by RVWA Member Angel Swindell of Freelance by Starfish Services
Jessica Wahl Turner, Executive Director at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) joined us for June 6, 2020, RVWA Coffee, Lunch, & Learn sponsored by The New England RV Dealers Association. The RV industry, as part of over 110,000 businesses, is represented by The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable in a collaborative effort to conserve and improve America’s natural playground. Jessica’s experience and connections with Washington DC bring a unique, holistic perspective to the wide range of activity that is under the umbrella of outdoor recreation. She certainly has her finger on the pulse of current and future initiatives that will directly or indirectly impact the RV world and was happy to share her perspective with us.
As we work together to make lives be better and bring together families, Jessica feels we are going to need women to engage in more aspects of the RV Industry. One of our members asked Jessica what it is like for her to be a leader in a male-dominated industry. Jessica stated that she has had a great experience and found that her male colleagues were more welcoming. She has experienced more challenges with female bosses who at times have become competitive or territorial. Jessica encourages our women members to take the time to nurture female relationships. She advocates for “paying it forward” by fostering networking connections, internships, and mentorships. Jessica also encourages women in the RV industry to create a personal board. She instructs us to, “find people in your sphere that is not in the direct line that you can talk to about career growth.”
At this point, many of us have felt the rollercoaster created in our world by COVID-19. Surveys have shown a jump from 50% to 80% of families that plan to increase their outdoor activities. Jessica says that the RV sector has been pinpointed as “the canary in the coalmine” in determining conditions and believes we are out of the worst of the lull with the best years yet to come. Americans want to get outside especially in a socially distant environment and our fan base is growing in numbers and variety.
Jessica shared with us that the new consumer cannot be easily labeled and put into a box. There are no longer just “bikers”, “kayakers”, and “campers” but those (especially Millennials) that are trying a bit of everything outdoors. Between families seeking healthy activities and other adventure seekers, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and RVWA must work together to remove barriers for people wishing to get outside. In general, we have a vested interest in creating positive first experiences for newcomers as they will most likely be repeat business for our industries.
The reality is that the volume will most likely create an additional burden on an already stretched infrastructure. Access and budget percentages are down from a decade ago. As exploration and these outdoor industries come together, we will be challenged to push for funding a safe, scenic, sustainable outdoor future. It is time for outdoor organizations to unite and continue the work needed to promote our natural resources and related businesses. A bipartisan conservation bill (permanent funding) called The Great American Outdoor Act is scheduled to hit the Senate floor this week. You may quickly send a pre-constructed letter to your Senators to show support and don’t forget to check-out ORR’s other advocacy materials available for RVWA member use.