Camping World pulls out – Will big Hershey RV show still go on?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

While sales of RVs have blasted off as people look for vacation travel alternatives, that doesn’t mean that the industry is ignoring the coronavirus pandemic. Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis brought concerns about the virus straight to the fore on Tuesday when he announced his company is pulling out of “America’s Largest RV Show” in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The annual show is an industry giant, covering more than a million square feet at Hershey’s Giant Center, scheduled for September 14 through 20. Lemonis made the announcement via Facebook, and word of the pullout hadn’t even reached show organizers – they only learned of it when a manufacturer who’d heard about the absence passed it along. Here’s a quote of Lemonis’ concerns about doing the show:

“As you might imagine, RV shows tend to draw large crowds, with long lines and packed aisles – all very exciting,” Lemonis said. “But in light of COVID-19, it feels irresponsible to subject our associates and our customers to this type of environment. I’m concerned not only about the density of crowds, but the travel required to get there. I’ve been attending the Hershey RV Show in Harrisburg, Pa., for years and I always look forward to it. But because of the lack of clarity around guidelines, our company – Camping World, Gander RV and Good Sam – will not be attending.”

Camping World is billed by some as arguably the country’s highest volume RV dealer. True or not, the absence of the company at the Hershey show makes for big waves. Still, there’s a bigger question: What about the show itself? Countless big conventions and trade shows around the country have canceled, including many with dates stretching out into fall. We reached out to Heather Leach, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA), the show’s organizing association. We asked, in light of coronavirus concerns and Camping World’s pullout, if there were any inkling that the show might NOT go on.

Leach responded by e-mail. “While I understand that there’s obvious concern, we’re continuing to do everything that we can to try and make the event a success, and I’m sure we will be updating everybody as the summer proceeds to let them know what the future may hold,” Leach wrote. “Right now, we’re still trying to overcome some hurdles obviously to make the show happen.”

Her response to RVtravel.com was a shorter version of a comment she made to industry trade publication RVBusiness. According to it, Leach spoke of the Camping World impact in greater detail, “When we heard about Camping World not attending the show, I immediately got emails from other dealers saying they fully support the show and will work hard to fill any void that leaves and that they’re completely 100% dedicated to PRVCA, which, you know, says a lot about the dealers in the state.”

But nary a word concerning matters of public health. And while coronavirus may be down statistically, it’s far from “out” in the health care boxing ring. Until an effective treatment or vaccine for this vicious little bug is found, it presents a serious risk to folks, particularly those crammed into a crowded venue, coming from all parts of the country – and from foreign shores as well. Time will tell whether PRVCA will come away from its Admiral Farragut-esque stance of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

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29 Comments
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Sharon B
11 days ago

The Corona virus has worsened in South Florida. I wonder if the Tampa Super Show will even make it in January.

Rick Sorrenti
13 days ago

Whether or not this decision is driven by CW concerns over public safety or profits it sad that their reputation is so tarnished. I actually think their stores offer a great selection of products at reasonable pricing that can’t be found in other brick and mortar stores. There are exceptions, with dozens of service locations that do an excellent job. Unfortunately, like everything on social media we don’t hear about the good locations…..

Rory R
23 days ago

I;m sorry, I just don’t trust anything CW does. This may be a sign that Lemonis is concerned about the health of his staff and customers. I doubt it. It makes it hard to believe that CW has put public safety above profit. Being that the Hershey Event is scheduled in late Sep. I would think that planning for the event would continue and if the situation calls for it, the event will be cancelled or postponed. If not by the PRVCA, the state or local gov would step in. Something else we don’t see much of these days, checks and balances……

Gale Wilson
25 days ago

OK Chuck, I fully understand Camping World’s concerns about the Hershey RV show. My wife and I live in CA and tentatively planned to attend this year, but won’t be going. You also have been a regular attendee and a strong supporter. So, are you going this year?

Rick
25 days ago

Good it is a bad place to shop for an RV or deal with at all together. Just my opinion.

Cheryl Thompson
25 days ago

I’m sorry to hear this, but not unexpected. Before this, I could not handle large crowds and avoided such events no matter how fun. But for others this will be a disappointment. More can be done through the local dealers and online. I searched online and narrowed it down to 3 brands carried on my area and did my tours there. We are hoping that we can go for a few days locally to a near by campground with social distancing, nobody on top of your site these days.

Bounder
25 days ago

I’m no fan of CW, but this might be a very prudent business decision. Others may follow depending on how the anticipated 2nd wave hits…. if it hits.

Steve Murray
25 days ago

Probably tired of getting yelled at for past service indiscretions.
I wouldn’t go either.

Monty
25 days ago

Camping World? Are they still around. Most expensive and worst customer service RV company I ever had the displeasure of visiting.

Bill Walker
25 days ago
Reply to  Monty

Ditto. My thoughts also. Could have been a great company but greed and service ineptness ruined customer confidence.

Crowman
25 days ago

Camping World is hated about the same as China with the CCP Flu.

TPalmer
25 days ago

If the show does go on, it will give more room for independent dealers to show more of their stock.

Will
25 days ago

Don’t let the door hit you on the a$$ on the way out, Marcus.

The show will be better off without this mega-huckster’s participation.

And you people, be informed, stop living in fear. If you have a concern, wear a mask. If not, go and enjoy the show. With so many people staying at home, this will be the best year to go! No huge crowds.

Ron L
25 days ago
Reply to  Will

You do realize of course that the mask only protects others… it does not protect you. So wearing one will not elevate my concern about catching the virus from others who do not wear one and who are asymptomatic. You need to get yourself educated.

vito
24 days ago
Reply to  Will

“You people”. Where do YOU fit into the equation?

wanderer
24 days ago
Reply to  Will

I don’t know, I think there will indeed be huge crowds. From what I can see in the southeast US, the public is now rushing back to participate in every thing they can, they’ve had enough cabin fever to last a long time. And there are a swarms of new RV shoppers who will take advantage of a show to learn a lot about RVs, so they can travel more safely.

Dalton Mccormick
25 days ago

Common sense says This is the year to skip the show

Carl J
25 days ago

Well since this virus is part of the cold/influenza family and is always mutating, there will never be an effective vaccine. So in order to remain as “safe” as possible, one will have to stay home, behind locked doors, never interact face to face with another human being ever again while wearing various masks and rubber gloves. Sorry but that’s not living, it’s just existing and I refuse to play that game.

Ran
25 days ago

Good call by CW. The first smart decision I’ve heard him make!

Bill
25 days ago

We have attended the show for the past 7 years and have always enjoyed looking at models, getting ideas for our next rig and attending the seminars. We actually thought about taking a break this year from going to the show but without CW there and possible more room we may re-think it.

David Binkley
25 days ago

Hard to believe that CW is such an important part of Hershey that without them the show could not go on. Competitors should/will step in to fill the void. And having a little more space between RVs is not such a bad thing. Also, I wonder if this has anything to do with reported CW’s financial issues?

Carl J
25 days ago
Reply to  David Binkley

Only CW actually believes their participation has any positive effect on the sucess of the show. Their absence and their CW exclusive spec built cheap pieces of tin and luan on 4 wheels might actually be beneficial to to the RV industry.

Richard
25 days ago

If the protests do not cause a surge in cases, then it will prove that all the “social distancing” and face masks have been as worthless as I suspect they are. On with the show! Perhaps RVUpgrades.com will take up some of the space Camping World leaves behind.

Vito
25 days ago
Reply to  Richard

The “if ” you propose is as large as the Hersey itself. The show, if it does happen, will be another test to see if what you suspect about the precautions for spreading the virus is true or not. May caution prevail no matter the circumstances.

Susan Banks
25 days ago

We do festival type business, not as crowded as Hershey and all have been canceled. For RV industry, given the recent sales, I think it is in best interest of all. Camper World did right move.

Tim Pittman
25 days ago

With the negative view this publication has on Camping World and it’s CEO Marcus Lemonis which is shared by many RVers, I think perhaps we are all surprised that CW with it’s seemingly profits at any costs attitude is putting lives ahead of profits. Good for them and perhaps we should rethink their corporate culture reputation. Nah, but kudos to them. Perhaps other vendors will follow and they probably should. Many if not most of these shows attendees are in the CDC’s posted high risk groups.

Bob....
26 days ago

Hmmmm… Rename it as an Protest. Give every other person a sign that say’s ” I’ll buy ”
shouldn’t be a problem than…

STEPHEN P Malochleb
25 days ago
Reply to  Bob....

No,the sign should read, RV LIFE MATTERS.