17 May 2023
17 May 2023, Comments Comments Off on Positive vibe at annual ECF meeting in The Netherlands
Positive vibe at annual ECF meeting in The Netherlands

The European Caravan Federation (ECF) organized their 45th Annual General Meeting and their 28th Meeting of the European Leisure Vehicle Industry in the Dutch city of Utrecht last May 12. Although 2022 was a though year for the industry because of the challenges in the supply chain, there was a positive vibe among the 140 attendees.

The industry leaders gathered in The Netherlands to review the past year in terms of sales and production figures, but they foremost looked forward to the near and far future. Hosted by the Dutch caravanning industry association KCI a variety of speakers from across Europe -and even from the United States- presented their view on the current and future camping landscape. During the General Meeting ECF made clear that the supply chain problems that arose in recent years started to fade away in Q1 of 2023 and production figures are now clearly up, to pre-covid levels. Furthermore, ECF welcomed the national caravanning associations of Denmark and Romania as two new members, joining the 14 other member countries. 

USA vs Europe
For manufacturers of motorhomes and caravans sustainability is a big topic, especially with regard to the upcoming Euro7 emissions standard and the uprise of alternative fuels. ECF board members elaborated on those issues and on their efforts to influence EU decision making, on these topics as well as on the proposed rise of the maximum weight for motorhomes to 4,250 kilograms for holders of the B driving license. After a coffee break the General Meeting for ECF members transformed into ‘MELVI’, kicking off with insights from both Troy James (senior VP at Thor Industries) and Alexander Leopold (CEO at Thor-owned Erwin Hymer Group). They took the audience along into all of the differences between the US and European caravanning and RV market, and the two took a close look on how the manufacturers on both continents currently collaborate, and how they will do in the near future. 

Industry promotion
Alexander Wottrich, co-CEO at Truma Group and grandson of the company’s founder, shared his views on technical innovations for caravans and motorhomes, whether or not driven by EU legislation. Before the lunch break Dutchman Berry Helming addressed the philosophy behind his company Henk Pen Caravans, which he acquired as a co-owner in 2019 and is now one of the biggest caravanning retailers in The Netherlands. KCI board member and Thetford marketing manager Norbert van Noesel presented the promotional efforts of the Dutch industry association on promoting camping -even with their own TV series-, followed by trend researcher Adjied Bakas, who also was on stage last time around in Utrecht, ten years ago. Many of his predictions back then for the society as a whole and for caravanning and camping specifically became reality. University professor Carlo van de Weijer gave his view on sustainable recreational mobility, especially focusing on the speed of EV adoption across Europe and even globally. The final speaker of the day at MELVI was Stan Stolwerk, director of NKC, the Dutch association of over 65,000 motorhome owners. This makes NKC the biggest such organization in the whole of Europe and Stolwerk takes a prominent role towards sustainability and co-operation with manufacturers and other suppliers.

Utrecht, The Netherlands
The Jaarbeurs venue in Utrecht as the location for the ECF meetings was not chosen randomly by hosts KCI. The Dutch industry representatives annually organize their trade show here in October, with on average some 40,000 visitors over 5 exhibition days. Right next to the historical city center with its canals and characteristic ancient architecture, combined with contemporary art and high rise buildings, it provided a great opportunity to explore the city. And many of the attendees and their partners did.