Leadership Profile: Emily Peck, OHC
“Virginia is for Camping Lovers”
Emily Peck, OHC
Executive Director, Virginia Campground Association (VCA)
How did you get involved in the outdoor hospitality industry?
When I was 11, my family moved from New Jersey to Virginia and my parents bought the Gloucester Point Family Campground. In 2010 we became a Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. I did everything from picking up trash to cleaning bath houses and working in the store. When you live on the property, you do whatever needs to get done. Then, when I got into college, I took over the recreation program. We owned the campground for 16 years.
What are some of the initiatives you’ve worked on since you became VCA’s Executive Director in 2016?
We were able to get a grant from Virginia Tourism to market our digital directory, which is something new we tried this year. Since the RV shows were cancelled in 2021, it didn’t seem economical to print the directory this year. Our publisher, Hilton Snowdon, has worked on grants before and he steered us through the process. We were very lucky to have his help. The grant covered half of our $20,000 marketing plan. We’ve been working with Blue Ridge Tourism, Virginia Tourism, AAA, Google and some co-op programs to market our directory, which is fully interactive with clickable links, slideshows and videos. We’re putting out our fall digital directory soon and then we’ll work on our actual print directory for 2022 because people are still asking for them. Hopefully, we’ll also do some RV shows next year.
Your state is famous for its “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism tagline. How have you been able to use that message to benefit your members?
A few years ago we were able to get permission from the state to use the slogan “Virginia is for Camping Lovers” on t-shirts, caps and mugs. They were really popular the first two years, but sales kind of slowed down when the RV shows were cancelled this year because that’s where people usually see them. We still get sales online and our campgrounds have them for sale in their stores. When I go camping I see people wearing the t-shirts and carrying the mugs. We’ll continue to offer them when we start doing RV shows again.
What are some of your plans for VCA for the coming year?
We're having our annual meeting in September. Also, since we recently sold our campground, I can have a little more freedom during the summer so I'm really hoping to be able to take a few days to do some marketing drives and see some campgrounds I haven't seen yet. We've been sitting at somewhere between 70 and 75 members for a few years. I know there are more out there. Last year, during COVID, I helped a few campgrounds and they said they were interested in signing up, but I never head from them. So I’m really hoping that if I take the time to actually go see them and talk to them in person that I can get that number up a little bit.
What would you tell other young professionals about careers in the outdoor hospitality industry?
It’s a great opportunity. Obviously, you have to want it. You have to be able to work hard but if you're interested in being in the customer service industry, especially with as big as the campground industry is getting with all the RV sales across the country, the opportunities are there. If you can get your foot in the door, you just keep moving up. Most campgrounds have a lot of turnover, so if they like you and can keep you, you can just keep rising in the company. You get so much experience because it’s not just one department. Even if you’re doing reservations, you’re still at some point outside picking up trash or dealing with a customer somewhere or helping with the recreation department when they’re short staffed. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to always be doing the same thing, it’s a great industry.