The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) celebrated its annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in Las Vegas last week, drawing more than 550 park operators and industry officials from across the country.

The Nov. 28 to 30 conference, held at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, included nearly 50 educational seminars, networking and crackerbarrel sessions, a tradeshow with nearly 100 vendors as well as the industry’s annual membership meeting, in which top ARVC officials highlighted the continuing strength of the campground industry, the turnaround in ARVC membership as well as the association’s latest accomplishments and new initiatives, according to a news release.

ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter commended ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei for his efforts and leadership in establishing a new headquarters in Denver, hiring new staff and launching nearly a dozen new member benefits, including an unprecedented music licensing program, which provides 60% to 70% off the normal rate for BMI and ASCAP. This program alone will save small parks $700 a year, while large parks could save $1,200 or more.

“I don’t know where we would be at this time if it wasn’t for Paul Bambei,” Schutter said, adding that Bambei has also managed to increase membership above 3,000 parks and reduce ARVC’s operating budget by half a million dollars since he became president and CEO of ARVC three years ago.

New Member Benefits

Bambei, for his part, announced several new member benefits, including discount programs with AT&T Wireless, RVBackground Checks.com, Ecolab, Moen Kitchen & Bathroom Equipment and The American Society for Asset Protection. These are in addition to significant discount programs with Ford Motor Co., Club Car, Alliance Laundry Systems, which ARVC negotiated earlier this year.

Bambei noted that savings from many of these programs easily exceeds the cost of ARVC membership, making membership in the association essential for park operators who are interested in increasing their bottom line.

Bambei also reviewed previously announced improvements to GoCampingAmerica.com and announced a major overhaul of the association’s website at ARVC.org, the latter of which would go live during the first quarter of 2013. He said ARVC also plans to publish three print versions of the ARVC Voice on a seasonal basis.

The conference included nearly 50 educational seminars, the largest of its kind in the campground industry, including multiple sessions dealing with employee management, marketing and the latest social media tools.

Nearly 100 Vendors at Expo

ARVC’s Expo featured nearly 100 vendors, including Southern Pines, N.C.-based Red Rover, which provides a social media marketing tool and travel planning website for campgrounds. Other vendors included Utility Supply Group, Kingston, Wash.; Pacific Yurts, Cottage Grove, Ore.; Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas and Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries; Austin, Texas-based TengoInternet; CheckBox Systems LLC, Gray, Maine; and RMS North America, a La Jolla, Calif.-based reservation systems provider. For a complete listing of Expo vendors, visit the exhibitor’s section of www.arvcOHCE.com.

Several vendors reported brisk sales, reflecting a growing sense of confidence about the campground industry’s prospects for 2013.

Schutter, who also serves as chief operating officer of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems, Inc., said most campground operators have maintained at least modest growth during the past year, with revenues climbing up to 4 percent while their occupancies have remained flat or grown slightly. Schutter said the strongest growth involves parks that are investing in rental accommodations.

New officers Elected

In other business, ARVC members elected several new officers for the association, who will work with Chairman Schutter during the coming year. They include 2nd Vice Chairman Terry Munoz of Thousand Trails in Lake Conroe, Texas, who replaced Michael Gelfand of Terra Vista Management, Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Treasurer Tim Deputy of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, Fla., who replaced Pat O’Neill of Camp Gulf in Destin, Fla.; and Secretary Truman Hartshorn of Lebanon Reservoir Campground in Lebanon, N.Y., who replaced Terry Munoz in that position.

New ARVC board members include Bobby Cornwell, executive director of Florida ARVC, who replaced Deb Carter of the Maryland Campground Owners Association; Lynda Phelps of Upriver RV Resort in Fort Myers, Fla., who replaced Tim Deputy of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, Fla.; Tim Wilcox of Gateway Park Campground in Hillsdale, Mich., who replaced Garry Cole of the Shelby / Mansfield KOA in Shelby, Ohio; and Dan Wright of The Springs at Borrego RV Resort in Borrego Springs, Calif., who replaced Michael Gelfand of Terra Vista Management Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Others are Eric Stumberg of TengoInternet, who replaced Ann Emerson of Good Sam Enterprises in Ventura, Calif.; Karl Littman of Candy Hill Campground in Winchester, Va., who replaced Vicki Cole of the Shelby/Mansfield KOA in Shelby, Ohio; and Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group in Kingston, Wash., who replaced Norman Boucher of LCN Outdoors, LLC in Windsor, Conn. Also elected to the board was Al Johnson of Recreational Adventure Co., a Hill City, S.D. company that owns and operates KOA campgrounds.