Hotels & Lodging

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Camping Continues to Gain Favor as a Lodging Alternative for Sports Travel

9 Aug, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Youth Athletes and Families Increasingly Relying on Camping: What Planners Need to Know

Interest in youth sports is increasing exponentially. So is the cost, particularly for families with multiple children. For many families, the solution is camping. But many parents have become accustomed to hotels and aren’t willing to sacrifice convenience and perks and the sports event industry is taking notice. Event planners need to know what their customers are looking for and how to provide it.

According to an article in USA TODAY, vacationers are plunking down their money for stays at luxury “glamping” resorts featuring massive televisions, private docks and farm-to-table dinners, with concierges ready with fishing guides or to rustle up cowboys for horseback rides.

In other words, everything but the chain hotel name. The article notes,

It’s all part of the newest trend to target both retiring Baby Boomers and Millennials looking for active adventures in which not a single moment is wasted in a boring hotel room, and where Mother Nature takes top billing. Today, when even the most casual of travelers expect to find comfy beds and clean showers wherever they choose to sleep, experts say there’s a demand for experiences that go above and beyond.

And really, there has never been a better time for this emerging trend. There is a growing participation in camping and outdoor sports among minorities, according to the 2016 North American Camping Report. And gone are the days of no Internet access; according to the Camping Report, access to technology is generating more, and longer stays, and expectations for free Wi-Fi are dramatically affecting campground selection.

An article in SDM noted, “An increasingly digital world is also lending itself to greater minority participation in camping and outdoor sports. Campers are continuing to use the Internet to look up information on local attractions and research destinations or trails. This is even more pronounced with African-American (50 percent), Hispanic (45 percent) and Asian-American campers (45 percent), among which technology usage and demand for Wi-Fi at campground outpaces white campers (39 percent). Hispanic campers (71 percent versus 64 percent among African-American campers, 54 percent of Asian-Americans and 44 percent of whites) are most likely to use some type of mobile app or online resource in their trip planning.”

In addition, resorts will track the number of posts and check-ins from their sites – and use both as a marketing tool.

Many sports events have long relied heavily on camping – either in tents or in RVs – for lodging. The Waupaca Boatride Tournament, also known as the U.S. Open of Grass Volleyball, lists multiple levels of spaces in nearby campgrounds in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where the event takes place. In fact, the 2017 tournament, held in July, used all available camping space and began using overflow areas to hold all the registrants.

Motor sports have a long association with camping as well, with notable events like the Brickyard 400 in Indiana gaining heavy participation from RV users. At the Atlanta Motor Speedway, options include infield locations, reserved and non-reserved areas outside the Speedway and campsites overlooking the Speedway. In addition, offsite camping locations are near mass transit so that fans can travel to the track without having to incur the cost of taxis – or even Uber or Lyft.

According to USA TODAY, this paradigm shift in lodging has led to an uptick in RV sales:  The RV industry is on track to have its best year ever in 2017 as retiring Baby Boomers seek out adventures on the open road and younger generations seek to squeeze every dollar’s worth of pleasure out of their limited budgets. This year, dealers expect to sell new 472,200 RVs, a nearly 10 percent increase from last year, and they’re expecting even bigger sales for 2018. Low interest rates and gas prices have helped boost the RV industry, and now nearly 9 million American households own a camper.

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