November '19

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108 • RV PRO • November 2019 rv-pro.com B U S I N E S S A t first glance, the small village of Bryant Pond in western Maine might seem an unlikely setting for a prominent consultancy serving the outdoor industry. But the rustic setting, a 90-minute drive north of Portland, suits Scott Bahr, owner of Cairn Consulting Group, just fine. Cairn has made a name for itself in recent years, conducting research for KOA's prominent annual Camping Report and the RV Industry Association's Aftermarket Parts Survey. Cairn handles surveys in many sectors, but it is the outdoor industry where it seems to have found its niche. That matches up with Bahr's passion of roughing it outdoors. "They always say you should do what you are good at," Bahr says. "For me, it was either do statistics and research or be a park ranger. This direction allows me to work in an industry I like so much." Bahr studied experiential analysis of behavior at Western Michigan University. He describes it as research-based social sciences. He subsequently held several university and private sector research jobs, including working for the state of Arizona on population statistics. He eventually moved to Maine for family considerations and to experience the roughing it style of camping he enjoys. Bahr recently spoke at length with RV PRO as he prepared for the busy fall con- ference season. His responses have been edited for clarity and space considerations. RV PRO: What appealed to you about taking on the projects for RVIA and KOA? Bahr: I grew up in the woods of Mich- igan going camping. It's a pretty amazing place, an outdoor recreation mecca in the Midwest. It's always been a passion of mine. I knew a lot about recreation and the outdoors from personal exposure and then my professional career brought me the ability to measure consumer senti- ment and behavior and preferences. My experience in the hospitality industry brought me into the camping sector. Everything kind of merged there. Understanding the hospitality mindset really helps. Even though I started as a backwoods kind of camper, once Jim (Rogers, former KOA chairman and CEO) convinced me to try staying at a KOA, I found it amazing – the level of service, the hospi- tality, it really stands out. RV PRO: The KOA Camping Report has been widely cited by media sources for its in-depth look at trends in the camping industry. How much time and effort went into developing the initial report? Bahr: The first one took us six months from initial development to gathering data, then about four or five months to put it together and get it out. The upfront time is much less now – we just have to discuss what we want to change or add each year. But when we dive into it, we really get into it. We launch the data collection during the first part of the year. It takes about 16 weeks after that to go through processing, editing and creating graphics. It goes through many edits and filters before it goes out. That part doesn't shorten because we like to make sure that we are keeping it fresh. We add something new each year, and remove other items, to keep a fresh perspec- tive. Usually, a theme emerges once we look at results, but not instantly. We produce reports that are up to 100 pages long, and we pare it down until it gets to the point of what you see in public. We pick a date for release and we work back from there to make sure we stay on a timeline. There Bahr shares how his firm's expertise in research and analysis, plus his passion for the outdoors, led the Cairn to produce its groundbreaking surveys on RVing and camping trends. By John McCurry Q & A with Cairn Consulting's Scott Bahr

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