By Chuck Woodbury We posted an article earlier this week from a periodical called SGB Executive. It quotes the president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), Frank Hugelmeyer.
In the article, Hugelmeyer offers his thoughts about the 2018 North American Camping Report, a survey commissioned by KOA that shows that more than six million new households have taken up RVing in the last three years. Using my basic math skills, I calculate that means two million new RV families a year or about 5,500 a day. That’s roughly 228 an hour or just shy of four per minute.
Now let’s figure there’s perhaps a net gain of a few hundred RV park spaces per year. That comes to less than one a day.
Now, if I’m the president of an association that is paid a fee by manufacturers for every single RV product it sells, then I am pleased as punch that my organization is getting a cut on every one of the half million RVs sold in 2017. What the heck do I care where the buyers go with them?
What do I care that many of the impulsive buyers buy the “bling” and finance their new, often cheaply built rigs for 20 years — an insane plan on a quickly depreciating asset. Wait until the next economic downturn, when they lose their jobs or their stock portfolios nosedive and they can’t afford their payments. They’ll need to cough up thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars to pay off their upside-down loans.
The following statement from Frank is what really got me riled up and prompted my appearance here on my soapbox. In the SGB article he said: “Camping obviously is what everyone in an RV is doing.”
I emailed him. I could not hold myself back. I had to know — did he really say that?
Did you really say this in the article I saw today from SGB Executive? “Camping obviously is what everyone in an RV is doing. . .”
You think someone in a 40-foot diesel pusher; or a two bedroom, two bath fifth wheel with a wine cooler, residential fridge, built-in vacuum, dishwasher, heated floors, washer-dryer, cell phone booster, four TVs with a satellite receiver on the roof, stereo system. . . etc. — you really believe they are “obviously camping.” Please!
Do you ever get away in an RV and see what it’s like out there, where Baby Boomers, contract workers, the working poor, college students, traveling nurses, work campers and full-time millennials are clogging up RV parks?
You need to deep six the “go where you want, when you want” Go RVing slogan. It’s not true anymore. Try getting a reservation within a month or two at any National Park. Try maybe a year ahead, and you might get a space if you’re lucky.” (end of letter)
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BY THE WAY, check out Frank’s Facebook or Twitter pages. You won’t see any evidence of him in an RV, I couldn’t even find a photo of an RV. I’d be surprised if he owns one or ever spent more a day or two in one (I could be wrong, of course). Does he realize that a crisis is coming where there’s simply no place to stay with a big ol’ power hungry RV except in the off-season or by making a reservation months or even years ahead?
Of course, there’s always a Walmart parking lot. I dare the RVIA to run an ad showing RVers “camping” in parking lots. It’ll never happen. Instead they show RVs camped on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Yeah, common practice, right?
Like I said, Frank didn’t answer my email. No surprise. It’s rare that anyone in the industry ever does — not just me, but other writers and bloggers with a voice to thousands of RVers, even tens of thousands, or in my case hundreds of thousands. The RV industry is the worst I have ever known at basically ignoring writers. Its PR people aren’t even wise enough to comprehend that forming good relationships with journalists can come in handy during times of crisis, when those journalists may be more understanding.
Here’s what I think:
There are still plenty of people who “camp” with RVs. They stay in state parks, national parks (ones off the beaten path because the popular ones are packed), and Forest Service and BLM campgrounds. Some head off on a dirt road and plop down all alone in the desert or forest. But almost nobody, I suggest, who buys a 40-foot RV with an all-electric residential fridge and all the other things I explained to Frank, is camping. No way!
In the crowd where I hang out, which amounts to hundreds of thousands — if not a million people who live in their RVs full-time or seasonally — we do not camp. We “live.” In my park here in Wichita Falls, 29 sites are occupied by long-term residents working on a local construction project. Are they camping? What about the other two dozen or more here who are full-timers like me? We are not camping, Frank, we are living in mobile homes that your RVIA member friends make more like transportable mansions every year! Who needs a bloody campfire when you have a built-in fireplace?
My RV is not an RV at all. “RV” stands for recreational vehicle. My RV is an “LV,” a living vehicle. “Mobile home” works, too.
It’s time for the industry to start treating RVers who camp and those with LVs differently, and try to do things to improve how we use their products — like lobbying local city councils who nix new RV park projects because they “don’t want no trailer trash in the neighborhood.” Treating me, and others like me, and young families who spend a weekend here and there in a small travel trailer alike is like lumping together a guy with a bass boat and a multimillionaire with a 70-foot yacht. Yes, they’re both boaters, but what else do they have in common? Not much.
So what’s my point? Not sure yet. I’ll get to it one of these days. I think I need at least 500 hours to think it through. And then I’ll write a book. First copy goes to Frank, my compliments.