RV Industry Association Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Jun 4, 2024

The RV Industry Association celebrated its 50th anniversary on Tuesday, June 5th during RVs Move America Week. 

RV Industry Association President & CEO Craig Kirby and Chairman Kevin McArt looked back on the formation of the organization 50 years ago and the trajectory of successful growth that the Association and industry has experienced in the decades since. Most importantly, Kirby and McArt reflected on the RV world’s everlasting sense of industry unity. 

In October 1974, the Recreational Vehicle Institute, headquartered in Des Plaines, IL, merged with the Travel Coach Association of Riverside, CA, to become the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. 

The Association’s first Chairman, Warren Jones, charted the organization’s early directions and strategies. Even in those initial days, industry entrepreneurs deeply understood that the RV industry needed to be united in the face of political, cultural, and economic challenges if the market was going to thrive. And for the next 50 years, that unity has been at the heart of the Association’s success in promoting and protecting the RV industry and its members. 

There has been much to celebrate. In 1979, the RV Industry Association was named the sponsor and secretariat of the ANSI A119 standards for recreation vehicles and RV parks and campgrounds. This set the stage for the industry to be self-governed, which remains our Association’s bedrock.

Our organization has advocated for the industry with Presidential administrations and agencies, the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Senate and House. However, some of our most important successes have happened at the state level. A myriad of differing state laws and regulations for RV standards and RV dimensions plagued the industry requiring manufacturers to build different RVs for specific state requirements. Through the diligent work of the Association and our members, these onerous requirements were gradually harmonized and standardized.

In the 1990s, the RV Industry Association partnered with the RV Dealers Association to tackle the critical issue of RV technician training and certification. 35 years later, this has morphed into the RV Technical Institute’s world-class training program. 

Unfortunately, in the early days of the RV Industry Association, RVs didn’t enjoy the best image. They were viewed as gas guzzlers, purchased primarily by older buyers, and not considered a mainstream travel option. However, those stereotypes have been completely turned around. Fueled by early public relations efforts that later gave way to the Go RVing national advertising campaign, RVs have become part of the very cultural fabric of America, celebrated in pop culture and central to the travel and outdoor recreation industries. RVs have become the travel choice of millions of Americans giving them the freedom to go where they want, when they want, and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors while building lifelong memories with family and friends. 

There have been a number of challenges during these past five decades, including oil embargoes, gas lines, and high fuel prices. There have been natural disasters and even a pandemic. We’ve been buffeted by economic downturns, slowdowns, and recessions. 

However, throughout it all, the vision of unity that the founders had in establishing the RV Industry Association and the belief that we can accomplish so much more together has carried us onward and upward.

The Association is fortunate to have engaged member companies who generously support our organization financially and offer their time and talents by serving as volunteers on our committees. 

We have also had great partners in the RV Dealers Association, the Outdoor Hospitality Industry (formerly the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds), the Outdoor Industry Association, and the numerous state RV dealer and campground associations. 

Here’s to our Association, the last 50 years, and the next 50!