Monty Speaks with Campground Consultant Bob MacKinnon

Picture of Bob MacKinnonBob MacKinnon is the principal of MacKinnon Campground Consulting based in Murrieta, California. He has extensive leadership experience in the Hospitality Industry including 30 years of experience with the Walt Disney Company. He founded MacKinnon Campground Consulting in 1996.

Monty: Hi Bob; thank you for speaking with us today. Would you please start by telling us a little bit about your background. We know you started with Disney…

Bob: Sure. Actually I started with the Disney Company while I was still going to college, working part time at Disneyland. It was just prior to all of the Walt Disney World development in the early 70s. I had an opportunity to go through their management training program and be part of the Walt Disney World Development and be there on the ground floor. I spent most of my time in operating divisions whether it was in the Magic Kingdom Park, which is like Disneyland, or in hotel operations which I got into a little bit later on. That’s really where the majority of my career was. Actually probably the last half of the 31 years that I was with Disney was in hotel/resort management.

Really that’s how I got involved with the campground industry. I was involved, had some exposure to our Fort Wilderness campground in Florida. I was transferred back to California in the late ’80s from Florida to the Disneyland area, to be a part of the transition team when the Disney Company acquired the Disneyland hotel from a company that was leasing the name from us. There I became responsible not only for hotel operations but also for an RV resort that Disney owned and operated as part of that acquisition.

Over the next 10 years or so I got interested in the RV park/camping industry from a business standpoint. I had always been a camper ever since my early Boy Scout days and continued camping as an adult through college and with my family. So it was interesting to be involved with that from a business standpoint.

Over a few years, one thing led to another, and I had an opportunity to retire from Disney and start my own consulting business in the RV park and campground consulting field. It had been a thing that I was interested in for some time – starting my own business – but not sure where, so it has been very serendipitous to have that opportunity present itself.

Monty: When did you start your business?

Bob: It was back in 1996, actually, so it’s been about 16 years. I’ve done over 300 different projects as a consultant – some small and some quite large. I’ve worked throughout the U.S., I’ve worked with Canadian companies, I’ve worked internationally – gone over to Australia and had some contact and work there. Most recently, in the last couple of years, I’ve been to China. So it really has been quite interesting. I do all sorts of consulting work from doing feasibility studies and business plans for developing new campgrounds to working with owners who have been in the business for a number of years who kind of need a fresh look of where to take their campground business. I do work for buyers of campgrounds who are not familiar with the industry and help them sort out whether buying the campground is really a good deal for them and is going to meet their needs and expectations. I do a line of training work. Part of my Disney history was with the Disney University for a number of years and I was the head of the resort division/hotel division training at Walt Disney World. Because of that I’ve gotten involved with teaching a number of seminars, writing articles, helping people in the RV park and camping industry understand how to improve their businesses. For about the last 10 years I have been an instructor and a board member at National School of RV Park and Campground Management that is sponsored by our trade association which is the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. That school is held in February of every year back in Wheeling, West Virginia.

It has been an interesting career from the standpoint of consulting work helping owners and developers maximize the value of their efforts and doing a lot of training to help people to understand how they can use best practices in the guest services and hospitality industry to make their lives better and their businesses better.

Monty: Do you own an RV yourself?

Bob: I have. I don’t currently own one, but it’s on my bucket list.

Another thing that I do, for about the last seven or eight years, I provided customer feedback tools for individual campgrounds in the RV park and campground industry. They can survey their customers and get a guest satisfaction score. That’s evolved into a pretty big endeavor that is kind of co-sponsored with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds under the brand name GuestReviews. What I do is I have a contract with the National Association to provide an online guest satisfaction measurement tool for their 3,800 members and it’s an online survey and it gives them access to data as far as customer sentiments and satisfaction as well as giving the camping public an opportunity to review their experiences at an individual campground and post their comments and that sort of thing. In a way it is kind of a TripAdvisor for the campground industry.

It’s really two sides. It’s a consumer facing tool that we branded as GuestRated.com, and a customer satisfaction quality control measurement tool available to campgrounds that we branded as guestreviews.com. So two brands, two purposes, but all driven off of obtaining feedback from customers in a way that you can measure and search upon data and improve your business as well as allow consumers to make their decisions on where they want to stay.

Monty: Explain again the difference between guestrated.com and guestrevies.com?

Bob: It’s really the audience that we service. I think probably for the purposes of your interview, guestrated.com is the brand because that is the public facing brand. We will probably be blending them together in the next year but for now from the public standpoint GuestRated is the brand and it is positioned as an opportunity for campers to give feedback to the campground owner as well as to share their reviews and ratings with other campers.

Monty: What are some of the things that a camper should look for in a campground?

 
…all campers appreciate service above anything else…

 

Bob: I know that this is going to sound kind of trite, but all campers appreciate service above anything else. There is such diversity in facilities and services out there… I don’t know if you are a camper or been camping, but I am sure that you can appreciate that there are camping experiences all the way from hiking in the woods and sleeping under the stars to driving a million dollar bus into a luxury resort with having spa treatments, and gourmet restaurant experiences. So with an industry that diverse to say that there is any one thing that people are looking for is not really accurate because even that camper who is going to sleep under the stars might also travel in a trailer or a motor home and want a more luxurious camping experience. So the real equalizer is how they’re treated once they decide what kind of an experience they want – if they want rustic or middle of the road or a luxury experience – they choose that upfront and they have expectations that they will get certain facilities and services. The truth of the matter or the proof of the pudding is how that experience is delivered and it is all about how they are treated.

The analogy that I give when I teach Customer Service classes is the TV show Cheers. It may not have been the fanciest, neatest, nicest, most luxurious facility in the world but they have created special relationships with their customers. Making each customer feel special by creating a place “where everybody knows your name”. When you visit Cheers, you become part of that family. So that’s really what hospitality is all about and that’s really what the biggest differentiator is in the campground industry like any other hospitality operation.

Monty: What are some of the innovative things that you see campgrounds doing that stand out in your mind?

Bob: Well, I think the most effective innovation is a campground trying to understand and provide features and services designed to meet their customer’s expectations. In any venue that I discuss from luxury to rustic camping, success is in understanding what your customer wants and then satisfying those expectations. The customer doesn’t expect a spa treatment when they’re sleeping under the stars.

Monty: What are some of the things that a camper should look for in a campground?

 
…many more camping resorts are developing around the country to cater to higher expectations that more affluent campers and RVers have…

 

But if you want to talk innovation on high-end stuff, many more camping resorts are developing around the country to cater to higher expectations that more affluent campers and RVers have. Among those are recreational facilities, activities – I mentioned spa treatments, there are a number of luxury RV resorts that provide spa treatments and gourmet restaurants or banquet facilities.

But the true middle-of-the-road facilities – WiFi and connectivity with the Internet is kind of a basic expectation for anyone who is not doing rustic camping. I think that mainstream of campers today are looking for a way to connect with nature under their own terms but still having all of the conveniences of home. So even if they are camping in a tent in a campground, a lot of them still want to have their mobile device whether it is a cell phone or a tablet or a laptop. Many want to stay connected with their social circle or loved ones and some campers need to stay connected with their business. That’s been probably the biggest change in the industry over the last five years.

Monty: People are not just going to get away from it all any more…

 
…[Staying connected] is probably the biggest change in the industry in the last five years…

 

Bob: Yes. Even if you are in a tent in a campground, they may be sitting in that tent or at the outdoor picnic table surfing the web, answering e-mails… A lot more people are flexible in their business arrangements so they stay in touch and stay connected while they travel no matter whether they are staying at a campground, RV resort, or hotel. That is probably the biggest change in the industry in the last five years, in addition to what I call rentable units.

Not everybody wants to sleep on the ground. Not everybody can afford to purchase a recreational vehicle whether it is a trailer or a motor home. Yet they want to get outdoors, and one way to do that is through renting a cabin or a platform tent or a more luxurious cottage, or something like that. Again, in the last seven to ten years that segment of the camping industry has really grown tremendously. Many of the destination camping resorts not only offer campsites for tents, trailers, or motorhomes, but they do offer some type of rental unit and are attracting and servicing a segment of the camping market that might not otherwise go camping.

Monty: Do campgrounds also sometimes rent trailers and things like that?

Bob: They do. The whole rental market is very diverse also. At the basic service level there are campgrounds that rent a platform tent – a wooden platform with a tent on it with cots or bunk beds in it – rustic kind of log cabins with not a lot of luxuries – no internal bathroom but basic power and light and a door that locks at night. Other campgrounds rent a variety of different types of trailers. Some of them rent pretty much the same commercial trailer that you could buy and tow yourself without any modifications to it, and other trailers that are built specifically for rental units that are somewhat semi-permanently located in a park. They may even look like a miniature mobile home. There are conventionally built cottages whether they are framed out or log cabins.

Some parks really get into the kind of unique and fanciful accommodations. There are parks that rent out teepees, there are parks that rent out a teepee type of product called a yurt, which is a circular structure that is kind of a combination between a teepee and a platform tent. I’ve seen some that have renovated railroad cabooses. There are all sorts of different kind of accommodations in that rental unit area. The campground determines what they think will be attractive to their market and will complement their existing facilities. There’s quite a variety out there.

Monty: I imagine over the years you have seen quite a number of campgrounds and we were wondering what are some of the more unique things you have come across as you have visited various campgrounds?

Bob: Well, in the rental accommodations area I visited one campground that was very creative in what they did. In fact they had one little section that they developed into a little miniature street in a western town with false fronts, you know, a saloon, and a general store, and a jail etcetera. And behind each one of those structures was a little cabin with sleeping accommodation. They were the one that had the railroad caboose. They had a Conestoga wagon. They had a stage coach. So they really took in this theming. Each one of those had sleeping accommodations. It was pretty unique. I’ve seen many locations but I have only seen one location that got that creative.

Some of them now have large cabin type of facilities that can accommodate multiple families. I think that is a market that has a significant demand and is going to continue to grow. A lot of family reunions would like to have multiple families to share accommodations under one roof and still connect with nature rather than going to a hotel and using their conference center for their family reunion. They look at where they can get accommodations at a camping resort. That’s unique as far as the accommodations.

A lot of destination resorts, especially family oriented developments, are opening lots of new recreation facilities. There are some that have extensive water park facilities. Some of them are linked in with amusement parks either adjacent to them where they have access to them. A lot of them have full scale activity programs where you can go and have an extended stay with an activity program lined up for every member of the family. There are a lot of unique things out there besides the folks that just want to go and have a natural outdoor experience – pitch a tent and cook over an open fire and just enjoy the outdoors.

The real key is that there is a lot of diversity and it’s a matter of identifying from a campground owner’s standpoint what your market is and getting that feedback from them as to what their expectations and needs are so that you can provide the right combination. And again, there are times when I would go camping with my kids and we would pack a tent and sleep on the ground and other times where wanted a much more comfortable experience.

Monty: If you could look into your crystal ball where do you see this industry headed?

Bob: I think that camping has always been a family-oriented activity. It is one of those activities that provides quality time among families and I think that is at the core of why people enjoy it and why people continue doing it. It is outdoors in nature and you can buy into that as much as you want. You can have an adventure experience or you can have a low key take short hikes experience.

 
…camping is very affordable…

 

The key is that camping is very affordable and because of that it is a very solid industry. I think that the biggest challenge going forward, even though this industry has weathered the economic storm over the past few years – it’s weathered it very well because it has been affordable and people who cannot afford to go on an extended or expensive vacation or cruise or whatever – they can still afford to go camping with their family. And so, I will not say that it is completely recession proof, but the occupancy statistics have shown it’s been a pretty solid industry over the past few years and it has not been impacted nearly to the extent that the other travel industry segments have.

However, that being said, there has been a gap in developing new campers – growing new campers, families camping, kids camping – over the past ten years or so. And so as an industry I think that there is a concern about finding ways to get new campers involved, and younger campers involved in that camping experience to continue the strength of the industry. In general, twenty-something year olds don’t wake up one day and say I want to go camping. They were introduced to it at an earlier age. They were introduced to nature and the outdoors and then they evolved into it and then they pass that along to their children. So that’s a challenge that is recognized both by private campgrounds and by public agencies – there is a need to acquaint younger people today who may not have had a camping experience and to acquaint them with the benefits, the excitement, and the fun of being outdoors and being outside and having an overnight experience and what kind of recreation things they can do and have them begin to accept that as a lifestyle that they also enjoy. I think that is the biggest challenge going forward.

 
The rental RV gives them some flexibility to go from location to location and not have to unpack and repack…

 

One of the segments of the industry that I left out so far is that rental RVs, like rental accommodations at the site, offer people who are not in the RV camping lifestyle an ease of entry to that and many people get involved with camping through the rental of an RV. They can travel around and experience camping in different locations and sometimes that’s what leads them to an RV purchase later on. It’s an easy way to kind of test drive a camping experience where you are going to multiple locations whereas the rental unit is usually set up on site – whether it’s a cabin, a cottage or a teepee. The rental RV gives them some flexibility to go from location to location and not have to unpack and repack every time they wanted to stop and stay.

Monty: Try before you buy…

Bob: Absolutely.

Monty: Or you are never going to buy it just appreciate the mobility and not having to unpack.

Bob: Actually, in some cases it makes better financial sense to rent one than to buy one. Just like any vehicle, the minute you drive that thing off of the dealer’s lot, the depreciation of that RV takes a major hit. So a lot of people are smart about their camping experiences and they buy an RV for a week or whatever the period of time is and let someone else worry about insuring it, maintaining it, and eating the depreciation on it.

Monty: And storing it…

Bob: Absolutely. In fact in many urban areas that’s a huge problem these days and a very costly part of having an RV.

Monty: Thank you very much for speaking with us.

Bob: Thanks so much. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.

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Interview with RV Industry Historian Al Hesselbart

Picture of the Book The Dumb Things Sold Just Like ThatFollowing is an interview that Monty’s Musings did with RV industry historian Al Hesselbart. For the last 17 years Al has led the growth and development of the museum and library at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana. He also runs educational seminars and can bring attractive vintage RV displays to help promote and entertain RV rallies, shows, or events. You can learn more about his seminars and displays at RV History Programs. He is also the author of the book The Dumb Things Sold Just Like That, A History of the Recreational Vehicle Industry in America.

Monty: How did you first get involved with the history of the RV?

Al: I was hired in 1994 to manage the local operation [for the RV Hall of Fame] while the President of the foundation traveled nationally promoting the Hall of Fame and raising funds to keep it going.

Monty: So you have pretty much been doing this ever since?

Al: Pretty much yes. In the early 2000s I became part time for a while and during that time I worked both for the Hall of Fame and was also a substitute school teacher. At first I was hired to manage a facility and to develop some programs – that was my background, not for profit management and program innovation which I did for the Boy Scouts of America. I was nationally recognized as a program innovator doing some things for the Boy Scouts. I was hired to run the operation at the Hall of Fame because they didn’t have a manager. They built a building in 1990 and didn’t do anything with it. So I was hired to run the operation and in that function I became enamored with the history as I developed a library of vintage publications for the Hall.

Monty: As one of the RV industry’s preeminent historians, what tasks fill your day?

Al: Managing the Hall of Fame’s museum and library, working with companies and visitors, and traveling to shows, rallies and other events. I also train and supervise a corps of volunteers, deal with press (print and TV) from around the world.

Monty: How many press queries do you receive?

Al: I get multiple press inquiries each week and probably several hundred a year – everything from a clarification of some statement made by somebody else to lengthy interviews. I am, I understand, on a reference list as a consultant to both AP and Reuter’s wire services. If there is something they don’t understand doing a story – call Al Hesselbart. I also have become known enough that people like the History Channel call me. I’ve done a documentary for them. I’ve done a documentary for the Travel Channel. I worked with Dan Rather at CBS News back when he was doing that. Just because I’m available business hours every day six days a week, instead of going to some of the other perhaps more appropriate references they come to me because I’m available here full time.

There are a couple of other historians of the RV industry who in some ways have better knowledge than I do about their subject. Roger White at the Smithsonian has in-depth researched the history of motorized RVs. He’s written a couple of books on it and is a curator at the Smithsonian. Well in that subject I’ll bow to him each time but he’s not always available so they come to me.

For the early RV, now this is pre-World War II RV history, David Woodworth in California is far superior to my knowledge. He has 25 years of research in learning the very early days of the industry.

Right now the three of us are pretty much those who are recognized as active as historians and I’m the only one that’s full time active.

Monty: So you are to go to guy in some sense because you are there.

Al: Right, because I answer my phone.

Monty: What is the most gratifying part about being the RV industry’s historian?

Al: The people I have been able to work with, the giants of the industry that I have established personal relationships with. My mentor in learning RV history was a fellow by the name of Harold Platt whose biography is included in my book. He loved to talk and I loved to listen. I spent probably a hundred hours or more over a four year period listening to Harold tell me how the RV industry developed in the heart of the depression in the 1930s.

Monty: What was Harold’s involvement in the industry?

Al: Harold led Platt trailers. He started building trailers in 1935 and built trailers through the 60s and then became a retailer and was a dynamic RV retailer and became the first retail dealer for Coachman Industries when it was founded, became the first RV retailer for Jayco when it got founded. He made himself very successful as a manufacturer and so he loved helping companies get started and was just a giant in the industry and was still selling RVs at trade shows into his 90s. He was just an amazing guy. He was my mentor in learning the history of the RV industry.
Another real pioneer that I got to deal with, also mentioned in my book, was a man by the name of Herb Reeves. He helped me a lot in learning the industry. I came into this function and museum manager and RV historian very late in the game. I never worked a day in the RV industry. So these industry giants with 30, 40, 50 years in the industry helped lead me through learning the history of the industry.

Monty: How much RV traveling do you do yourself?

Al: At this time 5 to 7 rallies a year, 3 to 4 shows, and I snowbird to Florida for 3 months a year, all in my vintage 1978 Newell Motor Home.

Monty: How many miles do you travel in your RV each year?

Al: From 8,000 to 10,000 miles a year is what I’ve done the last few years. Before that it was considerably less.

Monty: Do you have a special place that you go in Florida?

Al: I do have. I’m a snowbird. I run away from Elkhart and spend my winter at a campground north of Tampa at Bushnell, Florida.

Monty: Do you doing anything special while you are there?

Al: I do a little bit of everything. The Tin Can Tourists Vintage Camper Club has a monthly get together so I get involved with vintage camper aficionados down there. I do educational programs for several different campgrounds in the area around where I am. Last year I did daily programs for the Tampa RV show. I still keep my feet wet but I sleep in and stay warm and party with the pot luck dinners and all that kind of stuff that is trailer camp life.

Monty: What were the early RVs like?

Al: Primarily Shelter.

Monty: When you say shelter, you mean some place simply to sleep?

Al: Yes.

Monty: No amenities, just bare bones…

Al: The earliest ones were basically hard walled tents – simply a place to sleep. Kitchens were not immediately a part of them. The people that were using the earliest RVs, we’re talking prior to World War I, these were tent campers and to be able to carry twice as much stuff then when they are driving a Model T and a tent was a big advantage. But the vehicles couldn’t pull much of a trailer so they had to be fairly light. They cooked over an open fire outside. As cars and trucks got better, the capability of more stuff in the trailer got better, so in the ’20s we got to kitchens, dining tables, and that kind of stuff. It wasn’t until the ’60s and ’70s that living space – couches and easy chairs and that kind of stuff came into them. They were pretty much just a shelter through the ’50s.

Monty: When did on-board showers and toilets make their way in?

Al: In very rare occasions in the ’30s. We have a ’30s unit with a bathroom in it at the Hall of Fame. Now a toilet in the 1930s was basically a private room where you used a chamber pot and you went outside and dumped it when you were done. But residential toilets were much the same at that time. Running water was not necessarily an important part of a house. It wasn’t until the 60’s that toilets and showers came into any kind of popular use. For most of the ’60s they used minimal space so they provided what we called a wet bath where the toilet sat in the middle of the shower stall. The joke was you could brush your teeth, use the toilet, and take a shower all at the same time without moving. It was about 18 inches square where you had the small vanity sink, the flushable toilet, and a shower head over top. That was very common through the ’60s and early ’70s.

Until that time, anything up to 20 foot was a travel trailer and there weren’t many travel trailers more than 20 to 22 feet long. As we go into the ’70s, and they grew into 30 and 40 foot vehicles, then we got separate showers and toilets, we got living rooms with Lazy Boy chairs and TVs, and that kind of thing. We got into satellites and entertainment systems in the ’80s. Before that TVs and telephones and all of that was what we went camping to get the hell away from.

Monty: When did slide outs become popular?

Al: Popular in the late ’80s through the ’90s. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that motor homes had slide outs. The pull trailer industry, both fifth wheels and travel trailers, had slide outs before anyone conceived putting them in a motor home.

Monty: What are some of the most interesting facts or stories about RVs or even some interesting RV trivia?

Al: The fifth wheel was invented in 1917 by Glenn Curtiss the aviation pioneer. The trailer ball and receiver was not invented until the late 1920s. The earliest RVs were motorized. Towables came a little later. Hawley Bowlus, who supervised the building of the Spirit of St Louis for Charles Lindbergh, designed and built the first aluminum trailers – copied later by Wally Byam for his Airstreams. Type C motor homes came from the slide in truck camper industry as chassis-mounted oversized campers not “mini motor homes”.

Monty: How will the RV industry deal with rising oil and gas prices?

Al: In general “pay it or park it”. Most travelers will restrict the distance traveled but not their time. The industry will also emphasize more efficient rigs.

Monty: What do you mean by pay it or park it? I take that to mean less driving and more time in a location.

Al: That comment is not my own comment. I was part of a discussion where people where whining about the cost of fuel and the answer was quit your belly aching, either pay the price and enjoy RVing or park it. But your reading of it is more accurate. What we’re finding is that instead of a cross country vacation people are taking a one or two state vacation.

Monty: So staying a little closer to home…

Al: Less mileage, spending longer time at individual stops…

Monty: In addition to oil prices, what are the biggest challenges facing the industry?

Al: Available credit. To purchase anything credit is a problem. We get the same thing in the RV industry. One of the RV companies that just went out of business, they had orders being built on the assembly line and the bank cut off credit for their operation and their customers and they went out of business with a bag full of orders. Purely a bank generated close down. Credit is so tight right now for major purchase.

Monty: What does the future hold in store for the RV industry?

Al: I get asked that question often. Number one I think that through a hundred years we have pretty well proven that it is not going to go away. We have also proven that it is populated with some absolutely visionary genius inventors. We are going to see things in the next ten years that we cannot even imagine. Are we going back to the concept Winnebago introduced in the 1970s and are we going to see in our lifetime flying RVs? Winnebago made Sikorski helicopter-based RVs in the 1970s. So there is a history of that.

We have two extremes in the industry today. We have companies downsizing, going lighter, eco-friendly, green, towable with a four cylinder car. Practical type light small units. And we have a number of companies producing 45 foot and bigger monster units with price tags above seven digits.

Monty: So you are going from ultra-efficient and affordable to price is no object…

Al: Yes. My personal unit which I acquired as a vintage unit, bargain basement, is a Newell. Newell has been around since the mid-1960s totally always as a very high-line custom made only unit. They do not make an RV until it’s paid for and everyone is different, totally custom. I found one basically at a fire sale and bought it for $25,000. Although it is 35 years old but it is as nice a unit as most of them that are made today, but their price tag today starts at $1.5 million and goes up from there.

You’ve got the monster RV company called PowerHouse Coach in Idaho that makes nothing under 50 feet long. They’re huge. They’re a freight train. So you got that extreme and you have things like Dutchman a division of Thor that are making what they call t@B that is a 15 foot little shell of a unit that can be pulled by any 6-cylinder automobile I think. You have several companies coming back with the tiny tear-drop style trailers that are three and a half to four feet tall and ten feet long and the thing that they are questioning is what’s going to happen to everything in the middle?

Monty: What can you tell us about the emergence of the RV rental industry?

Al: It has become very popular. Remarkably the RV rental concept started in the 1930s. It is not a recent concept. But the popularity of RV rental has been over the last 20 years. A lot of dealers, a lot of manufacturers are encouraging prospective purchasers to rent a unit and experience the lifestyle before investing piles of money – a try it before you buy it concept.

There are other people in major metropolitan cities; people who live in the central core of the cities have no real capability of owning, storing, and parking an RV. For those people, for one or two trips a year, rental makes a whole lot more sense than paying some outrageous fee a hundred miles away from home to store a unit that they don’t use on a real regular basis. I think that’s El Monte’s customer – people who are going to take a couple of nice trips a year but are not inclined for any number of reasons to have ownership.

Monty: Who were the early pioneers in RV rental?

Al: Robert Crist in Chicago had a dealership in the heart of Chicago and he conceived the notion of rental as a sales technique. Come to me and I’ll rent you one and when you come back it was basically a rent to buy type of thing. Many people would rent one for a week and come back and buy the one they just had.

Monty: What time frame was this?

Al: He was a dealer primarily for the Covered Wagon Trailer Company in the mid-1930s. Other dealers, retailers, picked up on that. He actually wrote articles in a couple of trade magazines of the late 30s recommending how many more units he sold if he would let someone take it for a week before he would try to close the sale. Now these were trailers, not motorized. But the concept started then before World War II.

Monty: And it came to its present format when?

Al: Within the last 20 years it has taken off and we have specialty rental companies like El Monte RV. There are three or four major national concerns whose entire business is having locations with inventories of units to rent. There are some dealers, there is a dealer in Southwestern Michigan, he’s a retailer but he has a rental fleet of 50 units that he rents out – everything from folding tent trailers to Class C motor homes. His target audience is people from Chicago event though he is a 150 miles out of Chicago.

The concept of RV rental both as just available units for big city dwellers and RV rentals as a sales technique for active retail dealers is growing.

Monty: What advice would you give to someone considering taking an RV vacation?

Al: Number one, quit talking about it and do it. Consider what your expectations are. We have two classes of people who involved in the consumer side of the RV industry now. About equal numbers. We have a group of people who are campers who want to visit the great outdoors and see the forests and woodlands, the beaches, and whatever. Their target is comfortable camping. The other half of the consumer body, my title is RVers, these are the travelers headed for a destination, be it Disney World or a football Super Bowl or whatever, who consider parking overnight in the Walmart parking lot camping. They’re looking for a mobile motel room. They’re taking a mobile suite of rooms which will be their hotel at their destination and want to be as comfortable as possible. These are the 45 foot RVs, the big fifth wheel people, this kind of thing. You get both and I think the classes are about equal in size. The campers look at their RV as a highly comfortable tent, a camping quarters. The RVer is looking for a luxury hotel suite that they can put wherever they want it.

Monty: Thanks Al for your time.

Al: Thank you. Glad to work with you.

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