RESTON, Va. — After 55 years of holding a national trade show, the recreational vehicle industry is changing things up.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the trade group that sponsors the National RV Trade Show at the Kentucky Expo Center in late November each year, announced Wednesday the show will be dropped and be replaced with a new event. Also being erased from the organization’s annual agenda will be the RV Leadership Conference. That conference takes place each January and is a gathering of industry executives.
The National RV Trade Show has been supplanted in recent years by the growing Elkhart County Open House.
The open house occurs in late September and has expanded annually since the initial event in 2008. Now, almost all RV manufacturers and many suppliers host open houses at their headquarters, factories and open spaces in Elkhart where RV dealers can view and order the latest models.
“Over the past decade, the open house has firmly established itself as the premier buying event, while at the same time the National RV Trade Show has not successfully redefined its purpose,” the RVIA board of directors said Wednesday in a press release. “It is clear the industry no longer needs multiple buying-focused shows, and the time to redefine RVIA’s event has come.”
The National RV Trade Show was massive in scope, often occupying most of the Kentucky Expo Center’s floor space. In 2016, the show took up 780,644 square feet, and RV manufacturers paid $4 to $5 per square foot for their exhibit space, according to the 2017 show registration information.
The move away from the trade show concept has been bandied about among RV executives ever since the open house had a successful launch. The movement toward change gained momentum in April 2017 when the RVIA hired research firm Stax Inc. to “... identify opportunities for improvements and to understand the optimal timing and location for the RVIA national industry trade show going forward.”
Wednesday, the trade group said, “We must act now to provide our vibrant and innovative industry a platform to promote its successes and celebrate its wins. The opportunity exists to deliver an all-industry event featuring expanded innovation and market development, unparalleled education and training and enhanced focus on improving customer service. Our $50 billion industry deserves an event that celebrates industry achievement across all segments and recognizes those companies and leaders who are innovating and moving the industry forward.”
The RVIA did not announce a location or dates for the new show concept, but did say the new event will be different than the trade show.
“The new national industry gathering will include a shift in venue and timing, and will reveal the newest and most exciting products our industry has to offer. An event positioned earlier in the calendar year will kick off the RV selling season, creating a promotional platform to drive consumers to RV dealers nationwide.”