Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) held its second briefing Thursday morning (March 1) in Elkhart, Ind., to present its vision for an all-new spring event currently under development for 2019 by the national trade association’s leadership to replace the 54-year-old National RV Trade Show – better known as the Louisville Show – that was dropped recently in a unanimous vote by the RVIA’s board of directors.
The decision to terminate the Louisville Show, surprising as it was, didn’t draw all that much opposition from the industry’s rank and file companies, given its diminished attendance and stature as a front-line selling show. Assembling a viable event to replace it — a spring event that may shift each year to different U.S. cities according to RVIA — is the current challenge, which drew an inquisitive group of industry insiders to the RV/MH Hall of Fame for a presentation led by Liz Crawford, senior vice president of trade shows and events, and Jeremy Greene, director of marketing, trade shows.
“Based on dealer surveys, attendees want an event where they can see new product and learn about the latest technology, and the trade show (Louisville) was not being used to highlight innovation,” Greene told the attendees, including a number of front-line suppliers. “Now is the time to create a new platform that will propel the RV industry forward for the next 50 years — a national platform that will promote our successes and celebrate our wins and an opportunity to better connect to our consumer base and make them more aware of our products.
“The new national industry gathering will be a shift in venue, timing, event purpose and size, focused on showcasing the latest technology and products in the industry,” added Greene. “The event will align with new model launches to consumers in the spring and will be designed to spark consumer interest through PR as we lead into the RV selling and travel season.”
“Our association’s research and Go RVing data will be utilized in the new platform to deliver an exceptional education experience to OEMs and suppliers,” said Greene, who also mentioned the possibility of setting up “Smart Bar” sessions where attendees can set up appointments for one-on-one sessions with thought-leaders and industry professionals on specific topics to help them address issues of concern in their business. “Make no mistake, the education at the new event will be designed to captivate and deliver quality learning opportunities to all market segments.
Also on the table is an awards event and a second round of service tech competitions, both new ideas that were well received at November’s Louisville Show.
RVIA’s vision for the new spring event that is nominally referred to as “The Reveal,” probably taking place in March or April, includes a “reimagined product hall” that will be much smaller than Louisville’s and more focused on cutting edge vehicles and components.
“This is not designed to be an arms race,” added Greene in his scripted presentation. “Many OEMs have mentioned how they would bring 40-50 models to the (Louisville) trade show and only three or four were new to the audience. We will encourage exhibitors to be selective, highlighting only the best new products each and every year.”
Ultimately, both Crawford and Greene maintained, the main mission is not to replace the Louisville Show or to compete as a buying event with September’s popular Elkhart RV Open House, but to complement the Open House by elevating the industry and its products, and to drive consumer interest through PR in the mainstream media and social networks by disseminating images of the show itself.
“This is not a show for consumers to attend, but ultimately will lead to consumer awareness,” said Greene. “This is a fundamental shift in the way we promote our products to consumer markets across the country and it is ultimately designed to help the industry sell more RVs.
Crawford, in a Q&A session following Greene’s comments, emphasized that development of this new two-and-a-half-to-three-day event may require some patience and time and may take more than the first year to reach its next comfort zone as a smaller show with a footprint that will probably be about 50% of Louisville’s.
“We’re reducing the size of the show, and if there’s a reduction in the attendance, as long as it’s the right attendance, I think there will be value there,” said Crawford, who’s been meeting with various dealer groups to gather their thoughts and recommendations. “And we are planning on rotating it. We’re not going to be signing contracts (at venues in various cities) too far out. And I think that by moving it around the country, it brings in more of a regional aspect.”
The cities under consideration at this point – looking five to ten years out — include Denver, Detroit, Orlando, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and New Orleans.