Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - December 31, 2010

RV show back with boats and optimism

The RV show is back at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, this time with boats of all sizes and prices added to the annual event. Although the white-topped temporary shelter on the Fairgrounds where the RV/Boat show will open next Friday is smaller than we remember in previous years, the event is larger than it's been recently, a sure sign that with the demand for recreational vehicles growing that there's improvement in the economy overall. Show manager Shawn Nohr of Good Times Promotions said RV and boat manufacturers and marketers know the economy hasn't completely turned around, but sales have picked up strong enough to see optimism in this year's show. This bodes well for Nohr's show as well as for the Fairgrounds and Pleasanton, which stand to benefit as thousands of RV and boat enthusiasts return, spending their time and money at local hotels, restaurants, gas stations and shopping when not at the show.

The recession drove the RV industry into a ditch, but signs are pointing to the end of the rough road. RV shipments from manufacturers to dealers are projected to increase by nearly 43% in 2010 over a year ago, according to a forecast by Richard Curtin, an RV industry analyst and director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan. While sales face challenges due to a continued slow economic forecast for 2011, Curtin predicts shipments will increase by 4% in the coming year. In addition, RV parks and campgrounds across the country report that reservations in 2010 were up 5% over 2009, which made this year the best ever for campgrounds despite the recession.

The Wall Street Journal, in an article Dec. 27, reported that the RV industry is being spurred on by manufacturers who are offering more fuel-efficient trailers aimed at frugal travelers tired of airports and motels. According to the report, U.S. sales of RVs, ranging from towable campers costing as little as $4,000 to bus-like "behemoths" with two bathrooms and king-size beds for $300,000 or more, boomed in sales from 2000 to 2007 when the economy --and RV sales -- began plunging.. At the Alameda County Fairground show, prospective buyers will see redesigned RVs where the weight has been cut by as much as 25% partly by using plastic composite materials instead of wood. That means better gas mileage, although driving an RV or even pulling a trailer won't bring results close to a Prius, but it could mean more family time and fun.

Nohr says his firm's analysis shows that people are looking for inexpensive vacation options and that an RV, despite the initial costs, can provide that year after year. Savvy travelers who own RVs claim that they save vacation money in the long run and, best of all, can pack what they want for a trip across country to see the kids or the Washington Monument with no extra luggage charges or a full-body security check at the airport.

The RV and boat show will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays starting next Friday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, although closing at 6 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $12, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and children 16 and under will be admitted free of charge. The show ends on Monday, Jan. 17.

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