RVIA held its annual meeting on Dec. 10, talking signature programs and sharing final words from the association’s Chairman Garry Enyart, whose term ends Dec. 31.
In March, Enyart formed an all-industry relaunched task force, made up of manufacturers, suppliers, finance firms, dealers, campgrounds and associations. The task force worked together to get RV businesses declared as essential services.
“While it took longer in some markets than others, by working together, we were far more successful in getting businesses declared as essential,” Enyart said.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you, Garry, for your leadership, vision and support during one of the most challenging periods in our history,” RVIA President Craig Kirby stated. “…We are fortunate that we have another strong leader following Garry, Jeff Rutherford from Airxcel. We are all excited to work with Jeff.”
During the question-and-answer period, RVIA Executive VP James Ashurst introduced member questions.
When asked what the 2021 season looks like and how the vaccine could impact travel, Enyart noted the recent ITR forecast projected 502,000 RV shipments next year, the second-highest number in the history of the association, he said.
With the vaccine pointing toward a return of various travel methods, Enyart said he thinks it will be a few years before air travel and others return to normal.
The number of younger and first-time buyers poses well for the industry long-term, Kirby added. Remote work will also continue, with many people continuing to operate from an RV. It’s all positive for the industry, Kirby said.
Another question addressed vendor shortages and port congestion. RVIA Treasurer Kevin McArt of Forest River said he sees suppliers catching up in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, as well as other issues seeing improvements by the end of the first quarter, McArt said.
In regards to a new administration entering the White House, an agreement on bipartisan efforts and a strong industry caucus pointed toward and positive impacts, Kirby said.
McArt presented the association’s financial status as it stood last year, a period representing Jan. 3 through Dec. 31, 2019.
McArt noted three factors that affected financial data. The association transitioned from a 15-month fiscal year period to a calendar year in September 2018, sold and purchased a new building and established the RV Technical Institute (RVTI) as an RVIA subsidiary, which created consolidated financial data.
“The association is performing very well, and it’s measurable,” McArt said. “… As for 2020 and moving forward, I can tell you that your association is in a solid equity position.”
At the pandemic’s beginning, McArt noted staff and the executive committee created a finance response that including a revised budget for the year. An aggressive reduction in expenses and other cost-cutting measures were implemented, McArt said, which helped the organization minimize major reductions in business revenue.
“These moves, in conjunction with a quicker expected recovery for the industry, says RVIA is well prepared to continue to provide its programs, activities and services as directed,” McArt said.
The RVIA president’s report followed, with Kirby discussing the unity displayed despite the year’s uncertainty.
“Manufacturers, suppliers, aftermarket businesses, campgrounds and finance firm [came together] to support each other when it was most critical,” he said.
A new segment of outdoor enthusiasts was created, Kirby said. This summer, RVIA Board of Directors voted to enact the Best Practice recommendation on model year changeover. Additionally, the board voted that effective Jan. 1, 2021, all newly manufactured RVs will be required to have a label. The association also worked with RVDA to eliminate square footage requirements on fifth wheels.
Kirby noted the importance of the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide $9.5 million over the next five years to be divided among agencies assisting park maintenance, repairing infrastructure and modernizing and expanding campgrounds.
“It has definitely been the summer and fall of the RV,” Kirby said. “In addition to extensive work in public relations, Go RVing launched a new, high-energy ‘Go on a Real Vacation’ campaign that further pushed the appeal of RV travel to millions of families and adventurers.
“I feel strongly that what we are seeing today is part of a longer-term growth trend for the RV industry,” he said. “Dealer research shows that more than 55 percent of RV sales are to first-time buyers, up from what is typically 20-35 percent.”
The younger demographic, under the age of 45, is the fastest growing segment. Consumers are looking for ways to take control over their travel experiences, Kirby said.
RVTI’s Executive Director Curt Hemmeler noted the institute’s success in its second year running, now as a wholly-owned RVIA subsidiary.
Four training levels are available through RVTI, Hemmeler stated, which wasn’t the case last year. The institute also implemented new learning management strategies in response to the pandemic, including a self-paced online platform for Level One training. Level Two will be available through the virtual platform starting around April or June of 2021, Hemmeler said.
“It’s truly amazing how the RVTI team is so much further along in their strategic plan, and well below their stated budget, I might add,” Kirby said.
Kirby introduced Go RVing VP Karen Redfern to discuss the campaign’s growth.
“What a year it has been,” Redfern said. “If our crystal ball had shown us what 2020 would bring, we would not have launched two simultaneous agency searches. But, 2020 has also proved to be the right time to introduce Americans to the idea of RVing, and the perfect time to launch a new campaign with a completely different look and feel. The onset of the pandemic set our pace for the year – virtual reality.”
Genuine, Go RVing’s website developers, helped create a centralized website that serves both consumers and industry members’ needs, Redfern said, and is setting records for consumer engagement.
The “Go on a Real Vacation” campaign launched in late spring. TV spots were added in late summer, garnering 1.6 million impressions, Redfern said. To optimize media engagement, Redfern said the 15- and 30-second TV spots were shared in primetime, late-night and sporting events.
Go RVing’s new, full-funnel model that tracks dealer foot traffic will launch this month and continue through 2021. Using a mix of Go RVing and third-party data, the technology will follow consumers who engage with a Go RVing ad or visit the website on a mobile device and then take that device with them when visiting a dealership.
“As we collect data, we will be able to customize our media plan to drive the most effective traffic into RV dealerships, and begin drawing in and tracking more consumers as they most down the purchase funnel,” Redfern said.
Enyart closed the meeting by thanking team members for a seamless virtual annual meeting, and noting that VP of Standards Bruce Hopkins will retire next week.
“We have an incredible opportunity in front of us to make RVs the preferred form of outdoor enjoyment for millions of consumers, for decades to come,” Enyart said. “We can turn today’s RV first-timers into RV lifetimers.
“I’m not going away,” he added. “I will continue to serve on the (executive committee) and spend a lot of time focusing on repair event cycle time, and try to help the industry improve in all that we do. It’s been a great two years.”