Preview: RVIA: A Bigger, Better Show

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Editor’s Note: RVIA has just informed RV PRO that Vice President Mike Pence will be unable to be the keynote speaker for the Outlook Breakfast. In his place, RVIA has secured Jeremy Gutsche, a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning innovation expert, “one of the most sought-after keynote speakers on the planet” and the CEO of Trend Hunter – the world’s No. 1 trend firm with 3 billion views from 150,000,000 visitors.


What do Vice President Mike Pence, camping gear, TED-style talks, a pub crawl and the latest RVs all have in common?

Answer: They will all be a part of the 55th Annual National RV Trade Show, scheduled for Nov. 27 to Nov. 30 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

To read the rest of the November issue of RV PRO, click here.

RVIA show organizers are taking a multi-pronged approach to generating interest for this year’s event, including lining up a list of distinguished guest speakers, providing many educational courses for dealers and service technicians, offering a variety of social events and, of course, playing host to a large assortment of RV manufacturers and suppliers, all under one roof.

Those efforts seem to be paying off, based in part upon preliminary show registration numbers and the amount of taken exhibit space.

As of late September, the number of registered show attendees was running about 20 percent ahead of the same period 2016, according to Jeremy Greene, RVIA marketing director for trade shows and events.

“It’s on re right now,” he says of registrations, adding, “We’re really driving home the message of the value proposition for this show.”

Meanwhile, exhibitors have claimed more than 1 million square feet of show floor space, up from about 730,000 square feet in 2011, when the industry was coming out of the Great Recession.

The increase in exhibit space is being driven by a combination of factors, including existing manufacturers and suppliers taking more space, but also a number of new suppliers from outside the traditional RV arena planning to exhibit, according to Liz Crawford, RVIA senior vice president of trade shows and events. Those new exhibitors – which sell products such as camping and outdoor equipment, pet products, furnishings, and solar and wireless equipment – will exhibit their wares in what RVIA is calling the “Outdoor Lifestyle Pavilion” that will be located inside KEC’s West Wing.

“With the RV industry growing so rapidly there’s a lot of interest from camping and other lifestyle markets and verticals that are trying to get into this space,” Greene says. “So, adding this Outdoor Lifestyle Pavilion has been a great opportunity to bring those folks into the show and opens up opportunities for RV dealers … to end additional revenue streams and make sure that they’re bringing those folks that come into their dealership back to their dealership to sell them additional things.”

“It’s connecting the dots between RVs and the outdoor lifestyle and putting these products in front of dealers for added revenue opportunities and engagement to the consumer,” Crawford adds. Thanks in part to those companies, new exhibitors are expected to comprise about 14 percent of all exhibitors this year, up from 10 percent last year, she says.

Beyond assembling a large collection of exhibiting RV makers and suppliers for dealers to visit, RVIA also has worked to make sure there is a strong value proposition for dealers attending the show, according to Crawford.

Among the events planned are:

Outlook Breakfast: RVIA has asked Vice President Mike Pence to be the keynote speaker for the annual Outlook Breakfast, scheduled for 7 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 28, in rooms C201-205 of the South Wing. Pence has strong ties to the RV industry in part thanks to previously serving as governor of Indiana, where roughly 80 percent of all RV manufacturing takes place.

Additionally, RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer and RVIA Chairman Bob Parrish will offer brief talks on the state of the RV industry, RVIA will offer an official welcome to RV Aftermarket Association members (RVAA recently agreed to merge with RVIA) and RVIA will recognize several up-and-coming industry members with the first-ever “40 Under 40 Awards.”

“That’s a cool program we’re really excited about: Showcasing all aspects of the industry and kind of the movers and shakers in the future of the RV industry, so, the Outlook Breakfast is the perfect opportunity to give recognition to those folks because it’s such a well-attended event,” Greene says.

Dealer & Tech Education: RVIA is bolstering its educational offerings for both dealers and technicians at this year’s show. Crawford estimates educational offerings have been increased by about 20 percent over last year.

A Sobel University Dealer Bootcamp, several TED-style 15-minute Power Talks covering a variety of business topics, seminars on importing and exporting products, and the RVIA Tech Academy are just a few of the educational offerings planned for this year’s event (see the “RVIA Event Schedule” on page 14 for a complete list of show activities).

Top Tech Challenge: New this year, RVIA is launching the Top Tech Challenge, where eight technicians from dealerships across the country will compete for the top honor. The technicians will compete in two separate rounds of timed trials as they attempt to diagnose a service issue.

“We think this competition can be used to elevate what they do for this industry,” Greene says of RV techs.

To generate interest and excitement for the challenge, RVIA will set up bleachers where show attendees can cheer on the techs as an MC plays music and navigates the techs and audience through the challenge. The Tech Challenge will take place between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 27, and from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the pavilions area.

Greene says the winning tech will receive $10,000, to be shared with their dealership, plus a trophy and recognition as the top tech. The winning dealership will be provided with marketing materials that can be used to promote its service department and the quality of service the business offers, he adds.

RVIA anticipates it will host the Top Tech Challenge each year moving forward, and that the trophy will change hands from year to year as different dealerships win in something roughly equivalent to the Stanley Cup in hockey or the America’s Cup in yacht racing, according to Greene.

RV Industry Awards: Also new to the show this year, RVIA will host the RV Industry Awards in conjunction with the RV Dealers Association and RV Business magazine. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the Mercury Ballroom, 611 S Fourth St. in downtown Louisville.

During that event, RVIA will again take time to welcome RVAA members and it will present two awards: The Distinguished Service Award and the Unity Award. Meanwhile, RVDA will present its Quality Circle awards to RV manufacturers that receive the highest ratings in the Association’s Dealer Satisfaction Index Survey and RV Business will present its “Top Debut” award to an RV manufacturer.

“It’s going to be a really exciting night,” Greene says. “This is something we have been working with both RV Business and RVDA on, just making this a memorable evening and celebrating everything having to do with the industry.”

The RV Industry Awards, which are sponsored by KOA Campgrounds, will feature an open bar and food. Anyone attending the show is invited to attend.

Fourth Street Live! Rock ‘n’ Roll Celebration: Immediately after the RV Industry Awards, show attendees are invited to the Fourth Street Live! Celebration on nearby Fourth Street. The event runs from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event is sponsored by RVIA and the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau (see “Welcome to Louisville” on page 18 for more events and activities planned by the LCVB).

In addition to live music, planned activities include a mechanical bull riding competition and a cash cage where dealers can attempt to win money.

Meanwhile, RVIA has taken additional steps to improve the show experience for attendees, based upon feedback received from last year’s event, according to Greene. Those steps include creating improved spaces for attendees to eat, sit and to network; widening aisles to provide better access to exhibitors; improving show signage; and enhancing the show website and mobile App to provide attendees with details on exhibitors and what they will be showcasing at their booths. And to bring an extra element of fun to the show, RVIA will host a “Pub Crawl” Happy Hour on the show floor starting at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

And while the changes planned for this year’s show are widespread, there is one unifying goal behind all of them, according to Crawford.

“The biggest thing that I think the show can do for the industry is help everyone sell more RVs,” she says. “Anything that helps sell more RVs is our motto.”

And while RVIA show officials have additional improvements in mind for future shows, they note that as the event stands now it continues to offer a one-of-a-kind experience for attendees.

“There’s no show like the National RV Trade Show,” Green says. “It’s the largest concentration of manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and campground managers. The entire RV industry gathers at this show to showcase and sell new and innovative products and to showcase new opportunities for dealers and to celebrate the lifestyle.”

“The show is a re ection of the industry. It’s a robust industry and it’s going to be a robust show,” Crawford says, “and nowhere else do you see this gathering under one roof.”


Bradley Worrell

Bradley Worrell is the editor of RV PRO Magazine.

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