National Show Attendance Remains Level

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While total attendance at the 2016 National RV Trade Show last week remained level with 2015 numbers, business sentiment among vendors remained high and international attendees surged,  the RV Industry Association reported in a news release Tuesday (Dec. 6). 

Attendance totaled 7,674 for the four-day National RV Trade Show last week, on par with the 7,725 attendees from 2015, the RVIA reported Tuesday (Dec. 6).   

Attendance in the buying categories – RV dealers, accessory stores and repairs shops, campgrounds and warehouse distributors – was 2,799 representatives, up from the 2,790 in 2015. 

While RV dealer attendance saw a decrease from 2,454 to 2,290, RVIA’s preliminary analysis indicates that dealers representing the bulk of the industry’s buying power were at the show.

The National RV Trade Show also had a strong international flavor with 760 attendees from outside the U.S., up 18.5 percent over the 641 in 2015. Importantly, attendees from Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Italy, Germany, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom accounted for 18 percent of buyers.

Even more important than the attendance numbers is the business activity on the show floor, and exhibitors reported strong sales and an optimistic outlook among attendees.

“We had a terrific Louisville show this year,” said Bob Rogers of Lance Camper. “Our display was consistently busy with both current and new dealer prospects, and the sales team exceeded their goals with new product orders. With all the continued great news about the industry’s current and forecasted performance, the mood was extremely upbeat.”

Chad Reece of Winnebago agreed, “We were pleased with the outcome of our activities at the show. Traffic was good, new elements added to the atmosphere and most importantly, it once again proved a great venue for another opportunity to interact with our dealer partners.”

Several suppliers also reported a productive time at the show. “Traffic through Dometic’s all-new booth on Tuesday and Wednesday was much improved from last year,” said Dave Schutz of Dometic. “For Dometic, our ‘global re-branding launch’ was a tremendous success and the National RV Trade Show gave us an impactful venue for our message to reach the whole North American recreation vehicle industry as well as many other countries from around the world that attended the show. The show definitely had a more exciting, revitalized feel to it with many interactive activities that all industry partners could enjoy together.”

“This year’s National RV Trade Show was a great success for Truma. There was definitely an increased energy and excitement throughout the show that started with the Outlook 2017 keynote speaker, Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, giving a powerful speech to kick off the event,” said Gerhard Hundsberger, of Truma. “Our time was filled with productive conversations with manufacturers and dealers at our booth and as we walked the show. The Louisville exhibition is the most important show of the year for Truma, and we feel the dollars we invest into it are worth it. The RVIA does an excellent job making sure it is an event where OEMs, dealers and suppliers can come together to discuss business in a professional setting.  We had the opportunity to sponsor the Outlook program for the second year in a row, placed banners throughout the show and displayed our Truma Trailer outdoors. As a result, our booth was busier than ever and we had a very strong turnout at our annual Christkindlmarkt party and Truma Sweepstakes.”

There were several changes to improve the experience for attendees and exhibitors at the National RV Trade Show. New to the show was a half day of education on Monday, November 28, with a keynote from brand visionary Ken Schmidt, former director of communications for Harley-Davidson. On Tuesday morning, November 29, a standing-room only crowd of more than 1,300 industry members attended the Outlook 2017 breakfast program that featured reports on RVIA and Go RVing activities as well as a riveting keynote by Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, who is best known for executing the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing in 2009.

Other new features at the show included Experience Zones like “The Patio” with new products on display, RV trivia and more. “Lookout Point” featured a stunning mist wall, which greeted buyers for some relaxation, and a virtual reality display. The “Campfire” was a gathering place on the show floor with 20-minute power talks on key issues and strategies. Happy Hour, sponsored by Dometic, on the first day was a hit with food and free bourbon tasting, and the party held Wednesday night in downtown Louisville at 4th Street Live was a huge hit among attendees with live music performed by the “Louisville Crashers” rounding out the evening.

The last day of the show also marked the giveaway of a Kentucky Derby prize package valued at $4,000 for one lucky buyer. The prize was awarded to Horizon Lussier of Marieville, Quebec, Canada. He will be able to enjoy a three day stay in Louisville for him and his guest, with two tickets to the Derby in May 2017.

“We were extremely pleased with the outcome of this show,” said Liz Crawford, RVIA senior vice president of trade shows and events. “I spent a lot of time on the show floor talking to exhibitors, dealers, suppliers and overall feedback was incredibly positive. Sure, we face market situations in attracting more buyers, but this is not a new phenomenon from other leading trade shows in mature markets experiencing consolidation at the wholesale and retail levels. However, the fact that the entire RV industry rallies around this event with participation, sponsorships and hosting their own events tied to the show indicates a strong and vibrant show poised for new growth. We will remain focused on growing qualified attendance and providing value to our exhibitors, dealers and members.”

The National RV Trade Show also helped focus national media attention on the booming RV market.

Media coverage from the event included placements on national news outlets including Reuters, CNBC, The Street, USA Today, FOX Business, and Bloomberg. Additional coverage was recorded during the trade show and will be released via USA Today, Inc. magazine, and a nationally syndicated radio program in the coming weeks.

“The National RV Trade Show serves as the premiere showcase for all segments of our industry,” said RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer. “There’s plenty of business getting done, but just as important is the education, training, and networking that can only take place when the entire RV industry is together. Strong attendance from around the globe is an indicator of how the international RV industry is looking to America for leadership, best practices and innovation. And our show continues to draw media attention from major news outlets.”

The National RV Trade Show ran from November 28 to December 1 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Next year’s show will be held November 27-30, 2017. Visit for information about the 2017 show.

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