With an average occupancy rate of 63% in 2017, the best in 30 years, according to Beverly Gruber, executive director of the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA), campground owners and operators in Pennsylvania had a lot to smile about when they attended the 54th annual PCOA convention and trade show from Dec. 11-13.
Described as “upbeat”, the convention, which was held at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, Penn., drew more than 280 guests and featured 17 educational seminars and 12 round tables, along with more than 70 vendor booths at the trade show.
“We used to host the event in November, but with all the other conventions going on during that month it was just too much for people,” Gruber told Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM). “So we moved it to early December and it has paid off for us. Ten years ago we had around 46-50 booths, so the event has definitely grown.”
The theme of the convention was “Making Connections” and featured keynote speaker David Avrin, who spoke on “Blink and They Are Gone.” His topic covered looking at your entire park from the point of view of the camper. He encouraged campground owners to give the customer an experience to last a lifetime – “visibility wins,” he said, and concluded with “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
Built with feedback from convention attendees, seminar topics included “Cash Management”, “Secrets Overheard in 250 Campground Restrooms” and “Pond and Lake Maintenance”, just to name a few. Round tables discussed topics such as “Maintaining Your Roads”, “New Profit Centers” and more.
“We have been doing the round tables for 30 years and some of our attendees like those better than anything else we do,” said Gruber. “It is great for us, because those don’t cost us anything. All we do is have a topic leader that directs the discussion. It gives everyone in the room a chance to give their opinion on a certain topic or ask questions.”
At only 15 to 20 minutes long, Gruber also noted that each attendee is able to attend at least four of the round tables.
“We really try to build a broad spectrum of educational seminars and round tables so that everyone findd something they are interested in,” she said.
In 2018, Gruber said that the PCOA will continue to work on marketing and the association’s gift certificate program. Currently, the PCOA has 231 members, a number that continues to slowly increase.
On the legislative side, the PCOA hired a lobbyists two years ago to repel efforts by the state to implement sales taxes on all campground sites. Currently, campground owners only pay sales taxes and hotel taxes on cabins or structures that include a bed, not on tent or RV sites, where customers bring their own beds.
Gruber said that some state officials continue to really press for campgrounds to pay the additional sales tax. Gruber said that during the last session, “out of the blue” some state associations tried to raise the hotel tax from 5% to 12%.
“Put that on top of the sales tax and that is a lot for campground owners,” she said.
At an auction held during the convention, attendees raised more than $20,000, which will be used to fund educational endeavors, including the National School of RV Park and Campground Management.
PCOA also announced it scholarship winners: Donald Lemaster, from the The Loose Caboose Campground in Kinzers, Penn., was awarded a full scholarship to the National School of RV Park and Campground Management in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Elizabeth May,from the Presque Isle Passage RV Park and Cabin Rentals in Fairview, Penn., was awarded up to $1,000 for a college or university course; and Joshua Rupp, from the Nautical Mile Campground and Marina in Templeton, Penn., was awarded up to $500 for continuing education.
At PCOA’s annual meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 12) evening, new officers were elected to two-year terms:
- President – Jed Wood, Blue Rocks Family Campground, Lenhartsville, Penn.
- Vice President – Ryan McFarland, Buttonwood Campground, Mifflintown, Penn.
- Treasurer – Tim Cartmell, Honesdale/Pocono Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Honesdale, Penn.
- Secretary – Matt May, Presque Isle Passage RV Park & Cabin Rentals, Fairview, Penn.
- VP Regions I & II – Bill Sujansky, Pioneer Park Campground, Somerset, Penn.
- VP Regions III & IV – David Mull, Shady Brook Campground & Boat Rental, Beavertown, Penn.
- VP Regions V & VI – James Kesterke, Otter Lake Camp-Resort, East Stroudsburg, Penn.
The following directors will fill spots that were vacated: Region II – Ron Thompson, Silver Canoe Campground, Rural Valley, Penn.; Region V – Jonathan Ammary, StonyBrook RV Resort, Lehighton, Penn.; Directors at Large – Debby Yeager, Rose Point Park Cabins & Camping, New Castle, Penn.; and Melinda Koehler, Driftstone Campground, Mt. Bethel, Penn.
Three retiring board members were recognized for their many years of dedicated service to the association:
- Jason Vaughan, Mountain Vista Campground, East Stroudsburg Penn., who served as president for four years. He will continue to work with the board as past-president.
- Barbara Repetski, Hemlock Campground, Tobyhanna, Penn., who was secretary for four years.
- Mark Wineman, Kalyumet Campground, Lucinda, Penn., who was past-president.