MC Fireside Chats - Episode 70

This week we’ll be joined by several guests who will help us discuss diversity in the outdoor hospitality industry. Where are we at now, what can we improve, and what does the future hold for the ever-changing demographics of campers?

We’ll welcome Earl B. Hunter, Jr from Black Folks Camp Too, David & Eddie from Full-Time Gays, Lindsey Lerner who has traveled full-time and consulted for Sekr, and Al Berrios who helps coordinate outdoor-related activities for Outerthere.

Transcript

[00:00:00]

[00:00:51] Good morning, everybody. Welcome to another episode of MC Fireside Chats. My name is Brian Searl with Insider Perks and Modern Campground. We are here as always with Cara Csizmadia from the Canadian Camping & RV Council, as well as Angela Hilton, who is joining us from the back of a restaurant. True, dedicated commitment there to being on the show, the editor in chief of Modern Campground.

[00:01:11] We really appreciate her taking some time here. She’s just got, what did you just get done doing Angela making was it scones you said, or croissant making glass croissant making, which is way more delicious and important.

[00:01:26] And you’re bringing some of those to us, right? Like where their shipments in the mail. Yeah, sure. I’ll put yours in there. I think it will be good by the time it gets to Canada. So really appreciate you guys joining us again. We’re happy to have a really important conversation today. At least in my opinion about diversity and I don’t want to be the person that guides this conversation.

[00:01:46] So we’ve got a lot of amazing guests on here. We’ve got Earl from black folks, cam two, we’ve got Lindsay linner out David and Eddie from a full-time gaze full-time RV years. And so I want to go around the room first and let each person introduce themselves and not just introduce themselves, but give a backstory as to why you feel.

[00:02:04] You can speak to these issues, what diversity may be means in your eyes and your mind. And then I just am hoping that all of you will play off each other and tell our audience of campground owners and industry people and suppliers. What they should be focusing on what you’ve seen, what has improved, what still needs to improve and just take the conversation wherever you want to go.

[00:02:25] But I want to play a background role in this show as much as I can. Earl, I know you a little bit, we met each other a couple years ago at an RV convention. You probably don’t remember I’m sure, but we did. And you came across as a really intelligent, amazing guy, and I’m super thankful that you’ve had so much success, that you’re still flying to Vegas, keynoting doing all these kinds of cool things.

[00:02:45] And so let’s start with you Earl. Just introduce yourself a little bit of your backstory and what diversity means to you and take it wherever you want from there. Right on. So first of all, to the audience, I’m sitting in the airport, so you’re going to hear some background noise. I hate to hate that’s happening, but I’m actually flying out.

[00:02:59] As a state, but it’s Earl B hunter Jr. I’m actually the founding president of black folks came to our job and our company is to remove fear and knowledge, and there’s like more black folks to camp and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle with any and everyone. And if you’re wondering who any, and everyone is just pick up a mirror and then you’ll see that any and everyone right in that mirror.

[00:03:19] I, my background is that I was an executive in the outdoor industry, particularly in the. RV industry, one of the only black executives on $114 billion industry, my claim to fame is taking a company from 800 to 15,000 to 17 and a half million in four years. And so my, the mantra that I have in my space or what people know of me is that I know how to drive the business.

[00:03:39] And I like building businesses. One of the greatest builds businesses that we have, which we’re not a nonprofit, we are a for-profit business, which is black folks. Can’t too is the legacy of inviting, educating and removing them, leaving that generation of fear from folks that look like me to enjoy not only just public lands, but the RV industry, the RV lifestyle, camp grounds, and all that kind of good stuff.

[00:04:03] At the end of the day, if you can’t, if you’ve been camping for a long time, you hadn’t seen many folks that looked like me and our job is not to build a segregated outdoors. Our job is to build a truly inclusive outdoors. And the campfire in our logo is certainly what we want to build around.

[00:04:19] So I look forward to having this conversation with y’all just to warn everyone, I don’t sugar coat, anything when it comes to this, because I’m a data, we’re a data company. We’re not a group, we’re not a club and I’ve spent a ton of money on data. And so I don’t deal in opinions I did in facts. Good.

[00:04:33] That’s what we really like. Please. Don’t sugar coat, anything for us? I like that. I appreciate that. And I respect that. So before we go onto the next person, what does diversity mean to you? Just, I know that’s a broad thing and it’s intentionally that way, but what does it mean to you? Diversity, but diversity for me is treating everyone everywhere equally, right?

[00:04:48] And that’s what we stand for. I want folks to feel welcome the matter your race, your age, your gender. I want folks to feel welcome in the outdoors, particularly in the 640 million acres of public land that we own, that we all own. I want folks to feel like it doesn’t matter again, your race, your age, your agenda, you should be welcomed into a space where people treat you with respect.

[00:05:08] And before that, from a standpoint of diversity, I think if you look at every other industry, besides the outdoor industry diversity all over the place and those industries are better. Our industry, which is the outdoor industry will get better when we have more diversity in this space.

[00:05:25] Awesome. Thank you so much, sir. David and Eddie, you want to go next? Yeah, sure. Thanks so much. And it’s great to be here. We are David and Eddie. We have a YouTube channel called full-time gaze that we started a couple of years ago has a few thousand followers on it. And what we do is we live full-time in our 43 foot fifth wheel.

[00:05:44] We’ve been doing that for about three and a half years. We started the channel a while on a road trip around the country a couple of years back when we realized that all of the things that we were trying to find out about getting to a campground, not necessarily gay camp grounds person, LGBT oriented campgrounds, but any, there, there were a lot of unanswered questions on a lot of websites in terms of how easy is it for a big rig to get to a campground?

[00:06:08] How is the. Availability there, whether it’s three, a through wifi or a cell phone signal, if people have hotspots in order to make sure that people like us that work full-time can work while we travel. And then also there was not a really good resource that we found that reviewed campgrounds based on those and other factors in the LGBT community and while gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender folks.

[00:06:32] Don’t just camp at quote unquote LGBT focused campgrounds to the earlier point where everywhere there are a network of about 60 campgrounds throughout north America that do cater to that audience. And so we decided that we would try to fill that niche in the market. Give our thoughts. Our 2 cents is objectively as possible.

[00:06:51] In terms of the vibe, getting there with big rigs, what kind of grounds that facilities as a campground have. And then as I mentioned, the. And it just happened to take off and now everywhere we go, we get recognized and we’re future campground owners, ourselves that we’re aspiring to be that. And so we do this, not just to help other people, but to educate ourselves as well.

[00:07:12] Yeah. We also wanted to make sure that the LGBT community also knew that there were camping options for them. So even if they didn’t walk since they let’s say a state park or a national park, but there was actually venues that they can go to that was focused on their needs. Okay. Awesome. And what does diversity mean to both of you?

[00:07:33] It’s a great question and it goes way beyond LGBT or even color is skin color or religion. If we’re focusing, if we’re focusing on the LGBT aspect of it, historically. Gay folks have had to go, way back in the day to bars, to incognito the speakeasy bars. That’s of course opened up.

[00:07:54] As we all know over the past several years, at least in a lot of areas, there’s still a lot of areas that have a lot of, a lot more progress to make. But really it’s depend demic kit is especially a lot of folks that had a refuge, a safe space at the gates, et cetera, in the big cities. And then those that don’t live in the big cities that never had that suddenly camping became an alternative like, Hey, I can still do something.

[00:08:18] I can still socialize in a reasonably safe way with precautions that potentially open during the pandemic. Let me go explore this. And as a results gay camping as a, as an industry is in a boom right now in continues even as COVID restrictions are easing. And so diversity really is in addition to just being LGBT it’s the fact that.

[00:08:42] It’s opening up a new avenue of recreation for folks in a quote unquote safe space that maybe they didn’t know about the four, maybe they’re going by necessity. But now that they’re seeing it, now that they’re experiencing, Hey, you can go RV. You can go in a tent, you can rent a cabin suddenly. Now it’s not just about being in the city.

[00:09:00] It’s not just about going downtown to the gayborhood. There’s a lot more out there and you can do it in a beautiful serene setting. You can do it outside of the cities. You can do it in traditionally conservative areas. And by and large people are with welcoming and embracing of it. David anything to add?

[00:09:21] Yeah. It’s not just, what David had has said, but to add to that is, folks who would typically go to a bar in their city would find their crowd. Now they’re going out and camping and they’re finding a whole mix of crowds, whether it be someone of a different color or gender or identity age, they’re all mixing and mingling in these campgrounds.

[00:09:42] And it’s really nice to see that we’re getting away from we’re having just a gay venue or a straight venue is now all coming together. Yeah. Awesome. Lindsay, you want to go next? Sure thing. I can do that. Hi everyone. So great to see some familiar faces and meet some of them meet some new ones.

[00:10:03] And for me, I. Involved specifically in diversity, disability, equity and inclusion. And when it comes to the outdoor space, a couple of years ago, I started a company that no longer exists anymore, but I started a company called Ventre and it was a mobile app that may go in places easy and safe for diverse communities, whether that was LGBTQ folks with disabilities, folks of color, whatever, any, and all boxes you checked.

[00:10:27] We wanted to make sure that you could go places safely and have a really great experience when you got there. And me, my background I’ve been in the music industry for the last 10 years or so prior to getting into the travel realm. And I have been a tour manager, worked primarily with hip hop groups, and most of those folks were all men of color.

[00:10:46] And the amount of times that I went back and forth across the country and had really negative interactions when. Really great reactions when I showed up to a hotel, but really negative reactions when other folks would join me from the band particularly folks at the front desk being very warm and kind to me, and then asking me, Hey, sweetie, do you need help getting away from them?

[00:11:07] Things like it didn’t quite fly, hit up with me. And then in my personal life, I became of them over a couple years ago. Sold my van last year. David and Eddie. I I’m a little envious of seeing a singer rig right now, but we’ll go through that road again soon. But on the personal side of things, when I had my then I was primarily by myself.

[00:11:27] But occasionally my partner and my daughter would come with me. My partner is an Afro-Latino women and my daughter is a, is black and soaps. It was really eye opening for me on the personal side of things, as well as the professional side of things, to see how, I’m able to navigate through the world and not really run into any issues, but anytime that I’m bringing people, I care about how it impacts them.

[00:11:48] And so I’m very passionate about all things diversity, disability, equity, and inclusion, and I’m really excited to figure out how we can all come together to figure out new and creative ways just to make things better for everyone, especially when it comes to the outdoors, because everyone deserves to be able to get outdoors in a safe way.

[00:12:08] And what it’s, what does diversity mean to you, Lindsey? I think just to pull off of what Erlin and Dave and Eddie have already said, it’s just it’s I wish it was. I wish it didn’t matter. I wish it could all be celebrated rather than using it to divide us. The fact that Al like I, I’ve pretty tight relationship with Al and I’ve chatted with Earl quite a bit.

[00:12:34] And I know that I’ve been there, unique stories, just make them that much more interesting in that, which we’re excited to talk to and to hang out with. And that’s what everyone brings to the table. And for me, I really truly believe that diversity is what drives creativity is what drives innovation. And if we can accept that, I won’t get further rather than fighting it.

[00:12:54] Awesome. Thank you. And then Al last a mess for last maybe. Oh, thank you for having me on it’s what were the questions again? I’m sorry. That was like really focused on what everybody else is saying. Introduce yourself, tell us why you feel like you can speak to this issue a little bit of your background how you’re focused on diversity and then as a sidebar, what diversity means to you.

[00:13:15] Got it. Al burials founder and general manager out of there, out of things in New York city based tour operator, we operate a hundred tours a year now. One of the largest here in New York city and, being in New York has also is part of what started to change our focus from just the cultures of various cultures across all the activities that we operate towards her arm versus something a little bit more specific to the question of that.

[00:13:37] So unlike other tour operators we focused around, which means we’re not just doing hikes and camping trips. We’re also doing a bike tour, paddling trips, where there was skiing snowboarding. So we’re operating year round and every one of those activities has their own culture associated with it. I’m sure that you’ve heard of ski bums and guys who surf guys.

[00:13:55] And, every culture now, those cultures are not always welcoming. And part of the reason they’re not welcoming could be because it takes a lot of time and investment to get to become part of those cultures. They have their own language, which kind of makes it a little bit more exclusive if you don’t know the language.

[00:14:09] And of course the big one, they have different types of investments that it requires to get into. So the investment in bouldering is one thing and investment in ice climbing. It’s another, but it’s part of how more, much more exclusive things get. So for me, things started around exclusivity, not necessarily diversity for this is my 10th season I’ve been doing.

[00:14:29] And over years over the years, friends have not always wanted our guests have not always wanted to do one thing versus another. And as I and really the opportunity to speak about it happened last year in the middle of pandemic, we hosted two, two trips and LBGT trip. And another one focused around Juneteenth.

[00:14:47] And the w I took advantage took out my camera and started asking people, why are you coming with this trip versus another trip? And a lot of the things that Earl in particular and David Eddy also said where you’re not always feeling safe, you’re not always feeling welcome. And in different spaces that you go to.

[00:15:01] So that became like the wake-up call. I’ve been trying to get people to try all these different activities, but nobody seems to want to try them. Now, I have not necessarily experienced the same sense. Not being safe, I’m on I’m five 11, I’m almost 200 pounds when I walk into a room and I want to do a thing I, that thing gets done.

[00:15:21] That’s not the case for a lot of other people, especially, BiPAP LBGT. And of course, even single moms and older folks have challenges, walking into a room and walking into a space and feeling welcome. So that became our mantra. Everyone is welcome. When you ask what diversity means to me, that’s what it means.

[00:15:38] It means not feeling judged, not feeling shamed for not having the latest gear feeling respected, feeling heard. And those are the things that we as an organization tried to do at all our. Our hosts are first-line interaction with a lot of all of our guests, they go through 60 hours of training.

[00:15:58] A lot of this training, it happens on the trips, but before they’re able to host their own trip, they know everything about every person that they’re about to encounter things like how to speak, how to not use the word, Hey guys, in conversations, because not everyone there is a guy or whenever we are interacting with a third party, a tour operator.

[00:16:18] So we do not own a whole fleet of rasp. So whenever we go out on a whitewater rafting trip, we want to make sure that, okay, is this environment, is this space safe? Are the guides all well-trained in safety? Are they, or are they just not really paying attention to, and are they trying to shame you for not going fast enough or not paddling a certain way?

[00:16:37] These. Are the things that I want to point out to when it comes to what we’ve, I’ve experienced across the wide spectrum of what it is to be Northeast outdoors, that’s where I’m a footprint. And whenever we do these things, that’s what I would like really fires me up, like the opportunity to change, from allowing, from bringing our guests to those spaces that don’t treat us respectfully to now creating our own spaces and our own experiences, where we are treating our guests with the utmost respect and seeing those guests come back over and over and over again, over the years, we’ve also helped eliminate a lot of those barriers from the ability to get from point a to point B.

[00:17:13] So being in New York, our audience is 99% new Yorkers. We do not New York when we drive. So we are trying to, how do we get new Yorker from New York city to wherever we’re going to go? So we’re providing transportation now, again, the pricing I mentioned. Not everyone could afford to do a lot of these things, particularly now we’re going into the winter season, skiing and snowboarding.

[00:17:31] It’s very expensive. So we try to provide subsidies are and where we can, we try to lower the price as much as we can. We provide a freewheeling library for all the gear you might need including skiing and snowboarding, camping gear. And of course we do everything from support to training and like David Eddy we actually scout a lot of places before we invite our guests to make sure that they are, welcoming that if they’re saying they’re all about diversity and inclusion, they mean it.

[00:17:54] And they mean it with their actions, not just something that they say. So that’s our story and Alicia I think I got it right. I think you did Al yeah, I really appreciate it. So I want to turn it over to all of you to Al, to Lindsay, to David, to Eddie, to Earl, to just have a conversation and to give you some context from the Canadian Camping & RV Council, which is the national association of campgrounds up here in Canada.

[00:18:14] She also used to own an RV park catered to a lot of different demographics. Angela is the editor in chief of Modern Campground who covers a lot of these stories on a regular basis. And our audience is primarily campground and RV park owners and operators, managers, their staff, people who supply things to the industry.

[00:18:30] And what I’m looking for is what do they need to hear? Where does the conversation need to go? And I’m hopefully that hopeful that you guys can all help steer that in whatever direction you feel is necessary. So whoever wants to start

[00:18:44] I’ll I’ll start. One of the things I tell folks, particularly in this space is that. Bi-folds came to, we were a very inclusive company. We don’t, I don’t want to see black folks just going into the outdoors just to be with black folks. I don’t want to see white folks wanting to be in the outdoors.

[00:18:58] This is going to outdoors, just white folks. The outdoor industry and lifestyle is already most segregated field and lifestyle industry in the world. I don’t want to go create another segregated, outdoors. What I want is for black folks to feel like I want blindfolds to feel, Hey, you feel educated, get educated enough to go into the outdoors.

[00:19:13] Particularly look, I live in the south. Okay. And we have some amazing places in the south. There are a lot of groups, a lot of clubs, and a lot of all types of organizations that are out west and up north, but not really many in the south. And I don’t think, honestly, for us, we’re not a club or a group at all.

[00:19:30] Our job is to educate not only just black folks, but our job is to educate the majority of the folks who enjoy the lifestyle right now, which are predominantly white folks on the reasons why black folks hadn’t been in the outdoors. And so that they will then understand that we have generational fear.

[00:19:44] We have a lack of knowledge and we have we have really not really never been invited into a space that we would thrive in because the fact that we we love and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. If we w we’re not fearful of the outdoors. And I talk about this fear because my great grandmother told my grandmother, told my mother told me, don’t go in those woods.

[00:20:05] And these things resonate with. And to generation, however, myself I’ve never experienced anything offered in the outdoors. I don’t, I don’t necessarily want to see different camp grounds. I want to see campgrounds where they welcome everyone. This is not something that I’m not proud of.

[00:20:22] When I see a black owned campground, just catering to black folks or a a gay lesbian campground, Katie, just to lesbian folks. That, to me, that’s what we’re building a more segregated environment. I want the businesses to understand that there is there are customers out there. We all are different.

[00:20:39] We all have different spaces. We all require different things. And it’s so key to cater to everyone because camping is camping and we get around that campfire, you start having conversations. You’re going to find out you have, we have more sames and differences, and we have to get folks to respect our different.

[00:20:58] Before we can move on to anything else. If we try to segregate ourselves and hide behind our titles on whatever it may be, whether it be a black person, white person, a gay or lesbian person, or anyone else, a woman, or anything else, what we’re going to do is create more issues for our children.

[00:21:12] And for me, what I would tell campgrounds straight up, make sure that your staff and yourself, you are really keenly involved into what you’re wanting to to be as your business. This is a business. These are businesses. This is not a Coon by y’all. We eat any business and every business out there, particularly all the businesses that I know that are diverse in their space, in their workers, in their employees, in their in their thinking, they do better.

[00:21:36] They are better. I played football at a very high level, and it was a very mixed group of folks on this team. And we won game because we fought together as a unit. For the magazines for the campgrounds out there. Now it is time to have a different thinking to think that everyone is welcome.

[00:21:55] Treat everyone everywhere equally. We’ll be fine. Going off of what you just said, Earl, thank you for that. It’s interesting that you use the word kumbaya because it’s a business in business to make kumbaya moments for folks that go there. And I think it’s one of those where there’s room for both there’s room, for campgrounds that are geared toward a specific demographic, whatever that demographic happens to be.

[00:22:17] There’s adult only campgrounds there’s family campgrounds, there’s gay men only there’s lesbian only there’s LGBT to your point. There’s room for all of those. And we’ve seen those in our travels and we don’t just go to again, air quote, LGBT campgrounds, although that’s the majority of the ones we go to.

[00:22:35] There’s a place in Vermont that we discovered this year called Vermont freedom, tiny little campground way, upstate and Vermont in a town called Greensboro bend. And it’s owned by a gay gentleman in his sixties. He started it as a hobby, so he wouldn’t get fat. As you said, that was his whole desire to do it.

[00:22:50] And it’s exactly what you just described as an everybody live and let live a place that you are retirees as straight retiree, couple in the camper next to us, a gay couple and the other camper next to us, a lesbian couple across the street, straight couples that you know, our age in our thirties and forties down the road, and everybody got along.

[00:23:12] Great. And that to me in body is the ideal, I think earlier you were trying to speak to, does it happen everywhere? Yeah. Can it maybe somebody mentioned something about being, I think it was also lot the south. It’s interesting. Some of the very first, or at least the majority of gay lesbian campgrounds at least were in like the south Southeast, the more air quote conservative areas.

[00:23:37] And now that there’s less of a need for LGBT folks to necessarily congregate in the gayborhood is within the big cities at the gay bars and the libraries and their gay restaurant. A lot of cities have those and still do, but because that’s becoming less necessary, I think campgrounds catering to that community or those communities are springing up in other places now, too.

[00:24:02] And that’s a good thing where the challenge is speaking, just in terms of LGBT campgrounds is you have such a subset there’s all males. I said there’s a campground in Michigan that went through him. Enormous controversy. Earlier this year, because it was an all-male campground and their definition as a private, not public private club campground was that should be just a CIS males or naturally born males.

[00:24:29] In other words, exclusionary of transgender. And at the end of the day, it turned out that it was a big misunderstanding and a lot of opportunity for learning and for growth. And it served that purpose, but it also showed to underscore the deep divides that still exist, even within some of these communities that are out there.

[00:24:49] And it doesn’t just have to be within the LGBT community. It could be communities of people of color or different religions or even campgrounds that are for generally for older folks or retirees versus those that are, have a lot more younger children. I think those things still exist everywhere.

[00:25:06] And I think the change that it starts with the culture that the owners of any given campground choose to create.

[00:25:17] Definitely I think to piggyback a little bit off of what you were just speaking to, it comes down more to the intersectionality of it. You could have a ton of black friendly campgrounds. You could have a ton of LGBTQ friendly campgrounds, but if I go to a place and I bring my entire family with me, there’s a line.

[00:25:36] And the amount of times that I’ve showed up at family-friendly campgrounds that have, the little rainbow flag on it on Yelp that say it’s LGBTQ friendly. That’s great. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not racist. And that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to treat me poorly because of the people that I’m traveling with, because that.

[00:25:51] Afro Latino or black. And so that I think is the other part of this, that more people that have need to have conversations about. I think there’s a lot of, pink washing, rainbow, washing, whatever you want to call it all over the place with, you can see I’ve seen more rainbow flights this year than any other year, but there’s the added layers that go deeper and deeper, the more that you get into it.

[00:26:10] And that I think are those more of the things that we need to be talking about. And I’ve had a lot of these conversations with, without over the course of the last year or so, just looking at, okay, great. We’re going to get a bunch of different people out here, but how are we going to make them comfortable?

[00:26:24] And what’s going to make them comfortable in that’s stays. Let me hot right back in for one second. One of the things I think that a lot of folks miss in regards to conversation, and mainly because we don’t have a lot of conversations, we missed the education part. People have to be educated there, camp grounds out there, and then people out there that have not done.

[00:26:41] Different communities, particularly in the black community, camp Browns out there, haven’t dealt with seeing black folks at campgrounds. And I don’t want to deem folks because they haven’t seen folks and not knowing how to act to culturally, some of the things that we with, some of the things that we don’t like, I want to educate these folks so that when they see folks that look like us coming to the campgrounds, they understand that.

[00:27:01] So when we don’t know, things are not to treat us any differently, but to teach us and what to do at camp grounds, teach us how to make fires teachers, these things that we don’t know, th the greatest thing that we can do that one of the worst things we can do is to treat them bad about things they don’t know.

[00:27:19] And we have to educate people, just like we have to educate black folks about the outdoors. We have to educate the predominantly the predominantly the lifestyle in the industry, or why black folks haven’t been in the outdoors so that they then understand the reasons. To get us there or to make us feel more comfortable.

[00:27:35] I’m big on education. We, our company we’ve partnered with leave, no trace our company. We’ve partnered with the states. Plenty of states. We have states on our resume folks that we deal with every single day. And I tell them every day, just like I tell everyone on this call, we have to have communication.

[00:27:50] We have to have amazing conversations. We have to do work and we have to do very sincere, meaningful, measured, so it can be sustainable work. Otherwise we’ll continue to have these podcasts and these conversations every single day, without any action being taken. I’m going to say something a little controversial.

[00:28:07] But it’s the little, sorry. Earl is the opposite of what you’re saying, but if they wanted us in their spaces, we would have been welcome years ago. This industry, the outdoor recreation industry, it’s a $900 billion industry with 60 to 70%. Why audiences? What does that tell you? That means a lot of byproducts and everybody else who’s not spending in this issue because they’re simply not welcome.

[00:28:32] It’s not a matter of education. Americans have learned Chinese to go sell in China, but they won’t deal with us and are in their own backyard. So I do think that action is more important. It comes from those companies who are working with you and the leadership is getting involved in the training and in the way that their guests were being treated, those leaders are the ones who are ultimately going to make a difference in this industry, because it’s a top down thing.

[00:29:01] It can’t be like the leaders hire consultants, the consultants go and train everybody else. And then, there’s no incentives behind, there’s no reason, the companies are just not giving their frontline. Any reasons to to do more above and beyond. And let me tell you welcoming people that you are not familiar with is a little bit above and beyond for everybody, unless it’s part of your DNA, unless you’re, you can educate, there is no edge, more education necessary for this issue.

[00:29:25] Everyone knows everything they need to know. It’s a matter of willingness, and this is why, how many years haven’t we been part of this industry going out there? There’s a couple of that, that I was just reading about. They spent what 50, 60 years are being the whole country, 190, 2000 miles black couple, and they’ve seen it on and on.

[00:29:42] And they believe the same that if everyone can be welcomed there’s great people out there. But what we’re talking about specifically, The broader industry and the broader industry. I don’t think they really care. They don’t think they really are interested. So what does that mean to me? That means I’m the one who has to go out there and do the work.

[00:30:02] I’m the one who arrested

[00:30:06] them, invite them as opposed to waiting for them, to invite us into their spaces

[00:30:16] all the time everywhere. W you know this and thank you so much for that conversation. And for that for your points. I think the industry is doing a lot. I’m inside of this industry quite a bit from the top down. And I think one of the things I talked about earlier about data, I spent over a quarter million dollars last year, just in data alone.

[00:30:34] We took out over 2, 300, 400 folks. In the outdoors to gain this data. And what we learned in this data that 97% of the folks who we spoke to, particularly the white folks, they have no clue on why black folks hadn’t been in the outdoors, have no clue why we haven’t exposed, been exposed to the public lands.

[00:30:53] And so I’m going off the data based on which we have. And so when you don’t know the reason why folks had been in the outdoors, you tend to not know how to help. It’s almost going to a doctor. If you don’t know, if you go there with a w in your foot is hurting and you, and they go check in your brain and you’re w what are you doing?

[00:31:08] I want folks to know the reason why we haven’t been in the outdoors while we haven’t been there. And when they know that they typically ask me, or what can I do? And I tell them straight up, go find some black friends and take them in the outdoors. This is for me. I am I’m very adamant about this, I I didn’t love the outdoors before I got into the.

[00:31:26] I didn’t know anything about the outdoor industry. What made me change and wanting to change the outdoor industry and lifestyle is when I was involved in it. When I was the only black executive in this space, I wanted to make sure that not only that we enjoyed the lifestyle, but that black folks were actually in this industry.

[00:31:42] We have this amazing scholarship program. W T. So I say to folks all the time, we’re an action orientated company. We are very action orientated to the point that we, everything we do is sincere. It is meaningful. It is very measured, so that it’s going to be sustainable. I just believe that folks have to be aware of the reasons why folks have issues, and once they are aware of the folks and why they have on the issues that they have, then we then start to have more.

[00:32:13] We start to put in action items in places, put in action items to help these folks get over this. It’s going to be a long. It’s going to take a long time for folks to look like me, to want to go into the outdoors on their own a long time. And I know that because again, I’m in this space and I’m doing this every single day, which like many of you are as well.

[00:32:33] However, our approach is just a little bit different. Our approach is, if they’re 49 million, 900 folks are in the industry on the lifestyle that don’t look like me or in 45 million of those folks look like me. Hell if 35 million, those folks really want to get some work done.

[00:32:47] I say 35 million folks go find them. Somebody that looks like me and take them in the outdoors. We’ll have 35 million more folks that look like me in the outdoors period. It’s not rocket science, but people need to know what’s going on first. And I just don’t want to Deane anybody about something that they don’t know now when they know, and they don’t do anythings.

[00:33:04] That’s what I want to say. What’s the problem then? Can I ask here? Oh, I’m sorry. No, go ahead. I just I here in Canada, our provincial and federal governments who both have ownership of several public land spaces across the country do several targeted new camper campaigns to new Canadians of various cultural demographics.

[00:33:27] And they actually take them out to campgrounds, campgrounds closer to some of our urban centers. So they don’t have as far to go, but taking those campgrounds and walks through the process, basic things like pitching a tent or how to plug in they’ll get a couple of RV rentals out there and pump the, plug them in and teach them how to work those connections and things like that.

[00:33:45] Are there programs like that in, in the states anywhere to your guys’ knowledge? Yes.

[00:33:57] I see those programs. Theirs is REI. As a matter of fact, one of which I think is a concern of your Mer or MRI or with a big outdoor retailer. They are there. And in fact, all of the manufacturers have programs, sponsorships, funds, grants, everything to encourage and incentivize more, people of color to participate in outdoor activities to have representation.

[00:34:18] It is done. And that’s just the retail side on the government agency side. Absolutely. I see these core games all the time. We have an outgoing head of our parks services as a Cuban American man or was previously. But yeah, I do not think that the, I think there’s a lot of comparison here with the difference being new has a lot of things that unlike like Earl was saying, there’s not a lot of education there that’s being done across both sides.

[00:34:42] I’m gonna, yeah, I have more to say, but I want others to speak for.

[00:34:50] So I’ll speak up a little bit. I think there’s room for both. And I think that both are Kim at the same time simultaneously exists. There are probably a lot of people in multiple minority communities that don’t know to say they don’t know all camping is probably disingenuous. They know about camping, but they’ve never even thought about it.

[00:35:08] Maybe in terms of something that would be the big want to do for a variety of reasons. It, I can speak to the LGBT community. At least my part of it. My own experience in it, I should say in that a lot of times when I was growing up, I didn’t think about camping because it didn’t feel like again, that safe space.

[00:35:25] Not that it wasn’t, but it didn’t feel like one. Instead I had, gay bars to go to and I had groups that, youth groups that I could be part of or choruses that I could sing in. And it’s not unreasonable to me that, that. Version some version of that same story exists in other communities as well.

[00:35:42] At the same time, if I’m a campground owner and my business is booming with the demographics that I have that have historically come to my own establishment, I don’t necessarily have a catalyst for me as an owner to go create or to go expand, my demographic outreach, because I don’t need to, from a business standpoint right now the industry is in a growth phase.

[00:36:08] Certainly not. It’s mature, but it’s growing crazy, like crazy and campgrounds are hard to build. So there’s not enough campgrounds to meet the demand that’s out there. Something needs to incentivize campground owners that don’t naturally have that inborn instinct to do that. If somebody also was saying.

[00:36:28] To reach out to new demographics, just as those demographics, they haven’t historically camped LGBT community, people of color, whatnot, having a catalyst to make them want to go camping. That could be a marketing campaign. It could be an ex, it could be a third-party circumstance. Like something like this pandemic has caused a lot of people to suddenly go out.

[00:36:48] It could be changing in cultural norms, like teleworking. That is a huge influx of full-time RV campers. And our full-time campers is a huge adjustment for legacy campground owners. And no one thing is going to do any bit of good if it’s not met by some either opportunity or engineered circumstance to match it.

[00:37:10] Yeah, it’s chicken egg, but it’s in reality, it’s both and it’s striking while the iron is hot. That’s going to make real change. I think I lost connection. Yeah. I’m so sorry, everyone. Wind Al when you were speaking and I apologize. Everything you’re saying, but to that question that was asked in regards to Canada, we’re working with the national and state parks right now as a company, as a firm.

[00:37:30] And we’re also working with a lot of the a lot of the groups out there, for instance RVIA and RVDA what I’ve shared with them in, and several of my conversations is that we have to start at a teen to have life paraded around in RVs and on billboards and things of that nature. But it’s another thing to educate us about RV financing, particularly because we’ve dealt with so much red lining and understanding what financing is in regards to RVs.

[00:37:57] But it’s another thing is to educate those sales folks that are actually at these RV dealerships, who do not look like me and may not see folks that look like me, come in and sharing with them. Some of the plates that we do have, and when it comes to financing and things of that nature, all these things that I speak of, I tell folks all the time we try to get as much data as.

[00:38:15] So that we’re not speaking so much on opinions because at the end of the day, I think the industry in the last the last six or seven months have decided to say, listen, we have an issue rather than having it well, not necessarily issue, but an opportunity. We have a $1.2 trillion opportunity, a really a $560 billion opportunity, which is what we spend particularly black folks spend in a consumer space of a non equitable products.

[00:38:39] And I think for me, we will continue as a company to educate folks about the outdoors. We’re going to continue to educate the lifestylers, which don’t look like me about why we haven’t been any outdoor educate the industry on how to to, to not only just market to us, but to educate us as well.

[00:38:56] It’s one thing to want to do something. It’s another thing to know how to do it. Yeah. We take folks out in the outdoors, they don’t know what a Trailhead is. They don’t know where just what a trail is or having the right, not necessarily having the right equipment because we’re at where we live.

[00:39:10] I live in an area with 250 waterfalls in a two mile radius, or we have black folks in our area that don’t even know anything about those waterfalls. So it’s not necessarily about access. What we found is more so about being educated because no one is twisting anyone’s arms to go into the outdoors, our company, what we plan to do, we want to educate and invite folks to want to do this on their own.

[00:39:36] The more folks who want to do this on their own, the better week, the better we believe the outcome will be.

[00:39:46] Lindsay, you’ve been kinda quiet over there. Do you have anything to add to the conversation? I just appreciate listening to it. I enjoy it thoroughly. I just, I think a lot of it’s. I think Earl is on the leading and the front edge of this. And he’s willing to put himself into, to uncomfortable situations as is Al maybe that’s and guys correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s, you are bigger men who are more forceful.

[00:40:18] I have a lot of friends that have a lot of women in my life, women of color that anytime I invite them to go out camping or out playing in the woods, they would say over my dead body. I’m good. No, thank you. And so it’s a lot of that discomfort and it’s not only the discomfort of them personally, but it’s also educating the folks around us and shielding them from any of the negative things that go wrong.

[00:40:45] When you bring people places. It might not be blatant in your face aggression or calling people out, or, Pushing people on a trail or something like that, but the derogatory comments and the negative things that I’ve heard said while on the trail with some of my friends of color, it’s bullshit that nobody should have to deal with.

[00:41:02] And that’s unfortunate. And so the choice is then, Hey, I can go and I can put myself in an uncomfortable situation and get treated like crap on top of it. Or I can stay in a city with people that I know and do the things that I’m comfortable with. And so it comes down to organizations and companies like, out of there that are willing to create a safe space and then take a group of people out to experience a thing together where the entire experience is curated.

[00:41:29] And if something goes wrong, there’s an entire support system to be able to support whatever it is that went wrong to really handle the situation. An arguably that fosters confidence in those potentially marginalized groups. I know, I don’t want to compare my scenario, but I will say being a single mom, taking my kids out camping is incredibly daunting.

[00:41:48] But that’s exactly what it is, Cara. Yeah. But doing so in w in a group of other single moms and all of our kids are together and we all help each other back the armies in and all those things. That’s far more comfortable for me and, I think that’s just human nature. And it does inspire me to, the more comfortable I get the more often I want to do it in the more willing I am to step outside of my comfort zone and try something newer and also with.

[00:42:15] Less need for that support system. I can start to venture out and do more of those things. Independently, the more confident I get. I think all of those things are our steps, to, to getting there again, all the dominoes, all the things are contributing here for fall at one and huge.

[00:42:32] And I think what Earl mentioned earlier as well, in terms of, being able to just educate people, that is a huge part of it. And. We have to start, we have to start somewhere. And building confidence is huge. Being able to provide people the opportunity to try and experiment and do new things.

[00:42:50] And it’s not just in the outdoors. It’s in general, if, and to Earl’s point, even earlier at the beginning of the conversation, just the historical aspects of it that most people don’t understand. There’s a million reasons why a lot of my friends who are folks of color do not want to go out and they do not want to camp, especially from an immigration standpoint.

[00:43:10] I have a couple of friends that I’ve organized trips with that their parents have been mortified, that they came to this country to build a better lives for themselves. They came from absolutely nothing. They had no place to live and they lived outdoors and that was not success for them.

[00:43:23] Then their children are coming here and they’re going on a camping trip and they’re paying. That blows their mind. And so there’s a lot of familial pressures as well, and cultural discrepancies between here and everywhere else in the world that people are not aware of that also create the pressures that are creating the environment that we’re in currently.

[00:43:46] So let me ask something that you guys can take wherever you want, and it may or may not be controversial, but we’ve heard a lot about education, and this needs to be done from a everyone. My flight is going to be

[00:44:01] no you’re okay. Earl, do you need to go for your flight? No, go ahead and state your question. I’m sorry. I think I have a just a lag time in the conversation because of my service. I apologize. No, that’s okay. No problem at all. So my question was just we’ve heard a lot about education and the need for this.

[00:44:18] The entire conversation, really? My question each one of you is what is the responsibility for that education in your eyes, your opinion, your experience, your data, whatever it is from a consumer standpoint, from a campground owner standpoint, from an association or company standpoint or sponsorship or whatever, how does that balance in your eyes?

[00:44:37] What is the responsibility of the different organizations, associations, people, consumers to either go out and seek that education or to find it through advertising or websites or the work that Earl is doing or things like that. If you guys don’t mind, I’ll go first because I’m going to, I’m going to jump off the call if you don’t go ahead.

[00:44:58] I’m sorry. Go ahead bro. Oh, I was going to say it is, I want guests to come on our trips and our trips are not all free. Some of them are, so I take it upon my. To invest in content that demonstrates what these experiences are going to be like outside of the whole, this is a review or rating.

[00:45:18] You can see videos on our website that shows you what you’re about to get into that. Content plays a humongous role in educating these guests, who for whatever reason, cultural a sense of safety, whatever reason they might not want to come out, they are now convinced, you know what? I can do this and I can come out.

[00:45:33] What I love to be able. What I look to see is companies do the same, where they want to reach a certain audience. They create maybe not ads, but whatever they create to do that. Now, a lot of the cool flashy videos I see, from retailers or manufacturers are just featuring the product, featuring the coolest, what they think is cool.

[00:45:52] It’s not necessarily what the actual experience will be of the person. How does how does a Hispanic, how does a Mexican or Cuban or a Dominican immigrant who comes to this country? Appreciate and rents a value 15. If they’ve never done a home, they’ve never been introduced. We here. So they learn to value and pay for skiing if they done it in their countries.

[00:46:11] So part of what I’m trying to do, private companies should be doing is showing the value of those experiences, those products being an a for participating in outdoor activities, by creating more and more content. So the education piece, I agree a hundred percent. I just think it should be done a different way.

[00:46:26] It shouldn’t be, I don’t want to put the onus on the person who we’re trying to sell to, to be the one to seek out the education. I got to force that education right down their throats. Get vaccinated, get back to me to get vaccinated. It’s good for you until they finally say, you know what? It might actually be good for me.

[00:46:41] And then they come out and I think that’s what I feel about that.

[00:46:49] I’m sorry, Al, I don’t know if you guys can hear me in that, but I didn’t hear you at all. So I’m going to have to, you gonna have to email me your. Yeah. Confirm your contact information because I want to hear it. It sounded like you was giving some good information and I couldn’t hear any of it. And I don’t know if you guys can hear me or not, but I didn’t hear any of it.

[00:47:06] And I apologize. But I want to go ahead. If you don’t guys don’t mind, I’ll go ahead and state my last statements here as I’m going to go catch a flight here. I’m not sure if you can hear me now, if you can hear me shake your head. Yes, we can or not, but I want to just say this to folks and I always in my conversation with this, I tell folks, listen, I’m a good times kid.

[00:47:21] If you can reference that to a sit-com I’m a good times kid living Huxtable lifestyle. That means I understand the struggle of money. I understand the struggle of classism and the strong, the struggle of not having places to go in the outdoors. I was raised by a single mother who didn’t know what to do in the outdoors.

[00:47:36] That’s one of the reason why I didn’t know what to do in the outdoors. As I stand down in my particular space as a 45 year old man I have a legacy and my legacy is not to be. For another company to make a ton of money, which has been done in the past. My legacy is to educate, remove fear, and invite more blind folks to camp and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle with any and everyone and doing that.

[00:47:59] I want to make sure that everyone around us, particularly campgrounds, particularly RV industry, the outdoor industry, that folks are educated on while we’re not in the outdoors because. Can’t do this alone and the folks on this call, we can’t do this alone. So why not just get everyone educated about what’s going on and what we feel and what we’re going through, and then let those folks jump in the boat and start rowing as well.

[00:48:21] So we all could be doing this together. And when we all do this together, what we’re going to find is we’re going to find that we were going to get in these spaces and we’re going to find out we’ve been we’ve been creating. Chaos for one another in different spaces for reasons unknown or necessarily that are maybe that, that are known.

[00:48:38] I can’t, I tell folks all the time, I can’t guarantee you’re going to be safe at the camp ground. I can’t guarantee you’re going to be safe in in, in public lands. But what I can do is we can get you educated, excuse me, because we built DEI. Our DEI stands for digital education initiative.

[00:48:53] We have an allotment almost 700, a hundred thousand dollars for the next two years, creating this DEI, this digital education initiatives to make sure that folks are educated about the reasons why certain groups have not been in the outdoors and then educate those folks to want to go out and enjoy this.

[00:49:12] So the bottom line the bottom line for us is that, I don’t want to go bashing anyone. I don’t want folks to feel bad. I want folks to get on board so we can make this. And the more we make it better, we’ll make it better for my children, but Earl B hunter Jr. When I leave this earth, all I care about all I want folks to remember me for is that I helped remove fear and knowledge and invited more black folks to camp and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle with any.

[00:49:38] And everyone on that note, I hope all of you have the most amazing day of your life, but more than that, I hope tomorrow is better. And I’ll see you down the road somewhere. Al and the rest of the group. My email is very simple. You can email me at info at black folks. Can’t too.com. We have a full staff and we’re ready to have conversation to figure out how we can actually get to the next level.

[00:50:00] And so that we can spend 20% of our time on the issue and 80% of our time on the solution. Hope you guys have an amazing day and we’ll be in touch.

[00:50:12] No, I, I. Just my last closing thing to say real quick. I don’t pretend to have all of the data that Earl certainly has at his disposal, but one of the things that would help grow minority audiences to this lifestyle, to this, whether it’s full timing or just weekend warrior, having fun, whether it’s a destination campground or going to a national park or some Dollywood, right?

[00:50:39] All of those things aside, having people in their own community, in our own community, talking about it creates an awareness. And it does it both to the consumer as well as to the businesses that are hoping or that we want to get this business. So our YouTube channel full-time. We started off reviewing gay campgrounds.

[00:51:03] And a lot of people were like, oh, this is great. I’m going to start go. I’m going to go start gay camping. Or if I’ve gone to one, I’m going to go to another one now, because I have an idea of what it’s like. Meanwhile, campground owners also take notice. And so they ask us what are some things that we should do?

[00:51:20] Watch our video and we’ll tell you, or they. In advance of our arrival for better or for worse, they maybe they’re making some updates or some upgrades. They had been put in a back burner for a year or a season or 10 years because now they know they’re about to be reviewed. And so they suddenly have an interest in a motivation to go do those things that are going to be called out in a video, which the end user’s going to see, which is going to drive them more business.

[00:51:45] And at the same time, creating more awareness in the community at large, not just those already predisposed to camping, that’s not the only solution, but it’s part of the solution. Sponsorships obviously would help with advertising or marketing campaigns that show people of a given demographic would help campground owners or publications and magazines proactively doing interest stories or some kind of story that bring in other demographics with all of those things help.

[00:52:10] But getting excitement, getting that kind of ground level, ground swelling, support, and excitement and awareness makes it big.

[00:52:22] Thank you, Eddie. You really appreciate it. Lindsay, any last words?

[00:52:28] I think everyone’s doing a great job. I super appreciate Eddie. What you were just saying. And I think, the responsibility really does fall on all of us. If we can all work personally on ourselves and whatever issues we need to work through and understand, or at least attempt to understand why it is that, Eddie and David, you guys being gay, I’m offended.

[00:52:49] Why? Like, why am I so upset about that? Ugh. Maddie, I’m really pissed that you look the way you do. Like why does that actually bother me and what’s going on there? And then I think from there, we’re able to better ourselves and create the space to create better opportunities for each other.

[00:53:03] And so I think that’s what we really need to push. And honestly, I have a daughter who’s in, in kindergarten and what do they treat? What do they teach them? Treat people how you want to be treated at the end of the day. Five-year-olds get it, they can handle it. We should all really be able to do that, especially at this point.

[00:53:19] And if you don’t want to do it, I know that this a little bit, in some ways has a little bit of a business tilt in terms of why, how we all gathered here. If you don’t want to be a good person, you can do it for the most financially driven purposes ever. And that is that you will get more people to your business.

[00:53:37] And if you would like to make more money, make your business more diverse at the end of the day, even if you don’t want to do it for kind or good-hearted reason from the strictly capitalistic perspective, that is also the win. Your ROI will be higher, which I hope you do it for kind reasons, but.

[00:53:59] Thank you Lindsey. I really appreciate you joining us. Al do you have any last words? Everything Lindsey just said, if the financial incentive is there, you just need to wake up and do it. And if it takes a review from David Nettie coming to your, so your place, you get yourself put together, you clean you.

[00:54:17] And also I want to make a big shout out to, to, Americans with disabilities Canadians with disabilities. They also need to be factored into this whole conversation. It’s not just, what color your skin is. It’s not just what your preference are, but it’s also whether you can actually, walk up a little set of stairs.

[00:54:34] Like you may have some challenges with that. All of these groups of people tend to be left out of these conversations and when it comes to, willingness, I think the. And all of these groups we’ve been talking about, spend lots of money. And if it’s a $900 billion industry right now with 60 to 70% of that population being just what most people think of us as a typical American, you’re still leaving a whole lot of other people out of that conversation, which if they were welcomed in with the proper, what red carpet treatment and the right amenities and the right sort of sensitivities, and more importantly, respect the same respect Lindsey’s talking about.

[00:55:11] Those five-year-olds are giving each other. With that respect. You’d be making so much more money in this business. I, I don’t have a lot of high hopes, Earl seems to have enough hope for all of us. So I’m hoping that, it rubs off somewhere. I’m going to just stick to doing what I’m doing, which is, we’re going to do it by hook or by crook one way or another.

[00:55:26] And, hopefully on the other end of this, when I’m deep in the grave, number four is, the industry did change even if it was a little bit because, people are now demanding that they be treated with respect instead of waiting for the industry to do it for, to them. So that’s my last bit.

[00:55:42] Thank you so much, Alan. Really appreciate you joining us. Same thing. I said Lindsey already. David and Eddie. I know David had to step away, but Eddie really appreciate you guys joining us. I really hope that all of you will be more involved. I know you already are with the industry going forward, but at least more involved in.

[00:55:56] Maybe Modern Campground and the voices and the platforms that we can do our very small part to help you share your messages, to help increase education awareness what needs done, what doesn’t need done, who needs to do it, how it needs to happen, all those kinds of things. And I know I’m hopeful that Angela will reach out to each one of you individually.

[00:56:15] And maybe we can figure out ways where if you want to contribute through columns or interviews, or if we just want to simply do something as small as post David and Eddie’s videos on our website. So more people can see those things whatever that action needs to take. Just hopefully you can help continue to be a part of that conversation with us.

[00:56:30] So we know where it needs to go because I’m not the person to guide that conversation. And all of you are. So I don’t think I have anything else to add. Cara, Angela, any closing statements? No, I just want to say thanks to everybody for your time and for joining us. And it was great to meet you all. I think these are super important conversations and certainly from the association standpoint, it’s can potentially play a valuable role in disseminating the kind of education and perspectives to, to our members or campground operators across the country.

[00:57:03] I’m committed to continuing to do that. However we can potentially be in touch with you guys as well in the coming weeks. And look forward to that. Thank you so much. I don’t know. Cause my connection. Isn’t great, but thank you all so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it and I will absolutely be reaching out to see how we can continue with him together.

[00:57:24] So thank you guys so much. Absolutely. Awesome. Thank you everybody. We’re going to wrap it up, but just as a reminder, this video will be available on MC Fireside Chats dot com. We’ll put it on Modern Campground dot com as well. Get some extra eyeballs on it. It’s available on social media in perpetuity and as a podcast on Spotify, apple, Google, all those kinds of places.

[00:57:41] So again, looking forward to continuing the conversation with all of you, whether that’s through articles, interviews, videos, having you back on the show, whatever it may be to continue to drive that conversation and really appreciate you guys being here. We’ll see you next week for another show. Thanks.

[00:57:57]

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