your calls. Let’s talk.